How to know if your cat has trouble finding the litter box, or is he marking territory?

Cat eliminating outside of the box
Photo: © Janika

When a cat is reported to urinate outside the litter box, the solution includes a decent amount of investigation, as there may be many causes of inappropriate elimination in cats. However, the task becomes even more advanced, if the inappropriate elimination is confused with an urine spraying, which is totally different behavior of a cat and require different solutions.

In this article, we are going to teach how to tell inappropriate urination and the urine spraying of a cat apart.

  1. Assume it’s possible either way. Just that your cat is neutered, or that he is a female, does not necessarily mean he will not spray. While it’s most commonly reported in intact male cats, the truth is that any cat may spray, even spayed females.
  2. Is it urine and feces, or just the urine. A thing to understand, cats do not mark with feces, unless in extremely rare occasions. It’s urine because it’s called urine spraying. So, if your cat is leaving feces and puddles of urine all over the place, assume it’s inappropriate elimination, not the marking issue you are dealing with. However, keep in mind, in some specific cases cats do use feces for marking purposes, but it’s rare.
  3. What are locations and postures assumed during the elimination. The simple rule of thumb, inappropriate elimination happens on horizontal surfaces, but territory marking on vertical ones. And, while in many occasions cat may mark territory on horizontal surfaces, if your cat is depositing the urine on the wall, it’s the marking. Posture also may determine the difference, as inappropriate elimination happens while assuming squatting posture, but territory marking would occur with a back turned against the object and raising and twitching the tail for several times. Of course, marking in a squatting posture may also occur, but is rare.

Now, that you may already have an idea whether your cat has a litter box problem, or is he marking territory, you may try to identify the cause of it. If you concluded your cat is urine marking, you can read what may be causing it here.

If, however, you concluded your cat exhibits inappropriate elimination, continue here to find top causes of litter box problems.