Unclean cat – what to do? 10 reasons and tips

Is your cat unclean? Does she suddenly next to instead of in her litter box? Does she pee or defecate in bed? Or does she always go to a certain spot, in a corner, on the carpet, or on things lying on the floor? There are many reasons why cats become unclean. Often stress, excessive demands or illnesses are behind it. How to recognize the cause in your pet and what you can do about it, you will learn in this guide.

First and foremost: stay calm!

The first thing to do is to stay calm. You should definitely realize that your cat does not want to annoy you! As annoying as the situation may be, cats don’t pee on the carpet, couch or bed out of sheer malice or jealousy. There is always a reason for an unclean cat! This is just sometimes not so easy for humans to find or understand.

For cats are very clean animals and love their habits. If they change them, then there is a valid reason for it.

The most common causes of a suddenly unclean cat are:

In this guide you will find information and many tips on all these points.

Health causes

Health reasons for your cat wetting the bed can be diseases or hormonal changes. Just as people go through puberty, this is also the case with cats.

A woman and a white cat lie asleep in a bed. If the cat sleeps in the bed with you, it is often tolerated. But what if she pees in bed?
If the cat sleeps in the bed with you, it is often tolerated. But what if she pees in bed?

Your cat is sick

A common cause of unclean cats is a urinary tract infection. Maybe you have had a bladder infection yourself and know how unpleasant this constant urge to urinate is. Now imagine that with your cat, who can’t tell you “It hurts me so much to pee. Please do something about it.” So she’s looking for another way to express herself and let you know that something is wrong. On top of that, your cat has to deal with the Litter box can connect pain and hopes that they do not occur when she does her business elsewhere.

So be especially mindful of the following behaviors:

  • Cat makes next to the toilet
  • Cat does not pee in the toilet

And not only urinary tract infections, but also other disease like kidney inflammation or the like can cause your cat to pee in the apartment. In all these cases, in addition to any pain, there is the fact that cats avoid odors that they associate with disease. And in the case of disease, this is often the litter box.
An indication of an organic cause can be a noticeably frequent urination in different places and generally a poor appearance of the cat. In the advanced stages of the disease, you will find blood in the urine or see that your furry friend has diarrhea.

Covered, sick cat: Don't go to the vet when your cat is already apathetic or not eating! Also get uncleanliness health checked out.
Don’t go to the vet when your cat is already apathetic or not eating! Also get uncleanliness health checked out.

What can you do?

So before you get angry, you should take your pet to the vet and have them check that there is nothing wrong with the urinary tract and that there is no bladder or kidney infection or that your cat has developed urinary stones. And that even if your pelt-nose does not seem sick to you apart from its uncleanliness. Cats are true masters at hiding their true state of health! If you see that she is sick, then she is really already in a really bad way.

Cat insurance helps with the costs

So that you do not have to worry about the financial aspect in this case, there is also health insurance for your Mietze.

Your cat becomes sexually mature

With the onset of sexual maturity, both males and females begin to mark their territory. This is a completely species-typical behavior. This happens by depositing small amounts of urine, which contains information that is clearly smellable to other cats. For males, this is information for other males that says “this is my territory here”. In cats, the markings contain information about their own health and willingness to be mated.

The problem is usually more evident in apartment-only cats, since their territory extends only to the apartment. And we cat owners tend to clean the places that have been marked directly, which then makes Mr. or Mrs. Cat feel compelled to mark again to spread their scent. Free-roaming cats have a larger territory to mark and then tend to see the apartment as their very own place, not to be entered by other cats, so not to be marked.

Cat marks on a column. It is important to distinguish peeing or marking. Because both need other measures to end them.
It is important to distinguish peeing or marking. Because both need other measures to end them.

So be especially mindful of the following behaviors:

  • Cat always pees in the same place
  • Cat pees on things lying on the floor

What can you do?

This cause can be circumvented by timely castration or sterilization. Timely means between six and ten months of age, depending on the sexual maturity of the cat or tomcat. As a rule, this takes care of the problem.

You can spray the places that have been marked with citric acid. Cats don’t like the smell and since they always sniff the spots before they mark, they will then usually leave it alone. And lemon smells better than onion, which would also help.

However, you should always be careful with such tips and try them out on one spot first. Because exceptions prove the rule and it may well be that a cat feels even more compelled to mark.

How to distinguish peeing and marking, you can read in this article: Peeing or marking – why is my cat unclean?

Your cat is stressed

Cats are creatures of habit and are extremely sensitive to change. To stress a cat out, sometimes it only takes little things that go differently than usual. And how is your kitty supposed to show she’s stressed? Very simple: she pees in the living room. Or in your bed.
So it may be worthwhile to think hard about whether and what might have changed in your case. Because these changes do not always have to be immediately apparent.

