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cat pooping outside litter box

How to Stop Your Cat Pooping on the Floor

Why is my cat pooping on the floor?

Is your cat not using a litter box?

These are both very common questions we come across when you see a change in your kitty’s behavior and discover that your cat is pooping outside the cat litter box.

Cats do not hold grudges so this behavior is not normal or out of spite. Sometimes simple changes will help. For example, it's important to keep the litter box area clean to try to discourage this inappropriate behaviour. And you should always clear up these kind of behavioral changes by consulting with your vet since there could be an underlying medical issue.

But, there’s often more to it than you might at first think and so if you’re asking yourself, ‘why is my cat pooping on the floor?’, then this article should help.

How to Prevent Litter Box Aversion

Has your cat suddenly started leaving their “pooperdunkles” around the house?

Annoying eh! Especially if your foot finds it before your eye! 

Most cat owners will go through this to some extent with their cat pooping on floor from time to time so you are not alone. 

If your cat is choosing to go outside their litter box on a daily basis, they are definitely trying to tell you something. In their own delightful little way of course!

It's our responsibility to provide proper bathroom equipment to our feline companions. Cats are clean creatures, and they deserve a clean bathroom. They spend 30-40% of the day grooming themselves. So, using a clean litter box is what your cat prefers. You prefer to use a clean toilet too, right?

We can also use environmental enrichment and playtime to help reduce stress.

In this article, we will discuss different reasons cats refuse the box, suggestions to improve the litter box area, and additional cat stuff that can help your cat stay happy indoors.

PLEASE NOTE:  The vast majority of litter box problems turn out to involve a cat with a medical problem. This can be anything from stress, a stomach issue, diabetes or even an injured leg or elbow that makes getting into a litter box difficult and painful. Any behavior changes should be noted and checked with your veterinarian immediately. Cats are creatures of habit and thrive on routine. Sudden changes in their routine should not be taken lightly.

Here are some initial things you need to keep an eye out for:
  • Your cat should see the vet for a checkup and we are just talking a routine check! This toilet problem ‘could’ be linked with a medical issue. Better to be sure and have that peace of mind. Be detailed with your vet about any changes in routine or behavior. This can help your vet understand what's going on.
  • Adding a second litter box in the problem area is definitely a good idea. An additional box could nip the issue in the bud straight away especially if you aren't able to clean the litter box regularly. The cat expert rule of thumb is to have one box per cat, plus extra.
  • Try using a softer, more sand-like litter. This type of litter best mimics the cat's natural, outdoor bathroom. Cats prefer litter that is unscented and naturally clumping. Unscented cat litter is a must because the cat's sense of smell is much stronger than ours. Scented litter can be so strong it is painful to your cat. Clumping litter is preferred by cats and makes cleanup easier for you too.
  • Give your cat more playtime and add more climbing trees and vertical space. This gives them more private space and can reduce stress. Physical activity can also help your cat 'go' if he is feeling constipated.
  • Start using Feliway. Feliway is a product that mimics a chemical emitted by cats through the glands on their faces when they are feeling calm. They also use this chemical when they want to communicate that to other cats in the area. This pheromone works on cats' brains to calm them down and help relieve stress and anxiety.

Why is my cat pooping outside the litter box?

Litter box problems are usually caused by a change in the cat's routine or your cat has an issue with its litter box. However, if your house-trained cat suddenly stops using its box, your first port of call must be to the vets to rule out any health issues.

Cats are stressed easily, and they do not show their pain. Wild cats are both predators and prey, so they do not show signs of weakness. Any signs of weakness make cats an easy target for predators. Our indoor domesticated cats have these same instincts ingrained. 

It's important to know that cats will not tell us they are in pain. So, we need to see the vet when we notice any changes.

Health Problems

If your cat has diarrhea, constipation or an upset stomach the poor thing may just not have enough time to make it to the litter tray (and you shgould look at our article on cat foods for diarrhea control). 

This is common as the urge to ‘go’ may simply overwhelm your cat and they are simply ‘caught short’ at that moment. These types of problems are usually temporary providing your cat doesn’t have a more serious health condition than the common tummy bug.

