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Do Cats Poop Out of Spite? The Surprising Answer!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Scottish fold cat very angry and aggressive

Cats can be low-maintenance pets. As long as you offer food, water, love, and somewhere to toilet, they don’t need to be walked and may keep themselves to themselves except to let you know their food bowl is empty. This isn’t always the case, though, and virtually all cat owners will know the feeling of seeing cat poop outside the litter box, either in close proximity to the tray or in seemingly random areas of the house. Although it might feel like it sometimes, your cat is not pooping on the floor to spite you. It is more likely that the litter tray needs cleaning, or something has prevented them from being able to use the tray.

Inappropriate Elimination

Inappropriate elimination is the term given to cats peeing and pooping anywhere in the house that isn’t in the litter tray. When it happens once, it may have been an accident, but if it happens more than once or on a regular basis, it could be a sign of a bigger problem and certainly warrants attention.

red tabby pooping in garden
Image Credit: NeydtStock, Shutterstock

Potential Causes

There are several potential causes of inappropriate elimination, including:

1. Stress

Cats can be very easily stressed, and it doesn’t take much to cause anxiety in our feline friends. Anything from a change in routine to the introduction of a new kitten or baby to the house may lead to anxiety. Pooping outside the litter tray enables the cat to mark its territory which not only enables it to deter anything it perceives as a threat but also enables it to surround itself with a recognizable smell. It isn’t pleasant for humans, but your cat may be defecating outside the litter box to reassure itself.


2. Illness

Illnesses including diarrhea and vomiting can obviously make it difficult for your cat to know when they are going to poop. They might not be able to get to the litter tray in time. Physical conditions, such as arthritis, may mean that it isn’t comfortable to climb in and out of the tray, which may cause them to poop near the litter box.

sick cat
Image Credit: Ro_ksy, Shutterstock

3. Dirty Litter Tray

Although it might seem cleaner to poop in the litter tray, if it is already full of urine and feces, your cat won’t view it as a sanitary toileting area and won’t use it. They will look for somewhere cleaner to go.


4. Poor Litter Choice

There are many different types of cat litter on the market, from traditional clay to modern crystal cat litter. You can even get walnut shell or corn husk cat litter. While some cats are happy to poop in just about any type of litter, some can be sharp and might irritate a cat’s paws, causing them to go somewhere else.


5. Not Enough Litter Trays

It is generally advised that cats need one litter tray per cat, plus an extra one, and that the trays be placed in different areas of the home. This enables them to choose the one that they want to poop in, and it also means if one tray is dirty or your cat is prevented from getting to it, they can use another.

cat litter box on a wooden floor
Image Credit: Grzegorz Petrykowski, Shutterstock

6. Litter Competition

If you have multiple cats, you might find that they do not like using a tray after the other cat has already used it. This is one reason why every cat household should have multiple litter boxes.

Whatever the cause of the inappropriate littering, your cat is not doing it to spite you. Cats don’t really recognize that their pooping stresses you out or causes you any kind of problem.

Stop Your Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box

There are some steps you can take to help reduce inappropriate elimination.

1. Add Another Tray

Do make sure you have one tray per cat, plus one extra, and make sure that they are in different areas that are always easy to reach. If you have the room, you can always consider adding an extra one to be safe. Even if you have multiple trays and one or more of them are rarely, or never, used, removing one can cause stress and lead to increased instances of inappropriate littering.

White and ginger cat and black and white cat sitting on a litter tray
Image Credit: Leoniek-van-der-Vliet_Shutterstock

2. Empty Trays More Often

Litter trays need to be clean and ready for your cat to use. While you don’t need to run and empty the tray every time you hear your cat scratching in the box, you should remove solids and scoop clumped litter a couple of times a day to provide a positive litter tray environment.

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3. Change Litter

If you have cat litter that is uncomfortable for your cats to stand on, they are likely to look elsewhere. Change from sharp walnut shells or clay to something softer and see if this has the desired outcome.


4. Visit The Vet

Inappropriate elimination could be a symptom of physical illness. If you see other symptoms, such as dehydration or increased elimination, visit a vet to have your cat checked over.

vet assessing birman cat
Image Credit: Stock Asso, Shutterstock

5. Reduce Stressors

Eliminate or remove anything that might be causing stress to your cat. Ensure that that they can access the litter tray easily enough and watch to make sure that your other cats don’t hover or get aggressive when your cat uses the tray.

Conclusion

Cats don’t tend to poop on the floor out of spite, but there are various causes of this potentially unwanted behavior. One of the most common reasons for inappropriate elimination is that the litter tray is full. Physical illness and anxiety are two other common causes of this behavior. Remove any causes of stress, ensure you have enough trays, and clean the litter once or twice daily. If you believe your cat is ill, and this is causing them to poop outside the tray, visit a vet and have them checked out.


Featured Image Credit: Anatoliy Cherkas, Shutterstock

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