  • Do you have a new boyfriend?
  • Has any one moved in a new pet?
  • Do you have new furniture?
  • Have your working hours or hobbies changed?

You can solve all these causes through patience, understanding and a lot of attention.

A new pet has moved in

When another cat or even a dog moves into the household, every cat owner will probably think about the fact that his already existing cat might be stressed by it. But what about reptiles, birds or rodents? Again, if the apartment was otherwise inhabited by the cat alone, then a bird, rabbit or gecko can also unsettle it.

The animals smell different, they are new and exciting and thus also change the behavior of the owner. Probably they get more attention, especially in the beginning, which is lost to the cat. And our furry friends do not like that at all!

Outdoor cats are more accustomed to discovering new smells. Apartment cats can react to new roommates with uncleanliness.
Outdoor cats are more accustomed to discovering new smells. Apartment cats can react to new roommates with uncleanliness.

Some cats just withdraw and wait until everything is back to a routine, others make their protest clear by peeing on the carpet and getting messy.

If your cat is more likely to pee on the walls, then you should also consider that your neighbor has gotten a new cat or dog to live with them. Either your kitty can smell it or even see it through the window and feels threatened by it. In such cases, the FELIWAY Friends plug can possibly bring more peace back into your everyday life:

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A new member of the family has joined

The most obvious change in family life is a baby being born. But a new life partner can also unsettle your house cat. Always remember that cats are creatures of habit and like to claim all the attention for themselves. Especially if they are kept as a pure apartment cat, they are very fixated on their master or mistress. If now someone else appears, with whom kitty must suddenly share the attention, then it can unsettle her very much.

However, it’s important to make yourself aware that your cat doesn’t wet the bed out of jealousy! This assumes an intent and understanding of cause and effect that it simply cannot have.

A pregnant woman lies smiling on a bed in her arm is a black cat
Pregnancies not only bring great changes for us humans.

You have a new home furnishings

Have you moved? Did you buy a new closet? Did you move the furniture around? Or did you wash the cat blanket?

Some cats tolerate such changes without problems and still recognize their home as such. Others are very sensitive to every little change and be it just a freshly washed cat blanket or a new scented candle or the incense burners at Christmas time.

Always remember that the noses of our little pussycats are many times more sensitive than our own! And maybe you know it yourself, that you need a while to get used to the smell of a new piece of furniture or even a new apartment. For cats, to whom we cannot explain what is going on and why, the change is even more frightening.

You have other working hours

Do you have a new job? A new hobby? Are you home less often than usual? Have you been on vacation? Or for a weekend away from home? Or do you just have a change in work hours?

These can all be reasons that have upset your little furry one. Sometimes at first the joy after a reunion prevails and only one or two days later the protest follows in the form that your cat pees in the apartment. Or she does so only when she realizes that you are packing your bags again.

Not all cats can stay alone without problems. Some react to travel by master and mistress with uncleanliness.
Not all cats can stay alone without problems. Some react to travel by master and mistress with uncleanliness.

What can you do with a stressed cat?

Be patient! Give your kitty time to get used to the new situation.

If it is possible, try to make the changes slowly. So first let the new pet be only in a room that the cat does not visit so often. Make sure your new friend greets and pays attention to the cat, too. Show the cat the baby and don’t push her away when she comes to sniff curiously. This way, everyone can get used to each other and live together peacefully in the future. Show your cat the new piece of furniture or put the cuddly blanket inside first, so the smell is not quite so new.

For all these changes, give extra attention to your kitty!

Especially when, as with a job change or the birth of a baby, it is not possible to bring about the change slowly, this is enormously important. Your cat needs to know that no matter what is going on, you are still there for her. Give her an extra dose of petting or treats and favorite food. So the little pelt-nose does not feel neglected and slowly regains confidence that all will soon be well again.

You can also use Feliway, which has a very calming effect on many cats.

By the way: You should never keep apartment cats alone, otherwise they can become socially stunted! If your kitties can’t / aren’t allowed out, they should always be at least in pairs. This also helps them cope better with change.

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The litter box as the cause

Many cat owners do not give too much thought to the litter box. What could you possibly do wrong, you think? In your cat’s eyes, a whole lot!

A particularly clear sign that something is wrong with the litter box?

  • Your cat does not go in the litter box.
  • Your cat pees next to the litter box. This can also be in the shower or tub.

Because then she wants to say: I know where the litter box is and I also want to be clean, but I just don’t like to use it!

Cat peeing out of a litter box.
If it’s the wrong design, your cat may pee out of its litter box.

