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Why Is My Cat Peeing in the Laundry Basket? 8 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Vet approved

	Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


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

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When your cat pees somewhere they’re not supposed to, it can be both distressing and completely baffling. Rest assured that your cat is not doing this out of spite or to annoy you—peeing anywhere outside the litter box can be the result of various issues, but it’s certainly not malicious.

First of all, it’s crucial that you don’t punish your cat for peeing in the laundry basket. For one thing, it just won’t work. Secondly, it may even exacerbate the problem by causing your cat to be even more stressed. Read on to find out why your cat might be peeing in the laundry basket and how you can tackle this behavior.

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The 8 Reasons Why My Cat Is Peeing in the Laundry Basket

1.  The Litter Box Is Smelly

This is connected to our first point, but even if your cat’s litter box is free of clumps and “emissions”, it doesn’t mean it won’t start to smell if you don’t change it often enough. This can put a cat off using their litter box and seeking out fresher-smelling areas—even if that’s your dirty laundry!

You can tackle this by changing the litter regularly and making use of odor eliminators like baking soda or cat litter deodorizers. One trick is to sprinkle a fine layer of baking soda on the bottom of a clean litter box before you fill it with litter. Then, sprinkle baking soda on top of the litter and stir it in with the litter scoop.

man cleaning smelly litter box
Image Credit: xamnesiacx84, Shutterstock
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2.  The Litter Box Isn’t Clean

One of the most common reasons cats peeing in the laundry basket or somewhere that’s not their litter box is that their litter box isn’t clean enough. Cats are very fastidious and, if their litter box is not up to their standards, they’ll find somewhere else to do their business.

You can combat this by performing regular spot checks throughout the day and removing any clumps or…you know what. When the clumps are removed, stir through the litter with the scoop to check you haven’t missed any and spread out the litter so it’s even. Add in some fresh litter to top it up if need be.

The litter you use is also a crucial factor—some litters absorb smells and urine better than others. We’ve had the best results with clumping pine litter because, as long as you remove the clumps daily, it seems to stay fresh for longer. We’ve had the worst experiences with low-quality, dusty clay litter.

At least once per week (depending on the kind of litter you use), you’ll need to remove all the litter and give the box a thorough clean before filling it up again with new litter.

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3. Your Cat Doesn’t Like the Litter

So, you’re meticulous about cleaning your litter box and changing it out regularly, but your cat is still peeing in the laundry basket. What gives?! It could be something as simple as your cat not liking the kind of litter you use.

If you’re using scented litter, for example, the fragrance may put them off using the box. Or, your cat just may not like the texture of the litter. You might need to test out a few different kinds of litter to find out what meets your cat’s approval.

orange cat beside litter box
Image Credit: jamesjoong, Shutterstock
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4. The Litter Box Isn’t in the Right Position

Perhaps your litter box is too high for your cat to comfortably step or jump into. Or, the litter box is placed too close to certain areas, like your cat’s food and water bowls. Try placing the box in a calm, quiet area like in or just outside the bathroom.

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5. Not Enough Litter Boxes

If you have more than one cat at home, ideally, you should try to have one litter box per cat plus one extra. Cats are territorial and don’t like sharing litter boxes. Moreover, it can be incredibly stressful for a particularly shy cat to have to use the same box as the alpha cat.

Two cats using a self cleaning litter box
Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock
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6. Your Cat Prefers to Pee Standing Up

This might sound bizarre but hear us out—we dealt with the same situation with one of our cats. Some cats aren’t comfortable placing both their paws in the litter box and prefer to do their business with their front paws out of the box. Now, if you have a closed-in litter box or a short-sided open litter box, this can be tricky.

In our case, we brought in a large, “jump-in” litter box, which is enclosed but has a wide opening at the top. Now, the cat in question can stand up and rest their front paws on the top of the box with their head out while they “go”.

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7. Stress

Another common cause of cats urinating in the laundry basket is stress. If there has been a recent change in routine, the litter box isn’t in the best place, or other cats are bullying the cat in question, this can make them feel anxious and cause them to seek out a place that feels less scary.

According to Dr. Cathay Lund, the smell of their own urine makes a cat feel safer. This is why some cats find a quiet, private place to pee when stressed. Monitor your cat to try and ascertain what their triggers are—it could be sharing a box with multiple cats, bullying, loud noises close to the litter box, or a dirty litter box among other possible causes.

stressed cat
Image Credit: yvonneschmu, Pixabay
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8. Illness

Sick cats sometimes urinate outside the litter box.

Some of the medical conditions that can cause this behavior include:
  • Bladder stones
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Urine crystals
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Feline cystitis

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When Should I See a Vet?

If you’ve ascertained that the litter box isn’t the issue or your cat seems to be in pain or discomfort or is showing symptoms of being unwell, it’s time to take them to the vet to find out what’s going on.

cat in a litter box
Image Credit: Lilia Solonari, Shutterstock

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A cat may urinate in the laundry box instead of their litter box for a variety of reasons—the cause could be behavioral, medical, or related to the condition or placement of the litter box. If changes to the litter box (cleaning frequency, types of litter, etc.) don’t solve the problem, we recommend having a chat with your vet.

See also:

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Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons