Why Is My Cat Using My Houseplants as a Toilet? (and 5 ways to solve it)

When you cats decide to relieve themselves in your house plants it can be an unpleasant experience for everybody. Its not very normal behavior and you will want them to stop right away before it becomes a habit. The first thing to do is to find out why they have decided to use your house plants over their litter box and then come up with a strategy to stop them from repeating the behavior.

Why is my cat peeing and pooping in house plants?

If your cat has started using your house plants instead of the litter box to pee or poop, the most likely reason is that they are unhappy with their litter box. Cats are naturally very clean animals. Normally, they will do their best to go to the toilet without creating a mess in their living space. However, there can also be some less common causes behind their toilet habits. Here are the most common causes that we have found.

They are picky about where they go to the toilet

Cats can also be very picky. If they are uncomfortable with their current litter box for any reason, in their eyes, a plant pot can seem like a much better place to use as a toilet. There are lots of reasons why your cat can be avoiding the litter box but the most common is that it is too dirty. Cats will avoid smelly or dirty cat litter so you need to make sure that it is always clean and fresh like your own bathroom. Cats also dislike litter boxes that placed in an uncomfortable position or a strong scent. Senior or injured cats may struggle to get in to litter boxes with taller rims and may find certain types of litter uncomfortable on their feet. Soil by comparison is much softer and inviting to a picky cat.

Your cat is spraying in your house plants

If your cat is also peeing small amounts in other locations around the house, they may be spraying. This is a territorial behaviour that cats will do if they are uncomfortable or insecure in the home. The small spray of urine is mixed with other scent markers that they leave to say, “I am here, this is my space”. If this is the case, you will need to take steps to make your cat feel more comfortable at home by creating spaces for them to claim as their own territory. Cat trees, beds, blankets, and scratching posts are good ways to do this. You can read our article about cats spraying indoors to get the full run down on why your cat is spraying and what you can do about it.

Cats will seek attention through bad behaviors

Cats can sometimes train humans without us realizing it. Your cat may have realized that you give them attention by rushing over to them and telling them off when they start to use your house plants to pee and poop in. After this works one time, they may keep repeating the behavior as long as they get a reaction from you. This is quite a specific problem to have but the best solution would be to ignore your cat when they do this and try and deter them from doing it in future.

6 easy ways to stop your cat from pooping in plants

Make litter boxes more appealing

Before trying anything here, it could be beneficial to improve your cat’s litter box by placing it in a safer location, using comfortable litter, and cleaning it more often. Adding an extra litter box to the house is also an easy method to convince your cat to relieve themselves in the right places. The general advice is that you should have one more litter box then the number of cats in your household. Assuming that you have tried to improve the appeal of your cat’s litter box, you can turn to deterrents to stop your cat relieving themselves inside of your plants.

Make the top of a plant pot uncomfortable to stand in.

Remember what we said about cats being picky about where they do their business? You can use this to your advantage by making the top layer of your plants uncomfortable for them to stand on. Gravel or small rocks are a common solution to this and won’t harm your plant and can even make them look better. You will just need a small layer thick enough that the hard rocks will press into your cat’s paws to make them uncomfortable. Don’t use any sharp objects like toothpicks or skewers as they can cut your cat’s paws and injure them.

Use scents that cats hate

Cats have very sensitive noses and most will avoid strong smells as they can be overwhelming to them. Spices like white or cayenne pepper can be sprinkled on to the top layer of soil. If your cat comes too close to the plant in the future the smell should be enough to make them keep their distance. Cayenne pepper is a popular smell to use and is safe for cats and plants alike. The only down side to this is that you will need to top up the smell after some time, more if the plant is regularly watered. If your cat is too curious they may ignore their instincts and continue sniffing the spices, sending them into a sneezing fit. If this is the case you should use another indoor cat deterrent.

Use plants that cats hate

Similar to the last point, you can grow plants indoors that your cat will avoid. Strong smelling plants like mint, rosemary, and curry leaf will make other plants in the area less appealing to be around. If you want to use this option, make sure that your new plant is cat-safe if they decide to eat or nibble on it. The ASPCA has a comprehensive list of plants that are dangerous and safe for cats which you can find here.

Make plants scary

We normally strongly advocate against punishment or even negative reinforcement in cats. Cats don’t understand why they are being punished and normally it just results in a weaker sense of trust and safety between you and your cat. However, there can be simple ways to scare your cat from being in a specific area. You can try to use tinfoil or sticky tape on top of your plant pots. Cats are usually scared on uncomfortable when they touch these materials with their paws and just a few bad experiences is normally enough for them to lose interest in an area. You could try playing a loud sound through a speaker when they approach the area but unconfident cats may feel less safe in their own home if you do this which can create behavioral problems.

Re-pot or move your plants

If your cat still insists on using your plants as a toilet, your last option is to make it too difficult for them to do so. Taller or narrower plant pots can be a stylish way to stop your cat from climbing in to them. Hanging baskets have also become a popular addition to plant lovers households, just make sure that they are out of reach from your cat if they decide your new basket is actually a new toy for them.