Then the only thing that helps is to find out what exactly is wrong with the litter box:

  • Does the number fit?
  • Is it the right design?
  • Is it in the right place?
  • Is the cat litter the right one?

How to find the right litter box for your cat, you can read in our great guide: Buying guide: Which litter box suits my cat?

Number and cleanliness of the litter box

First of all, you should keep in mind that you should always put one more litter box than the number of cats you have. That is, if you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes, if you have two cats, you should have three, and so on. This may seem unnecessary at first, but cats like to separate the places where they do their big and small business. And they do not like to share their toilet and its smell with another cat.

Then think about whether you clean them often enough and properly! Cats are very clean animals and just as you certainly don’t like going to a heavily used porta-potty, neither does your cat. And just as unpleasant as a dirty litter box is one that smells unpleasant to them! Imagine having to hold your breath when you do your business because the smell in the toilet makes you nauseous. Not a pretty picture, is it?

The situation is similar with very sharp cleaning agents. These could also disturb your pet’s nose so sensitively that it no longer likes to pee in the litter box. This can be the case even if you do not smell the cleaning agent itself.

One cat is sitting in the litter box, another is standing next to it looking angry
Sometimes cats make each other’s lives miserable. Then no one can do their business in peace!

What can you do?

You may be fine for a while if you have fewer litter boxes than recommended. But if your cat has become unclean, the first thing to consider is whether the number of litter boxes is sufficient. If not, change it. Sometimes just another little box helps.

You really should remove your pet’s droppings at least once a day. At regular and not too long intervals, you should change the litter completely and clean the litter box with hot water and a maximum of mild detergent. Do not use harsh cleaners or disinfectants. On the one hand, this is unnecessary and on the other hand, it disturbs the sensitive nose of your kitty.

This also applies to other intense odors, such as those sometimes found in room fragrances. If you recently started using an air freshener in the place where the litter box is located, remove it!

The litter box is unsuitable

Some litter boxes look decorative and please the cat owner’s heart, however, are conceivably unsuitable for cats.
In general, cats tolerate the common litter boxes with lids and swinging doors. However, these enclosed toilets should definitely be large enough so that Mr. and Mrs. Cat can easily turn around in them and scratch around.

You should also always think about the age of your pet. It may be that he has been fine in his litter box up until now, but as he gets older the high entry is causing him problems.

Your litter box should definitely fit the size, age and preferences of your cat.
Your litter box should definitely fit the size, age and preferences of your cat.

What can you do?

Buy your cat another litter box and think carefully about what it needs beforehand:

  • It should be large enough for her to turn around and scratch without bumping into anything.
  • It should have as low an entry as possible so that she can get in comfortably as she gets older.

Sometimes it is enough to take out the swinging door. Especially older or sick cats do not like to bump their heads on the door. It can help to remove them and your cat’s uncleanliness will be gone.

Sometimes it also helps to change the shape. There are corner toilets that will give your furry friend other options to move around in. If you’ve had a closed litter box up until now, why not take the lid off? Then when your cat starts using her litter box again, you know you need a toilet without a lid.

If you’ve had a closed litter box up until now, why not take the lid off? Then when your cat starts using her litter box again, you know you need a toilet without a lid.

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The litter box is in a troubled place

Do you want to be watched or disturbed when you go to the toilet? Certainly not. For this, our bathrooms have doors that we close when we pursue our need.

And now think about it:Does your cat have the necessary peace and quiet in its litter box? Or is it in the hallway, where people walk past it every now and then? Or maybe it’s hidden in a little cabinet that you put stuff on every now and then? This may look more decorative – who likes to have a litter box in the apartment? – but is not in the spirit of the cat.

If the problems have occurred only after a certain time, then consider whether your house cat has perhaps been frightened during his business. This can upset your cat so permanently that he no longer dares to do his business there.

A cat sits in front of a litter box in a hallway
Do you want to be disturbed in your business? No? Well, neither does your cat! So think carefully about where you put your litter box.

What you can do

Place the litter box in a quiet place that is always easily accessible.

This should not be near the feeding station, but several rooms away. Or do you want to have breakfast on the toilet?

Avoid cat attacks

Especially if you have several cats and one of them has suddenly become unclean, then it is worth considering the location of the litter boxes. For whatever reason, some cats like to ambush their fellow cats when they are doing their business. This means that one cat is on the toilet and the other sits in front of it and pounces on it as soon as it is ready. Especially insecure cats may well be so traumatized that they no longer use their litter box. Understandable, right?

What can you do?

