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Cat Pooping Outside Litter Box? 11 Reasons Why and What You Can Do About It

Cat pooping outside litter box

There are dozens of circumstances that could explain why your cat isn’t hitting the litter box when they go, including behavioral problems and health conditions. We’ll outline the most common reasons why your cat pooping outside the litter box, what you can do to alleviate this issue, and more.

11 Reasons Why Your Cat is Pooping Outside of the Litter Box

Litter Box is Too Small

One of the biggest reasons why a cat can take to going to the bathroom outside of the litter box is due to the box’s size. Your litter box should ideally be 1.5 times your cat’s size to ensure they have enough space to turn around and use it comfortably because a cramped or uncomfortable box can make they not use it.

Litter Box is Dirty

How dirty your cat thinks their litter box to be is a unique as the cat, and some cats may think their litter box is too dirty if they have a single urine spot in a clean box. Make sure you clean out any waste products every day or every other day, and consider switching the litter out and topping it up routinely.

Litter Box Isn’t in a Good Location

No one wants to have the litter box smack in the middle of high traffic areas or where they spend a lot of time, but a lot of tucked away corners can be scary for your cat. Place the litter box in a corner somewhere that isn’t dark, by the cat’s bed or food, and in an area where you cat can get to it easily.

Litter Box Has Difficult Access

Many older or disabled cats go to the bathroom outside of their litter box because of the box’s depth, size, or location because they can’t climb in and out without pain. If you have the litter box on a different floor than your cat spends a lot of time, maybe it’s too difficult for them to navigate the stairs to get to it in time to go to the bathroom.

Other Pets Guarding the Litter Box

In multi-pet households, you typically get more dominant personalities and more timid personalities. Some pets guard the food bowl while others guard their litter box. You want to make sure that your dominant animal isn’t preventing the more timid animals in your home from getting to the litter box when they need it.

Using the Incorrect Litter

With so many different litters available, it may take time until you find the litter that your cat doesn’t mind using. Cats tend to gravitate toward finely ground litter that is low dust and has little or no scent. Once you find a litter that works for both you and your cat, stay with it.

Litter Box Invokes Frightening Experiences

Has your cat had a hard time going to the bathroom recently, or did something startle them while they were going to the bathroom? If they have, this experience could invoke unpleasant memories and cause your cat to avoid the litter box.

Litter Box Isn’t Enough for Multiple Cats

You need more than one litter box in a multi-cat household, and each cat should have their own with an additional one to make sure there is enough to go around. Be sure to place your litter boxes in easily accessible spots throughout the house, and put one on each floor if your home has more than one level.

Litter Box Recently Underwent Changes

If you changed something about your cat’s litter box recently like adding a plastic liner under the litter or switched out the box, this could make your cat hesitant to use it. You may end up switching the litter box out again for something your cat prefers if they don’t get used to using it.

Medical Reasons

Maybe your cat has a medical reason for not using the litter box like they’re too fatigued or weak to climb in and out. If your cat suddenly starts going to the bathroom outside of the litter box and nothing else has changed, a vet visit may be in order to ensure your cat is healthy.

Long Fur

If your cat has long fur all over, they may find litter and waste debris getting stuck when they finish going to the bathroom. In order to avoid this, they might start going to the bathroom elsewhere until you clip their fur and stop their waste from getting stuck.

How to Stop Your Cat From Pooping Outside the Litter Box

There are several ways you can try to get your cat to go to the bathroom in their litter box. They include but are not limited to:

Change the Location

If the location of your cat’s litter box is around a high-traffic area, or an area with a lot of disturbances, try moving it. Find a quiet area where your cat can feel comfortable going.

Clean the Litter

If you only clean your cat’s litter every other day, switch to cleaning it once or twice a day to remove the more obvious waste products. You can also switch to a full clean and litter change once a week if you don’t typically do it this often.

Use Enzymatic Cleaners

Once an animal goes to the bathroom in a location, the scent will draw them back and encourage them to go to the bathroom here again and again. Enlist the help of an enzymatic cleaner to get rid of any leftover scents.

Try Using Covered and Uncovered Boxes

If your cat has an uncovered litter box and they don’t have enough privacy, switch it out for a covered litter box (such as a top entry litter box) and see if this cures their need to go to the bathroom in inappropriate places. If you have a covered litter box and your cat refuses to use it, switch to an uncovered one.

Add Litter Boxes

Even if you only have one cat, add a second litter box in another location somewhere in your home. Keep the same litter in both of the boxes, and monitor your cat to see which litter box they prefer.

Switch Out Litter

Your cat may not like the litter you have in their box, so you can pick out two or three different brands and try them in the litter box until you find one your cat likes. Try different granule sizes, scented and unscented, and non-tracking low dust options.

Bottom Line

It can take time to weed out why your cat is suddenly treating your home like their litter box and not going to the bathroom where they’re supposed to go. However, it’s possible to discover the root cause and fix it with a little patience.