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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.

44 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

    • Reply Melissa

      I was just reading your response to the cat pee blog. Did you ever find a remedy for your cat peeing on clothes? I am about to get rid of my cat if I can’t figure this out. It’s driving me crazy!

      • Reply Caitlyn

        The most common reason cats are brought to shelters is for this issue, it’s often medical behavioral or an issue with the litter box. Please don’t do that do your baby. If your having these thoughts you might not be as emotionally invested in your pet as you think you are. If so rehoming her might actually be in the cats best interest. It’s our jobs as pet owners to care for them through thick and thin, and to dive deep and figure out what’s going on. If your kid was wetting the bed we wouldn’t get rid of them.

      • Reply Megan

        Stop leaving your clothes in places they can reach. Don’t get rid of your cat, because you’re not taking responsibility for it’s behavior. Find the solution.

  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.

    • Reply Val

      Female cat 1 year old or a little older, (she was a stray kitten when we found her) just got her spayed, and she still pees on clean clothes in baskets. Just wondering besides cat boxes etc if possibly the smell of my detergent might be the reason??

  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 Earth Motherr

        @Norah & @ElizabethStone Thank you for this! I am in an utter state of shock by the comments I am reading here…I truly cannot believe how many “people” are willing to abandon their beautiful “forever” friends as if they were nothing more than month old moldy containers of Chinese take-out pushed to the back of the fridge: into the dumpster they go! It’s disgusting, narcissistic, & down right shameful behavior by any measure. NEWS FLASH: Your cat is not a half eaten order of orange chicken!!!!!!! SHOCKING, I know!

        I understand that not all pet relationships can work out all the time, but it is your obligated duty to society & your responsibility as a willful pet owner to ensure that your cat is safely & properly put into the care of either a new owner capable of handling this issue, or relinquished to a shelter with available space.

        At the VERY LEAST, in the future, please do us all a favor & remember that you are incapable of handling the responsibility of caring for another living creature…Maybe opt for something like a Furby or Tomagotchi instead. At least when these things break, you can just toss them in the bin right next to that forgotten container of soggy old Beef & Broccoli.

    • 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.

    • Reply J

      Please never get pets again if you can’t afford the time to help them if they’re sick. And don’t dump that cat, please take it to a shelter……………..

  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

        • Reply Kay

          Spraying is different than peeing. Cats typically won’t spray if they’re neutered. Unless you’re breeding cats, you shouldn’t have an unneutered/unspayed cat.

  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.

  16. Reply Haley

    We just just adopted my kitten in August, he is not even 6-months old yet. He isn’t fixed and he can be pretty rambunctious. However, up until now, we haven’t had any potty problems. He’s been happily going in his litter since we got him but all of a sudden I woke up to find he had peed in my dirty laundry basket. I don’t understand why since we’ve gone all this time with no issues.

  17. Reply Alexis

    My female cat is about 12 years old and recently she’s been going into the laundry room, which is near her litter box, and peeing on the clothes. We try to keep the door closed but when we don’t close it, she goes and pees. I don’t know if it’s a health thing or maybe her litter…. she has also gone to the bathroom right beside her litter box because there was a little bit of litter pieces on the floor. Why does she do this? I don’t want my parents to get rid of her 🙁

    • Reply Rachel Rohrer

      Alexis, your kitty is older and a female. It likely is a UTI that can be treated cheaply with antibiotics. She would likely face a life long stay the shelter or euthanasia due to age. I can only image your pain. That’s a long time with a pet and certainty not appropriate to discard her after she’s spent almost a life time with your family. That would break her heart. Yours doesn’t seem behavioral. I truly think a trip to the vet would easily solve it. Hoping the best for her!!

