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Why is My Cat Peeing Outside of the Litter Box? Is this an Emergency?

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If your cat is peeing outside of the litter box, he may be trying to tell you something. Some cat owners understandably feel angry when their litter-box-trained cat is urinating outside the box. This can be very frustrating and can affect your relationship with your feline family member. While there are many behavioral reasons for why your cat may be urinating inappropriately, there are also several medical reasons. Some of these medical reasons warrant an immediate trip to the animal emergency room! Before you assume your cat is peeing out of spite, keep in mind what your cat may be trying to tell you.

Medical Reasons

Cats may urinate outside of their litter box if they are experiencing:
  • Trouble urinating/urinary obstruction (common in male cats)
  • Kidney disease
  • Bladder stones
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis or other pain
  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Cancer
When should you go to the animal emergency room for this?

A cat being unable to urinate can be a life-threatening emergency. If your cat cannot pee, contact your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital immediately. This is a very common problem seen in veterinary emergency rooms and the sooner your cat is treated, the better their chance of survival. This condition is more common in male cats.

Signs your cat should see a veterinarian immediately:
  • Straining (whether inside or outside of the litter box.) Be advised that people sometimes mistake straining to urinate for constipation. Constipation is less serious, so confirm the behavior with your vet.
  • Yowling, meowing, screaming, or hissing while trying to urinate
  • Urinating only a few drops at a time
  • Bloody urine
  • Decreased appetite, hiding, lying in new spots throughout the home, vomiting, change in behavior (These signs can indicate a number of medical conditions, but are often reported in cats who cannot pee)
  • If cat is in pain
You Can Wait If…

If your cat is urinating normal amounts of urine outside the box, is not painful or hiding, and is still eating and drinking, he is probably okay to wait to see the family veterinarian in 1-2 days. If you are uncertain whether or not to bring your cat to the animal emergency room, you can always call and ask for their professional opinion.

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Behavioral Reasons

Once medical conditions are ruled out with blood tests and imaging, cat owners can explore behavioral reasons for a cat’s toiletry troubles. Your family veterinarian will help you determine possible stressors and provide helpful tips.

Behavioral reasons may include:
  • Tom Cat (un-neutered male cat)
  • New stress in the home (Cats are very sensitive and can be stressed by things their owners may not think of).
    • Possible Stressors
      • Rearranging furniture or new furniture
      • New noises (such as construction in or near the home)
      • New pet in the home (or even in the neighborhood)
      • New person moving into the home or person moving out
      • Owners gone for an extended period such as a vacation
      • Change in diet
      • Litter box location moved
      • New type of litter or new litter box

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This information is meant to better inform cat owners with possible reasons their cat may be peeing outside of the litter box. If you believe your cat is experiencing medical issues, contact your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital immediately. If you have any questions or you are unsure if your cat needs emergency care, we still advise calling. At Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, we are available 24/7 at 651.501.3766. Our trained personnel can help you determine if you need to bring your cat to our animal emergency room.

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