It’s not uncommon for cats to urinate outside their litter box, but rather on your clothes. I’ve had cats throughout my life and experienced this frustrating mishap from time to time . So, why do cats decide to urinate on your clothes, rather than their litter box? The cause could be a multitude of reasons such as: health, behavioral, stress, and their actual litter box. Here are some examples:
- Health: your cat may have a UTI, kidney disease, or some other urinary problem
- Stress: stressful household, physical pain, and loud noises
- Behavioral: territorial behavior
- Litter box: dirty, and/or uncomfortable
My cat Reginald recently had his first ever incident of peeing outside his box- instead he peed on my clothes! My emotions went from upset to concerned. Knowing this is not his typical behavior, I did some research on what would cause him to pee on my clothes. Here are some of the main reasons I found in detail..
Medical Causes: Urinary Health
If you find that your cat is peeing on your clothes more often than normal, I would suggest discussing this with your vetinarian to rule out any health concerns… If health concerns are ruled out, they may even suggest the root cause, and provide great advice and products to help your cat.
Some of the conditions that may cause a cat to pee on your clothes are: Urinary tract infection, kidney disease, crystals in the urine, urinary incontinence, bladder stones, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes.
So why not pee in the litterbox? Obviously, if your cat is incontinent they almost have no choice where they pee. Otherwise, most cats will seek comfort of the soft fabric when they are in pain because they associate the litter box with discomfort. Other cats may need to pee frequently and feel as if they “cannot hold it in”. Lastly, they may purposely pee somewhere apparent (such as your clothes) to bring to their human’s attention that something is wrong with them.
For example, I had a former roommate whose beloved cat (named Binx) peed in my bathtub, which was out of the norm. When I went to clean it, I noticed the urine appeared to have a bloody tinge to it. Binx was brought to the vet and was found to have crystals in his urine.
The most important way you can help maintain your cat’s urinary health is to provide a water-rich diet by replacing some of their dry food with more canned or homemade food. Even if you replenish their water bowl often, it may not be enough because cats naturally have a low thirst drive. This is because their ancestors had a diet consisting of prey containing approximately 70% water.
Cats are territorial by nature, and even more so if your cat is not fixed. They may smell the neighborhood cat’s urinary markings on the exterior of the house, and in response urinate on a pile of clothes near a window. Or perhaps they are trying to compete with another pet in the household for territory. If this is the case, a vetinarian may suggest getting your cat fixed as a way to prevent them from urinating on clothes and other surfaces.
As a result of being fixed, your cat’s hormones will decrease and so will their territorial and hormonally-charged behavior. However, if you get your cat fixed as an adult, they may retain the pesky habit of peeing on your clothes, but let’s hope that behavior diminishes with time.
Another reason your cat is peeing on your clothes may be due to a new pet (or person) living in their home which can make them feel intimidated, anxious, and territorial… especially if the environment became increasingly boisterous or stressful.
Stress is a common factor that could cause your cat to suddenly pee on your clothes. A cat’s response to stress traces back to their wildcat ancestors. In the wild, these cats avoided showing signs of stress and pain to avoid becoming vulnerable targets. Instead, they become aggressive, and territorial.
We see this in domestic cats today often leading to spraying on clothes and other surfaces, and this is often misinterpreted as bad behavior- when really we should take this as a sign they’re in need of emotional or physical help. Other signs of stress include hiding, over-grooming, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Please take your cat to the vet if they are exhibiting any signs of stress.
Cats instinctively feel vulnerable when they take the time to do their “business” (a reason why they do their “zoomies” post potty)! As a result, a loud noise such as a washing machine that just kicked on, or lurking pet may prompt your cat to run out of their box and seek the comforting pile of clothes in the bedroom to evade whatever spooked them.
Here are some ways to prevent your cat from urinating on your clothes or other unwanted surfaces:
- Make sure your cat is fixed (vet recommended) in order to reduce the territorial behavior of marking.
- Make sure the litter box is placed somewhere away from loud trafficked areas as well as loud appliances.
- If your cat is stressed, please see a vet to eliminate any health problems, and then tackle the root of any emotional stress (may involve a cat behavioral specialist).
- If there is a new cat in the house, provide your cat a separate box.
- If there is a new human in the house, it is advised to move the litter box from or away from the guest room until they are acclimated to the new member of the household.
Litter Box Problems
If your cat is still peeing on your clothes, there are some things you want to consider about the litter box itself. Is the cleanliness of the litter box up to your cat’s standards? Would you want to step in there if you were a cat?
If you answered no, consider cleaning your cat’s litter box daily, and it is even suggested to have two litter boxes per cat.
The texture of the litter is also very important. Did you recently change the type of litter (e.g. sand-like to pebble-like or even hard pellets)? Some cats can be picky about the texture of the litter, as something course and hard can hurt their paws- especially if they are declawed (a painful, barbaric practice).
Declawed cats are known to have problems using their litter box. This is understandable because declawing involves amputating part of their toes (along with their nerve endings), which can ultimately cause chronic pain and changes in their feet architecture. This makes stepping on and raking litter with their sensitive paws an unpleasant activity.
The location of the litter box may be another issue to consider. Is the litter box always accessible to the cat (any doors closing it off)? Is it in a heavily trafficked area of the house? If so, this can cause your cat to be hesitant with using their box.
This may seem like a small issue, but smells can also deter your cat from their litter box. A cat’s sense of smell is 9-15 times more acute than a human’s. Try to avoid scented litter that may be bothersome to them, and use an unscented deodorizer designed for litter boxes.
Lastly, consider the size of your cat’s box. If it is too small and uncomfortable, especially for larger breeds, your cat may be avoiding entering their litter box.
Why Did My Cat Pee on My Clothes? – Final Thoughts
If your cat is peeing on your clothes, more than the norm, it is advised to bring them to the vet to rule out any health conditions such as a urinary tract infection or bladder stones. Also, consider that non-urinary health conditions can cause them physical stress, and feline stress is known to lead them to unwanted territorial behaviors.
If your cat is in a good state of health, it may be because they are unneutered and simply displaying hormone-driven territorial behavior.
Are there any changes in the household that could be causing your cat’s stress? Stress in cats can cause aggressive and territorial behavior, but is simply a survival mechanism tracing back to their big-cat ancestors.
Consider The Conditions of Their Litter Box:
- Too dirty
- Litter texture and size is uncomfortable for their paws (especially with declawed cats)
- Too small
- Not enough litter boxes for multi-cat household
- Bothered by scented litter
- Location is unfavorable (high traffic area, next to loud appliances kicking on, and behind a closed door)
It may be perfectly normal if this occurs once in a while during the course of your cat’s life. We humans have our bad days too!
If you have any further questions, just drop it in the comments section. Also feel free to check out these related articles below or checkout our latest article here.
P.S. My cat Reginald is a healthy and happy boy. Peeing on my clothes was an isolated incident, and we figured I took too long showering and doing my hair (his box is in my bathroom). So we may reconsider the location of his litterbox!