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My family has had a cat (a stray one) for about a year and a half, and there have never been any problems until now.

Recently she decided to make some changes in her life and started to pee on a rug next to her litter box. She does use the litter box (which is clean) to pee and poop and just pees a little bit on the rug which is a meter away.

There were no changes in our lifestyle. She just made up her mind one day out of the blue.

She does not do that anywhere else in the house and just waits for us to put a clean rug to hop on it (usually when not supervised) and "mark" it.

I am not particularly interested in her philosophical reasons for this behavior but rather in a way to repel her from the rug. Are there any specific scents a cat does not like (bonus points if it is bearable for humans)?

I am aware of the great luck I have that she has chosen the bathroom rug as her secondary peeing target (and not a bed for instance) and that if I manage to move her away from the rug there might be a chance that she goes elsewhere, but I will try anyway (and divorce if this does not work; you guessed right, I am the one who lost the family vote when the cat was found :))

  • Did you have a chance to watch your cat doing it? Like does it just go there, do it, then go away, or is there some initial prying involved as well? – Mario Jan 3 '15 at 15:47
  • She approaches the rug, sniffs around a bit then pees and goes away. – WoJ Jan 3 '15 at 17:17
  • Well, if you're not interested in her reasons, you won't get a proper answer. And you won't make her stop by making the rug stink to her, she'll just find another place to pee. But if you still insist, lemon or any other citrus. – Kaworu Jan 5 '15 at 9:57
  • @Kaworu: well, in reality I am, as the face to fact talk I had with her did not change her mind :) This said that would be purely for making her change, there are other household members who are there to make her feel good :) – WoJ Jan 5 '15 at 10:00
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In your question, I see no mention of how the rug has been cleaned after the incidents have taken place. In this case, what you need is not to add a scent, but to remove one--specifically, removing the remaining urine scent that has now marked the rug (and floor beneath it) as an acceptable toilet.

Regular household cleaners may be effective at removing enough of the urine scent that you, as a human, cannot detect it, but a cat's sense of smell is more acute and is still able to detect the compounds that aren't cleaned away by standard household cleaners. Tossing the rug in the wash and putting it back on the floor will never address the problem; you need to use a cleaner designed to remove pet odors (typically termed as an "enzymatic cleaner"). There are some formulations designed for use in the wash, but in your case I would recommend a general-purpose concentrated cleaner that can also be used on the bathroom floor.

Don't wait for the next incident; once you buy the cleaners, throw all the rugs into the wash with the appropriate amount of it, and while they're running through the cycle, thoroughly clean the floor under and around the rugs. Get rid of the lingering smell as soon as possible. Additionally, if you are using any bathroom cleaners that contain ammonia, discontinue using these immediately. Ammonia can smell similar to urine and attract the cat to mark the area. (You should also discontinue the use of cleaners with bleach, as urine contains ammonia and you don't want to mix the two. There are numerous effective cleaners that contain neither of those chemicals available to use.)

Lastly, if the behavior has been going on for some time, you will also need to break the routine your cat has established. This is a simple process: close the bathroom door. If the cat can't access the rug, she can't use it as a toilet.

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To be honest, I wouldn't start trying to use any industrial or natural repellants for now. You might irritate it to a point where the cat no longer likes the whole bathroom (or wherever the litterbox stands).

For a start, I'd try to see what happens if you just remove the rug without an replacement. I could imagine the rug just smelling "right" for the cat to leave a mark.

If that doesn't work or it's looking for another mark, you could try to get some puppy training pads, which are usually used to get animals clean. Put it in place of the rug (or maybe even above it), and then start moving it closer to the litterbox day by day.

With some luck you might get the cat to no longer differentiate between the rug and the litterbox. Once that happens, you might start to reintroduce the rug, but start it further away (not where it's been) and also move it day by day.

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  • We remove the rug (to wash it). When there is no rug, she does not pee outside of the litter box. Whenever there is one (no matter which), she marks it. Since this is a shower exit rug it is not strictly practical to remove it all the time... – WoJ Jan 3 '15 at 17:16
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    Try replacing the rug. The problem is probably that it now smells like someplace she's supposed to mark, and that scent may be hard to remove. Replacing the rug is the simplest, cheapest, and most reliable thing to try. You could treat the existing rug with one of the enzyme solutions available at pet stores, which chemically combine with the residue to reduce scent -- I've successfully used that on larger carpets -- but bath mats are probably cheaper than the enzyme mix, and realistically they wear out and have to be replaced periodically anyway, so you might as well chuck it now. – keshlam Jan 3 '15 at 19:35
  • @WoJ Yeah, so sounds a lot like it's the smell of the rag or possibly the ground below (the cat might not check if the place is empty). So try cleaning the ground and tgen place a new rug to see what happens. – Mario Jan 3 '15 at 19:43
  • We use different rugs, and they are washed afterwards. This is not a particular rug she is attracted to, this is rather is mere existence. The floor is washed all the time as well (and she does not pee when there is no rug) – WoJ Jan 3 '15 at 21:15
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    Have you tried a rug that you KNOW she has never seen before (and therefore does not have her smell on it), after having thoroughly scrubbed the floor? If that solves the problem, great. If not, you have to either think about it from her point of view -- perhaps clean the litterbox more often or figure out what else it is she's trying to tell you -- or find a way to break the habit, which may involve putting down the mat only when you need it or may involve relocating her litterbox. Or you can spend entirely too many hours waiting to squirt-bottle her if she steps onto the rug. – keshlam Jan 4 '15 at 4:26
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It seems that I had a similar experience as you. My cat knows how to pee in the toilets since the first day she stayed in my house. However, she started peeing on the rug just outside of the toilets and keeps doing this whenever no one is looking; she will run away and hide if caught "red-handed".

I am not sure why cats love to mark their scent near the area they used to pee. The solution we implement is to apply Dettol spray to the area and she will avoid that rug till the scent of the Dettol wears off. You can also try lemon-grass spray, which has a very strong smell that cat dislikes and is bearable for humans. There are also rug deodorant sprays that can be purchase from pet stores to remove the scent of the pets' urine.

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Standard smells for this situation would include citrus and lavender. But note that any smell needs to be applied with care in order not to taint the whole room. You really do not want to make the litter box undesirable.

Something else you might try (although it sounds like it might be a bit late for that): If the cat approaches the mat/gets ready to pee there, make loud noises and/or spray the cat with some water. Every time.

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