Why Do Cats Pee In The Sink?


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Aside from being loving companion animals, most cats are also great roommates thanks to their overall cleanliness and ability to use the litter box.

But not all cats find it easy to do their business in the litter box, and perhaps your kitty is also having issues with peeing in unwanted areas like the sink or bathtub instead?

But why do cats pee in the sink? Cats may avoid the litter box when living with multiple cats if it’s dirty or placed in an undesired location. Stress or associating the litter box with pain during urination can also lead to litter box aversion and peeing in the sink instead.

If you want to know the techniques you can use to stop your cat from peeing in the sink or anywhere else for that matter, then we need to look at what’s causing it in the first place!

So, let’s get started!

Why Do Cats Pee In The Sink?

Cats might seem mysterious but pretty much everything they do is for a reason so let’s get through all the possible reasons your kitty may be using your sink as a litter box!

Reason 1: To Mark Their Territory

If you’re a new cat parent whose kitten has been slowly growing into a full-blown adult, then you might notice some strange behaviors coming up. Usually, as explained by Debra Horwitz, DVM, unneutered and unspayed cats will leave small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces, and occasionally even stool.

As a cat matures and is ready to mate their urge to spray will grow. This way they communicate their territory to others but also the fact that they’re ready to procreate. The reason your kitty chooses to spray or pee in the sink could be their first effort to act out this instinct.

The location itself could be a coincidence, or perhaps there’s a window in the bathroom from which your kitty has seen or smelled the presence of another cat. There might be a possibility that your cat sees their own reflection in the bathroom mirror as a threat.

Scientists of course haven’t confirmed or denied whether cats are aware of their reflections, but this cats vs mirror compilation might suggest that some cats aren’t too happy with what they see in the mirror!

If your kitty is not spayed or neutered and they mark or pee in the sink, as well as other areas in the house then it’s time you talked to your vet. The sooner you do it then it’s less likely that this behavior will become a habit that will persist even after the procedure.

If you’re not sure where to take your kitty check out PetSmart Charities that has a directory with thousands of spay and neuter clinics across the globe. These clinics are either completely free or low cost so there’s really no reason not to get your kitty spayed or neutered.

Reason 2: Avoiding Their Litter Box

Most cats spend hours on end trying to look clean and presentable, and they expect that their toilet will look just as clean and fresh each time they use it. Of course, it only makes sense since you wouldn’t want to use a dirty bathroom, so why would they?

Litter box hygiene is truly important and while you may think that you’re doing a good job, your cat might be picky. For instance, I’ve had friends that would clean the litter box after each time their cat used it, otherwise, the cat would avoid the litter box and sometimes do their business elsewhere.

This of course can be difficult especially if you’re away for too long and if this is something you can relate to then consider getting an automatic litter box. A great choice is the Litter Maid Seld-Cleaning Litter box, you can check on Amazon.

This way your extra clean cat won’t have to deal with a dirty litter box ever again, plus the company offers a ramp that can encourage geriatric cats to continue to use the box!

If you believe you’re on top of litter box cleaning duty but your cat still prefers the sink to their own toilet, then they might not like the box type and placement. An open litter box could make a shy kitty feel exposed, especially if it’s placed in a busy room while a closed litter box or one that’s placed against a wall can make a cat feel trapped.

It’s also good to remember that two cats shouldn’t share one litter box and it’s best to keep their litter boxes in separate areas. In fact, the RSPCA recommends that you keep one litter box per cat, plus one more. If only one of your cats is using the sink as a litter box then they might be bullied out of their box, or they’re marking their territory because of the antagonistic attitude in the house.

Reason 3: It’s A Health Issue

One of the most important reasons to rule out when your cat is litter box avoidant is a medical issue. Cats that are sick and have a hard time making it to the litter box will look for alternatives that feel safer, or more comfortable.

If your kitty suddenly began peeing in the sink you need to look for other possible signs of discomfort, perhaps a lowered appetite, and a constant state of lethargy. It’s also important to realize that most cats try to hide their toilet business. So, when your cat is peeing outside the box, especially in a place like a sink where they know you’ll find out, it could be them trying to communicate that they’ve got a problem.

Cats with toilet problems can experience a variety of issues. One of the most common problems is the inflammation of the urinary tract (FLUTD). This condition makes urinating painful and more frequent. This pain and discomfort can make your cat associate the litter box with this bad sensation and they’ll look for other places to pee, something close by like the bathroom rug, or something unexpected like the sink.

The American Veterinary Medical Association also points out that “while FLUTD can occur at any age, it is usually seen in middle-aged, overweight cats that get a little exercise, use an indoor litter box, have little or no outdoor access, or eat a dry diet.”