Use litter boxes without lids, as they offer a better overview (the predator can’t sneak up on you so easily!) and more escape options (to the front, sides and back). Also, place your litter boxes so that there are as few hiding places as possible, but as many escape routes as possible. So, for example, not in a dark corner behind the large flower pot, but relatively free-standing on a wall.

Maybe it won’t look quite as decorative, but it will get you a clean cat again.

If your cat prefers to pee next to her litter box, that's pretty unpleasant. Maybe she was mugged once?
If your cat prefers to pee next to her litter box, that’s pretty unpleasant. Maybe she was mugged once?

You have changed the cat litter

Did I mention that cats are creatures of habit? They often don’t like it when anything changes. Even if it is only a trivial thing for you, that you have bought a new great cat litter, because it was recommended to you from all sides.

For your cat, however, this means that the sensation on her sensitive paws will change when she does her business. The new cat litter also changes the smell of her litter box, so she may not recognize it as hers. And it behaves, smells and dust differently than the previous cat litter. This often irritates cats additionally.

Or maybe you didn’t change the cat litter, but are now using a litter box to combat the odor? This is often a fine granule that you pour into the litter box in addition to the cat litter, and it smells like orange, lavender, or whatever. This may be nice for you as a human, but for your cat this smell can be very unpleasant!

What can you do?

To put it casually: fall back on the tried and tested cat litter!

Deep cat litter box is cleaned
Choosing the right cat litter can be a tricky thing with a sensitive cat.

But I want to change the cat litter!

If you absolutely want to change the cat litter, then try it first only in a litter box. That way, your kitty can always switch out if she doesn’t like the new litter.

Especially for sensitive pets, mix the new litter gradually with the old. So your kitty can slowly get used to the new feeling and smell.

Cat litter variants and alternatives

Or maybe you didn’t change anything about the cat litter and your cat still got messy. Or it is unclean from the beginning. In either case, you should be concerned about your cat litter.

In general, make sure that it is

  • … is as possible clumping litter,
  • has a consistency that is not too coarse,
  • little smells and
  • hardly any dust.

The latter is especially important for closed litter boxes. Some litter develop veritable clouds of dust when stirred up. And your cat likes to scratch in its litter and then sit in the dust. Not a pretty picture, is it?

Any cat litter should absorb the moisture and, if possible, the smell. Below you can read what are the different types of cat litter and what are their advantages and disadvantages.

Mineral cat litter

Available as clumping litter

To buy everywhere

Favorable price

Absorbs liquid well

Dust more or less

High weight

Ecologically non-degradable and therefore highly harmful to the environment

Natural cat litter

Made from plant fibers (wood, straw, corn or other plant fibers pressed into pellets or chips).

Environmentally friendly from renewable raw materials, compostable

Low weight

Absorbs liquid well

Dust little

Also available as clumping litter from natural clay

Higher price

Worse availability

Some cats find the own smell disturbing

Silicate cat litter

Very light

Hardly dusts

Absorbs liquid particularly well

Higher price

Spherical shape remains in the pads and spreads throughout the apartment.

Poisonous! Especially for young and sick cats, caution is advised here.

Alternative cat litter

Wood chips, newspaper or kitchen paper

Favorable price

Simple availability

Do not absorb liquids well

Poorly enclose odors.

Quick change required after use.

10 tips for an unclean cat – this is what you can do

You should definitely stay calm and clarify if your cat is healthy! If it is, then consider if anything has changed. Sometimes a little detective work is needed to find the cause, especially when cause and consequence cannot be precisely related in time. Maybe you changed the cat litter some time ago without problems and now the place of the litter box? Your cat may not go back to its litter box until the litter box is in the old location and contains the old cat litter.

There may be more than one reason why your cat is peeing in the corner and not using its litter box. For example, she may have never been comfortable with the small litter box, but she tolerated it until you got a new cabinet or changed her food bowl.

You see, it sometimes takes patience and sensitivity to get to the bottom of the causes. And even if you don’t find the cause, be extra attentive with your kitty. With your serenity and love, you strengthen their trust in you and perhaps solve the problem without knowing it. In seemingly hopeless cases, an animal psychologist can help you with this.

