Why is my cat using her litter box to poop but not to pee?
February 5, 2010 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Why is my cat using her litter box to poop but not to pee?

Before I bring my cat, Apricot, to the vet to see if she possibly has a bladder infection (or something) I want to consult the hivemind.

Until recently, Apricot always used her litter box. Now, however, Apricot’s been peeing outside her litter box. I thought maybe it had to do with Ollie, our dog, who was sometimes fenced-in in an area near her litter box, so I moved him. It’s been a few days now and she continues to pee outside her litter box—in fact, she’ll pee in the same spot every time. Strangely, though, she still continues to use the litter box to poop. This has been happening for maybe two weeks now.

Does anyone have any idea what the problem could be?
posted by blithecatpie to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My cat did that to protest the cover on her litterbox, and she repeatedly peed on the sofa to bring attention to the issue, where me and my boyfriend spent most of our time. Once the cover was removed, she had no problems. I suspect that's no the issue here, however... Is there something special about the spot she keeps using? (I also presume the litterbox conditions haven't changed - same litter, same location, etc.)
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 3:17 PM on February 5, 2010

When you say "outside the little box", do you mean directly outside of the box? As in, right next to it? If so, perhaps kitty want a bigger box?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:19 PM on February 5, 2010

And, of course little=litter.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:19 PM on February 5, 2010

My late cat started using the tub (and once, a toy basket) to urinate and it turned out to be a UTI. This may be a one time illness that will respond to antibiotics. In our case, it was caused or exacerbated by an underlying case of diabetes which was treatable and she lived for years afterwards. Do see a vet.
posted by Morrigan at 3:21 PM on February 5, 2010

This behavior in my cat was caused by kidney stones. Because peeing was uncomfortable, he sought out blankets or other soft spots in the hopes (I can only assume) that they would be less painful. He had surgery to remove the stones and there haven't been any problems since. Definitely go to the vet.
posted by txsebastien at 3:21 PM on February 5, 2010

It could be a sign of a urinary tract infection.
posted by cabingirl at 3:22 PM on February 5, 2010

I would assume something must have changed, i.e. little type, amount, or depth. Some cats can be very picky; my Rag Doll poops outside the box if it's too deep but my Siamese will do his business in the box no matter what type of litter we use or how deep we made it.
posted by zombieApoc at 3:23 PM on February 5, 2010

Nthing sign of UTI or crystals in the urinary tract. Worth a checkup asap just to be sure. Are you seeing any increased water consumption and pee frequency? That could be a sign of diabetes, but like Morrigan notes this is absolutely treatable.
posted by dayintoday at 3:24 PM on February 5, 2010

We have two cats who prefer having a pee box and a poo box -- one will make do with one box, but the other will pee elsewhere if she does not have a separate pee box.
However, seeing that this is a sudden development, the suggestions to check for UTI, or other medical reason seem like a good idea.
posted by crenquis at 3:32 PM on February 5, 2010

@Tequila Mockingbird - As far as I can tell, the spot where she's currently peeing seems pretty random.

@Thorzdad - Her litter box is downstairs, while the spot where she's peeing is upstairs--which is down the hall from her bed (in my brother's room, by the window) where she sleeps a lot of the time (that and the downstairs couch). No other peeing spots found.

@dayintoday - As far as I know, no changes in her water consumption or peeing frequency.
posted by blithecatpie at 3:35 PM on February 5, 2010

Have known a cat do to this when the cleanliness of the litter box was not kept up to her standards.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 3:46 PM on February 5, 2010

@y6t5r4e3w2q1 If only if were as easy as that! But no, that's not the issue since we clean it every day (and as I mentioned, she still uses it, but only to poop).
posted by blithecatpie at 3:55 PM on February 5, 2010

This is the most common warning sign of urinary tract issues, even if you don't see any other changes. She needs to see a vet. And for future reference, any change in litterbox habits warrants a trip to the vet.
posted by biscotti at 4:02 PM on February 5, 2010

We have had many cats who pooped in one box and peed in another. Prior to going to the vet, you could introduce box #2 and see what happens.
posted by not that girl at 4:05 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of our cats does this occasionally as a territorial marker: for example, she did it on a chair another cat she didn't like got on, and also at the door way where the other cat went in and out. When she was at it, she was always at the same spot to pee.

We dumped the chair and did a lot of cleaning/deodorizing in the spot by the door.
posted by bearwife at 4:12 PM on February 5, 2010

Just adding that, yes, it's a UTI.
posted by generic230 at 4:25 PM on February 5, 2010

The fact that she is peeing close to her bed could be a sign her kidneys are failing. They drink more water, need to pee more frequently, and choose to do so in a spot that's close. If I remember correctly, it's unusual for a cat to pee close to the place they sleep for behavioral reasons alone.

Not to be alarmist, but these warning signs should not be ignored.
posted by politikitty at 4:26 PM on February 5, 2010

Thanks, everyone, so much for your input. I'm going to bring her to the vet asap, poor thing.
posted by blithecatpie at 4:50 PM on February 5, 2010

Yeah, this is very likely to be either a UTI or excessive magnesium in the diet, though at the worst it's possible there are kidney problems in play. The fact that it's a recent and fairly sudden change suggests it's something that needs treatment, so off to the vet you go.
posted by majick at 4:59 PM on February 5, 2010

My cat did this for the longest time. We had her totally checked out and given a clean bill of health and we absolutely couldn't figure out what was. She used the box to poop but would pee only on smooth, slick surfaces. For a while it was my bathtub, right above the drain, so it was actually a pretty good arrangement, but then she moved on to our hardwood floors that slightly angled onto my favorite rug.

I'm glad you've taken your cat to the vet, and chances are it's a medical problem, but if it's not, try giving her two boxes, side-by-side, and she can use one for each. Try putting different types of litter in each box. Try providing a box that just has a plastic liner (and some of those pee-pads underneath), because some cats, especially those with furry behinds, seem to prefer urinating on a smooth surface. And, most importantly, do not despair! Cats CAN be trained. And my cat, who had three years of ongoing litterbox problems and drove me to the brink, is now perfectly comfortable with her one litterbox that she uses for everything, and is very well behaved and healthy (in this case.)
posted by Mizu at 7:14 PM on February 5, 2010

I'm glad you're taking her to the vet, just n'thing that the golden rule for litterboxen is "one for each cat, plus one", which means you need another litterbox anyway.
posted by biscotti at 8:26 PM on February 5, 2010

Yes, some cats, especially as they get older, seem to like having one box for poop, one for pee.
posted by Casuistry at 9:33 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the additional input, everyone. I've never heard that before--cats using two litter boxes--but I'll give that a try, too.
posted by blithecatpie at 10:47 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

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