Why Do Cats Pee On Bathroom Rugs?


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While we know that our kitties are the cutest creatures, seeing them pee where they shouldn’t can be a disheartening behavior.

If it ever happened to you, then you know the feeling all too well, but if you’ve just discovered that your cat used your bathroom rug as their litterbox, your mind might be flooded with questions.

Why do cats pee on bathroom rugs? Cats typically use urine to mark their territory and to communicate with other cats. Your cat peeing on the bathmat could be triggered by a medical condition, they could have stress-related behavioral problems, or they’re not happy with the condition of their litterbox.

I’m sure you probably want to find out more about why your cat is peeing on your bathroom rug, and we’ve got plenty of possible reasons for you to consider.

Let’s begin!

Why Do Cats Pee On Bathroom Rugs?

As unappealing as this behavior might be, it’s important to remember that if your kitty pees on your bathroom rug they’re not doing it out of spite. There are many reasons that can cause litterbox aversion and lead cats to urinate in unusual spots.

The most important thing that you need to remember, is that the first step towards solving a problem is finding what has caused it in the first place!

1. Medical Causes

If your feline companion is spayed/neutered, and urine marking doesn’t apply to them then the first thing you need to figure out is if their bathmat obsession is caused by a medical problem.

One of the most common problems is the inflammation of the urinary tract (FLUTD), not only it can make urinating painful, but also more frequent.

The urinary tract disease experience can make them associate the litterbox with pain, and in your case, the soft bathroom rug might be the best next thing. 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.”

Other diseases that cause frequent urination like kidney, thyroid diseases, and diabetes mellitus can also lead to litterbox avoidance. In much older cats, urinating on the rug could be a result of cognitive decline.

Don’t forget to pay attention to how often they use the litterbox or the bathroom rug.  The average cat will urinate two to three times a day, suggests Chuck Miller, D.V.M. and owner of Triangle Veterinarian Hospital in Durham, N.C. and he also recommends that we keep an eye on any changes in the color or consistency of the urine. More frequent trips to the bathroom, where ever it is, is one of the more common signs of FLUTD.

Peeing on your bathroom rug, let alone other changes in their water consumption, and visits to the bathroom are all signs that it’s time to visit your vet.

Not only is important to get your cat the treatment they need and deserve but medical motivations for peeing on the rug can eventually become a habit. That means if you don’t address the medical concern quickly, your cat could eventually develop a preference for urinating on the bathroom rug even after their medical condition is resolved.

2. Marking Their Territory

So, if you found your kitty guilty of peeing on your bathmat then the first thing you might want to look into is spraying, a common behavior of an unneutered cat. As explained by Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, DECAWBM, “spraying is the deposition of small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces.”

She also adds that “although much less common, some cats will also mark their territory by leaving small amounts of urine, or occasionally stool, on horizontal surfaces.” So, if your kitten is maturing, the urge to spray will become extremely strong and the healthiest way of dealing with it is spaying or neutering them.

Once your kitty has gone through this precision the marking issues will be resolved, but there’s a possibility that this behavior will persist even after the procedure and might become a habit if you wait for too long.

Your cat might use the marking technique to communicate to other cats that the whole bathroom or even the bathmat is theirs.  It can be a natural reaction to a newly adopted kitty, or if your bathroom where the rug is, has a window where your cat can see other outdoor cats. It could also be a response to any new pet and not necessarily another cat.

According to veterinarians “By urine marking, a cat tells other cats of his presence and makes a statement about such things as what piece of property is his, how long ago he was in the area and, over time when other cats can expect him to return.”

Once again, this behavior is mostly observed in male unneutered cats, but even female cats can use urine markings to communicate their territory to others, and it’s also possible that your kitty is using this technique while being spayed or neutered.

If your cat isn’t already spayed or neutered, then it’s time to get it done. PetSmart Charities 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.

3. Behavioral Problems

If you ruled out any illness that’s causing your cat’s inappropriate soiling then it could be a behavioral problem. It’s also possible that they might keep peeing on the rug even after treatment because they don’t feel comfortable using the litterbox after having a terrible experience.

Research has also shown that “that male cats and cats from multicat households are more likely to exhibit urine marking behavior than females and cats from single-cat households.” This might be a new problem for you if you’ve just adopted a new cat and one of the two cats can’t accept each other.

Another possible reason for this behavioral problem is change. Our feline companions love stability, it gives them a sense of security, and when something in their environment changes it can easily lead to stress, and urine marking is often times associated with stress in cats.

For example, if someone moved in or moved out of your household, you changed houses, or even if you decided to change your cat’s feeding schedule, these are reasons enough to cause anxiety and lead to improper elimination. 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.”

