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How to Stop Cats From Peeing on Furniture: Vet Reviewed Reasons & Tips

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat sitting with pee on couch

How to Stop Cats From Peeing on Furniture: Vet Reviewed Reasons & Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

We love our cats for many reasons, including, but not limited to, some of their quirkiness. Unfortunately, sometimes their quirks include unwanted behaviors like peeing on everything outside of their litter box. Why do our beloved cats partake in such odd and annoying behavior?

There are several reasons why your cat is peeing on the couch, which should be addressed immediately—it could be a medical problem, or your cat might be suffering from stress. So, please read on, and we’ll discuss why your cat might urinate on your couch (or furniture) and how you can help prevent this behavior.

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The 8 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Peeing on Your Couch

1. Cat Medical Problem

If your cat was using his litter box without any problems and suddenly started urinating on your couch (or anywhere else outside of his litter box), you should start by taking him to the vet to rule out any medical conditions.

Some of the medical issues that might stop your cat from using his litter box include conditions that affect a cat’s attempts to urinate, such as bladder stones, urinary tract infections, or even arthritis. These conditions make urinating painful, and your cat may have developed an association between pain and his litter box and has chosen to pee outside of his box.

Other conditions that could be medical in nature are diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease, which all lead to an increase in urination. If your cat is older (11 or more years) and you notice that he’s showing distress while attempting to urinate, take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible.


2. Cat Stress Due to Changes

Maybe you’ve introduced a new pet or baby into your household, perhaps you’ve moved, or a loved one has moved out. These are all significant changes that will have an impact on your cat. Cats prefer that everything stays the same—they are creatures of habit. So, if something has changed (even for the better), your cat might be feeling tremendously anxious and stressed, which can lead to inappropriate urination.

You can speak to your vet about the options of anti-anxiety remedies for your cat to help him through a difficult time, particularly before the event occurs.

frightened tabby cat
Image Credit: Elena Rozhenok, Shutterstock

3. Cat Litter Box Could Be a Problem

It might also be an issue with your litter box or the litter itself. Most cats don’t like litter boxes with a cover or liners, or perhaps the box isn’t large enough (it should be 1.5 times larger than your cat).

Sometimes it’s the litter that’s the problem. Most cats prefer a fine or medium clumping litter that’s easiest on the paws and unscented. To find out if that’s the case, set up several temporary litter boxes with different kinds of litter. Your cat can choose their favorite litter, and then you’re free to remove the extra boxes.

You should also be sure to clean the litter box frequently. You must scoop it once a day and give it a deeper clean once a week. Cats have very sensitive noses, so they might be put off by scented litter or a litter box that isn’t clean, and they’ll opt to eliminate elsewhere.


4. Location of Cat Litter Box

If the litter box is in a place that might cause stress, they might decide to use your couch instead. If it’s in a busy or loud area near the front door or next to the washing machine, or it’s not easy to access (such as in the basement), he might not want to go near it. Having the litter box on the main floor and in a private and quiet location is recommended.

cat outside the litter box
Image Credit: Jennifer McCallum, Shutterstock

5. Cat Litter Box Accessibility Problems

If you have a small kitten, a senior cat, or any cat with mobility issues, getting into the litter box could be a barrier. You must ensure that the sides of the litter box aren’t too high, or your cat might decide that it’s easier to pee on your couch or bed.


6. Multiple-Cat Household

If you have more than one cat in your house, you need to have enough litter boxes for them all. It is highly recommended that there should be one litter box for each cat plus an extra one (three cats mean four litter boxes). Conflict will more than likely occur if there aren’t enough boxes, and there are occasions when one cat might stop your other cat(s) from entering their litter box, which will create a highly stressful situation.

multiple kittens in a litter box
Image Credit: Albina Tiplyashina, Shutterstock

7. Cats Marking Territory

Some cats (both male and female) are known to use squatting and spraying urine to mark their territory. This can happen if you’ve introduced a new pet into your home. This can also happen if your cat hasn’t been spayed or neutered yet and mating behavior instincts are kicking in. If you get your cat spayed or neutered while still young, the marking behavior will stop.


