Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box?

Posted by Christy Caplan
Cat Litter

You must rule out health issues to determine if this is happening because of behavioral issues. Yet most often this is a litter box problem and could be caused by a litter box issue or a change in your cat's routine.

Remember that you should always rule out dramatic changes in cat behavior with your vet. A cat that poops outside his litter box falls into this category. If this is related to a potential health issue you need to get your cat to the vet and rule out anything serious!

For this article, let's consider litter box issues and what those may be by asking some questions about your cat's behavior.

Did you recently change your cat's litter box?

Consider the cat litter box your using and ask yourself these questions that Dr. Sophia Yin (RIP Dr. Yin, her death was a terrible tragedy) talks about in her article on this very topic.

"Maybe the litter's not deep enough or the lining is a pain to negotiate, or the box is too small - it should be 1.5x the length of the cat. Or it's so dirty and stinky that your feline has to hold his breath while watching his step."

Try this! It's like a litter test for cats.

"To see whether litter type or cleanliness have a hand in your cat's pooping (or peeing) problems, clean the litter boxes twice a day and set up a litter-box lineup for a week or two. In this choice test for litter lavatories, place three or more temporary boxes side by side with only one thing varying between boxes. For instance, you may be comparing scented vs unscented, Brand A vs Brand B, large box vs small box, and so on."

Is he standing on the side of his litter box? 

Cats are very sensitive to different smells. Something that smells fresh to us may not to our feline friends.

According to Dr. Sophia Yin, if he stands on the litter box edge and poops along the sides and leaves his mess uncovered, he may have an issue with the litter.

"Cats tend to like the feel of finer litters and most of them regularly cover their feces or urine. In fact, cats generally spend over 20 seconds pawing around in the litter. Also, some cats prefer unscented litters."

A fresh pine smell may be terrible for cats.

Is the litter box next to breakfast?

Location! Where is your litter box placed? If you think your cat is attracted to a particular spot in the bathroom and that's where he's pooping try blocking access to the bathroom with a baby gate. Also, always have the box far away from your cat's food and water bowls yet make sure the location of the litter box is in a private area that's easy to get to.

Is the litter box surrounded by bully cats? 

You need one litter box per cat. This goes for any home with multiple animals. When you add a second cat you need to have an additional litter box. Sometimes cats are bullied by other cats and they don't have a chance to use their private box to potty. The optimal number of litter boxes is one for each cat plus one more. The Spruce Pets tells us that three is ideal!

"This means that if you have two cats, you should provide three litter boxes. Note that the boxes need to be in totally different places. Otherwise, one cat may attempt to "guard" and own all the toilets and keep the other cat away."

Your cat pooping outside the litter box isn't normal behavior. Check the type of litter and clean up that litter box at least once if not twice a day! A behaviorist can also help you if there is an issue with multiple cats bullying a new cat. Animal behaviorists have many tricks up their sleeves.

You must rule out any health issues with your vet and cat owners need to consider medical issues (e.g. urinary tract infection) if their cat's behavior seems normal.

Older cats may also have an issue so watch those seniors! It's most likely a behavior problem and you should also consider new types of litter boxes as covered litter boxes and clumping litter may be your cat's preference. Look at the litter tray, the location of the food bowl compared to where the cat's box is, and always consider a new box or different litters!

A clean litter box may also be the problem. Inappropriate elimination could simply be your cat's way of saying, "my box needs to be cleaned and I'm pooping in the living room until it's pristine". Always consider different locations for the litter boxes you have too as that may make all the difference. The second box may need to be a few rooms away from the first box. Each cat uses a separate box and voila, problem fixed!

Always talk to your vet during the checkup about strange behavior and they'll rule out any health problems, medical problems, or possible UTI's.

Have you ever needed to rush your cat to the vet for pooping outside their litter box? Please leave us a comment below. 

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Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box?