Of course, aside from FLUTD, your kitty could be feeling discomfort and frequent peeing because of kidney and thyroid diseases, diabetes mellitus, and bladder stones. That’s why if your kitty is peeing in the sink or bathtub you need to also look at changes in their water consumption and how regular their visits to the bathroom are.

I want to also note that a change in bathroom behaviors should be enough to take your kitty to the vet for a check-up. Cats can easily develop habits even after the pain is gone, and they can make negative associations caused by discomfort, so treatment should be as quick as possible, so your kitty doesn’t keep on peeing in the sink even after the medical condition is resolved.

Reason 4: It’s A Behavioral Issue

While pain and discomfort can lead to litter box avoidance, the issue might be more psychological than physical. I know it’s sometimes hard to understand when our cats are not emotionally well, especially since their body language is so different, and that’s why we need to look at the possible reasons our kitty are “acting out” by peeing in the sink.

Behavioral changes usually occur when a cat is experiencing high levels of stress. This can be caused by sudden changes in their day-to-day life, like a new feeding routine, moving houses, or the passing of a family member.

Then again the problem might have to do with your mutual relationship. Cats are in need of attention, in the form of play and cuddles. If you’ve been neglecting your cat’s need to spend time with you they might start protesting against this change in your sink.

If your relationship isn’t the source of this behavior, then it could be your other cat or cats. Studies show that male cats and cats from multicat households are more likely to exhibit urine marking behavior, compared to female cats and single-cat households.

ASPCA points out that “They might do it to preempt a problem by leaving a message that this place is theirs, or they might do it to comfort themselves with their own familiar scent.”

Finally, this change in litter box etiquette could be a sign of cognitive decline. As our cats get older their body and often their mind will start declining, influencing their awareness, learning ability, memory, and responsiveness.

It’s possible that some cats will get confused or forget how to use their litter box and look for other places, in this case, the sink. If your kitty is old, or they show signs of stress make sure to speak to your vet or a pet behaviorist to get a professional opinion on this matter.

Reason 5: They Prefer The Sink

There are plenty of reasons your cat might be peeing in the sink, some more serious than others, but then again some of them might simply do it because they like your sink. Cats are peculiar creatures, they find certain textures fascinating, interesting, or comforting.

For example, lots of cats enjoy kneading and biting wool and can even start consuming it, a condition is also known as pica. Similarly, cats are drawn to certain textures and smell on objects that they might lick or mark.

According to Debra Horwitz, “A cat may not use the litter box if it prefers another location or substrate. This change in preference may arise independently or may occur because of aversion to the present location or substrate.”

If you find your kitty consistently using the sink as a litter box, then they most likely prefer that location and it’s their substance preference. Horwitz also adds that “of course a preference for more than one location or more than one surface may also arise, and they are not mutually exclusive.”So, your kitty could start peeing on tile floors, the bathtub, and even the carpet.

Whether your sink is made of marble or concrete might not matter to some cats, because the reason they choose to pee there might have to do with the position of the sink. Sinks usually are elevated above a room and this could make a cat feel safer when they use it. They don’t expect anyone to jump up at them, instead, they have a full view of the room, possibly the door as well.

Why Is My Cat Pooping In The Sink Or Bathtub?

Finding out that your precious kitty is using the sink or tub to pee can be a strange and alarming surprise, but it can be even worse if they also use it to poop. For some cats peeing could be just the beginning before they switch from the litterbox to sink completely.

The reasons could be the same as we’ve discussed above, but I do think it’s possible you’re your kitty is trying to tell you something. Sure they might be complaining about the state of their litter box, or the litter itself, but it most likely is a behavioral or medical issue.

Defecating in unwanted areas like the bathtub and sink could be caused by constipation. If your kitty is straining to poop, then you might hear them cry in pain. Other signs could also be overall lethargy, low appetite, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

When this pain is more intense especially when they’re using the litter box then a cat might start seeing the box itself as the problem. They might look for other places, and if you keep the litter box in the bathroom as I do then they will most likely look for another place in the same room to poop, and a sink or a bathtub might be the best next thing.

Unless your cat has never been potty trained, suddenly using your sink as a litter box is definitely something that you need to discuss with your vet as soon as possible.

How To Stop My Cat From Peeing In The Sink?

Understanding the root of this problem should be the first thing every cat parent should do. This way you can find the right tools and methods to help your kitty use their litter box properly.

But when it comes to a solution what can you actually do?

1. Check For Medical Issues First

Whenever our cats behave inadequately, either by not eating their food, constantly throwing up, and not using their litter box properly, a trip to the vet is a must!

