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Why Does My Cat Poop Outside the Litter Box?

  • Post category:Behavior / Health
  • Post last modified:September 29, 2020
  • Reading time:10 mins read
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If you’ve noticed that your cat seems to be pooping outside the litter box lately, you may become alarmed and frustrated. It’s important that you do not become too angry at your cat, however. 

There could be many reasons for your cat to be wary of using the litter box. In this article we will go over some possible reasons that your feline companion needs some extra attention to get them to use the litter box again.

They May Have a Health Condition

One reason your cat might be refusing to use the litter box is that it may be suffering from a medical problem. This problem could be anything from an inflammatory bowel disease to constipation. 

If your cat was recently declawed, which I do not recommend, then their feet and toes may be too sore to be able to use the litter box. Litter is not the softest substance to stand in and this could be the culprit if they’ve just been declawed.

If you suspect that your cat has a medical condition that is preventing it from using the litter box, then the best thing to do is take your cat to the veterinarian. 

One tip I can give you is to simply observe their behavior while they are pooping outside the litter box. Does your cat look like it is in pain? I would advise bringing your cat to the vet regardless, just to be on the safe side.

The Litter or Box Is Too Dirty

If you and your veterinarian have ruled out any possible medical conditions, then the next thing to check is the cleanliness of your cat’s litter. Does the litter itself look grimy or do you smell a foul odor?

Cats tend to be very particular about the freshness of their litter boxes. That’s a really big reason that most cats watch you clean their litter box and then go and use it immediately thereafter. 

Make sure you are cleaning your cat’s litter box a few times a day at the very least. If you are gone a lot, consider buying a self-cleaning litter box.Self-cleaning litter boxes usually have sensors that will know when your cat has used the box and it will clean itself shortly afterwards. These boxes usually only work with clumping litter, so that’s something else to keep in mind. 

It’s also important to note that the litter box itself should be kept as clean as possible. Even when you completely change out the old litter for newer litter, it could still leave behind a foul odor. This odor usually smells like ammonia.

They Don’t Like the Type of Litter

Another reason your cat is avoiding the litter box is the type of litter you’re putting in it. If you’ve recently changed brands or type of litter, then this is most likely the issue your cat is having. 

If you suspect that your cat doesn’t like the new type of litter, you might want to simply give your cat a little time to adjust. Cats are known to hate any changes in their environment, even something as subtle as litter.

If the new litter has a very drastic change in color, type, or texture, it’s possible that your cat doesn’t know what it’s for. Next time you see your cat pooping outside the litter box, scoop the feces that’s on the floor into the new litter and let your cat see it. 

Some types of litter are also just completely uncomfortable for our feline companions to walk in. For example, I tried a new cat litter that had much bigger granules and my cats would not use that particular litter box. 

I finally realized it was the litter itself, when I walked on a few litter granules that were scattered outside of the box, and it actually hurt my feet. Simply put, if litter hurts for you to walk on, then it’s probably not comfortable for them either.

They Don’t Like the Litter Box

If you have a small litter box but your cat is a larger size, then the litter box is most likely way too small for them. Cats need the litter box to be the perfect size for them so it’s more convenient and comforting to use. 

Enclosed Litter Box

Also, some boxes are enclosed and some are open. Your cat might prefer one over the other. If you’ve just changed the size or type of litter box, then this may be the issue your cat is having. 

A cat who normally uses an open litter box, but then is given an enclosed box, may simply be confused. This is another instance when giving your cat a little time could help. 

One way to do this would be to slowly ease the new box into their routine. You can do this by putting the new litter box next to the old one and slowly let your cat transition to the new one.

Rivalry With Another Cat

If you have more than one cat in your home, then this could easily be the culprit to your cat’s litter box issues. It’s very possible that one of your cats is guarding the litter box, thereby preventing your other cat from using it. 

Cats tend to be very territorial animals, and hogging the litter box for themselves is actually pretty common. This is especially true if your cat has not been spayed or neutered.

A good rule of thumb would be to have one litter box for every cat, plus an extra one. For example, if you have three cats, then you should really have four litter boxes. Just make sure you are putting them in different areas within your home.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to your cat’s litter box usage, it’s important to stop bad habits from spiraling out of control. After you’ve eliminated the possibility of a medical reason for your cat to stop using the litter box, there are various things to try next.

I would definitely start with the most common culprit on this list which is the cleanliness of your cat’s litter. Remember that cats are just plain picky. Try cleaning the litter box more often to see if that helps. 

And if you’ve just made some drastic changes to your cat’s litter or box, then that is probably where the answer lies. Simply give your cat a little time, and after a while, they should adjust fine to the new changes.