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Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside of the Litter Box? 12 Reasons & How to Help

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

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One of the biggest benefits of being a cat parent is the ease with which you can train them to use a litter box. To train a kitten to use a litter box, you simply place it in a room with your kitten, let them investigate it, and leave them alone. In time your kitten will begin to use the litter box, which will continue into adulthood.

If you discover your favorite feline is suddenly defecating outside their litter box all the time, it may indicate an environmental or medical problem. The information below will shed some light on the subject.

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The 12 Reasons a Your Cat Is Pooping Outside the Litter Box

1. Your Cat’s Litter Box Is Too Dirty

A dirty litter box is one of the most common reasons a cat starts pooping outside the box (and one of the easiest to solve). The explanation is simple; cats are fastidious creatures that like keeping themselves clean and neat. A nasty litter box filled overloaded with feces and urine is not a place they want to stick their toes. That’s why you must clean your kitty’s litter box every day. You keep the box clean, and your cat will keep your floors urine and feces-free.

smelly dirty cat litter box
Image Credit: Ninotee, Shutterstock

2. Your Cat’s Litter Box Is in a Poor Location

All cats like to use the bathroom alone and in peace, which is why an unused corner, spare bathroom, or empty closet is the best place for the litter box. If the box is placed in an area where there’s a lot of foot traffic, like near a door or in a hallway, your cat won’t feel safe using it and will look for another location.


3. You Just Moved to a New Home

Moving to a new home can be a very confusing time for a cat (and for you). They may need time to adjust to their new surroundings and the new location of the litter box. Typically, this confusion doesn’t last long. However, it could affect an older cat with dementia, or confuse a kitten, so be sure to keep an eye on them after moving in.

Cat inside house looking out the window
Image Credit: rebecaml, Pixabay

4. Something Changed in Your Home

A lot of things can change in a home, and while cats can’t say anything, the changes can affect them. Cat’s like their routines, and they stick to them like glue. If something changes in the environment, they will react to it, like a new baby, a death in the family, a new pet, or loud construction noise down the street. Luckily, cats are adaptable and, in a short time, will usually adapt to the new home situation, though this is not always the case.


5. You Recently Adopted Your Cat

Changing from one home to another, at least for a cat, can mean going from a shelter or pet store to a new home. Wherever they start, your new feline friend will need time to get their bearings, feel comfortable and start pooping in their litter box like most cats. If you just moved, give it up to a week for your cat to adjust to a normal litter box routine.

cat inside carrier
Image Credit: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

6. Your Cat Has Diarrhea

If your cat suffers from diarrhea, the urge to defecate can sometimes be overwhelming and come on very fast. This can cause them to “miss” the litter box. Sometimes it’s so bad that your cat will go to the bathroom in many different places, which can be a real mess. Solving this problem may require a vet visit to determine why your cat has diarrhea in the first place. The good news is that once the diarrhea is gone, the problem of missing the litter box usually goes away with it.


7. Your Cat Is Constipated

On the opposite end of the spectrum to diarrhea is constipation, which can be very painful for a cat. Constipation can also cause your kitty to go outside the litter box (or attempt to do so) if the need to defecate suddenly becomes so strong.

sick cat
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

8. Your Cat Has Another Health Condition

Constipation is not the only health problem that can cause your cat to start pooping outside of its litter box. A cat with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism may often defecate and urinate outside the litter box. Problems in your cat’s digestive tract can cause litter box issues, as can a cat’s age and cognitive ability. Having your pet examined by your veterinarian is the best way to determine which health condition is affecting your cat.


9. Another Pet Is Causing the Problem

We talked about how cats like to be alone when they use the bathroom. If your cat gets ambushed by another pet near the litter, you can bet they will quickly start looking for somewhere else to go. One solution is to use a litter box that gives your cat a view from the inside out, so they know if another cat (or dog) is waiting to pounce. Another is to position the litter box to give your cat more than one entrance and exit. If it’s stuffed in a spot surrounded by three sides, your cat may feel unsafe and could avoid the box.

two cats on sniffing litter
Image Credit: Zoran Photographer, Shutterstock

10. Your Litter Box Is the Wrong Type

One reason your cat might be missing their litter box all of a sudden is that it’s become too small, too large, or too damaged for them to use. For example, if you’re still using the litter box from when your cat was a kitten, it might be time to move up to a larger box. Maybe you’re using an uncovered box, but your cat would do better with more privacy, or your newly adopted kitten can’t get into the box because the sides are too high. There’s also the chance that your cat has gotten too old and weak to get into its box and needs a new one with a lower entrance. Whatever the situation, once you get your cat the correct litter box, they may start pooping in it again.


11. You Recently Switched Kitty Litter Brands

If you suddenly change brands, the new texture or smell of the kitty litter might be turning your cat completely off and forcing them to seek solace elsewhere. If you want to switch kitty litter, do it gradually so your cat can get used to it a little bit at a time.


12: Your Cat has Arthritis

This bonus reason is related, in most cases, to old age. If your cat develops arthritis, getting into or out of the litter box can be painful, if not impossible. Purchasing a new, easy-to-enter litter box should solve the problem.

person changing cat litter
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

We’ve seen several possible reasons why your cat is suddenly pooping outside the litter box. You can easily and quickly fix most of them with a new location or a new litter box. A few reasons your cat isn’t using their litter box demand immediate veterinary attention, but very few are life-threatening. We hope our information sheds some light on why your cat is avoiding the litter box and pooping outside of it rather than inside. Best of luck solving the problem and getting your home and litter box back to normal.


Featured Image Credit: Kristi Blokhin, Shutterstock

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