Do you know that? Has your cat suddenly stopped using its litter box? Is she peeing in a corner, on the carpet, or even on the bed? There are many reasons why cats become unclean. Stress, overwhelm or illness are often behind it. Here you can find out how to identify the cause in your cat and what you can do about it.
First and foremost: keep calm!
The first thing you need is rest. It’s important to realize that your cat doesn’t want to annoy you! No matter how annoying the situation, cats don’t pee on the carpet, couch, or bed out of spite. There’s always a reason for a messy cat, just sometimes it’s not that easy to see or find. Basically, cats are very clean animals and don’t give up their habits that easily. So there is a cause for this change in habit.
The most common causes of a suddenly unclean cat can be found here in the text.
Your cat is sick
A common cause of unclean cats is a urinary tract infection. Perhaps you have had a bladder infection yourself and know how unpleasant this constant urge to urinate is. Now imagine your cat not being able to tell you, “It hurts so much to pee. Please do something about it.” So she looks for another way to express herself and make you realize that something is wrong. In addition, your cat may associate pain with the litter box and hopes that it will not occur when she goes elsewhere to do her business.
And not only urinary tract infections, but also other diseases like kidney infections or the like can cause your cat to pee in the apartment. In all of these cases, in addition to the possible pain, cats avoid odors that they associate with illness. And in the case of illness, that is often the litter box.
An indication of an organic cause can be conspicuously frequent urination in different places and a generally bad appearance of the cat. In the advanced stage of the disease you will find blood in your urine or see that your furry friend has diarrhoea.
What can you do?
So before you get angry, you should take your house cat to the vet and have it checked that everything is fine with the urinary tract and that there is no bladder or kidney infection or your cat has developed urinary stones. Even if your fur nose doesn’t seem ill to you apart from its uncleanliness. Cats are true masters at hiding their true state of health! If you see that she is sick, then she is really bad.
Your cat will become sexually mature
With the onset of sexual maturity, both tomcats and cats begin to mark their territory. This is completely species-typical behavior. It does this by passing small amounts of urine that contain information that other cats can clearly smell. In the case of tomcats, this is information for other tomcats that say “This is my territory here”. In the case of cats, the markings contain information about their own health and willingness to be mated.
The problem is usually more obvious with indoor cats, since their territory only extends to the apartment. And we cat owners tend to clean the spots that have been marked straight away, which then forces Mr. or Mrs. Cat to mark again to spread their scent. Free-roaming cats have a larger territory that they can mark and then tend to see the apartment as their very own place that doesn’t need to be entered by other cats, so it doesn’t have to be marked either.
What can you do?
This cause can be avoided by timely castration or sterilization. In time, depending on the sexual maturity of the cat or tomcat, means between the ages of six and ten months. Usually, this solves the problem.
You can spray the areas that will be marked with citric acid. Cats don’t like the smell and since they always sniff the spots before marking, they will usually leave it alone. And lemon happens to smell better than onion, which would help too.
However, you should always try such tips carefully and only in one place. Because exceptions confirm the rule and it can happen that a cat feels even more compelled to mark.
Your cat is stressed
Cats are creatures of habit and are extremely sensitive to change. Sometimes all it takes to stress a cat is small things that go differently than usual. And how should your kitty show that she is stressed? Very simple: She pees in the living room. Or in your bed.
So it can be worthwhile to think hard about whether and what might have changed for you. Because these changes do not always have to be immediately apparent.
A new pet has moved in
If another cat or even a dog moves into the household, every cat owner will probably think that their existing cat could be stressed by it. But what about reptiles, birds or rodents? The same applies here: if the apartment was otherwise occupied solely by the cat, then a bird, rabbit or gecko can also unsettle it. The animals smell different, they are new and exciting and so change the behavior of the owner. They probably get more attention at the beginning, which the cat loses. And our furry friends don’t like that at all!
Some cats just withdraw and wait until things are back to routine, others make their protest clear by peeing on the carpet and becoming unclean.
If your cat is more likely to pee on the walls, then you should also consider that your neighbor has brought in a new cat or dog. Your kitty can either smell it or even see it through the window and feel threatened by it.
A new family member has been added
The most obvious change in family life is a baby being born. But a new life partner can also unsettle the cat. Always remember that cats are creatures of habit and like to claim all the attention. Especially if they are kept purely as an apartment cat, they are very fixated on their master or mistress. If someone else suddenly appears with whom Mieze suddenly has to share attention, it can make her very insecure.
