Why do cats poop outside the litter box? 8 possible reasons

Why do cats poop outside the litter box

There could be a reason why your cat is pooping everywhere but the litter box.

If you are wondering why do cats poop outside the litter box, you are not alone. In fact, litter box trouble is the most common behavioral issue experienced by cat owners.

Discover the most common reasons for inappropriate elimination and how to solve them!

Rule out medical issues

  • Even if you are positive that the problem is behavioral, you should have your cat checked by a veterinarian to ensure that there isn’t an underlying medical issue.
  • For example, if she has constipation, she may link the box with her discomfort and relieve herself somewhere else.
  • A senior cat with arthritis may find it challenging to sit on the litter substrate to do her business.
  • Your cat may feel claustrophobic if she has to poop in a covered litter box.
  • Various digestive issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease, can cause cats to defecate outside the litter box.
  • If your cat often urinates outside the litter box, it may indicate a urinary tract infection, thyroid issues, or feline interstitial cystitis (inflamed bladder).
  • The cat may suffer from cramps, which prompts her to want to eliminate wherever she is at the time.
  • If your cat is pooping outside the box, don’t skip the crucial first step of seeing a veterinarian.
  • It is critical to get your cat diagnosed and on appropriate medicine (and, in some circumstances, prescription formula food) as soon as possible.

Stress and behavioral issues

Once you rule out medical reasons, you need to see if stress or behavioral issues are causing your cat to poop outside of the litter box.

Change is a frequent reason for inappropriate defecation. Cats are creatures of habit, and if you’ve recently relocated, changed the placement of the litter box, changed the litter box itself, or changed the type of litter, your cat may struggle to adjust.

Why do cats poop outside the litter box? Below are 8 reasons:

1. Dirty litter box

Cats will frequently reject a litter box if it does not match their standard of cleanliness and odor.

If it isn’t spotless, even cats who have been litter-trained for years may reject the box in favor of another location (usually one that will get your attention).

2. Litter box location

Is your cat bothered by the location of the litter box?

Consider moving it if it’s near a door, in a high-traffic area of the house, or in a place where the cat can’t quickly get access. This is not advised if your cat has dementia because it may cause further confusion.

3. Household change

Your cat may be marking its territory by urinating or pooping outside the litter box.

Introducing another cat or animal, or even the arrival of a new baby, can be stressful to your cat.

Even someone moving into the house, moving out, or the death of a member can upset your cat. This should only be temporary until the cat adjusts to the new environment. However, any change in a cat’s routine or environment can generate stress, leading to unusual behavior.

4. Territorial

Cats are territorial, and if there is a neighborhood cat on the prowl, a new dog in the house, a new infant, or wildlife in the neighborhood, your cat may be attempting to mark its territory with the smell of its feces. This approach is popular among wild animals, so don’t be shocked if your tame cat wants to try it as well.

5. Issues of age and accessibility

Tiny kittens and senior cats may have difficulty using certain types of litter boxes. If the sides are high or the box is a top entry, and your cat is elderly or has physical limitations, she may have difficulty defecating or urinating.

Cats with joint pain and kitten require a box with low sides.

6. Litter or litter box issues

Again, cats are very picky, so she may dislike her litter type or the litter box itself.

Most cats dislike litter boxes with covers (they don’t want to feel caged while eliminating), and the box must be spacious enough.

Another aspect is how the cat litter feels on her feet, so trial and error may be necessary to find the preferred litter.

Most cats prefer clumping litter with a medium to fine texture.

Cats like the feel of finer litters, and they tend to cover their feces or urine.

If you prefer scented brands of litter, ensure that it is also acceptable to your cat by giving her the option to try an unscented brand.

A cat who marks her litter box will also deposit urine in other locations, usually on vertical surfaces.

Check out Cat litter box problems: Answers to common questions for more information on litter box problems and solutions.

7. Frightened

Your cat could be terrified for real. If your cat isn’t making it to the litter box in time to poop, it could be due to a family member, a disturbance, the movement of the litter box on the floor, or anything similar.

While it may be difficult to identify what is scaring your cat away, consider moving the litter box to a safe location.

A secure area may be more private and away from the chaos. You may even try a private cat bathroom integrated into furniture (like a chest).

8. Several cats

There may be disagreements if there aren’t enough litter boxes for all of the household cats.

Ensure that there is one litter box for each cat, plus one extra litter box (if there are two cats, you need to have three litter boxes).

At times, one of the cats may begin to cause stress by preventing the other cat(s) from using their litter box.

How to prevent your cat from defecating outside the litter box?

As a cat owner, you should take steps to prevent your cat from doing its dirty deeds anywhere else than its litter box if there are no health issues.

1. Empty the box

Make sure to scoop waste from the litter box daily and do a weekly deep cleaning.

Deep cleaning involves:

  • Removing the old litter.
  • Washing the empty box with soap and warm water.
  • Rinsing with clean water.
  • Letting it air-dry
  • Replacing scented fresh litter about one to two inches deep.