Yes, soiling outside their litter box and into your sink might feel like a slap in your face or like your kitty is misbehaving, but it’s nothing personal, cats don’t do anything out of spite. Yes, they might react to our bad handling, a stressful environment, or pain, but it’s never an act of meanness. That’s why you need to rule out any medical issues first.

Any cat could end up eliminating where they shouldn’t because of health issues and a study of urine marking cats showed that “38% were found to have a urogenital medical condition and/or crystalluria.”

More so, while younger cats might have fewer chances of having FLUTD, older cats are in greater danger. Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), also called interstitial cystitis, is the most common diagnosis in cats less than 10 years of age with lower urinary tract disease.

That’s why if your cat is peeing in the sink or any other place other than the litter box you need to make an appointment with the veterinarian. With time and patience and the help of a professional, you’ll be able to stop this behavior from becoming a habit.

2. Keep Your Cat Happy And Stress-Free

Once the medical causes are eliminated you can start looking at your cat’s mental wellbeing. I know that being a busy human can make us forgetful and too tired to function, but our kitties are our responsibility, and we need to be there for them.

First, you need to look at all the ways you can keep your kitty happy as much as possible. Choose nutritious food, plenty of water sources, tall scratching posts, and cat trees that are preferably looking out the window so they can get that visual stimulation, especially if there’s no catio or safe balcony.

A study also suggests that adding cozy, hiding places is a simple enhancement that can improve your cat’s life and it’s very crucial when you have more than one feline companion.

Of course, money can’t buy you love, and it can’t buy your cat’s happiness either, so make sure you spend quality time with them. Use interactive toys that your kitty loves, explore new games like hiding and seek, and don’t forget to use treats here and there to reward their good behavior.

I’d also suggest living a few puzzle toys filled with food when you’re not at home to motivate your kitty to exercise and have a good time even when you’re not around. And last but not least don’t forget to give your kitty all the cuddles and love you can.

Once you understand your cat’s stressors, or you know when a stressful situation or a change will arise, try making that transition as smooth as possible. Contacting a feline behaviorist can also help you find ways to study your cat’s body language, giving them what they need and change certain behaviors like peeing in the sink.

3. Remove Access To The Sink

Many cats enjoy following their owners to the toilet so this could be a bit of a hard one to manage but veterinarian Debra Horwitz suggests that if inappropriate elimination“is happening in only one or two places, the problem might be resolved by preventing your cat from having unsupervised access to that location.”

Of course, it’s important to understand that simply keeping your kitchen or bathroom sink off-limits isn’t going to work if you haven’t taken them to the vet to see the source of this behavior. Only after working out what’s causing your kitty’s inappropriate elimination and litter box avoidance can you stop them from using the sink again.

If you keep your cat’s litter box in the bathroom you can simply move it to an area where there are no sinks or areas and objects made of similar material. Keep the door to your kitchen closed at all times and make sure you keep an eye on your cat at all times if they enter a room where there’s a sink.

If they do jump on the counter make sure not to shout because the only thing you’ll achieve is scaring your cat and teaching them that it’s only appropriate to do so when you’re not around.

4. Make The Sink Unappealing

If on the other hand, you can’t keep the sink off-limits because the room it’s located in can’t be closed off then you can make the sink an undesirable area. Most cats hate or at least dislike water and by always keeping a few inches of water in the sink your cat will start avoiding it. Of course, you can stop once your cat learns that the sink is covered in water.

Then again if your cat is using the sink specifically for its wet surface, then another solution is ethereal oils. Make sure you rub a few drops of citrus, lavender oils, or any scent your cat finds offputting around the sink instead of using large quantities. The goal is to make this area’s scent off-putting and since cats have a great sense of smell you don’t need to drench the area in oils.

5. Improve The Litter Box Conditions

While the root of your cat’s litter box avoidance might have to do with their health, your relationship, and their fascination with the sink, they might also dislike the state of their toilet. That’s why it’s important to create the perfect litter box experience for your kitty which means having the appropriate amount of litter boxes per cat, keeping these litter boxes separated and in low-traffic areas of your house.

Depending on your cat’s personality you might want to experiment with a closed litter box for an added privacy. Or go for a low-brimmed litter box for older cats. Plastic litter boxes tend to absorb odors over time so you might want to go for a stainless steel litter box that will stay odorless forever, never mind the fact that it’s easy to clean!

Often times when cats choose to pee in other areas it’s the litter itself, they’re trying to avoid. So, try to experiment with different litter brands and types until you find the perfect one for your kitty.

According to Cornell Feline Health Center, “most cats prefer unscented, finer-textured litter about one to two inches deep.” I highly recommend giving Dr. Elsey’s Cat Litter a try, which you can see here on Amazon. This litter was made by a veterinarian to specifically help with house soiling and it’s truly a premium litter.