The constant absence of the owner or a feud between your cats can also lead your cat to abuse your bath rug, and it could be that both of your cats pee on the bathmat to reclaim that territory. Whatever the reason might be, figuring it out will help you take the right action, which in turn should help your cat readjust to the new reality.

4. Litterbox Problems

If your kitty is healthy and you can’t find anything that might be causing them stress then it’s time that you made an assessment of their litterbox situation. Studies support the idea that a good and positive litter box environment improves the well-being of a cat. So, when your cat is doing their private business on your bathroom rug, they could be protesting against the state of their toilet.

Location

Private business is private for a reason, and where you place your kitty’s litterbox is important. Being a cat parent myself I soon found out that one of my cats is very shy and whenever he was disturbed, he would run out of the litterbox waiting until the bathroom was empty for him to use. Even though he never peed on the bathroom rug, I noticed him excessively scratching at his litterbox and as soon as I moved it to a quieter room, this behavior stopped.

Of course, if you stop and think about it, it totally makes sense, I mean you wouldn’t want other people to freely walk into the bathroom while you’re using the toilet! So, just like us, cats want to feel safe during this activity.

Size

Before moving your cat’s litterbox, you might want to look into its size as well. During their kittenhood cats usually require a litterbox that’s easily accessible, which will reinforce this their toilet experience as a positive one. A bigger cat on the other hand, like a Maine Coon, or due to excess weight might need a larger box so they can get into a more comfortable position.

Cleanliness

We all know that our fluffballs love cleanliness, they spend hours on end keeping their fur clean, you might have found them sleeping in a laundry basket full of fresh clothes, and they’re usually the first ones to enjoy a changed set of sheets on your bed. So, why would we think that their attention to cleanliness would be any different when it comes to their toilet.

When you find your cat going for the bathroom rug take a look at the state of their litterbox. Cats can often choose to do their business elsewhere because their litterbox isn’t clean enough, and some cats might need you to scoop out everything more than once a day. A closed litterbox usually requires more attention since smells can gather easily and can cause aversion.

Litter

I know most of us who own cats try to make good choices when it comes to the quality of their food, toys, and of course their litter. Unfortunately, we can also get bombarded by new brands that claim to keep the litter smelling fresh and they usually achieve that by using scent.

While scented litter can eliminate the smell, your cat might end up hating it. It’s possible that they prefer the smell of your bathroom rug more than their scented litter. You could try and look at how the litter also reacts to your cat’s pee; does it turn into a solid easily scooped up mass or does it end up scattered everywhere, causing it to stick to your cat’s paws.

Accessibility

As I mentioned before cats need to feel safe when they’re using their litterbox. The RSPCA recommends that there should be one litter box per cat, plus one more. A single shared litter box between two cats can simply cause an antagonistic attitude and turn your bathroom rug as their marking territory.

If one of your cats isn’t harassing the other for using the litterbox, they might still feel unsafe because of how the litterbox is positioned. An open litterbox can give them a multitude of escape routes, while a closed one might make them feel like they’re trapped. Placing the litterbox against the wall or tucked away into a corner can cause the same feelings of being trapped to arise.

5. Your Cat Likes The Rug

If you’ve eliminated all of the above reasons, it’s also possible that your kitty is drawn to the bathroom rug because they like how it smells. Your fluffball could feel the urge to cover the smell of the plastic beneath the bathmat that keeps it from moving around.

It’s not surprising that your kitty might be interested in plastic since there are cats that will pee on plastic bags, or some might even lick plastic.

Because of the constant use, the rug will accumulate other smells, of moisture, sweat, and dead skin that your kitty might want to claim as their own. The soft material could also play its part since your kitty might find the litter grains too harsh on their paws.

If your cat has peed on the rug once, chances are they’ll keep doing it no matter how well you clean it. Their sense of smell will most likely detect the urine particles, while a strong cleaner might also reinforce their idea that they need to re-mark it.

How To Stop Your Cat From Urinating On The Bath Mat?

When it comes to your cat’s toilet time finding out the source of their unusual preference for your bathroom rug is key to a successful resolution. So, let’s try to see the necessary steps that can keep your kitty happy and your rug clean and dry.

1. Veterinarian Check-Up

This should always be the first step.

Often times strange feline behaviors are caused by health problems and for that reason, it’s essential that you eliminate any medical problems first by taking your feline companion to the vet. It’s also important to understand that cats are great at hiding pain, so waiting for other signs might prove futile and cause long-term issues.

Ilana Reisner, a veterinary behaviorist tells us that a study of urine marking cats showed that “38% were found to have a urogenital medical condition and/or crystalluria. A minimum database would include a CBC, serum biochemical profile, urinalysis +/- urine culture and sensitivity, and imaging.”