Just keep an eye on ‘Mr. Meowgi’ and pop him to the vets if you have any concern. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If your vet thinks that the issue isn’t down to a health problem, they’ll probably move on to exploring whether your cat is suffering from a behavioral problem.

Stress and Behavioral Issues

Even though our furry friends appear to be the most ‘chilled out’ creatures on the planet they still do suffer from stress.

A change in their ‘bathroom’ behaviour may be attributed to several causes, some of which are down to ‘cat stress!’

As discussed above, cats thrive on routine and get stressed easily. Cats need predictability in their lives to feel comfortable in their environment. If you lived outside and fought for survival, you wouldn't want your day full of surprises either.

We can eliminate stress and behavioral issues with proper indoor enrichment and mental stimulation. Dress your home in cat furniture, warm beds, activity centers, and food puzzle toys to help alleviate stress. These essentials will help keep your cat busy when you aren't home.

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You can create a routine for when you leave and return for the day. Before work, hide treats around your home for your cat to hunt. When you return home, get your cat active with a fun play session. Both of these ideas can prevent boredom which will help prevent behavioral issues as well.

Smelly Litter Box

So your cat keeps pooping on floor still? It's very common for cats to turn up their noses at a litter box if it doesn't meet their exacting standards for cleanliness and odor. If it's not pristine, even cats that have been litter trained for years may reject the box in favor of another area (usually one that will get your attention).

Sometimes, solving the inappropriate eliminating problem is as simple as keeping the litter box area clean. We should scoop the box as the cat 'goes' and clean it out completely at least once weekly.

This is what cats prefer and deserve. You flush as you 'go' and clean your bathroom weekly, right? 

Wrong Litter Box Location

Cat pooping on floor randomly? Your cat may not like the position of the litter box. Some cats are really funny about this and it could be as simple as that.

Do not place the box near a door or part of the house that gets lots of human traffic. Try placing a triangle corner box litter box in a quiet corner of the house - this often helps.

Cat not using Litter Box

Just like us, they want privacy too. Make the box easily accessible and ensure that the entrances are not blocked. If your cat has dementia, position the box in a very quiet area so they do not get confused by any external traffic and noise.

You should keep the litter box in the same location because, again, cats like routine. Moving your cat's stuff around will stress him out and potentially further these behavioral issues.

Never put your cat's food and water dishes near the litter box. Dirty litter can get into the cat's bowls and then travel to your sink. This is unsanitary for you and your cat.

Change in Household Dynamic

Has another cat, pet or even a new baby been introduced to the household dynamic?

Or on the other hand, has somebody moved out or gone away which has now altered the household balance?

If so, your cat may simply be marking out his territory, but this should be temporary until he is used to the new dynamic. Remember, they are sensitive things that prefer routine and predictability. Any changes to your household should be made gradually.

If you plan to bring another animal companion home, be sure to introduce them gradually to avoid fighting and additional stress. You should keep the new kitty in a closed-off room. Include all cat essentials in the room like a litter box, scratching post, beds, food and water, and cat trees. 

Avoid direct contact in the beginning. Use positive activities like playtime and mealtime near the closed door to help the cats adjust without direct contact. You can also exchange clothing articles with their scents so they can safely meet each other.

If you're expecting a baby, consider playing baby sounds around your home. This will help your cat adjust to the new noise more easily.

how-to-stop-cat-from-pooping-on-the -loor

Recently Adopted Kitty

A cat that's been recently adopted may take a few weeks to adjust. It’s a big thing getting comfortable in a new home so just give them a little time. They may be feeling a little scared and uncertain which is totally normal.

Patience and understanding are crucial here. You don't want to rush the process and further stress out your new kitty.

Your new kitty has to learn about his surroundings first. Encourage playtime and hunting for treats to help your fur baby acclimate to his new home.

Smelly Litter Box

This is a big one! Many cats hate dirty litter trays and will not use them if it doesn’t meet their high standards for hygiene and odor levels! Be prepared, if it’s not perfect then some cats will go elsewhere or find another location that will no doubt get your attention. The best tip is just keep on top of this.

