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Why Is My Cat Peeing on Laundry?

Inappropriate urination is the leading cause of cats being surrendered to shelters. While there are a number of underlying causes, they can generally be broken down into medical causes, behavioral causes, or a combination of the two.

Why Is My Cat Peeing on Laundry? | AtlanticVetSeattle.comMedical causes

When cats choose somewhere besides their litter boxes to urinate, veterinarians look for health concerns such as such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, crystals in the urine (a potentially life-threatening situation in male cats), bladder stones, or bladder inflammation caused by an infection or even stress.

Laundry on the floor offers a soft, welcoming place to try to relive the pain. This pain can lead to behavioral-inappropriate urination due to a learned aversion to the “offending” litter box seen as the source of pain by the cat.

Behavioral causes

Conversely, behavior may be the underlying cause of inappropriate urination in and of itself. Domestic cats are very, very closely related to wild cats who live in groups of related female cats, roaming and defending territories of about 10 acres.

We humans, who love them, often force them into unnatural situations where they feel crowded, bored, or anxious.  Squabbling between cats or a dog, strangers in the home, noise, or a scary event that occurred while they were using the litter box (intimidation by another cat or a washing machine buzzer, for example) can also be the underlying cause.

Litter box causes

Other times, the litter box isn’t up to a cat’s standards (think Port-o-Potty at a trailhead in August) or she doesn’t care for the perfume or texture of the litter. Cats do have texture preferences for a number of the things they do naturally, including urinating. Some cats prefer softer substrates, such as laundry or plastic bags on the floor, instead of cat litter (especially pelleted or old-fashioned clay litter). Other cats don’t seem to care.

Two rules of thumb we champion

You can never have too many, too large, or too clean litter boxes.

 You need one litter box per cat, plus one, and one on every floor of the house.

Determining the cause of inappropriate urination

Figuring out the underlying cause of inappropriate urination starts with a thorough history and complete physical exam, including a urinalysis that is run right away (not sent to the lab) to look for crystal formation, blood tests to look for diabetes, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism.

Often, we will also recommend bladder imaging, such as X-rays or an ultrasound, to look for bladder stones and possibly at kidney health.

If all tests check out, we’ll explore possible behavioral causes. Here is where a house call visit from a veterinarian experienced in cat behavior can be very helpful in assessing life from the cat’s point of view.

Fortunately, there is hope for most cats that are urinating outside the litter box if the problem is addressed quickly, before it becomes a more serious medical issue or a habit, if it’s a behavioral issue.

23 Responses to “Why Is My Cat Peeing on Laundry?”

  1. Reply Tracy

    Hi my daughters cat Maya is 2 she got fixed about a year ago. We rescued her. She was healthy got all her shots bloodwork. Emote she got fixed she would per all over my daughters clothes. We figured once she got fixed it would stop. And it did. Until today. She went to grab her jeans off the floor and maya had peed on them. She’s healthy has nothing wrong with her. I know it’s behavioral but can’t put my finger on it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you so much

  2. Reply Naomi

    We have two cats that just turned four. We have had them for four years and they started peeing outside of their litter boxes about a year and a half ago. Our Male cat had a UTI and the vet gave us food to prevent it from occurring again and now our female and Male cats are on the food but they are still peeing everywhere. They usually pee in our clothes baskets and they have peed on my bed a few times as well. We dont like to spend a bunch of money on things that will not work. My parents want to get ride of them because they want to redo out carpets but we cant if the cats continue to pee everywhere. If you have any other options that wont cost us a lot of money I’m willing to try them because I really dont want to loose my cats.

  3. Reply Shantelle

    My cat Jade, she is only 2. She was spayed when we got her as a cat. Recently, she’s been peeing EVERYWHERE. On the basement floor, our hardwood floor on the second floor and our bedroom up stairs on the carpet. OUR HOUSE SMELLS SO BAD. Sometimes we have to keep her in the bathroom because she won’t stop. She’s very healthy, she’s had all her shots, she eats normally- drinks normally and plays and sleeps like any other cats. PLEASE HELP 🙁 She especially loves going on our laundry clothes.

    • Reply Emily A Straub

      Hello, I have a male and female cat bothe are fixed and just in the last year they’ve started peeing outside their litter box. I’ve gotten a second litter box I’ve also tried the feliway spray and wall plug in but unfortunately they’re still peeing only on clothes left on the floor nd or basket. The only new thing to recently happen is we had a baby this last year, but it wasn’t till about 6 months later the cats started peeing on the baby play mat… and then clothing that escalated further. Please help i really don’t want to loose my cats.

  4. Reply Sur

    My male cat is 31/2 yes old & has been intermittently peeing on materials in the basement & occasionally on material in a spare room & now in my closet clothes/laundry bag & tonight found wet bed in a spare room.. He is very lovable , fairly social able .. I’m perplexed. Two things I’m considering .. 1. UTI and recently took a 10 day road trip. 2. I had a new cat sitter , who is a cat person. ??! He can’t stay & continue to ruin my furnishings ??? Help

  5. Reply Julie serio

    My make cat only pees on a peice of laundry left on floor periodically . If bath mat or towel or my son leaves his dirty laundry on bathroom floor.

