Will Cats Stop Peeing if You Spray Vinegar? The Surprising Truth


Vinegar is often recommended as a natural and safe way to deter cats from urine marking or inappropriate elimination. The strong smell and taste of vinegar is unpleasant to cats and can deter them from peeing or spraying where it’s applied. Vinegar is non-toxic when diluted properly. Many pet owners and gardeners use it around plants, furniture, or other areas to keep cats away. However, vinegar may not work for all cats, and there are other potential drawbacks. It’s important to understand whether vinegar is an effective and humane solution before using it.

Why Do Cats Pee Outside the Litter Box?

There are several common reasons why cats may start peeing outside of their litter box:

Medical issues like urinary tract infections, kidney disease, or diabetes can cause a cat to urinate outside the box because of discomfort or lack of control [1]. A trip to the vet is recommended to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Stress from changes in the home environment, new people or pets, or other factors can also trigger inappropriate urination. The smell of urine helps relieve stress for cats. Providing comfort and reducing sources of anxiety can help [2].

Territorial marking with urine is another reason, especially for unneutered male cats. They may spray to claim territory and mark boundaries. Neutering can help reduce this behavior.

Issues with the litter box like an unwanted location, dirty box, or preference for a different litter material may also lead a cat to pee elsewhere. Providing an optimal litter box setup is important.

Does Vinegar Deter Cats from Peeing?

Vinegar is commonly recommended as a home remedy to deter cats from peeing in unwanted areas. The strong smell and taste of vinegar is unpleasant to cats, leading some people to believe it will stop cats from urinating where it is sprayed or placed.

There is some evidence that vinegar can be an effective deterrent for cats in certain circumstances:

– Vinegar has strong cleaning properties that remove the existing scent and stain of cat urine, helping discourage a cat from repeatedly peeing in that area due to the lingering smell (The Cat Peed in the House, Now What? | Practically Spotless).

– The sour smell and taste of vinegar is unappealing to cats, and may cause them to avoid areas where it has been sprayed or placed (What Smells Deter Cats From Peeing? – Cats.com).

However, vinegar is not a guaranteed solution for all cats and scenarios. Some cats may be unbothered by the smell of vinegar and continue peeing where they want. It also needs to be reapplied frequently to remain an effective deterrent.

Using Vinegar to Deter Cat Peeing

Vinegar is an effective yet safe way to deter cats from peeing in unwanted areas. Here are some tips on using vinegar properly:

Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. The acidic smell of vinegar repels cats while the water dilutes the vinegar so it’s gentler on surfaces. Spray the vinegar solution on areas where your cat has peed before, like furniture or carpet. Reapply daily until your cat stops peeing there [1].

Use plain white vinegar without added scents, colors or chemicals. It’s safer for your cat and more effective. Don’t use apple cider vinegar, as the sweet smell may actually attract cats.

Test fabrics and surfaces first before spraying vinegar directly. Vinegar can potentially stain or damage some materials. For delicate surfaces, wipe with a cloth dampened in diluted vinegar instead.

Never spray vinegar directly at your cat. Only apply to objects and areas. Avoid your cat’s food bowls, bedding and litter boxes.

Ensure good ventilation when using vinegar. Open windows or use fans to circulate fresh air.

Rinse vinegar residue off surfaces and fabrics intended for human contact after application.

Reapply daily initially until your cat is deterred from peeing in that area. Over time, you may only need to reapply once a week or less frequently.

For best results, vinegar should be used alongside addressing the root causes of your cat’s peeing issues. See your vet to rule out medical problems. Provide enough clean, easily accessible litter boxes. Clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleaner. Use positive reinforcement to encourage good litter box habits.

Trying Other Smell Deterrents

Vinegar is not the only smell that can deter cats from peeing in certain areas. There are a few other strong scents that may stop your cat from urinating where they shouldn’t:

  • Citrus – Cats strongly dislike the smell of citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and limes. You can place slices of citrus peels or spritz citrus essential oils around the area.
  • Pepper – Ground black pepper or cayenne pepper sprinkled on surfaces creates an unpleasant odor for cats. Be careful not to get it in your cat’s eyes.
  • Cloves – Whole or ground cloves can be an effective cat pee deterrent due to their strong aroma.

Essential oils like lemongrass, lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint are other smells that can deter cats from peeing in a spot when applied topically or diffused in the room. It’s best to try a few different scents to determine what your cat dislikes.

Just like vinegar, these other smells provide temporary solutions. It’s important to also address the root cause of your cat’s inappropriate urination. Your vet can help determine if your cat is peeing outside the litter box due to a medical issue or behavior problem.