The cat's nasal cavity has 200 million scent receptors, and their noses are very close to the litter box. Cats prefer to sniff and dig around before they do their 'business'.

Your cat’s bladder control just isn’t very good anymore.

Elderly cat pooping on floor? A common problem is that, with age, older cats simply have less control over their bladders. Inevitably this will lead to your cat to stop using the litter box. If you have an elderly cat pooping on the floor, it can be hard to fix that age related health issue.

Arthritis is common in older cats too, and this can make getting into the box more difficult. Your senior cat may associate the litter box with pain and discomfort and therefore avoid using it.

Territory marking

If you've recently brought home a new cat, your cat may simply be trying to mark out its territory by pooping around the house.

Marking with urine is far more common, but some cats do poop instead.

Keep an eye out for these things as well:
  • Does anything happen right before your cat stops using the box? For example, do they stop using the box after another cat has used it? Cats are territorial creatures and prefer private spaces for their 'business'.
  • Are you feeding them new foods? Are they on a new diet? Any changes to the cat's diet should be made gradually. Cat stomachs are highly sensitive to change.
  • Is their poop extra stinky? If so, you might want to change the food and do a vet checkup to ensure there isn’t a health problem.
  • How long has your cat been pooping on the floor? If you see a sudden change, it’s super-important to pop them to the vet for a checkup.
  • How often do they not not use the boxes? Keep a detailed diary of all elimination habits and consistency. This can help your vet pinpoint the issue.
  • Do they skip the box once a week? Is it only when the box is really dirty? Or do they avoid the boxes all the time? If it is only when the box is dirty, try keeping up with cleanliness to see if that solves the problem.

How to stop your cat from defecating outside its litter box

If “Pawdry Hepburn” is healthy but is still going to the toilet outside then it’s time to take a few actions.

Remember that cats are clean creatures, and it's our responsibility as pet parents to make this right for them. A healthy and active cat is a happy cat.

Reduce their space and restrict favoured areas

Depending on where they are pooping, a starting solution would be to block off the areas they are regularly using. Directing them into a small area (like a bathroom or kitchen area) where the litter box is located can help with their litter box habits.

Since cats are clean creatures they prefer to 'go' in appropriate areas. Blocking off inappropriate areas can help train your cat to 'go' in the desired area.

Use proper enrichment to prevent stress

Cats are natural-born hunters that get a lot of exercise and mental stimulation in the wild. Since our domesticated cats don't hunt, we need to provide enrichment and stimulation for them to be happy in their indoor environment. The best way to do this is with cat trees, large cat condos, and fun toys. 

Cats love to climb, perch, and scratch. These activities relieve stress and help calm cats. 

We can help prevent stress and provide exercise with playtime. Indoor cats require at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. Wand toys like Da Bird attract cats because the feathers mimic prey. Cats love interactive wand toys because they require you to play. 

This wand toy is another great choice for playtime because it comes with four different feather attachments. It's important to provide variety as well because cats are finicky and get bored easily.

An easy way to get your cat to play is to mimic prey behavior. Cats conserve their energy for hunting so they will not pounce the first time you wave the wand around. You should tease the toys around furniture and rugs to get your cat interested. Be patient and keep trying. Make playtime a routine and your cat will be very happy.

why-is-my-cat-pooping-outside-the-litter-box

Clean the box properly

This task must be carried out frequently and thoroughly. Firstly, with a scooper, regularly remove the dirty clumps from the box and deep clean the box once daily.

A deep clean includes removing the old litter and scrubbing the box with warm and soapy water. You must then rinse it with clean water, let it naturally dry and pour in a fresh supply of litter. Steer clear of scented kitty-litter as some cats do not like the scents and will not use it. 

When cleaning the boxes always use rubber gloves and a face mask. These protect against microscopic bugs and litter dust.

Pregnancy warning - If you are pregnant please do not clean your cat’s litter box. Leave this to somebody else as this will reduce the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis.

