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Why Does My Cat Pee on Plastic Bags? 7 Vet Reviewed Reasons & Solutions

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By Nicole Cosgrove

black shorthair cat inside a plastic bag

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

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

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Anyone that has ever owned a cat knows that they can sometimes be odd or downright weird.  If you’ve seen your cat pee on a plastic bag and had to do a double-take because you couldn’t believe your eyes, you’re not the only cat owner who’s experienced this. Surprisingly, many cats pee on plastic bags, but why do they do it?

There are some general assumptions as to why cats pee on plastic bags, and we’ll cover them here. If your cat is suddenly urinating on plastic bags in your house, there must be a reason for it, right? Sit back, relax, and enjoy the read as you discover the possible reasons your cat is partaking in this strange behavior.

7 Possible Reasons Why Cats Pee on Plastic Bags

1.  They Have Litter Box Issues

It’s common for cats to pee in inappropriate places if they don’t like their litter box. Think about your cat’s litter box for a moment. Have you recently changed boxes to another size or style? Perhaps you’re using a different type of cat litter or maybe you’ve moved the litter box to a new location your cat doesn’t like.

Your cat may be peeing on plastic bags to protest their litter box. Maybe they’re even trying to send you a message about cleaning it more often.

How to Remedy the Behavior

If you suspect your cat is choosing to pee on plastic bags because they are unhappy with the litter box, think about what the most plausible reason could be. If you recently got your cat a new litter box that’s different from the one they are used to, switch back to the old one to see if that stops them from peeing outside the box.

If you’ve recently changed the type of litter you’re using, go back to what you used before. If you recently placed the litter box in a new location, put it back where it was before to see what happens. To put it simply, even the smallest changes could have them wanting to urinate elsewhere.

clean cat litter box
Image Credit: Guajillo studio, Shutterstock

2. The Litter Box Is Filthy

If you’ve fallen behind on your household responsibilities and have not cleaned the litter box thoroughly, your cat may be peeing on plastic bags out of protest. Cats don’t like to use dirty litter boxes that are full of pee and poo. Remember that your cat buries their waste to cover it. If the box is full of old waste, there is probably a lack of clean litter in the box for your cat to use to cover his latest “deposits.”

How to Remedy the Behavior

The best solution to this problem is obvious: You need to up your game and keep your cat’s litter box clean. Either scoop more often or buy a self-cleaning litter box that does the hard work for you.

If you buy a self-cleaning litter box, you’ll have to dump the used litter and waste from the separate waste compartment now and then. The good news is that this type of litter box uses far less litter than regular boxes, so you’ll save on cat litter.

3. They Like the Sound and Feel of Plastic

Even though it seems weird, some cats like the feel and sound of plastic bags. The smooth surface of the plastic is unlike the typical surface cats scratch on, which means your cat may find it pleasurable to use in various ways.

Your cat may be doing their business on plastic bags because the soft texture feels nice beneath their paws when burying the waste.

How to Remedy the Behavior

If you suspect that your cat simply likes the crinkly sound and smooth texture of plastic bags, switch your cat’s litter to something with a softer feel. A super-soft cat litter may be the ideal solution, so give it a try!

Even though quality soft litter may cost more than the type you’re using now, making the switch will be worth it as you’ll have less cleaning up to do and you’ll save your plastic bags.

cat lying inside a plastic bag
Image Credit: Nadinelle, Shutterstock

4. Feeling Anxious and Stressed

Like us, cats can feel stressed if something in their environment isn’t right. Your cat may be urinating on plastic bags as a way to deal with stress. Perhaps something has changed to make them feel anxious, like a new baby in the family or moving into a new home.

Many cats pee and poop outside the litter box when they’re feeling anxious or stressed, while some will lick themselves incessantly or meow excessively.

How to Remedy the Behavior

If you assume your cat is using plastic bags instead of the litter box due to anxiety or stress, try to figure out what is causing these feelings. Maybe your cat feels anxious because the litter box is located in a busy or noisy part of your house. If you think this is what’s causing the odd peeing behavior, move the litter box to a quieter area.

You could talk to your vet about giving your cat a calming supplement that will help mellow them. If your cat doesn’t calm down, they may need a calming medication prescribed by your veterinarian. Before using a supplement or medication, think long and hard about what’s triggering the stress so you can handle it yourself.

5. Marking Territory

Urine marking or urine spraying is a feline behavior that involves spraying urine on something as a way to mark territory. If your cat lives with other cats, they may be peeing on plastic bags to tell those cats to stay away.

How to Remedy the Behavior

If your cat is not neutered or spayed, get the procedure done as soon as possible because unspayed and unneutered cats spray more than spayed and neutered cats.

If you think your cat is trying to tell other cats in your household to back off, you may need to put down one food bowl and one litter box for each cat you have and keep the spaces separated. This way, each cat has their very own space to eat and go to the bathroom.

grey cat inside a plastic bag
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

6. They Enjoy the Smell of the Bags

While it may seem strange to you, many cats enjoy how some plastic items smell, including many containers and bags. This is because some plastic items are made with a substance that’s found in plant oils that emits a floral-like scent.

If you’ve seen your cat rubbing their face on plastic bags, they are probably enamored by the smell.

How to Remedy the Behavior

If you suspect your cat loves how plastic bags smell, either stop using plastic bags or keep them away from your cat. If you don’t want to get rid of the plastic bags you have, put them in a closet or cupboard so cats can’t get to them. When your cat realizes the plastic bags are gone, they’ll likely head back to the litter box to do their business.

7. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Peeing outside the litter box is a symptom of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Other symptoms of this feline health condition include:
  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating less than usual
  • Not urinating at all
  • Pain or discomfort when urinating
  • A strong smell of ammonia in the urine
How to Remedy the Behavior

If you suspect your cat has a urinary tract infection, take them to the vet right away. Your vet will examine your cat and run some tests to see if they are suffering from a UTI. If so, the treatment prescribed may include increasing your cat’s water intake, modifying their diet, or prescribing medications to relieve the symptoms.

testing cat urine for UTI
Image Credit: Yaya Photos, Shutterstock

Tips for Cleaning Up the Smell of Urine

Even after picking up the plastic bags your cat has peed on, there’s likely some urine odor lingering on the floor, furniture, or nearby walls. It’s important to get rid of the smell of cat urine so your cat stops going to that same location to pee.

You can use a common household cleaner mixed with warm water to clean the floor, walls, and furniture in the area where your cat peed. You could also use a more powerful product, like a cat urine destroyer, that’s safe to use on hard floors, carpet, furniture, and fabric. If you use this type of product, follow the label directions carefully so you can eliminate all of the odor.

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There are several reasons why cats choose to pee on plastic bags. It’s your job as the owner of your cat to find out why your pet isn’t using the litter box. Hopefully, it won’t take you long to figure it out and remedy the problem so things can quickly get back to normal.

Featured Image Credit: guruXOX, Shutterstock

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