By the way: You should never keep indoor cats alone, otherwise, they can wither away socially! If your kitties cannot / are not allowed to go outside, there should always be at least two of them.
You have new furniture in your home
Have you moved Did you buy a new closet? Did you rearrange the furniture? Or did you wash the cat blanket?
Some cats handle these changes with ease and still recognize their home as one. Others react very sensitively to every little change, be it just a freshly washed cat blanket or a new scented candle, or the incense smoker at Christmas time. Always remember that the noses of our little cats are many times more sensitive than our own! And maybe you know it yourself that it takes a while to get used to the smell of a new piece of furniture or even a new apartment. For cats, to whom we cannot explain what is happening and why the change is even more frightening.
You have different working hours
Do you have a new job A new hobby? Are you at home less than usual? You were on vacation? Or away from home for a weekend? Or do you just have different working hours?
These can all be reasons that have unsettled your little fur nose. Sometimes the joy of seeing you again is overwhelming at first, and only a day or two later does the protest follow in the form of your cat peeing in the apartment. Or she doesn’t do this until she notices that you’re packing your bags again.
What can you do with a stressed cat?
Have patience! Give your kitty time to get used to the new situation.
If possible, try to make the changes happen slowly. So just let the new pet be in a room that the cat doesn’t visit as often. Make sure your new friend also greets and pays attention to the cat. Show the baby to the cat and don’t push it away when it comes to sniff curiously. So everyone can get used to each other and live peacefully together in the future. Show your cat the new piece of furniture or put the blanket in it first so that the smell is not so new.
The following applies to all these changes: Give your kitty a lot of attention! This is extremely important, especially when it is not possible to bring about the change slowly, as is the case with a job change or the birth of a baby. Your cat needs to know that no matter what’s going on, you’re still there for her. Give her extra pats or treats and her favorite food. This way, the little fur nose doesn’t feel neglected and is slowly regaining confidence that everything will be fine soon.
The litter box was the cause
Many cat owners don’t give too much thought to the litter box. What could you possibly be doing wrong there, do you think? A lot in your cat’s eyes!
A particularly clear sign that something is wrong with the litter box is when your furry friend no longer pees or defecates in the litter box, but next to it or in the shower or tub. Because then she wants to say: I know where the litter box is and I want to be clean too, but I just don’t like using it!
Number and cleanliness of the litter box
First and foremost, you should note that you should always set up one more litter box than the number of cats you have. That is, if you have one cat, then you should have two litter boxes, if you have two cats, three, and so on. This may seem unnecessary at first, but cats like to separate the places where they do their large and small business. And they don’t like to share their toilet and the smell of it with another cat.
Then think about whether you clean them often enough and properly! Cats are very clean animals and just as you probably don’t like going to a heavily used dixie box, your cat doesn’t like going to a full toilet either. And just as uncomfortable as a dirty litter box is one that smells bad! Imagine having to hold your breath while going about your business because the smell in the toilet makes you nauseous. Not a nice idea, is it?
The situation is similar with very harsh cleaning agents. These, too, could bother your house cat’s nose so much that she no longer wants to pee in the litter box. This can be the case even if you don’t smell the cleaning product yourself.
What can you do?
You may be fine for a while if you have fewer litter boxes than recommended. But if your cat has become unclean, the first thing to consider is whether there are enough litter boxes. If not, change them. Sometimes just another little box helps.
You should really clean up your cat’s droppings at least once a day. You should change the litter completely at regular and not too long intervals and clean the litter box with hot water and a mild detergent at most. Do not use harsh cleaners or disinfectants. On the one hand, this is unnecessary and, on the other hand, disturbs the sensitive nose of your kitty.
This also applies to other intense smells, some of which are found in room fragrances. If you’ve recently started using a scented freshener in the area where the litter box is, remove it!
The litter box is unsuitable
Some litter boxes look decorative and make cat owners happy, but are extremely unsuitable for cats.
In general, cats tolerate standard litter boxes with lids and swing doors. In any case, these closed toilets should be big enough so that Mr. and Mrs. cat can turn around in them and scratch and scratch around.
You should also always think about the age of your cat. It may be that he has been able to get into his litter box well up to now, but that the high entrance causes problems for him as he gets older.
What can you do?
When buying another litter box for your cat, think carefully about what it needs: it should be large enough that it can turn and scratch without bumping into it and, if possible, have a low entry. Changing the shape sometimes helps. There are corner toilets that give your furry friend other options to move around in.
The litter box is in a restless spot
Would you like to be observed or disturbed when you go to the toilet? Certainly not. Our bathrooms have doors that we close when we are in need.
