Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Litterbox?

A cat behavior consultant shares four reasons why cat poop outside the box and how to stop it.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Updated: May 6, 2015, 9 a.m. EST

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Q: We have had Sheila, our female cat, for four years. She is wonderful, loving and a pain in the butt! Sheila is 5 years old, declawed front and back and lives entirely indoors. She travels to Florida with us by air and is a perfect cat, but she will not poop in her litterbox. She will pee and then go to the front door or back door and go on the floor. We have moved the litterbox to the area where she will go on the floor and she will still go on the floor. We are at a loss on what to do.

A: Before approaching this as a cat behavior problem, take your cat, along with a fresh feces sample, to your cat’s veterinarian for a thorough checkup. Often medical issues will cause cats to defecate outside the litterbox. Most likely, there are a combination of triggers for your cat’s behavior.

Your cat might be middening — marking territory. Based on the areas she is targeting, neighborhood cats or other animals might cause her to defecate outside the litterbox.

Start by keeping the outsiders away from your home. Use deterrents that won’t harm the animals but will make the exterior of your home an unpleasant place for them to hang out. Deterrents include ultrasonic devices, motion-sensitive water sprayers and repellents such as lemon and Bitter Apple. Cover the windows where your cat can see the neighborhood animals; fabric and paper work well. After the outsiders no longer hang out around your house, gradually remove the coverings.  

Your cat might also have problems with your cat's litterbox and its location. The litterbox might not be clean enough or it may be too small for her. Additionally, it may be located in an area where she could feel trapped. Ideally, you should have two litterboxes available. They should be large, uncovered and scooped minimally once a day. Place the litterboxes in locations where your cat has a great view of the room and can easily identify any potential threat and escape.

Stress from traveling may be a factor as well. Cats need consistency — most do not adjust easily to change. Make your cat's travel as stress-free as possible. Place an item of clothing that has your scent on it in the carrier with Sheila. If Sheila has a favorite toy, put that in the carrier as well. Covering a carrier with a towel will help your cat feel safe and protected. Once you arrive at your destination, put the carrier and cat in a room equipped with a comfortable place to sleep, cat food, water and a litterbox. This will be her sanctuary room. Open the carrier door and let her explore the room on her own schedule. After she is comfortable in her room, open the door to the rest of the house for her.

Another contributing factor is your that cat's declawed.Because your cat’s natural defenses have been removed through declawing, she feels vulnerable, causing her to easily stress and react by defecating outside the litterbox.
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Reader Comments

Katrina    York, PA

8/13/2015 4:22:54 AM

My cat is liter trained and use to poop in her box but she has stated to note poop on our basement carpet and won't stop

Nancy    Allyn, WA

8/10/2015 8:27:29 PM

Mu older female was never a big fan of any litter she would go in the box but not touch the litter, after I ended up with a kitten she would not use it at all but will go on pee pads.both happy if that's what it takes

Gabrielle    Waltham, MA

8/9/2015 8:59:05 AM

My cat, the adorable little ball of fur that she is, likes to take her poop out of the box and play with it, batting it around the apartment. This is despite her having numerous other "normal" toys available.

Richard    Blairsville, PA

6/6/2015 8:31:57 PM

The one cause of a cat pooping and/or peeing outside the litter box not mentioned in the article is the cat litter itself. If your cats hates the cat litter or the cat litter makes your cats sick from the smell or dust your cat will avoid the cat litter and go outside the litter box. Find a cat litter that your cat likes. And make sure the cat litter is dust free.

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