Focus on location

If you find that your cat seems to ‘go’ in a particular spot, such as in the shower! Try to block its access to the room by closing the door whenever possible.

Do not place the box anywhere near their food and drink. Locate the box in a quiet and easy to access area. The best place for the litter box is an area that doesn't get a lot of traffic. Cats prefer to do their 'business' in quiet areas where they can have some privacy.

An idea could be to use this triangle litter box. The wedge shape design allows the litter box to be easily placed in a quiet corner of your house.

Add another litter box

The rule of thumb is that you should have one litter box per cat, plus one extra at a different location. We recommend that new adopters have at least 1.5 litter boxes per cat. So if you have one cat, you need two litter boxes; two cats, three litter boxes and so on. 

If your cats are urinating outside the box, we'd recommend even more litter boxes on top of this. Cats are finicky and like to be in control and have options. Cats are territorial creatures, especially when there are multiple cats in the same household.

Note that the boxes need to be located in different places. Otherwise, one cat may attempt to own all the toilets as their personal territory.

Consider a Jumbo litter box

There are a lot of larger litter tray designs on the market. These jumbo litter boxes are big enough for two cats to share comfortably. But make sure you keep on top of the cleaning.

Also keep in mind that cats will probably not use the litter box at the same time. So, even if you get a jumbo litter box, you should still have multiple options for a multi-cat household.

This will help them feel more comfortable and less stressed.

Catit Large Hooded Cat Litter Box, White Tiger, 50703

Make areas ‘undesirable’ toilets

If your cat seems to be ‘going’ in a particular area frequently and they can’t be locked away from it, an idea would be to spray the area with a cat-friendly deterrent

The aim is to make a ‘favoured poop area’ now quite undesirable. Sneaky!

Immediately clean up any ‘further accidents’

It may take a little time to get your kitty back to using the litter box so don’t be disappointed if there are further accidents. If there is a ‘hiccup’ then thoroughly clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner. If a cat can still smell their scent they will think it is “OK” to go there again! These type of cleaners remove all the scent completely. 

Angry Orange Odor Eliminator is certainly a product we would recommend.

Add “Cat Attract” to the litter boxes

This product is made to help remind cats to use their box via it’s herbal scent.

There is not a lot known about the product except it is natural and many owners (including cattery owners) swear by it. Give it a whirl.

Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract Problem Cat Training Litter, 40 pound bag

Be Patient and Consistent

Toilet habit change won't happen immediately, so don't be disappointed if there are further ‘mishaps.” Just keep cleaning the soiled areas, keep the litter box clean, and maintain a stress free and fun environment for your furry pal.

Also note, you should never punish your cat. Cats see all attention as positive attention, and you don't want your cat to think eliminating outside the box is a good thing. This negative punishment will only teach your cat to fear you and avoid you. 

A negative experience will also stress out your cat more and possibly further this undesired behavior or make it worse.

Why is my cat pooping on the floor? Our final thoughts.

The Vet should be your first stop whenever there is any kind of litter box problem or behavioral changes. Have your cat thoroughly  examined and when they get a clean bill of health, talk with your vet about your specific litter box set up at home.

Provide your vet with a detailed diary of eliminating and behavior habits. You can also speak to your vet about your cat's diet and possible changes to help with proper eliminating. Just remember to make these changes gradually. If you introduce new foods too quickly, you will prolong this issue or make it worse.

You will more than likely find that your cat is super-fussy over cleanliness so just make sure you really keep on top of hygiene.

A cat may decide that the box is too dirty if there is any waste already in there. They may even urinate in the box but then feel it’s now not clean enough for them to poop in. Yes, frustrating, but that’s our beloved cats for you. 

Scooping the box and cleaning it out regularly only takes a few minutes a week. Just remind yourself, the longer you let it sit, the longer it will take to clean.

Just make sure you’re scooping at least twice a day and have more than one litter box so there will be a greater chance that your cat can find a clean litter for them to perform.

For more information on how to prevent litter box problems, we recommend checking out this book.

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