Reasons why a Cat Poops outside the Litter Box -Most Common Causes!

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. December 10, 2017
Reasons why a Cat Poops outside the Litter Box -Most Common Causes!

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One of the more unpleasant surprises that we can find as cat owners is the evacuation of feces out of the litter box. The initial bewilderment turns into confusion and concern if this behavior becomes habit. In this AnimalWised article we will give you they keys to know all the possible reasons why a cat poops outside the litter box. To do so, we will start by analyzing possible causes, since we can only give a solution by analyzing the source of the problem. And, as always, if this behavior persists in time we should consult a specialist.

You may also be interested in: Why is my Dog Pooping in the House Suddenly?

Determine the cause of the problem

Finding our cat's stool outside their usual place, the litter box, is one of the situations that disturb us the most as cat owners, given the fame of extreme neatness that these felines boast. And it is true that, from a very young age, as soon as they begin to take their first steps away from their mother, about three weeks after birth, they are already able to use the litter box with total correctness. And to do this, in stark contrast to what happens with puppies, you don't have to do anything but show them, put them in it and move the sand slightly, imitating the scratching they do naturally.

The fact that the cat poops outside the litter box indicates a problem. In no case is it produced because the animal wants to bother us, we must get rid of these myths once and for all. Our cat is going through a bad time and our obligation as owners is to help them, investigating the causes of their behavior and solving the problem so that your cat's habits go back to normal. If improper defecation occurs only once, we may consider it a one-off occurrence and should not give it any further importance. The problem is when this behavior is repeated until it becomes habit.

First of all we should take our cat to the vet to rule out a physical cause that responds to why your cat poops outside the litter box, such as constipation, diarrhea, the presence of parasites or even some musculoskeletal disorder, neurological alteration or senility, in the case of an elderly cat. If the vet concludes that your cat is healthy, we can focus on finding an environmental cause: let's look at the litter box.

Reasons why a Cat Poops outside the Litter Box -Most Common Causes! - Determine the cause of the problem

Analyze the litter box

If your cat has stopped using the litter box or has never used it and therefore poops outside the box, it is possible that the problem lies precisely in their toilet. So, check these out:

  • Sand: if we have changed substrate, our cat may find it uncomfortable, so they will try to evacuate by touching it as little as possible until they end up doing it outside.
  • The tray: the size has to be adequate, approximately 40 x 50 cm, measurements that allow the cat to turn on themselves inside. The edges should not be too high, as they can make access difficult, especially with older cats. Their location is crucial. It is not recommended to place it in places of the house where there is constant traffic, next to doors or household appliances, or near their food or water. Therefore, we must look for a discreet and protected place.

These factors may explain why the cat defecates out of the litter box, whether it is an adult or a kitten, but they are not the only factors that influence this behavior. Thus, if you consider that the reason for your feline is none of those mentioned, read on.

Has there been an arrival of a new cat?

If a new cat has arrived home recently, this may be the cause that explains why your cat has stopped using the litter box to poop. Especially if you have decided they should share the sand box, as it is better for each cat to have their own box, and add an extra one.

Cats are very territorial and neat animals, so they cannot usually bear to share something so intimate as their toilet. This is not to say that all felines do so, since there are cats that are able to share their litter box. However, if our cat has stopped using it since the arrival of the newest member of the family, this will most probably be the reason why. For more information, consult the following article: "can two cats share one litter box?". On the other hand, keep in mind that the first introduction of the two is crucial to ensure a friendly welcome. If you did not do it correctly, the oldest cat will especially present behavioral problems such as this one.

Reasons why a Cat Poops outside the Litter Box -Most Common Causes! - Has there been an arrival of a new cat?

How to make a cat to use the litter box?

After reviewing the most common causes, how do get the cat to use the litter box to poop?

  • Changing the sand until you find your cat's favorite. As a basis, we must avoid scented sands, since they may be unpleasant for some cats. The amount of sand should be about 3-4 cm in depth. Regarding the type of sand, we recommend fine-grained, smooth to the touch.
  • Changing the place of the tray and even adding another, even though you only live with a single cat. We will see that they will primarily use one for poop and the other for urine. And remember that if we have more, the number of trays must be equal to the number of cats + 1. We should also try to offer a covered tray, if it is uncovered, and vice versa.
  • Increasing the amount of cleaning, making sure that the cat always has a tray free of feces and urine at their disposal. It is not convenient to use ammonia or bleach to clean the tray, you should always choose enzymatic products.
  • If we observe that our cat always poops in the same place, we can try to put a tray there to encourage proper behavior. If we put food instead of a tray, we will disuade them.

We must also take into account whether there has been any changes at home or in the routine of the cat, which may explain why the cat poops outside the litter box. Fear can make a cat feel unsure when using the litter box, for example, so pay attention to where they defecate, as it can give us clues.

Reasons why a Cat Poops outside the Litter Box -Most Common Causes! - How to make a cat to use the litter box?

Never punish them!

Finally, we must never punish the cat, we should not forget that they do not do it on purpose and it is also a difficult situation for them. Do not close them up,do not use water pistols or other similar methods. Our cat can't talk but they're asking for our help. On the contrary, we must pay more attention to all their reactions in order to find the underlying cause and always reward good behavior. Keep in mind that positive reinforcement is the key to success.

If considering all these factors the problem persists, we should consult with a veterinarian that is specialized in ethology so that he/she is the one who helps us to determine and solve why the cat defecates out of the litter box, once and for all.

If you want to read similar articles to Reasons why a Cat Poops outside the Litter Box -Most Common Causes!, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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