But until you do, try these 10 tips:

  1. Have your cat or male cat neutered as soon as they are the right age.
  2. Remove the urine smell best by vinegar cleaner or special cleaners from the pet store. The goal is to thoroughly neutralize the odor so that this spot is not considered a litter box because of the smell. Here you will find a comprehensive guide to removing stains and odors from cat urine.
  3. If it is possible for you, then on the place where the cat peed, you should put as additional litter box as possible. This way the cat gets used to the toilet again and not to the carpet as a pee pad. Disposable cat toilets are practical for this purpose.
  4. Alternatively, you can declare the spot as a new feeding place and put a bowl of food or water there. Cats do not pee where they eat.
  5. If this is not possible, place or fix aluminum or plastic foil on the spot after cleaning. Cats prefer to pee on soft and quiet surfaces like a carpet. Oilcloth tablecloths, like those used for garden tables, also help with larger items.
  6. If all that fails, spray the area with a strong and acrid odor such as lemon, pepper or onion. Cat noses are much more sensitive and if something pinches her nose, she doesn’t pee there.
  7. If you catch your cat in the act, it helps to carry it to its litter box immediately.
  8. Praise your cat as soon as it paws in its litter box.
  9. If your cat always pees in your bed, it may help to consistently deny her access to the bedroom for a while. However, be sure to do some research to find the cause. Because you are not solving the underlying problem!
  10. If your cat pees on your already older bathroom mat, it probably smells very inviting to cat noses by now (no matter how often you wash it). Either replace the mat with a new one or put it somewhere inaccessible to your pet when not in use.

What you should not do in any case

  • Yell at your cat! Yes, it’s annoying when you come home and the cat has peed on the carpet. But always remember: she’s not doing it to annoy you! And she can no longer associate your shouting with the lake. So for them, it’s a punishment that comes out of the blue and only makes them more insecure.
  • Splash your cat wet with a flower sprayer. No matter who recommends this to you, such punishment is no longer appropriate. It also tends to make the problem worse for insecure cats.
  • Nudge the cat into the puddle of urine with your nose. This will only make your cat more upset and stressed. She is not an adult and cannot make the connection between her urination and your “nose in urine poke”. In this way, you will only make her lose confidence in you and become even more afraid.
  • Use cleaning agents containing ammonia. Ammonia is also present in urine and will reinforce to your cat that there is a new pee spot there. Because according to cat logic, anything that smells like urine must be a litter box. No matter what else it looks like there.
  • Shake or hit your cat. It goes without saying that you do not do violence to any being entrusted to you and helpless! Always compare a cat to a baby: would you hit it just because it was peeing at the moment it wasn’t wearing a diaper?
  • Put your unclean cat to sleep. Why would you do that? Rarely are the reasons for your cat defecating in the bed or peeing next to the litter box serious health issues. A urinary tract infection and even kidney disease can be treated well. There is no reason to put your pet to sleep.

Always try to stay calm and composed and put yourself in your messy cat’s shoes. This may be difficult at times, but it will help you identify where the problem is and fix it. After all, you want to continue to live together with your pet carefree!

A tomcat lies relaxed on a blanket
To get back to a harmonious coexistence, you should stay calm and make your cat feel safe.

Frequently asked questions

Cat wets the bed – what to do?

Stay calm! And then go in search of the cause. Your cat has a reason for wetting the bed and not using her litter box. This may be health reasons that only a veterinarian can detect. Or changes in your apartment or your cohabitation. With a little detective work you can find the reason and then help your cat.

Do I have to put down my unclean cat?

No. Euthanizing a cat is only allowed with a medically valid reason in the first place. An unclean cat does not usually have terminal disease. Urinary tract infections can be treated and even with chronic renal failure a cat can live for several years.

Cat kotet to bed – and now?

The same questions apply here that you should ask yourself when your cat wets the bed: Is she healthy? Were there any changes that might have upset them? Is everything okay with the litter box? Check out all the tips in our guide. Until you’ve been able to get to the bottom of the cause, close the door to the bedroom.

Cat no longer makes in the litter box – what now?

Take a critical look at the litter box situation at your house:
Do you have enough litter boxes? As a rule, have one more litter box than the number of cats living with you. (So with 2 cats 3 litter boxes).
Are the litter boxes always clean enough? Cats are clean creatures and do not like to defecate where they pee.
Did you change the cat litter? Cats are creatures of habit. If you want to use a different litter, change it slowly.
Here you can find even more tips on litter boxes as a cause of unclean cats.

What to do when cat pees in protest?

A cat does not pee in protest. She pees because she is in need. But never to get you angry or to protest something. This is human thinking, not animal thinking. So look at what is causing your cat to become unclean. Most often it is due to health reasons, followed by changes that your pet can not cope with.

Why does my cat pee in the bed?

This may be due to health reasons. Bladder infection or kidney problems are more common than you might think.
It can also be a change that upsets your velvet paw so much that it pees in the bed.
Or from your cat’s point of view, something is wrong with the litter box.

Read through the comments for lots more tips and tricks too!
Maybe you can already find help for your problem there?
Or feel free to describe what worked for you and your cat.
We are always happy to receive testimonials, tips and any comments!

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