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Cat pooping outside litter box: what should I do?

‘Ah, I have found cat poop in the room again! What have I done to deserve such tricks? She’s been such a good girl until recently, why is my cat pooping everywhere all of a sudden?’ – common words for cat owners. 

Discovering that your cat poops outside the litter box is at least unpleasant, at most – threatening. Did you know that there’s a multitude of reasons for such behavior? The truth is, when you see your cat pooping outside the box, it’s done not out of meanness and is not an attempt to take revenge for something. In many cases, it is a sign of some problems with health, psychology, or the ‘facilities’ provided. 

Why is my cat pooping on the floor?

If your cat used to go for a dump in the litter box and suddenly changed its behavior, there are tangible reasons for that. Your task is to find out what exactly has changed to trigger it. To put it simply, there are three types of reasons for a cat pooping outside of the litter box: technical, psychological, and health-related.

Technical reasons

1. The litter has an unpleasant texture

You love this gravel-like litter, right? It doesn’t spread all over the house and is easy to clean. Yet, a litter box is your cat’s territory – make sure it’s comfortable enough. Cats’ beans are the means of world exploration. They contain many nerve endings and are twice as sensitive as our fingers: their paws feel the temperature, texture, and pressure very well. That’s why each stone in the litter box might be the source of irritation and pain. 

If you see that your cat pees in the litter box but poos outside it, the problem might be in its contents. That means the pet stands the unpleasant feeling from gravel for a few seconds, but can’t stand for the time it takes to poo. Make sure that the litter you buy isn’t sharp or unpleasant on touch. Medium-sized well-rounded pebbles are just right. 

2. The litter box is too small

Why did the cat poop next to the litter box if the litter is comfy enough? Probably, it’s about the size of the litter box. If this is too small, how can your pet sit and relax? If you haven’t replaced the litter box since your furry friend was a kitten, it’s time to hit a pet shop and buy something more substantial. Also, don’t forget that there should be enough space around the litter box – all in all, our feline friends like raising the roof after doing the business.

3 Wrong amount of litter

Did you know that you could simply use not enough or too much litter? When the amount of litter is too low, it cannot adequately absorb the urine. This will cause a bad smell and your cat will refuse to use this box until you clean it. And your cat’s paws may get stuck if you put too much litter. Please, read how much litter to add to a litter tray and forget about this issue.

4. Distracting smells

Next time you want to spray an air freshener, consider your cat’s preferences. It’s not likely to approve of chemical smells like ‘sea breeze’ and ‘pinewood’. Strong odors of bathroom freshener, perfume or cleaning agents can distract the cat and discourage it. You can notice cat not using the litter box right after you spray something smelly. So make sure the air in your bathroom is neutral. 

5. Your cat does not like the artificial smell of a litter

By purchasing an odored litter you make yourself a favor but it doesn’t mean that your cat will share the pleasure. Don’t forget that cats’ senses are way more acute – while the smell of litter is weak for you, it is actually very strong for felines. So don’t be surprised when you see that the cat pooped on floor just near the clean perfumed litter box. 

Behavioral reasons

1. Adaptation period 

Finding cat poop everywhere after moving into a new house is quite a common phenomenon. Besides, when a new person appears in the household, for instance, a baby, a cat can start marking the territory by leaving her ‘possessions’ around. This is a temporary situation – everything will settle down. All you should do is try to reduce your cat’s stress.

Adoption of a new cat is also considered to be a serious change of routine. The new kitten will first stress out, so be prepared to find kitten poops on floor. If you already have one cat, make sure that it’s ready to share the litter box with a stranger.

2. Litter box smells bad 

Of course, every feline has its own standard of cleanliness but if you forget to clean the litter tray in time, don’t be surprised. Repelled by a reeking mess of gravel, a cat won’t poop in the litter box anymore. Make sure to change litter regularly. 

3. Lack of privacy

Placing a litter box near a door or in spots with a lot of traffic is a big mistake. Just like humans, cats need privacy in order to relax. So if you don’t want to see cat poops on the carpet, move the litter box to a discreet place. Yet, this isn’t recommended if your cat has dementia – that might cause even more confusion.

4. Not enough safety

This point is closely connected with the above-mentioned one. If the cat doesn’t feel safe in the room where the litter box is installed, it’s not likely to relax and be able to defecate. It particularly concerns multi-cat households. If the litterbox is covered or installed in the corner of a bathroom, a cat won’t have enough space to escape. It also needs a better outlook in the case when the opponent’s coming.

