Of all places. The kitchen counter. It’s not somewhere you want your cat to pee! But it is something they have started to do. But why? And what can you do to stop them? Well, here’s everything you are going to want to know, do, and consider.
So, why is my cat peeing on the kitchen counter? In most cases, a cat will pee on the kitchen counter because they don’t want to use their litter tray – it may be dirty, or it’s causing them stress/anxiety. In more severe cases, it could be due to a medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection or a bladder infection.
Let’s continue to explore these reasons in further detail.
Then we’ll get onto how you can, and perhaps should respond, in each context.
Reasons Why A Cat May Pee on the Kitchen Counter
Your cat may pee on your kitchen counter because of stress, a dirty litter box, an infection, or another type of medical problem.
If your cat is stressed, they may decide to start urinating outside their litter box in all kinds of inappropriate places as a way of telling you something’s wrong.
Stress in cats can have several causes, and can contribute to serious health issues such as lower urinary tract infections (see below).
A Bad Experience Near the Litter Box
Sometimes a cat can have a bad experience while in or near their litter box which means they decide to avoid the area (or even the room, in some cases).
If another cat has attacked your cat while in the litter box, or perhaps they’ve heard a very loud and frightening noise (such as fireworks), they may decide not to go anywhere near their litter box.
Signs your cat has had a bad experience near its litter box can be:
- Running very fast in and out of the litter box while not using it to go to the toilet
- Avoiding the area, or even the entire room
- Peeing in other areas of your home, including close to the litter box (but not inside it)
A Recent Change in Circumstances
If something at home has changed recently, your cat can get stressed – cats are creatures of habit, so they don’t like change (even with their food).
Examples of recent changes can be:
- The addition of a new family member (a baby, a new pet, etc.)
- Recently moving home.
- Moving your cat’s litter box to a different part of your home.
- Someone your cat cares about has gone away or is ill.
Something Is Wrong with the Area Around the Litter Box
Perhaps you have recently changed something about the area around your cat’s litter box that they don’t like.
It can be something as simple as a new plant, an air freshener, a noisy toy – there are many additions that could be causing your cat to think twice about using its litter tray.
The Litter Box Is Dirty
Cats are fastidiously clean – after all, they spend about 30% of their time grooming themselves!
If the litter tray is dirty, your cat won’t want to go near it – their sense of smell is much more developed than ours, so what smells a bit off to us can smell overwhelmingly awful to a cat.
A Bladder or Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Bladder or urinary tract infections can be very painful for cats when they pee.
Because of the pain, cats can sometimes look for cool places to go to the toilet, such as a countertop or near the freezer or fridge.
It’s worth knowing that UTIs in cats can often be because of an endocrine disease, like diabetes mellitus or hyperthyroidism. These diseases often affect older cats (typically 10 years and older).
Sometimes cats can get feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), which can be life-threatening if left untreated (see below).
Learn more: Best Litter Box For Diabetic Cat
How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Peeing on the Kitchen Counter?
The ways to get your cat to stop peeing on the kitchen counter depend on the cause of this behavior. If you aren’t sure what the cause could be, start with a visit to your vet.
If Your Cat Is Stressed
If your cat is stressed, it’s essential to address this problem and make changes.
Of course, you probably won’t move back to your old home or remove a new family member(!), but there are certain things you can do to help your cat calm down and feel more comfortable:
- Provide plenty of cat-friendly hiding places in your home (cat carriers, free spaces underneath furniture, empty boxes, etc.)
- Have vertical and horizontal scratching places for your cat (sections of carpeting, vertical posts, etc.) Scratching helps cats destress as well as keep their claws short and healthy and their muscles strong.
- Keep other changes at home to a minimum, with a set routine for your cat to know what to expect each day.
- Have playtime sessions with your cat every day (ideally 20-30 minutes, twice a day).
- Make sure your cat drinks enough water (cat fountains are great for this, as cats naturally gravitate toward running water).
- Have daily cuddles with your cat, paying attention to how they like to be stroked (e.g., chin scratches, cheek rubs, etc.)
- Give your cat smaller meals several set times a day rather than one big meal daily, and include well-balanced food with at least some of it being wet food (this helps your cat stay hydrated).
- Have places where your cat can perch up high to feel safe (such as cat trees, tops of furniture, windowsills to watch the world, etc.)
- Try pheromone sprays (ask your vet for suggestions).
Keep The Litter Tray Clean
The best practice for keeping a litter tray clean is to:
- Scoop out poop as soon as you can (don’t leave it till the end of the day: clean it out each time you see it).
- Clean the litter tray of any pee twice a day.
- Clean and deodorize the tray twice a week.
- Prioritize odorless, cat-friendly cleaning products.
- Avoid clumping litter, which may seem easier to clean, but can stick to cats’ paws (and cause internal blockages when ingested!)
- Avoid lining the litter tray with plastic, as the plastic can get caught in your cat’s claws and may discourage digging (which is a healthy and natural behavior for cats).
If Your Cat Has A Medical Problem
A Urinary Tract Infection
You won’t be able to know yourself if your cat has a urinary tract infection, but here are some common signs that a UTI could be the cause:
- Pain or discomfort when peeing
- Not urinating at all or only very little (a few drops)
- Passing urine that’s tinged with blood
- Straining to urinate
- Urinating outside of the litter box (when the box is clean and there’s no issue with the box or the area, see above)
A Bladder Infection
Bladder infections fall under the umbrella term FLUTD, which stands for feline lower urinary tract disease.
FLUTD can cause problems in your cat’s bladder and urethra, many times resulting in an obstructed urethra which can have fatal consequences if not treated.