8. New Cat

If your cat has been newly adopted, he will need time to adjust to his new home and life. This stress of an unfamiliar environment can result in your new cat peeing in other inappropriate areas until he settles in.

cats armwrestling fight battle_Nils Jacobi_shutterstock
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

 

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How to Stop Cats from Peeing on Furniture?

How you fix the problem will depend entirely on why your cat is peeing outside of his litter box in the first place.

Cat Medical Problems

As discussed, if you’re unsure why your cat is suddenly not using his litter box (and you can rule out most of the above issues), you should take him to your veterinarian. Your vet can help determine if the problem has resulted from a medical condition or if it’s stemming from something else, such as anxiety, and can give you some suggestions on fixing the problem.

  • You can put your cat’s litter box in a separate spot and be sure to put it in a quiet place that makes him feel safe.
  • If he still avoids the litter box, try putting several different litter boxes in other areas, which should give your cat some options.
  • Try placing some treats and cat toys close to the litter box and playing with him next to it. Avoid putting your cat’s food close to the litter box since cats do not want to urinate or defecate near their food.
  • Use the new litter your cat has chosen in the litter box and fill it 1-2 inches deep.

If you feel you’ve tried everything and your cat is still not using his litter box, you should consider speaking to an animal behaviorist.

cat with medical supplies
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Cat Stress Problems

Several issues can cause your cat to experience the kind of anxiety and stress that will lead to him urinating outside of his litter box. The following are some ideas that tackle a variety of issues that can be stress-related:

  • Ensure the litter box is kept clean. As previously mentioned, you should scoop the litter about once or twice a day and wash the box with soap and water, and refill it with fresh litter once a week.
  • Avoid litter that is corn-based, in crystal form, or scented. Most cats don’t like the feel of these kinds of litter on their paws and prefer unscented.
  • Remove any covers or liners from the litter box and ensure the box is easy to get into for kittens or senior cats.
  • A stress-free location is paramount. Just like we enjoy a quiet and private place to do our business, so do cats.
  • Provide your cat with lots of places to relax that are high up. Cats feel safest when they have high places to perch, so they are higher than other animals and people.
  • You can use a calming supplement approved by your veterinarian. 

Last Ditch Effort

If you’ve found the perfect litter and litter box and the best location, and your cat is still peeing on your couch, you will need to make the couch (or carpet, or furniture) less desirable.

  • Purchase a cleaner that is enzyme-based since it will eliminate the strong odor of urine. Some cats will keep returning to the same spot when they can still smell it. These cleaners are easily found online or at a local pet store. Clean your couch by blotting up as much urine as possible and then liberally spraying the enzymatic cleanser. Let it soak in for about 10 or 15 minutes, then blot up the cleanser and let dry.
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  • Place tin foil or double-sided tape on the ground where your cat has been urinating. Cats hate having sticky tape on their paws, and the feeling of tin foil will be an equally powerful deterrent.

Again, speak to your vet or an animal behaviorist if the behavior doesn’t change and you feel you’ve tried everything. There could be something you’ve missed or a medical issue you might have overlooked.

Avoid Doing This

The following tips are what you shouldn’t do if you catch your cat peeing on your couch:

  • Don’t use any kind of ammonia-based cleaners to clean up your cat’s urine. Urine smells like ammonia, so it will encourage your cat to continue to pee in the same spot. As mentioned, only use enzyme-based cleaners.
  • Do not carry or drag your cat to put him in the litter box, and do not scold him, as he just won’t understand. Never ever rub his nose in his urine since he won’t understand what this means and will only learn to fear you.
  • Don’t place your cat in a small enclosure with his litter box for an extended period.

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Conclusion

There are many reasons why your cat might be choosing to pee on your couch, but you can address the problem in various ways. It’s vital that you first establish that your cat is healthy and that he’s not experiencing any stress, so you might need to bring him to your vet first to rule out any medical conditions. Even if your cat may not have any physical ailments, your veterinarian can help you figure out what’s going on with your cat and give you some ideas to help fix the problem.

Spend time playing with your cat and ensure he has plenty of places to escape so he feels safe. Show your cat love and patience while you help him through his issues, and you’ll have a happy cat and a clean couch.

Cat urinating in other areas? Check these related reads for tips: 

Featured Image Credit: cunaplus, Shutterstock

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