Health-related reasons

1. Diarrhea or constipation

If you find cat diarrhea outside the litter box, your pet probably had no time and suffered from an urge to defecate. In this case, you should find out what causes diarrhea. Visit the vet: if the doctor doesn’t find any psychological reasons for this, he will dig to find out what might cause the intestinal problems.

2. Joint problems

Probably, you can find cat poops on the rug because your pet has arthritis and cannot find a comfortable posture for defecating in the litter box. Joint problems can make getting in and out of the litter box challenging for a cat, that’s why it either waits to defecate until it cannot hold it anymore, or just find a place that’s more comfortable.

3. Dementia 

See your elderly cat pooping on the floor after all these years he’s been a good boy? All the training is forgotten once an old cat develops dementia. It’s not completely curable, but a vet can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. 

6 tactics to stop your cat pooping outside the litter box

1. Frequently clean the litter box 

Maintaining the cleanliness of the litter box is your duty as a pet owner, so don’t forget about it. In many cases, cats start defecating everywhere except for the designed spot because it’s simply dirty and emits a repelling smell. Scoop the wet litter and clean the litter box regularly. Use mild dish soap and warm water when washing the item. Don’t forget to wear rubber gloves and a mask – it will protect you against bacteria and litter dust.

If you are pregnant, ask other family members to wash the litter box – it will reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis. Alternatively, you can opt for self-cleaning litter boxes

2. Change the location of a litter box

When you notice that your feline child leaves feces on a particular favorite spot, you should block access to it. Close the door, leave a baby gate around the area, or use an electronic flap. Meanwhile, you should encourage the pet to use the litter box. Put it in a comfortable and discreet place where your cat can relax and do the business without being disturbed. This private area should be easy to reach, too. 

3. Add another litter box

The golden rule says that you should have one litter box for each cat plus one more. So if you’ve got two cats, there should be three litter boxes located in different parts of the house. Okay, if that’s too much, at least let every cat have her own litter box. Otherwise, cats will start guarding their litter boxes and prevent each other from defecating and peeing there.

4. Use litter without artificial smells

As mentioned above, cats don’t like the chemical smells of litter, so buy something neutral. Artificial odors won’t save you from the smell of cat poop – it can only be eliminated by cleaning. So make sure your cat feels comfy in her private area and doesn’t get irritated by strange smells.

5. Use a litter with a different texture

Feel the gravel with your hands. Does it seem to be rocky and unpleasant? Find a litter that doesn’t hurt cat paws. Check out our review of CatSpot and find the most convenient option for your feline friend. 

6. Reduce stress at home

When a new family member appears in the house (it doesn’t matter – another feline or a baby), you need to make them acquainted with your cat. Make sure that the feline host has a place to retreat, and the food bowl is at a distance from the litter box.

Did you know that a variety of strong smells in your home can cause stress to your cat? Please, read our guide about the air purifiers for cats.

7. Use a low-entry litter box 

If you have a kitten or an elderly cat, stepping in a regular litter box might be difficult for them – even a 2-inch wall is a challenge! Consider buying a litter box for handicapped cats: it features a low entry, so your pet doesn’t have to struggle to get inside.

8. Thoroughly clean up the previous accidents

The smell of feces or urine on the floor may provoke a cat to repeat the accident. This is why carpets, floors, and furniture should always be thoroughly cleaned and all the smells should be removed.

Read how to remove odors of cat urine in our ultimate article.


Why is my cat pooping on the carpet?

Of course, people report about finding cat poops everywhere but it seems like rugs are the most popular destination. Why so? Most likely, because carpets have a high absorbency, they are easy to knead and paw at. Besides, an open area makes it easy to defecate and run away.

Why is my cat pooping in the tub or shower?

That means your cat doesn’t accept the litter box – it’s not comfortable enough, or the litter you use repels the pet. On the opposite, a tub or a shower is a private and dark place where no one disturbs your cat. Probably, the lack of safety and excessive traffic make your cat avoid the litter box.

Why is my cat pooping in the sink?

It can be done for the same reasons as mentioned in the question above. Probably, the litter box is too dirty or is located in a vibrant place that doesn’t provide enough privacy. Keep the litter box clean and make sure it’s placed in a discreet spot.

In a word

So, now if you’re asking yourself “Why is my cat pooping outside the litter box?” you know there might be different explanations for such behavior. As a pet owner, the first thing you should do is to provide your cat with facilities for doing its business. Make sure the box is convenient, the litter doesn’t smell or feel bad, and there is nothing to distract the cat during the important processes. If the problem of cat poop persists, visit the vet and try to figure out the reason. Surely, you can solve the problem by finding its reason.

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