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Why is My Cat Suddenly Pooping Outside the Litter Box? – Quick Solutions and Tips

why is my cat suddenly pooping outside the litter box
Vet Approved

This information is up to date and writtenin accordance with the latest veterinary research.

Is your feline friend exhibiting unusual bathroom habits? As a cat owner, it’s not unusual to be taken by surprise when you discover your furry friend leaving little “presents” outside their designated litter box.

Litter box avoidance can be perplexing and frustrating for both you and your furry companion. It’s essential to understand that this behavior may be indicative of an underlying issue that needs attention. From medical conditions to behavioral changes, various factors can contribute to this common issue.

As a veterinarian, I’ve witnessed owners battling with this issue countless times. But fear not! I’m here to put an end to those pesky stains on your carpet. In this article, we’ll explore the possible reasons behind a cat suddenly pooping outside the litter box, provide guidance on how to tackle it, and highlight when it’s time to consult a veterinary professional.

Key Takeaways

  • Litter box avoidance is a common issue faced by cat owners, often caused by various medical or behavioral factors.
  • To resolve this problem, understanding the possible causes and implementing appropriate solutions is crucial.
  • Seek advice from your vet when necessary to ensure the welfare of your cat and to tackle the root cause of their litter box avoidance.

What is Litter Box Avoidance?

litter box avoidance

Litter box avoidance is the behavior of a cat refusing to use the litter box for urination, defecation, or both. It’s like they have a mind of their own, opting for alternatives like your favorite rug or that potted plant in the corner.

This can be an all-or-nothing ordeal, with some cats being complete rebels and never using the litter box, while others tease us by utilizing it occasionally, only to prefer alternative spots later on. We can also categorize this as either a primary issue, where the cat simply never learned the litter box etiquette, or a secondary problem when they once knew better but decided to rebel against our wishes. Either way, dealing with litter box avoidance is a challenge that many cat owners face.

So, why does litter box aversion happen?

There are various factors that might contribute to your cat’s sudden abandonment of their litter box. An unappealing or dirty litter box, the location of litter boxes, or even the type of cat litter used are all possible reasons for litter box avoidance. A change in your household, such as a new family member or environment alterations, might trigger stress and also cause your cat to resort to litter box avoidance.

However, you should be aware of potential medical reasons for this behavior, such as urinary tract infections, constipation, or other health issues. If your cat displays symptoms like straining or vocalizing in pain while attempting to use the litter box, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian to rule out possible medical problems.

It’s important to pinpoint the exact cause, as addressing the issue and helping your cat feel more comfortable is vital. By being attentive to your cat’s behavior and preferences, you can help address the problem and restore their proper use of litter boxes.

How Common is it?

Litter box problems are all too common among our feline friends, and it’s no surprise that many cat owners have faced this challenge at some point.

According to a study by Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, about 4% of cats in the United States have a problem with inappropriate toileting.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also suggests that about 10% of cats develop toileting problems during their lives.

Litter box avoidance is particularly common in multi-cat households. When several cats share a living space, competition for territory and resources can lead to increased stress levels, resulting in more frequent instances of cats pooping outside the litter box.

Unfortunately, litter box avoidance is one of the most common reasons why cat owners surrender their cats to shelters or even choose to euthanize them. Don’t throw in the towel just yet. By tackling this issue head-on and finding effective solutions, you can profoundly improve the lives of both you and your furry companion.

When Should You Be Concerned?

Occasional accidents outside litter boxes are normal and not a cause for alarm, especially if they are related to stress, change, or excitement. However, frequent or persistent pooping outside the litter box can indicate a serious problem that needs your attention.

It’s important to monitor your cat’s pooping habits and look for any signs of discomfort, pain, blood, mucus, diarrhea, constipation, or straining. These signs may indicate health issues or underlying health problems that warrant further investigation.

If you notice any of these signs, or if your cat’s pooping outside the litter box becomes chronic or severe, it’s crucial to consult your vet. They can help determine if there is an underlying medical issue causing the problem and discuss any necessary treatments or adjustments that you can make to help your cat feel more comfortable using the litter box.

Why is my Cat Suddenly Pooping Outside the Litter Box (Possible Reasons)

cat avoiding litter box

Dirty litter box: Cats pride themselves on being clean and so may avoid litter boxes that are too full, dirty, or smelly. They may also dislike the type of cat litter used, especially if it has a strong scent or texture. To keep your furry friend happy and your home smelling fresh, make it a daily habit to tidy up the litter box and swap out the cat litter regularly. Opt for unscented, clumping litter designed to control odors that is easy for your cat to dig and cover.

Aversion to litter box: Cats may develop an aversion to the litter box if they associate it with something negative, such as pain, fear, or punishment. For example, if your cat has a urinary tract infection or constipation that makes pooping painful, they may avoid the litter box because they think it causes them pain. Similarly, if your cat is scared or startled by something near the litter box, such as a loud noise or another animal, they may avoid it because they think it is unsafe. To ensure your feline friend stays happy, tackle any medical issues that could be causing pain or discomfort and make sure you find a peaceful and safe spot for the litter box, so your cat can do their business undisturbed.

