Help! My Cat Is Peeing in the Bathtub

Urination in an odd place may indicate an infection or blockage

Cat in the Bath Tub
Quincy in the Bath Tub. Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM

If your cat has started peeing in the bathtub, take notice. Any time your cat urinates outside the litter box, you should have your vet examine him to rule out a medical problem. Cats are known for getting urinary tract infections, and male cats get urethral blockages—even castrated males and sometimes female cats, too. If the cause isn't medical, look at environmental and behavioral reasons for the behavior.

Signs of a Medical Reason Your Cat Pees in New Places

One of the first signs of an infection or blockage is urinating in odd places. Additionally, you may see:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Straining to urinate, which may be confused with straining to defecate
  • Frequent licking of the "private area"
  • Crying or meowing

If this has gone on for a while or there is a urinary tract blockage, which can appear quickly, you may also see:

  • Decreased or absent appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Pain when picked up
  • Crying or meowing

Vet Tests for Medical Problems

It is important to have your cat checked out by your veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice any of these signs. Your veterinarian will examine your cat's overall health with a general physical exam, palpate the abdomen and bladder, and likely run a urinalysis to check for infection or crystals in the urine. Additionally, your vet may want to run blood work to check your cat's kidney and liver function and other measures of health.

Environmental and Behavioral Causes

Once a medical problem has been ruled out by your vet, other problems can be examined.

  • A smelly litter box might cause a cat to go elsewhere in your house. Keep a clean litter box by scooping every day—multiple times a day if more than one cat uses the box. Do a deep clean every couple of weeks. A cat's sense of smell is strong, and the box could smell nasty to your cat, especially if more than one cat uses the box.
  • A hard-to-reach litter box can also send a cat elsewhere for its business. If your cat is a senior, putting a litter box upstairs or in the basement where the cat has to climb stairs may be a problem. Choose an easy-to-reach location that is away from noisy machinery, like washing machines.
  • Changing to a different type of cat litter can upset your cat. If you've changed litter recently, change back, or add an addition litter box with the older little until the cat adjusts to both types.
  • Having a multiple cat household where one cat bullies the others causes peeing outside the box, particularly if the bully obstructs the path to the litter box. The best way to handle this problem is to add additional litter boxes to the household, so one is always available. Avoid covered litter boxes in multiple cat households. They may make a cat feel like it can't see if another cat is approaching.
  • Stress causes cats to pee in odd places. If your indoor cat can see outdoor cats in your yard, she may feel threatened. 

It's easy to feel that your cat is angry or lazy when she doesn't reliably use the litter box, but don't ignore the behavior. The reason could be a serious medical problem. If it isn't medical and you've supplied a clean litter box in an easy-to-reach location with the cat's favorite litter, you may need to consult a cat behaviorist for help.