Mixing different litters isn’t always a good idea, but if you’re looking for alternatives to clay wood pellet cat litter can be a great option since it’s not harsh on the paws, doesn’t stick or track.

I do want to emphasize the fact that no matter how great your cat’s new litter box and litter is if you don’t clean it regularly, they won’t be happy, instead, they will keep going for the sink again and again. Studies have shown that regular removal of cat litter box eliminations promotes proper litter box use. Depending on your kitty litter brand, your scooping, consider cleaning out the whole box and replacing the old litter with a new batch at least once a week or a month.

My final litter box advice is that you keep it away from your cat’s water and food bowl. I’m sure you wouldn’t have your toilet in the kitchen area!

6. Potty Train Your Cat

Last but definitely not least, you’ll need to train or re-train your kitty to use their litter box.

If you’ve adopted a kitten or a stray cat that has never used a litter box before then it’s only normal to see them eliminate in unwanted areas, in your case the sink. Most kittens will use the litter box instinctively, but some might need a few days even several weeks to figure the toilet process out.

With kittens, the process can be easier since most of the time all you need to do is put them in the litter box and off they go. Sometimes you might need to take their paw and brush the litter with it, and if there was an accidental poop outside the litter box simply place it into the box and let your kitten see where it is.

Praising and rewarding your kitten and cat for the right litter box behavior is important since it positively reinforces this behavior. For older cats, these techniques can also be quite useful, and placing your cat after a meal on top of the litter can create a sense of routine. If your kitty is associating the sink with their own toilet then perhaps moving the litter box into the bathroom can help them connect with the box instead.

Once again scolding or any form of punishment isn’t the key, instead, the Journal of Veterinary Behavior states that “Positive reinforcement training with cats is a useful tool for improving the human-animal bond, treating behavior problems, and teaching novel tasks.”

Soiling outside of the litter box can also be a problem for elderly cats. You might notice them forget more than just their litter box and this is a sign that your kitty is going senile. If that’s the case then you might need to retrain your kitty using the litter box.

How Can You Get Rid Of The Cat Urine Smell In The Sink or Bathtub?

As much as we love our cats their urine smell is definitely something we don’t want to linger in our bathroom, but thankfully there are several ways you can eliminate that smell.

Before opening the tap on the first thing you need to do is use paper or a towel to clean the surface from the pee. The last thing you want is to push the smell down the pipe.

Once that’s done you can use an enzyme cleaner. Enzymes are macromolecular biological catalysts that speed up chemical reactions. Basically, they break up different stains, but most importantly they can break down the acid in your cat’s urine and neutralize the bacteria.

There are plenty of pet enzyme cleaners in pet stores and my absolute favorite is the Nature’s Miracle available on Amazon. It definitely has saved a couple of cat beds, my favorite beanbag, and other surfaces from when my cat was still a messy kitten!

If you don’t have an enzyme cleaner at hand you can always go for the easy solution of using vinegar. While it has its own distinctive smell, the folks at PetMD state that vinegar is “an acid that neutralizes the alkaline salts that form in dried urine stains.” So, it can definitely help your sink stop smelling like your cat’s urine! My advice is to dilute the vinegar with some water in a spray bottle, then cover the area and leave the solution to sit for a few minutes before scrubbing the sink.

Another great and most importantly cheap product is baking soda. Since it’s composed of sodium bicarbonate it can absorb odors. All you have to do is clean the area from your cat’s urine and then sprinkle the baking soda all over the surface and let it sit for an hour before brushing and rinsing the sink.

Make sure to keep your cat away from the sink while these products are working their magic. Don’t forget to clean the area as best as you can so your kitty doesn’t get any of it on their paws in case, they try to use the sink as a litter box again!

Closing Thoughts

As cat parents no matter how much, we love our fluffy companions, inappropriate soiling can still be frustrating. Having a yellow stain on your sink isn’t a surprise anyone would wish for, but it’s important to understand that cats don’t do that on purpose or to make us feel bad.

On the contrary, this whole behavior usually comes from their own frustrations, possible pain, or stress from external changes. No matter what the reasons behind your kitty pieing in the sink, or anywhere else, you can change this habit with patience, effort, and a positive attitude.

Now tell us has your kitty ever peed in the sink, bathtub, or anywhere outside the litter box and how did you manage this potty accident?

Marina Titova

Marina was cat-struck 8 years ago. It was early autumn when Dante, her grey cat, found her and adopted her. They’ve been inseparable ever since. Dante has been a great cat-teacher and BetterWithCats.net seemed like the perfect place to share his cat-knowledge.

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