And now think about it: Does your cat get the rest it needs on its litter box? Or is it in the hallway, where people walk past it from time to time? Or is it perhaps hidden in a cupboard that you keep putting things on? It may look more decorative – who would like to have a litter box in the apartment? – but it is not in the sense of the cat.
If the problems only appear after a certain amount of time, then consider whether your cat might have been frightened while he was doing his business. This can disturb your cat so lastingly that he no longer dares to do his business there.
What can you do?
Place the litter box in a quiet place that is always easily accessible. This should not be near the feeding station, but several rooms away. Or would you like to have breakfast on the toilet?
Avoid cat attacks
Especially if you have several cats and one of them suddenly became unclean, it is worth reconsidering the location of the litter box. For whatever reason, some cats like to ambush their fellow cats in their business. This means that one cat will be on the toilet and the other will sit in front of it and pounce on it once it’s done. Insecure cats in particular can be so traumatized that they no longer use their litter box. Understandable, right?
What can you do?
Use litter boxes without a lid, as these offer a better overview (the predator can’t easily sneak up on you!) and more escape options (to the front, to the sides, and to the back). Also set up your litter box in such a way that there are as few hiding places as possible but as many escape routes as possible. For example, not in a dark corner behind the large flower pot, but relatively free-standing against a wall.
It may not look quite as decorative, but it will give you a clean cat again.
You changed the cat litter
Did I mention cats are creatures of habit? They often don’t like it when things change. And even if it’s just the trivial thing that you bought a new, really great cat litter because it was recommended to you by everyone.
For your cat, however, this means that the feeling on their sensitive paws changes when they go about their business. The new litter also changes the smell of her litter box, so she may not recognize it as hers. And it behaves, smells, and dusts differently than the previous cat litter. This often irritates cats as well.
Maybe you didn’t change the cat litter, but are now using a litter box to counteract the smell? This is often a fine granulate that you put in the litter box in addition to the cat litter and that smells like orange, lavender, or whatever. This may be nice for you as a human, but for your cat this smell can be very unpleasant!
What can you do?
If you’re desperate to change litter (because maybe you didn’t use clumping litter before, or your brand is discontinued, or the new litter is cheaper or lighter, or you’re more comfortable for some other reason) then just try using a litter box first. That way, your kitty can still get out of the way if she doesn’t like the new litter.
If this is not possible or if you still want to make a change, then gradually mix the new litter with the old one. In this way, the fur nose can slowly get used to the new feeling and smell.
In general, when it comes to cat litter, make sure that it is as clumping as possible, does not have a too coarse consistency, and has little smell and dust. The latter is particularly important for closed litter boxes. Some litter develops downright clouds of dust when stirred up. And your cat just likes to scratch in its litter and then sit in the dust. Not a nice idea, is it?
Cat litter variants and alternatives
Maybe you didn’t change anything in the cat litter and your cat still got unclean. Or she’s dirty to begin with. Then you should think about your cat litter.
All cat litter should absorb moisture and, if possible, odor as well. Below you can read about the different types of cat litter and what their advantages and disadvantages are.
Mineral cat litter
The most commonly used cat litter is mineral cat litter. As the name suggests, it consists of minerals, mostly bentonite or sepiolite. Depending on whether it has been mixed with other water-binding substances, it is clumping or non-clumping litter. Sometimes the litter is also scented to please the human nose. Some cats can tolerate this, but it can also be the cause of all ills.
The advantages are the good availability and the often low price. Mineral cat litter absorbs liquid well and comes in many different grits. Sometimes it is enough to change the brand and use one with a smaller or larger grain size or with or without fragrances.
The disadvantage of mineral cat litter is, on the one hand, its weight and the fact that it all produces quite a lot of dust. In addition, they are not biodegradable, which means they pollute the environment because they do not rot.
Natural cat litter
Natural cat litter is made from plant fibers. Wood, straw, corn, or other plant fibers are used. These are pressed into pellets or chips and, depending on the plant used, give off a more or less characteristic smell (cat litter made from pure corn chips actually smells a little bit like popcorn.). Clumping cat litter made from natural clay is now also available.
The absorption of liquid and odors is comparable to that of mineral cat litter. For some sensitive cats, the natural scents of plants can be confusing. Most of the time, however, they are well tolerated. Another good advantage is the fact that there is no disadvantage for your velvet paw if it eats this cat litter. (Which can happen in young cats or with certain diseases.)
