After a long day at work you come home and close the door behind you. But...what's that on the floor? Oh no, your cat has peed or pooped outside the litter box! Let’s see what you can do to solve your cat's sudden housekeeping problem. With a cat that suddenly becomes housebroken, it usually has to do with a full bladder or bowels and not being able to find the right place for their need quickly enough, but also the right conditions for your cat to do it. When a cat stops going to the litter box, there’s always a good reason for it. They don't do it to tease you!

Is your cat suddenly housebroken? Find the cause!

As a catowner you can already be alert to the reason for this problem. The way your cat pees says a lot! If he urinates by spraying (against vertical surfaces in a standing position with a trembling tail) a behavioral problem is often the cause. If the cat sits down and urinates with a bent back, it’s often linked to a medical problem. Of course it’s always best to be sure and to contact your veterinarian.

Physical problems

The most common physical cause of an unclean cat is a bladder infection. This can be caused by a bacterial infection or, for example, by urinary calculi in the urine. This is usually caused by stress. Your cat has a strongly increased urge to urinate, and sometimes he can’t make it to the litter box. The urinating also hurts your cat, so he will associate the litter box with pain and may avoid it. A bladder infection is usually treated with a painkiller/inflammatory and possibly a special diet in case of cystitis. Another major cause of a housebroken cat is that your cat is drinking more, which will automatically cause more urination. Drinking a lot can be caused by kidney failure, problems with the thyroid gland and liver or diabetes. A thorough examination at the veterinarian -including urine and blood tests- is always necessary. Sometimes an examination of the stool is also necessary.

Mental difficulties

A cat that has become housebroken can also have a psychological cause. This is often related to a medical problem. Because of stress the resistance of your cat decreases and she becomes more susceptible to diseases such as stress-related bladder infections.

Some psychological causes:

  • Your cat has started to avoid the litter box because something unpleasant happened. For example, she was attacked, startled by something or experienced pain. Putting a new litter box elsewhere in the house can help, because the cat doesn’t have a negative experience with it.
  • Your cat feels anxious and only feels safe with you around. Things that smell like their owner also feel safe and therefore are used as litter boxes, like quilts and towels.
  • Your cat has a stressful relationship with another cat, for example when it comes to territory, or problems between a cat and a dog or a cat and a human, indoors and outdoors.
  • Your cat is experiencing these problems due to major changes in its environment. For example, a moving, the birth of a baby, the start of living together or a divorce can affect your cat's behavior.

How do you solve it?

Did your cat pee or poop outside the litter box? Don't punish them! Some people think it helps to run their nose through the pee, but this can cause additional stress and make the problems worse. Your cat is housebroken for a good reason, so there’s no point in punishing them.  Also, never give medications that can affect their behavior without discussing the cause of the problem with your veterinarian. These types of medications can have nasty side effects.

Do you have a household with multiple cats? You can follow this rule: one litter box for each cat, plus one extra.

What you can do at home

To solve the problem as soon as possible, you can also make some adjustments in your home or to your litter box. Here are some tips:

  • Cats like a litter box that is in a quiet and safe place. Don’t put them next to washing machines or in front of a window where other cats can take a look inside.
  • In addition, cats find a clean litter box with fine gravel very attractive. Make sure you change the gravel weekly and scoop out poop every day.
  • Research has shown that cats prefer an open litter box. Cats smell much better than humans and because of the cover on several litter boxes bad smells stay behind. Space is also important, so use a litter box that is at least as big as 1.5 times your cat.
  • Are the litter boxes scattered around the house? Never put them together in one place.
  • Are the litter boxes not too close to food or water? Keep a distance of at least 1.5 m between them. We don't like to eat on the toilet either, do we?
  • Do you use scented cat litter? Many cats find this unpleasant. In addition, cats prefer soft, sandy filling. Hard pellets can hurt their paws. Alternate to see which type your cat prefers.

We'd love to help!

Have you tried various things to housebreak your cat but do you feel like it's not doing much good? Contact our CareTeam for free advice and professional guidance. We are here for you!

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Annerike from the CareTeam

Questions about your pet's behaviour? The CareTeam loves to help you with free advice!