Address the Root Cause

The key to stopping a cat from peeing outside the litter box is to address the underlying cause. Cats don’t pee where they shouldn’t out of spite – it’s usually a sign something is wrong. Start by taking your cat to the veterinarian to rule out medical issues like urinary tract infections or kidney disease. If your cat gets a clean bill of health, look at environmental and behavioral factors.

Cats are territorial creatures and don’t like sharing resources. Having multiple cats in a home with only one litter box can prompt peeing outside the box. Make sure you have one litter box per cat, plus an extra. Clean boxes daily and place them in quiet, low traffic areas (The Spruce Pets). Place cat repellents around problem areas.

Stress is another common cause of inappropriate peeing. Changes in household routines, new pets, outside cats, or loud noises can upset cats. Try synthetic pheromone diffusers to calm anxious cats. Limit changes and provide hiding spots they can retreat to. If the issue started suddenly, think back to what changed in your home before the peeing started.

By understanding the underlying motive and addressing it through vet visits, more resources, and reducing stressors, you can eliminate unwanted peeing for good.

Litter Box Location and Cleaning

The location and cleanliness of your cat’s litter box is crucial for encouraging proper use. According to the Humane Society, you should place the litter box far away from your cat’s food and water bowls. Having at least one box on each level of your home gives your cat options for accessibility.

Daily Paw recommends placing the box in a quiet, low-traffic area, ideally in a corner where your cat can have some privacy. Keeping it away from appliances and air vents that make noise or air currents will make the location more appealing to your cat.

Cats prefer a clean litter box, so scoop waste out daily and change the litter completely every 1-2 weeks, or more if you have multiple cats. Replace dirty boxes, and use mild soap and water to clean boxes out – harsh chemicals can put off sensitive noses. Keeping the litter box clean and conveniently located will encourage regular, proper use by your cat.

When to See the Vet

In some cases, inappropriate urination can be caused by an underlying medical issue that requires veterinary attention. Some conditions that may lead to peeing outside the litter box include:

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): UTIs cause inflammation and discomfort when urinating, leading cats to associate the litter box with pain. UTIs require antibiotics prescribed by a vet.

Kidney Disease: Kidney disease leads to increased urination and difficulty holding urine. This causes cats to pee frequently and outside the box. Kidney disease is diagnosed through bloodwork and urinalysis.

Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes increases urination. Cats may not make it to the litter box in time. Diabetes is diagnosed through bloodwork and urinalysis.

Crystals or Stones: Crystals or stones cause pain and blockages when urinating. This leads to peeing outside the box. X-rays, ultrasounds, or urinalysis diagnose crystals/stones.

If your cat starts peeing outside the litter box, make an appointment with your vet to rule out medical issues. Treating any underlying condition will help resolve inappropriate urination issues.

Training Your Cat

One of the most effective ways to teach your cat to use the litter box is through positive reinforcement training. When you catch your cat using the litter box, immediately reward them with a treat and praise. This will help reinforce the desired behavior. Be sure to use a small, tasty treat that your cat loves. Over time, your cat will learn that using the litter box leads to rewards.

You can also try placing your cat in the litter box after meals or naps and praising them when they use it. With patience and consistency, reward-based training can teach even resistant cats to use the litter box reliably.

According to Hill’s Pet[1], other tips for successful litter box training include:
– Placing your kitten in the litter box after naps and meals when they likely need to go
– Gently scratching the litter with their paws to demonstrate covering waste
– Being patient and consistent with rewards and praise

With time, your kitten will get the hang of litter box training. Be sure to thoroughly clean any accidents with an enzymatic cleaner to remove odors that may attract the cat back. Stay positive throughout the process.

  1. [1] https://www.hillspet.com/cat-care/training/how-to-litter-box-train-a-kitten


In summary, while spraying vinegar may temporarily deter a cat from peeing in a certain spot, it does not address the root causes of inappropriate elimination. Key takeaways include:

  • Look at factors like litter box cleanliness, location, type of litter, and medical issues first.
  • Try other smell deterrents like citrus or a cat pheromone spray if vinegar does not work.
  • Always thoroughly clean soiled areas to prevent repeat incidents.
  • Work on retraining your cat to use the litter box properly.
  • See your veterinarian if the issue persists to rule out underlying medical problems.

Tackling the source of litter box avoidance is the best way to curb unwanted peeing. With some patience and adjustments, you can get your cat back to regularly using the litter box.

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