  18. Reply Rachel

    I have 2 cats, one male (3 years old) and neutered and one female who is 2 years old and not fixed. They are indoor cats until we find a more permanent home. They have 2 litter boxes and a small part of the day they share a room which is clean, ventilated with lots of windows to look out of so they don’t get bored. Both cats have been peeing on towels, on the floor ect. I’m not sure if it’s the change in season or a behavioural issue between them. We do have a noisy toddler and a baby aswell so there’s always noise

  19. Reply Sydney

    I have 3 cats, 1 dog.
    2 of my cats are siblings, a boy and girl, almost 3 years old, I just adopted a kitten a month ago, so I’m sure this is why. My female cat is now not using the litter boxES at all!! I have 3 of them, and don’t have room for a 4th because I keep them away from the dog to avoid him stressing them while they are going potty. The other cats use them…what do I do???

  20. Reply Carly

    I have 2 cats, a male and a female. We have had the male for 5ish years, hes been fixed since he was a kitten. The female was a stray we brought in 3 or 4 years ago. She is fixed also. One of them keeps peeing on my husbands folded clothes in his closet, dirty clothes on the floor and his work boots!! Not all the time just randomly. So I am not 100% which cat it is but I am pretty sure it is the male. The spot that he pees on has sparkles afterwards but not big crystals so Im not sure if that is a health problem or not after reading this. Also I do not know what to do!! My husband is ready to throw them outside but I do not want to loose my cats!! HELP!!!

  21. Reply Susan

    Prozac cream on the inner ear stopped it. Anxiety creates his peeing.let’s the only thing that worked and l tried everything.

  22. Reply Bonnie

    READ MINE!!!! Seriously!!!! It might help! Read to the bottom!!!!
    It looks like I’m a little late to the party but hopefully my post will be helpful to someone who lands on this page in desperation.

    I’m too lazy to write out my story, but it’s just like all of yours. They’d pee on clothes and bags on the ground, on the bed and couch, it was awful. Completely stressful, I get it. But please know that this is always a cry for attention from your cats.

    These are the things I did to fix it:
    1. Firstly they need a LOT of cat furniture, things to climb on, and scratching posts- things to call their own, things that are soft surfaces that will soak up their scent, and they need them all around the house. Good stuff. Not those dinky little ones that go up to your knees. Cats are climbers and scratchers. Think to satisfy these instincts.

    2. Play time. Play with the cats- as much as you can. Don’t leave your toys out after play time, put them away. Take them for walks once a day if you have to but do something to keep their life interesting, cats get bored too.

    3. Wash everything … like 3 times. Get rid of anything that might have even a little bit of cat urine smell still on it, because once they pee on a spot, they will over there again. You need to use an ENZYMATIC cleaner. Look it up. It’s the only thing that will actually get that horrible cat pee smell. For soft surfaces, get a waterproof mattress cover first of all, while you’re going through all of this, but laundry- again, wash 2 or 3 times – go to Costco and get a few gallons vinegar and baking soda. In your laundry, pour a LOt ( the more the better) of vinegar and a good heaping cup of baking soda in it. Normal amount of detergent.

    3. Try to keep things off the ground. (Duh) I know but I get the feeling most people here, like I am, a little messy and habitually leave things laying about .

    4. Put out litter boxes , as many as you can, spread throughout the house, particularly in the areas you discover a lot of pee. Make sure you try all sorts of litters. Some people use those pellets and a lot of cats hate those as house cats sometimes have sensitive paws.

    3. Buy litter attractant – what?!?! What the heck, how have I never heard of this? That can’t be real. Well, yes it is and it’s amazing. Go on Amazon and buy a bunch of litter attractant. It’s not cheap but it’s not all that expensive either and it’ll be a small investment for a few months that end up being worth it. Sprinkle it liberally on top of your litter. Sit and watch. Your cat will WANT to pee inside the box. Every time you add litter, add some attractant on top of it. Oh and make sure your litter box is deep- and has a lot of litter in it- and that it is cleaned often. Cats hate dirty litter boxes.