The disadvantage is the higher price and poorer availability compared to mineral cat litter. There are simply not that many manufacturers of organic cat litter made from plant fibers. And supply and demand regulate the price. You should also make sure that the litter is not mixed with chemicals and binding agents that may have a disease-causing effect.
Silica cat litter
Silicate litter is made from a form of the desiccant silica gel, which you may have come across in connection with baby diapers or sanitary napkins. For cat litter, silicate is pressed into small mostly white balls.
It weighs very little and also produces less dust, which is beneficial. It also absorbs liquids and odors particularly well and is compostable.
The downside is the slightly higher price. The rather spherical shape of the cat litter is also a disadvantage for the cats, as they tend to get stuck between the balls of their feet and on their paws. In addition, silicate cat litter is often scented, which many cats do not tolerate. You should also be particularly careful with young or sick cats. If they eat the silicate cat litter, it is poisonous for them!
Alternative cat litter
If your velvet paw does not tolerate any of these numerous cat litter options, you can alternatively use wood shavings, such as those used for rodent hutches, or newspaper or kitchen paper. These have the disadvantage that they don’t absorb liquids and odors very well, so you should change them as soon as possible after the store.
But they are sometimes a last resort against your cat’s untidy behavior. As soon as your cat is using the litter box regularly again, you can try to put cat litter under the newspaper, kitchen paper or wood shavings to slowly get the velvet paw used to real cat litter again.
As you can see, there are numerous ways to try out what your furry friend likes and doesn’t like about the cat litter alone.
With all these variants, you should be careful with changes and only try them out one at a time. Because always remember that your kitty is actually a creature of habit.
10 tips for a dirty cat – you can do that
You should definitely stay calm and clarify whether your cat is healthy! If she is, consider whether anything has changed. Sometimes a little detective work is necessary to find the cause, especially when the cause and effect cannot be precisely related in terms of time. Maybe some time ago you changed the litter box without any problems and now the location of the litter box? Your cat may not return to the litter box until the litter box is in its old location and contains the old litter.
There may also be multiple reasons why your cat is peeing in the corner and not using the litter box anymore. For example, she may have never liked the small litter box, but tolerated it until you got a new closet or changed her food bowl.
You see, it sometimes takes patience and sensitivity to get to the bottom of the causes. And even if you can’t find the cause, be extra careful with your kitten. With your serenity and love you strengthen their trust in you and maybe solve the problem without knowing it. In seemingly hopeless cases, an animal psychologist can help you.
But until then, here are 10 tips you should try:
Have your cat neutered once they are of the right age?
It is best to remove the smell of urine with a vinegar cleaner or special cleaners from pet shops. The goal is to thoroughly neutralize the odor so that the odor does not mistake that spot for a litter box. Here you will find a comprehensive guide to removing stains and odors from cat urine.
If you can, you should put an extra litter box where possible on the spot where the cat has peed. In this way, the cat gets used to the toilet again and not to the carpet as a pee pad. Disposable litter boxes are useful for this.
Alternatively, you can also declare the spot as a new feeding spot and place a bowl with food or water. Cats don’t pee where they eat.
If this is not possible, then place or attach aluminum or plastic foil to the spot after cleaning. Cats may prefer to pee on soft and quiet surfaces like a carpet. Oilcloth tablecloths, such as those used for garden tables, also help with larger objects.
If all else fails, spray the area with a strong and acrid scent like lemon, pepper, or onion. Cats’ noses are much more sensitive, and if they pinch something in their nose, they won’t pee there.
If you catch your cat in the act, then a loud and firm “no” and immediately putting the furry nose in its litter box and detailed praise will help if it even scratches a little there. You really should catch them in the act, though, because cats can only relate events within a few seconds. This applies equally to praise and criticism!
If your cat is always peeing in your bed, consistently denying her access to the bedroom for a while can help. It could be a squabble over the hierarchy of your relationship, and by banning it, you’re making it clear to your little diva that you’re the senior of the two of you.
If your cat pees on your older bathroom mat, it probably smells very pleasing to cat noses by now (no matter how often you wash it). Either you exchange the mat for a new one or you put it in a place that is not accessible to your house cat when not in use.
You can try to drive your house cat away from its peeing spot by associating it with unpleasant events. This can be a flower sprayer that you use to spray your fur nose wet when it pees in the wrong spot. Or you can use alarm mats or moisture alarms, both of which make noises as soon as your cat steps on it or pees on it. However, such measures should only be used if you have eliminated all causes and are sure that your cat only pees in this spot out of habit. Otherwise, you can only upset them more and make the problem worse!