    • Reply Allie

      My cat does the same. He old did it once. Then We got a new cat and I thought it was her because it was happening more often so for the past two years I’ve been blaming her and so I finally caught him in the act this morning how sad I feel terrible to be blaming and yelling at my other cat so now I’m concerned that there may be something wrong with him but he only does it periodically but i also read they do this is they are stressed or nervous and he’s a rescue from the shelter and he’s always had anxiety so who knows.

  6. Reply Kelly

    My cat is diabetic and has been urinating on everything lately, had all kinds of tests done does not have no infections, even bought the feliway and it does not help. He has ruined my carpet, laundry, boxes , etc. Please help on what else to do..

  7. Reply Morgan

    My cat is almost 4, and she won’t stop peeing all over my clothes. Her litter box is cleaned daily, but she even pees on my rug. What do I do?

  8. Reply Les

    My cat does take thyroid medication so I don’t know if there’s a place I can look to see if it’s thyroid and what I can do about it her peeing on my clothes

  9. Reply Denielle Henson

    My cat has been peeing on the clothes I leave on the floor. She used to be an outside cat until she started coming on our porch and I started feeding her. Then I took her in. She didn’t used to pee on the floor, but now she does. I’m not sure why.

  10. Reply Mary Graves

    I have multiple indoor cats,, all neutered males. The 3 older adults spray everything! And, I am afraid the 2 younger ones will soon do the same. What can I do ? I am not expecting miracles; I just want them to cut back on spraying. Their favorite site is my desktop computer and MAIL! Mail and Bill’s are soaked daily, even when I lay a towel over them. Please help!!

  11. Reply Melanie

    One of our spayed cats pees on me and my husband’s clothes Has done this at random times over a few years Can’t afford time take her to the vet Husband’s wanting to dump her somewhere but I think she was feral before she found us and would hate for that to happen since she’s depending on us for food and is cold right now Any thoughts?

    • Reply norah

      Please don’t dump the cat!!! If you can’t keep her, surrender her to a shelter. Imagine the poor kitty starving to death outside.

    • Reply Elizabeth Stone

      Please don”t be cruel. Ask your vet for help placing her, contact a rescue, reach out to friends. Dumped kitties get smushed, intentionally run over, caught and drowned, maimed, paralyzed, shot, attacked by other cats, tortured by cat haters, torn apart by dogs, eaten by wildlife, catch disease….SERIOUSLY!!! REACH OUT – don’t pawn off your responsibility. You did the right thing the first time..please do it again!
      DUMPING is horribly cruel- Kitty may be very unwelcome-even if its a barn or a home where you see other kitties and pets.ASK FOR HELP from all available animal groups in the three counties nearest you!

    • Reply Dedre

      Please take your cat to the vet. She more than likely is sick don’t dump her. Take her to. Shelter please don’t dump her.

  12. Reply Katelyn marie

    I have a 13 almost 14 yr old cat she is peeing on all my clothes even in the laundry basket I don’t know what to do anymore

  13. Reply Ivy L

    Our cat Puffy has been driving the entire family crazy with his spraying everywhere. We bought de-scenting sprays and special cleaners, which he ignored and re-marked all over the house… Some advice? (I refuse neuter my cat.) Thank you.

    • Reply Graham Coia

      Sorry but your cat is spraying because he isn’t neutered. Simple as that.

      • Reply Lyn

        Graeme our cats are all neutered or spayed, the four month old kitty is neutered but pees on the bath mat, so neutering isn’t the issue. Sorry

  14. Reply Nat

    My female cat used to pee in my clothes and bed every nights until i found out that she started doing this when I had my friend sleep in my bed. Also everytime when i have someone visit me and stay over. I fixed it by introducing everyone to her first thing they come in to my apartment. Everyone will have her smell their hands, pet her, give her treat until she feels comfortable having them around. Before i and my friend go to bed we will play with her in the bed as well since she often pee on my blanket during the night. It works out for me and my cat. I guess she is a territory cat and is easy to be stressful when she meets someone new. One think i noticed is that she will also pee on cat toys thing like a doll with catnip in it and a cat bed so i get rid of them. She is fine playing with other cat toys and sleeping in my bed. It could be the smell that she does not like. Not sure if this would help. I have tried everything before i figured it.

  15. Reply katie

    so I just got two 10 week old kittens about 2 weeks ago. growing up I’ve always had two cats and they always only had 1 litter box so thats what I did for these boys (they are brothers btw) but we seemed to be having issues with one of them peeing on our laundry or shoes. so I went out and bought another letterbox and it seemed better for a day. Then today I found pee on our laundry again. Stanley received his first round of shots yesterday and Clive is to get his in about a week. the vet said that Stanley is healthy as ever and there is no issues. we also know that the boys have worms as Stanley was dewormed yesterday and there was worms in his stool. so obviously Clive will be getting dewormed ASAP as well. anyways I cannot for the life of me figure out why they keep peeing on our stuff. if anyone knows or has experience with this please please please let me know. Thank you in advance.

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