Once you bring your kitty to the vet a urinalysis should be performed to rule out any medical problems. Whatever the verdict might be following your vet’s instructions should always be your number one priority to bring your kitty back to their normal self.

2. Eliminate Stressors

If your visit to the vet reveals no medical issues, then you need to look at your cat’s psychological wellbeing. As we talked so many times before cats flourish in a safe and loving environment with plenty of physical and mental stimulation.

Just as the experts suggest, as cat owners we should try and provide the right environment to keep our feline companions happy. Nutritious food, plenty of water sources, scratching posts, cat trees by the window, puzzle toys, and interactive games, as well as cuddles, are essential for their wellbeing.

“Simple enhancements to improve the quality of cat’s living quarters via enrichment such as hiding areas may yield many beneficial effects,” a study also suggests, which’s is crucial when you live in a busy or multi-cat household. A scared kitty might also experience the relaxation of bowel control, which can even happen outside of their litter box. By enriching your cat’s environment, and removing stressors you’ll also reduce competition between cats.

It’s possible that previous medical problems that you’ve resolved are still affecting your cat’s litterbox aversion. Ilana Reisner also states that “inappropriate toileting or urine marking may become learned and persist after the cat’s disease is treated.”

If that’s the case with your kitty then contacting a feline behaviorist can help you find ways to change this learned behavior. Changing the environment overall or focusing on the room you keep their litterbox might help them forget the traumatic experience and move on.

3. Cleaning

Whether your cat prefers the bathroom rug because of medical problems or behavioral, cleaning the soiled area thoroughly should help reduce their urge to mark the same spot over and over. Using strong-smelling cleaners might trigger your cat’s need to over-mark the spot, so avoid heavy scents.

Getting cat pee out of a bathroom rug can be extremely difficult and your kitty’s keen sense of smell might still detect it, so throwing away and replacing the bathmat might be the best option.

4. Litterbox and Litter Upgrades

Another step to ensuring that your fluffball pees in the litterbox, is to make sure that they like their litterbox, the litter, and the placement.  For example, if your cat has been using your bathroom rug because of a medical condition, or because they associate the litterbox with something negative, replacing it with a different one can help renew their relationship with it.

According to Cornell Feline Health Center, “most cats prefer unscented, finer-textured litter about one to two inches deep.” The litter you’re using could also be too harsh for your cat unlike the softness of the rug. 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.

Then there’s the actual litter box.

Take a moment and observe your cat when they use the litterbox, do they cry? Is the waste uncovered every time you clean it? Maybe you find them perched right on the edge in an effort to keep their paws from touching the litter.

These are possible signs that your cat doesn’t like the state of the litterbox. The scientific journal recommends that the litter should be scooped once a day and a multi-cat household might need even more attention.

Once you’ve done the necessary changes to your cat’s litterbox, you could try placing it on the rug itself, after it’s been thoroughly cleaned. This might encourage them to use the litterbox instead of the rug, and once they start using it regularly move the box slowly to a different location.

5. Block Access to the Bath Mat

If you find that your cat’s bathroom rug obsession persists then perhaps keeping the bathroom off-limits might be your best choice.

But if that’s not possible, you could make the rug unattractive, by covering it with double-sided tape, or aluminum foil that will feel sticky on their paws or produce annoying sounds.

6. Positive Reinforcement

Finally, the last thing you could do to try and stop your kitty’s inappropriate marking is training. As stated by a Journal of Veterinary Behavior, “Positive reinforcement training with cats is a useful tool for improving the human-animal bond, treating behavior problems, and teaching novel tasks.”

I understand that inappropriate soiling can be frustrating, especially when you’ve just come out of the shower only to step into a wrongly used bathroom rug, but please be patient and never punish your kitty. Instead of shouting, be kind and gentle with them.

try changing their association to the bathroom altogether. Use treats and play over the spot they usually mark. Keep your body relaxed, pet them when they’re doing well, and give them a slow blink to let them know you’re not angry. Since constant treats are not the healthiest lifestyle for a cat, listen to this great veterinarian advice, “gradually wean her off the food rewards and make her settle for emotional ones such as a “good kitty,” a toss of her fuzzy ball, or a scratch under the chin.”

Perhaps when you’re done you might find your cat obsessing over the bathroom rug in a different way, just like this kitty!

Closing Thoughts

Inappropriate toilet behavior can be difficult to control and in order to solve this issue, you might need to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and determine the cause. But every detective needs a Watson, and in your case, that’s your veterinarian! Together, you can overcome this issue, and not only help your fluffy companion but your bathroom rug as well!

Has your kitty ever peed on the bathroom rug, or used other inappropriate spots as their toilet?

Let us and others know what was the reason behind this behavior and how did you manage to solve it?

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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