Nov 14 2019

Why does my cat poop outside the box?

A common, frustrating problem many cat owners experience is inappropriate elimination – particularly pooping outside of the litterbox.

There can be many reasons a cat may stop using the litterbox. Some reasons are medical – cats with diarrhea or constipation may not have time to get to the box. Some arthritic cats may have difficulty entering the box. A visit to the vet is in order if your cat has been pooping outside of the box to help rule out medical causes.

In many instances, behavioural causes lead cats to poop in inappropriate locations. These can be because they dislike their box or they like their alternative location better.

To ensure your cat likes the box as much as possible, here are a few pointers:

  • Keep the box in pristine-clean condition. Cats hate odours and will avoid dirty boxes. Scoop out waste twice daily and do a full soap and water clean out once weekly.
  • Choose fine, unscented litter. Most cats prefer this type over crystal, corn based, or scented litters.
  • Make the box easily accessible. Cats may not want to have to navigate a flight of stairs or climb into a box with high sides. Pick a low-profile box with ample space to accommodate your cat. Most cats prefer uncovered boxes. There should be one box on every floor of the home.
  • Make sure there are enough boxes to avoid competition. This is important with multi-cat households. There should be one litter box per cat in the household, plus one.
  • Avoid placing the box in areas of the house where a cat may be startled. Furnaces and washing machines may make unexpected noises that startle a cat and make them fear returning to the same location. Cats also prefer boxes that are located away from the louder or busier areas of the home. If you can put a box at or near the area your cat has selected to poop outside the box, do so!
  • Offer different sizes of litter boxes side by side, with different litter types in each one. You may even try no litter in one of the boxes. This allows you to see what type of box and litter your cat prefers.
  • Adding a herbal cat attractant will help to win some cats over.

You can also take measures to make the area your cat is defecating less attractive:

  • Clean the area thoroughly using an enzyme based cleaner such as this one.  Enzyme based cleansers break down the scent markers, which should help prevent your cat from returning to the scene of the crime
  • Place tin foil or double-sided sticky tape over the area your pet is eliminating. Cats generally dislike the feeling on their paws.
  • Motion detecting sprays can be placed near the area of inappropriate elimination. These products emit a harmless spray to startle a cat when they walk by and should help prevent them from eliminating in this area.

 

In addition to taking the above steps, also focus on reducing anxiety your cat may be experiencing. An enriched environment can help, with places to hide, places to perch, and activities to occupy their time. Feliway pheromone diffusers can help anxious cats feel more comfortable in their environment. See indoorpet.osu.edu for more information.

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