Whenever handling your cat’s litter box, make sure to use a face mask and gloves to protect yourself from minute bugs and litter dust.

Warning: To lower your chance of developing toxoplasmosis while pregnant, delegate all litter box maintenance to another household member.

2. Concentrate on location

Suppose your cat is drawn to a particular location, such as a bath mat or toilet, restrict its access to the room by erecting a baby gate or closing/locking the door whenever possible.

Simultaneously, encourage your pet to use its litter box as intended by placing it in a quiet, private spot that is easy to access, away from its food and water bowl.


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3. Eliminate the evidence

Begin by thoroughly cleaning the areas where your cat has pooped. If you don’t get the place clean enough, your cat will continue to be drawn to it.

Wash any materials that can be cleaned in a washing machine. If your cat has pooped on a bathmat or cheap carpeting, you may need to discard the item.

For the best results, clean up pet accidents with a high-quality enzymatic cleaner.

4. Concentrate on training

If your cat is young or was just acquired, they may want a refresher course in litter box training.

5. Examine the litter box

A cat enjoys having a large, open, and clean litter box. Provide your cat with a large litter box that doesn’t have a cover.

You could even create a king-sized improvised litter box out of a large plastic under-the-bed storage box.

If you have one litter box, consider adding a second one in a different location. Consider placing the second box near the area where your cat has been pooping.

If you have numerous cats, you may need to purchase additional litter boxes. Every floor of the house should also have a litter box. Always keep the litter box clean.

6. Help your cat feel positive

If your cat associates unpleasant experiences with her litter box, you can help her form new, positive associations.

You cannot force your cat to use the litter box. Putting your cat in the litter box to show her that it is safe may backfire and make her hate the litter box.

Don’t use treats to encourage your cat to use her litter box like you would a dog because many cats dislike being watched when they’re eliminating.

You can consult a professional animal behavior consultant to develop an effective retraining or counterconditioning program.

Below are some actions to help your cat in make new positive associations:

  • Move your cat’s litter box to a new spot, or install multiple litter boxes in different areas at the same time. Choose areas where your cat can see who is approaching from any side. These sites should also have many escape routes so that your cat can exit her litter box quickly if she becomes anxious. Make it a point to keep children and animals away from your cat’s litter box.
  • Fill the litter boxes with one to two inches of litter; make sure that the litter differs somewhat from the type of litter in the boxes your cat avoids. You can use a finer or coarser texture. Try unscented litter if you’ve been using scented litter.
  • Play with your cat next to her litter box. Also, in the general area leading to her box, provide food and toys for her to find and enjoy. However, don’t put her food bowl next to the potty because cats don’t like to eliminate near their food.
  • If you have a long-haired cat, consider trimming the hair on her back end carefully and gently if it becomes filthy or matted during elimination. Matting can cause the fur to be pulled when the cat is doing his business. This can be uncomfortable for the cat and cause him to avoid using his litter box.

7. Household stress treatment

When cats are agitated, they may stop using their litter boxes. Identify and, if feasible, eliminate any stressors or sources of frustration in your cat’s environment.

Maintain her food bowls filled and in the same spot, maintain her routine as consistent as possible, keep the dog from chasing her, and close the curtains on windows and doors, so she isn’t bothered by cats outside.

If you are unable to eliminate stressors, try to minimize them.

Include sprays or diffusers that produce a synthetic pheromone to reduce stress in cats.

8. Multi-cat household conflict treatment

The conflict between cats who live together can sometimes lead to an elimination problem.

If you have numerous cats and aren’t sure which one is soiling, talk to your veterinarian about giving one of your cats’ fluorescein, a safe dye. Although the dye does not often stain carpeting, it does cause urine to shine blue under UV light for around 24 hours.

If you are not able to get fluorescein, you can temporarily confine your cats one at a time to establish which one is eliminating outside of your home’s litter boxes.

If your cats are fighting and one of them appears upset, place more litter boxes in areas where the concerned cat spends most of her time.

Also, make sure that each cat has enough space to relax. In multi-cat households, creating vertical resting locations on shelves or window sills, or purchasing multi-perch cat trees, can be extremely beneficial.

It may be beneficial to distribute food, water, cat posts or trees, and litter boxes so that each individual cat can use them without coming into contact with or conflicting with another cat.

Using synthetic pheromone sprays or diffusers can help to alleviate general social tension in your home.

Before giving your cat any form of medicine for a behavior problem, always consult your veterinarian.

What to avoid

Whatever you do to fix your cat’s elimination issues, here are a few things to avoid:

  • Avoid rubbing your cat’s nose in urine or excrement.
  • You should not scold your cat or drag her over to the litter box.
  • Do not lock your cat in a small room with a litter box for days, weeks, or months without doing anything else to address her elimination issues.
  • Do not use an ammonia-based cleaner to clean up spills. Because urine includes ammonia, cleaning with ammonia may encourage your cat to urinate again in the same location. Instead, use a solution designed exclusively for cleaning up after pet accidents.