How to stop senior cats from urinating in the house

Updated April 17, 2017

One of the worst things to clean up is cat pee, and it can be frustrating as a pet owner when your previously, litter-trained cat starts urinating on the carpet or in your bed. House soiling problems can have a number of causes, especially for senior cats, and you'll need to figure out what's wrong before trying to fix it.

Take your senior cat to the vet for a complete check-up immediately if he or she starts urinating outside of the box. Senior cats and cats that are fed dry food are prone to bladder and urinary tract infections, which can be fatal if they are not treated quickly. Neurological problems like a stroke or brain tumour can also cause a cat to lose its training, and these issues are more common in older cats. Some senior kitties may also experience dementia, which may cause them to forget to use the litter box, or forget where the box is. Your veterinarian will run some tests and ask you some questions about your cat's behaviour to determine the cause of its house-soiling, and she may prescribe medication or special food, or offer some other suggestions to help your cat. If your veterinarian decides that there is no medical reason for inappropriate urination, and that the problem is entirely behavioural, proceed with the steps below.

Clean the area where your cat peed thoroughly with an enzyme cleaner specially designed to remove cat urine odours. If your cat can smell his urine in the carpet, he may think that it is an appropriate place to pee and will pee there again and again. Enzyme cleaners are available at all large pet stores. If there is one particular spot where the cat is urinating, you could cover the area with aluminium foil to discourage him from going there. You could also try just putting a litter box in that spot.

Add more litter boxes to your house. You should have as many boxes as cats, plus one, so if you have three cats, there should be four litter boxes. Having more litter boxes will help an older cat who is becoming forgetful, and if your senior cat has trouble climbing the stairs, make sure there are plenty of boxes on the first floor of the house.

Try different styles of litter boxes. If all the boxes in your house are covered, try an uncovered box, or vice versa. An older cat might prefer a wide, shallow box so that it's easy for him to get in and out, and he has plenty of room to turn around.

Experiment with new litters. A cat may be urinating in the house because she doesn't like the feel of the litter under her feet. Watch your cat in the box to see if she steps gingerly on the litter, or tries to perch on the edge of the box. There are many kinds of litter available including fine-grained or large-grained, and litter made from clay, or wheat, or recycled paper. Most cats prefer unscented litter.

Clean the litter box at least once a day. No cat likes to go in a dirty litter box, and as they get older, they might get fussier.

Try using a cat pheromone product, such as Feliway. These products help calm cats, and may help a senior cat who is urinating outside of the litter box due to stress or dementia.

Things You'll Need

  • Enzyme cleaner
  • Aluminium foil
  • Litter boxes
  • Litter
  • Cat pheromone
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About the Author

Heidi Almond worked in the natural foods industry for more than seven years before becoming a full-time freelancer in 2010. She has been published in "Mother Earth News," "Legacy" magazine and in several local publications in Duluth, Minn. In 2002 Almond graduated cum laude from an environmental liberal arts college with a concentration in writing.