Arthritis: Older cats may suffer from arthritis that makes it difficult for them to climb into or out of the litter box. They may also have trouble squatting or balancing in the litter box. To prevent this issue, ensure your furry friend has a litter box that’s accessible and cat-friendly; opt for a low-sided or ramped design that allows easy entry and exit. And don’t forget to place the litter box on a cozy, non-slip surface for their comfort and stability.

Inter-cat aggression: Cats are territorial animals and they may use pooping as a way of marking their territory or asserting their dominance over other cats. If you have multiple cats in your household, they may compete for access to the litter box or bully each other around it. To tackle this issue, ensure every cat has their own litter box strategically placed in various spots throughout the house – ideally there should be more litter boxes than there are cats. Make certain there is an abundance of resources to cater to all cats, including food, water, toys, and cozy hiding nooks.

Stress: Cats are sensitive to changes in their environment and routine, and they may react by pooping outside the litter box. Some common stressors for cats include moving to a new home, introducing a new pet or family member, remodeling the house, changing the furniture, or leaving them alone for long periods. To prevent this problem, try to minimize any changes that may upset your cat or introduce them gradually and with positive reinforcement. Also, provide your cat with a safe and comfortable place where they can retreat and relax. You can also use calming products such as pheromones, herbs, or supplements to help your cat cope with stress.

How to Stop Your Cat From Pooping Outside the Litter Box

how to stop cat pooping outside litter box

Preventing this behavior depends on the underlying cause but there are a few strategies that owners can implement at home to minimize the chances of their cat pooping outside of the litter box.

  1. Make sure to clean the soiled areas so that your cat doesn’t return to the same spots where they have pooped before. Use an enzymatic cleaner to break down the organic matter and neutralize the smell, but avoid ammonia-based or bleach-based cleaners that may attract your cat or irritate their nose.
  2. Consider if there are enough litter boxes. Multiple litter boxes or changing the litter box location can often help solve the problem. Cats prefer a private and quiet spot, so if you’ve recently moved the litter box to a noisy area or if there’s more human traffic around, this could be the reason for their inappropriate elimination. A good rule is to have one more litter box than the number of cats, so two cats should have three litter boxes.
  3. An uncomfortable or small litter box could also discourage your cat from using it. Ensure there’s enough space for them to move around, and consider upgrading to a larger one if needed. Experiment with the type of litter as well – some cats may have preferences for certain textures or scents.
  4. Cats can also poop outside their litter box due to boredom or stress. Engage them with toys, scratching posts, and climbing structures to keep them entertained and minimize their boredom. Monitor any changes in your household that could potentially cause anxiety, such as new pets, family members, or loud noises, and try to address those issues accordingly.
  5. Incorporating scents as deterrents can help stop cats pooping in certain areas of the house, especially if they are tending to use the same spot.
  6. Sometimes, inappropriate elimination can also be a sign of marking territory. This behavior can be minimized by spaying or neutering your cat, removing any existing urine marks, and using synthetic pheromone sprays to create a sense of security.
  7. If all else fails, consider seeking advice from a professional behaviorist to address the root cause of the problem. A behaviorist can suggest a customized treatment plan that may involve medication, therapy, or environmental modification.

Use trial and error to identify factors that may be causing your cat to poop outside the litter box and address them accordingly. Be patient and persistent in your efforts, and don’t forget to reward good behavior when your cat uses the litter box correctly.

When Should You Contact Your Vet if Your Cat Poops Outside the Litter Box?

While most cases of a cat pooping outside the litter box are behavioral and can be resolved with proper management, there are situations when a serious medical condition could be the cause, and in such cases, seeking veterinary attention is crucial.

Underlying medical conditions that might cause a cat to poop outside the litter box include intestinal parasites, infections, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colitis, intestinal obstructions, or even cancer. So, how can you tell when it’s time to call your vet?

If you notice any of the following signs in your cat, you should contact your vet immediately:

  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Straining or crying while pooping
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Fever or dehydration

In addition to these, if your at appears generally unhygienic and dirty, that can be a sign that something is wrong. Check out the guide I wrote if your cat is suffering from poop stuck to their rear end.

Your veterinarian can diagnose and treat these medical issues with the appropriate tests and medication, so don’t hesitate to call a vet if you have concerns about your cat’s health.


When it comes to your precious feline’s bathroom antics, there could be a multitude of reasons why they prefer to do their business outside the litter box. Delving into the root causes will empower you to tackle the issue.

Maintaining a clean and comfortable litter box environment will help prevent your cat from choosing other places to poop. If you have multiple cats, providing enough litter boxes will ensure that all of their needs are catered to, reducing the chances of pooping outside the box.

It’s also crucial to help your cat cope with stress and anxiety by providing a soothing and supportive environment. In situations where your cat has soiled an area, clean and block it off to prevent further incidents.

Rewarding your cat for using the litter box correctly is essential in tackling this issue. But, if you suspect a medical condition could be the culprit behind the litter box mishaps, it’s crucial to reach out to your veterinarian.

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