Cats suffering from FLUTD can show any of the following signs:
- Painful urination
- Struggling to pee, or peeing in very small amounts
- Peeing more often than usual
- Peeing outside the litter box, including cool surfaces such as countertops, tile floors, or a bathtub or sink
- Loss of bladder control
- Fear of the litter box (or avoiding it)
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Distended or hard abdomen
- Urine with a strong smell of ammonia
- Drinking more than usual
- Excessive licking of the genital area
Note: Any bladder or urinary problem must be treated asap. FLUTD or UTIs are serious medical problems that can lead to rupture or blockage of the bladder or kidney failure (with fatal consequences).
Causes of Lower Urinary Tract Issues In Cats
In order to treat these types of problems, it’s crucial to get the correct diagnosis from your vet.
There are many possible causes and factors that contribute to these problems, such as:
- Debris like crystals or stones building up in your cat’s urethra.
- Spinal cord problems.
- Blocked urethra because of accumulated debris in the urine.
- Injury or tumor in the urinary tract.
- Incontinence because of too much water consumption or a weak bladder.
- Congenital abnormalities.
- Stress (either emotional or environmental).
Common factors that can contribute to urinary tract disease include:
- Older cats.
- Overweight cats.
- Cats who have no or limited access to the outdoors.
- Cats on a dry food diet.
- Cats who don’t get enough physical exercise.
Treatment of Lower Urinary Tract Issues in Cats
Treatment will differ depending on what’s needed, but once your vet knows the underlying cause of the problem, it may include:
- Increasing your cat’s water consumption.
- Modifying your cat’s diet.
- Providing urinary acidifiers.
- Administering fluid therapy.
- Expelling small stones out through the urethra.
- Giving a urinary catheter or surgery (for male cats) to remove blocks in the urethra.
- Prescribing medication or antibiotics to help relieve symptoms.
How Do You Cat-Proof A Countertop?
The best way to cat-proof a countertop is to provide alternatives for your cat. You can also use cat-friendly deterrents that avoid punishing your cat.
Provide Alternatives for Your Cat
The best way to get your cat off your counter is to provide alternatives for their normal (and healthy) jumping and climbing behavior.
Your cat will be happier with several places where it can climb and jump.
Here are some ideas:
- Cat trees. Cat trees are excellent for cats to be able to scratch, hide, and climb up high, all with one piece of equipment (depending on the size). Some cat trees include small boxes for a curious cat to hide in and feel safe, as well as platforms to rest on and watch the world from above. Many have columns or poles to climb up, too.
- Cat condos. Cat condos are similar to cat trees, but they tend to have more places to rest and hide. If you put your condo (or cat tree) near a window, that’s even better, as cats love watching the world from a safe spot.
- Food toys. If your cat jumps on your counters because they want a tasty treat, you can use cat toys that have small amounts of kibble that your cat has to retrieve using natural hunting behavior.
Note: You can help your cat stick to alternatives by keeping your counters clean and food-free so that your kitty isn’t tempted to go ‘food surfing’ there!
Provide Deterrents to Encourage Your Cat to Climb Elsewhere
Sometimes having alternatives for your cat isn’t enough – especially if your cat has made a habit of jumping up on your countertops.
Adding deterrents can help, provided you use things that are unwelcoming but not harmful or too frightening for your cat.
Try things like:
- Cookie sheets. Balance a few of these on your counter so that they make a noise when your cat jumps on them. One experience should do the trick!
- Sticky tape. Put some sticky tape around the edges of your counter – cats don’t like the feel of the sticky tape against their paws.
- Carpet runners. Put carpet runners along your counter with the nub side facing up – your cat won’t like the feel of the nubs on its paws.
- Towels. Hang towels off the side of your counter so that they slip off when your cat jumps up.
- Unpleasant smells (for your cat). Try putting some cotton wool balls around your counter that have a few drops of a smell your cat doesn’t like, such as citrus, lavender, rosemary, or pine.
What To Avoid When Cat-Proofing A Countertop
Here are some things to avoid when you want to cat-proof your countertop:
- Scaring your cat. If you clap your hands, push your cat off, or do something else to scare your cat away from the counter, your cat will decide that YOU are scary. They’ll still jump on the counter – when you’re not around.
- Punishing your cat. Don’t yell or otherwise try and punish your cat – cats don’t connect the punishment to an action. If you yell at your cat, the cat will connect the yelling to you – not to the behavior. Cats who have been punished are also more prone to behavior problems.
- Pushing your cat off the counter. While most cats fall on their feet, some don’t – and you don’t want your cat to hurt itself inadvertently. In addition, your cat can become frightened and distrusting of you.
- Using a deterrent that might harm your cat. Stick to the deterrents that are in the above list so that you don’t use something that could hurt your cat. After all, your cat isn’t trying to be naughty – they’re just following their natural instinct to jump, climb and explore!
In most cases, cats pee on the countertop as a result of an issue with the litter box.
Whether it is not being cleaned enough, is in a stressful location, or just causes your cat anxiety for whatever reason.
A few subtle changes to the litter box may resolve it.
But there is always the chance that your cat has a more serious medical problem going on.
So contacting a vet, getting them checked over, and keeping an eye out for other symptoms and strange behaviors is recommended.
Related guides you will want to read:
- Why Does My Cat Not Pee In The Litter Box?
- Cat Not Using Litter Box After Moving [Why & What To Do]
- Why Is My Cat Peeing In The House All Of A Sudden?
- Why Is My Cat Peeing And Pooping On My Clothes?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.