Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside Of Her Litter Box?

Stop your cat from pooping on the floor (and the carpet).

All was right in the house until you noticed one thing: your cat pooping outside her litter box!

Even if you picked out the perfect litter box for her, there are tons of other factors that can contribute to her change in behavior.

We reached out to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian at Paramount Pet Health, to learn more about why your cat stopped using the litter box and how to get her to use it again.

5 reasons your cat is pooping outside her litter box

If your cat started pooping on the floor (or in other inappropriate places), the first thing you’ll want to do is figure out what triggered the behavior.

Cats can defecate outside of the litter box for several reasons. These are some of the most common explanations, according to Dr. Burch.

1. Her litter changed

“The most straightforward explanation is they do not prefer the substrate being used in their litter box, especially if it recently changed,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo. “Substrate options can include clay litter, silica gel litter, pine litter, wheat litter, grass litter, corn litter or paper litter.”

So if you changed her litter type recently, this could be your culprit.

2. She doesn’t like the box’s location

The location of a litter box can also cause a cat to poop outside of it. For example, if her litter box is placed in a high-traffic area of the house, it can become problematic.

“Cats are private about their restroom use, and if they cannot relieve themselves in peace, they can act out by defecating inappropriately,” Dr. Burch said.

3. Her litter box is dirty

A litter box that isn’t cleaned frequently can result in your cat inappropriately defecating in protest.

“Cats are fastidious cleaners and want their litter to be clean when they use it,” Dr. Burch said. “Feces found outside the litter box can indicate you need to clean the litter box more frequently to meet your cat’s demands.”

4. She’s older and has arthritis

Older cats can develop arthritis, making it painful for them to enter the litter box and posture to defecate. “The pain from arthritis can cause cats to defecate inappropriately,” Dr. Burch said. If this is the case (or if you suspect she might have arthritis but isn’t diagnosed yet), bring her to the vet to get checked out.

5. She has an underlying health issue

In addition to arthritis, there are other health issues your cat may be facing that are causing her to poop outside the box.

For example, cats with an underlying gastrointestinal disease might poop outside of the litter box.The inflammation and irritation of a gastrointestinal disease can cause sudden urges to go, resulting in a cat defecating in random areas of the house. “The inappropriate defecation can also be a signal from your cat that there is something wrong and they need a checkup,” Dr. Burch said. “Common underlying causes of gastrointestinal disease include food intolerances, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, bacterial overgrowth or intestinal parasites.”

Additionally, neurological disease from previous trauma, older age degeneration or infection can also lead to defecation outside the litter box. “Cats with decreased neurological function to the rectum can experience a lack of sensation telling them to head to their litter box. Instead, the feces can randomly fall out when feces have accumulated in the colon,” Dr. Burch said.

If you suspect your cat is pooping outside the litter box due to health issues, bring her in to the vet to get checked out.

How to stop a cat pooping outside litter box

To get your cat back to pooping in the right place, there are a couple of things you can try:

Try litter box management

“I first recommend litter box management with cats who are inappropriately pooping out of the litter box,” Dr. Burch said. To do this, Dr. Burch recommends following a few steps to see if it helps your cat’s stinky situation:

1. Make sure you scoop the poop out of the litter box every 12 hours. When doing this, it’s a good idea to use a cat litter disposal system, like the Litter Genie, because it can store up to eight days of soiled cat litter (making sure both you and your cat don’t have to smell her mess).

Try the Litter Genie Easy Roll Pail Cat Litter Disposal from Chewy for $35

2. Ensure the litter box is situated in a quiet area of the house with little traffic from humans or other animals.

3. If you have recently changed the type of litter you use for your cat, Dr. Burch recommends switching back to the previously used litter or performing a litter trial. “In a litter trial, place two or three litter boxes side by side, each with different types of litter,” Dr. Burch said. “Keep the boxes in place for a week to determine which substrate your cat uses the most.”

Get your cat checked by the vet

Cats who don’t respond to litter box management should get a checkup by their veterinarian.

“Your veterinarian will examine your cat with possible bloodwork, X-rays and a possible abdominal ultrasound to find an underlying cause of the inappropriate defecation,” Dr. Burch said. “Depending on the results, your veterinarian will form a treatment plan.”

While your cat pooping outside her box isn’t an ideal situation, it’s one that can be addressed and fixed with a bit of patience and the right treatment (if necessary).

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