    4. Be vigilant. The cat that pees outside it’s litter box is crying for help right? What are they crying about? Try to notice the little things. A realized for me, my cats learned this habit of “when mom ignores my meows, I can pee and get her attention this way.” And boy are they right.

    3. Do NOT scold your cats. They will not respond to it well. This actually goes for but dogs and cats but MORE for cats. If you scold them and rub their noses in their pee, they won’t get it. All they will feel is scared and threatened and confused that their mom/dad is being this way. It will disorient them and make them associate you with fear and distress. The very thing that usually makes cats pee everywhere. Instead, keep a box of treats anywhere near the litter box, every time you see the cat pee, wait for them to jump out and give them a treat right away. Positive reassurance is really the only way with these guys. The way to say “NO” is actually to show them what the “yes” is and to show it over and over again.

    I hope this helps someone out there. Please don’t get rid of your cats. Watch my cat from hell. Call a behaviorist. Try to think outside the box (no pun intended) and try new things. It’s extremely stressful I know but your cat needs you and your love. Love will heal all!!! <3 good luck everyone

    Oh- and my cats now have accidents maybe 1 every few weeks but i can identify exactly why now.

    • Reply Elissa

      Bonnie, I found your post incredibly helpful, so thank you. I currently have 6 grown cats and 4 kittens none of whom are fixed yet because I was only recently gainfully employed so as soon as I can get them fixed I will, that is for the cats I intend to keep. The rest will go to the shelter. Anyway, two of my male grown cats are peeing all over my house, on my clothes, on my bed, my counters, dressers, chairs, couch, the floors, I have been at a total loss as for how to help. Some of the kittens are doing it too but the litter attractant has worked wonders though not totally fixed this problem. The two male cats are peeing brown ish red ish tinted pee progressively getting more red, needless to say I’m getting increasingly concerned about their well being. I was hoping for some home remedies to try and I think ive gotten at least a couple from you so I’m grateful. I have been scolding them, simply from being so utterly overwhelmed with the constant cleanup of cat messes. But there’s no doubt I have too many cats in too small a house with never letting them go outside. Thanks again, I hope what I have to try proves successful. Time will tell.

  23. Reply Christin

    My cat, Farkus, has always urinated on clothing from the time we got him. We had litter boxes everywhere and they were kept clean. There is nothing medically wrong with this cat. Sometimes he wees in the litter box. Sometimes he prefers a bath towel on the floor of the bathroom, right next to his litter box. He loved peeing in my bathtub when I had a bath mat down. I finally had to get rid of the mat because I couldn’t get the urine stains out.

    He doesn’t poop outside of his litter box. Honestly, he is the strangest cat I’ve ever owned.

  24. Reply Maxwell Malone

    I recently moved my cat from my parents’ house to my new apartment (just moved out from dorms for college). He was previously an indoor-outdoor and had been his whole life, but I am attempting to train him to be an indoor only with walks. He has been litter trained and he poops in the litter box and even pees there, too, but he also pees on my laundry, wood floors, and any available boxes (avidly avoids peeing on my carpet, these are the only other spots he deems acceptable). I don’t think it is a health issue but most likely due to his big change in lifestyle. Is there anything I can do to help him stop? I have been spraying him with water when I catch him in the act, making sure his litter box is extra clean, providing him with lots of toys, and slowly harness training to take him outside. He is also regularly allowed out on my porch balcony, because he doesn’t leave it and can sit out there unsupervised. I am just unsure what more I can do to get him to stop.

  25. Reply Barbara D

    One of my female. Cats does this. I put potty pads down for the dog at night and found she much enjoys going on a pad rather than in a litter box. Unfortunately we now have potty pads all over the place but id rather her go on those than anything else. The dog doesnt use them all like her tho lol he has his usual 2 spots as long as a pad is there he will use it. I been cleaning all day still tryin to get the smell out. The best product i found and it wrks is called “FOLEX” its got live enzymes tht eat away the urine. If its under ur carpet pad etc..ur gonna have to pull it up to get it. Good luck

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