Why Your Cat Pees in the Bathtub

Cat in the Bath Tub

Janet Tobiassen Crosby

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 it to rule out a medical problem. Cats are known for getting disorders of the urinary tract.

If the cause isn't medical, there could also be environmental and behavioral reasons for the change; for instance, many cats won't tolerate a litter box that is less than immaculate.

Medical Causes

Cats with urinary disorders often start urinating in odd places. Seeing blood in the urine or straining to urinate is also common. You may see your cat frequently licking its urethral opening.

Additional symptoms may include:

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

If you notice any of these signs, it's important to have your cat checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible. 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 abnormalities. Additionally, your vet may want to run blood work to evaluate kidney function, take x-rays or perform an ultrasound examination, and look for other problems.

Prompt treatment is important. In particular, urinary blockage can be fatal if not addressed swiftly.

Cat having a blood sample taken by a vet
Gary Ombler / Getty Images

Environmental Causes

Once a medical problem has been ruled out by your vet, environmental and behavioral problems can be examined. For instance, a smelly litter box might cause a cat to go elsewhere in your house. Keep a clean litter box by scooping at least every day. You will also want to perform a deep clean every couple of weeks, as a cat's sense of smell is strong.

Follow the "two plus one" rule with regards to the number of boxes you have in your home: one cat requires two boxes, two cats require three boxes, etc. This improves the chances that a cat will be able to find a clean box when he needs it.

Hard-to-reach litter boxes can also send a cat elsewhere for its business. If your cat is a senior, putting a litter box in a place where the cat has to climb stairs may be a problem. Choose easy-to-reach locations that are away from noisy machinery, like washing machines. Additionally, changing to a different type of cat litter can upset your cat. If you've changed the litter recently, change it back or add an additional litter box with the older litter until the cat adjusts to the new type.

Covered litter boxes can also be cramped and smelly. Most cats prefer large, open litter boxes.

Behavioral Causes

Having a multiple cat household where one cat bullies the others may cause 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 in different parts of the household, so one is always available.

Other types of stress can also cause cats to pee in odd places. For example, if your indoor cat can see outdoor cats in your yard, she may feel threatened. While it's easy to believe that your cat is angry or lazy when it doesn't reliably use the litter box, you don't want to ignore​ the behavior. There could be a serious medical problem, but if it isn't medical and you've supplied multiple clean litter boxes (in easy-to-reach locations with the cat's favorite litter), you may need to consult with a cat behaviorist for extra help.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.