Why Does My Cat Pee In the Litter Box But Poop On the Floor?

Photo: @hendrix.gobi.bengal

If you’ve ever wondered, “why does my cat pee in the litter box but poop on the floor?” – you’re not alone. It’s a common question among cat owners and it isn’t as puzzling as it might initially seem. Cats are creatures of habit, and they can develop this unusual behavior for various reasons.

This article aims to shed light on why your furry friend is exhibiting such behavior. We’ll explore factors like medical issues, stress, or simply disliking the litter type that could be influencing your pet’s toilet habits.

Let’s begin. 

Reasons Why Your Cat Pees in the Litter Box But Poops on the Floor

I totally understand the frustration that comes with finding your cat’s poop outside the litter box. Let’s look at the medical, psychological, and behavioral reasons for it. 


Stress is a common reason why cats may choose to poop outside the litter box. Changes in the environment, new family members, or other pets may lead to stress in cats. 

Dirty Litter Box

Let’s face it – no one likes using a dirty bathroom! Cats are very clean animals and if their litter box is soiled or smells bad, they might develop a litter box aversion. Make sure to keep a clean litter box and scoop out clumps at least once a day.

Automatic litter boxes are of great use here and save you so much time.

Medical Reasons

Cats are notably clean creatures, and this extends to their bathroom habits. When they start defecating outside their litter box, it can signal an underlying health issue. 

Firstly, gastrointestinal problems like inflammatory bowel disease due to an inappropriate diet can make the act of pooping uncomfortable for your feline friend. If they associate this discomfort with their litter box, they might start avoiding it altogether when nature calls. 

Secondly, arthritis is another possible culprit. If it hurts for your senior cat to step over the edge of a deep or high-sided litter box because of joint pain, they might opt for an easier option – like your carpet or hardwood floor.

Another medical condition worth considering is constipation. A constipated cat could squat in the litter box intending to urinate and then inadvertently pass a small amount of stool outside later on due to incomplete evacuation.

Lastly, let’s not forget about diseases affecting a cat’s neurological system such as brain tumors or senility (also known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome). These conditions can impact their ability to control defecation or remember where the appropriate place is.

I strongly recommend scheduling an appointment with your vet if you suspect any of these health issues could be the reason behind your cat’s inappropriate elimination behavior.

Litter Box Location

On top of cleanliness concerns, consider the location of your cat’s litter box. Just like us humans enjoy some privacy during our bathroom time, our feline friends also appreciate discretion when doing their business too!

Former Outdoor Cat

If you’ve recently adopted an outdoor cat and brought it inside, it might just be adjusting to life indoors. Outdoor cats are used to doing their business wherever they please so using a litter box may seem unnatural at first. 

And sadly, some former outdoor cats may have developed behavioral issues due to past trauma or abuse, which may affect their litter box habits.

Just a Kitten

As we all know, kittens are just adorable balls of energy! However, they’re still learning how everything works (including where they should go potty). Sometimes these little furballs forget about making that short trip back to their litter box when nature calls.

It’s crucial to be patient and provide gentle guidance. I advise placing the kitten in the litter box after meals and playtime to establish a routine and help them understand where they should go.

Litter Type

Cats can be particular about the kind of litter they use. Some might not like scented litters due to their extremely powerful sense of smell, while others may prefer a certain litter texture under their paws.

Litter Box Type

The type of litter box can influence where your cat chooses to urinate or defecate. Some cats may feel trapped in covered boxes, leading them to poop outside. An older cat is not likely to jump up to use a top entry litter box.

Location of the Litter Box

If your cat’s litter box is situated in a noisy or high-traffic area, it could be a deterrent for them to do their business there. Cats enjoy peaceful and quiet places when they’re doing their business. A litter box by a washing machine is a bad move. 

Territorial Behavior

Cats use their waste as a way of marking territory. It’s their way of saying “this is my space”. So when they’re feeling threatened by changes in their environment, one reaction might be to mark more conspicuously – hence, pooping outside the litter box.

In multi-cat households, territorial disputes might lead one cat to poop outside the designated areas as an act of dominance or rebellion. Providing enough resources, such as food bowls, toys, and litter boxes, will help reduce territorial disputes and encourage harmonious living.

Survival Instincts

In the wild, cats bury their feces to avoid attracting predators. However, some cats may choose to leave their poop uncovered as a sign of dominance. This is a subtle sign that there not all is well between your cats.

Understanding your cat’s behavior and providing a secure environment in multi-cat households will help in managing such instincts and promoting healthy litter box habits.

How Can I Stop My Cat From Pooping Outside of Litter Box?

As every cat is unique, the solutions will vary. However, any sudden or persistent change in elimination behavior warrants a veterinary consultation to rule out medical concerns.

Identify and Manage Stress

I advise maintaining a calm and stable environment and introducing changes slowly to help manage your cat’s stress levels.

Providing environmental enrichment such as scratching posts, climbing structures, and interactive toys also help in reducing stress and anxiety in cats, potentially impacting their litter box habits.

Training and positive reinforcement are also important for cats exhibiting inappropriate elimination behavior.

Clean the Litter Box

Make sure you’re scooping out your kitty’s waste at least once per day and changing the entire contents of the box every week. This not only encourages your cat to use it but also maintains a healthy environment, reducing the risk of urinary tract infections.

Try Different Types of Litter

Experimenting with different kinds of litter substrate is a sensible approach. I recommend trying unscented, clumping litter as a start.

Some cats prefer finer, sand-like textures, while others might like larger, more granular types. It might take a few tries, but finding the right litter makes a significant difference!

Adjust Litter Box Size and Type

Then comes the size and type of litter box – remember our fluffy friends value comfort too!

Some cats prefer open boxes, while others feel safer in covered ones. I advise starting with an open box and observing your cat’s reaction. If privacy seems to be the issue, then a covered box might be the solution.

A cramped litter tray will deter them from using the box altogether especially for larger breeds like Maine Coons. A larger litter box is a not a luxury, but a necessity. 

Switch Up the Litter Box Location

In my experience with raising both an indoor-outdoor cat and Maine Coon cat, litter box location matters just as much as cleanliness.

Your cat might feel vulnerable while pooping since it’s a time when they’re quite defenseless (yes, like us humans!). Therefore, they prefer private spots away from high-traffic areas or noisy appliances that might startle them mid-business.

Simultaneously though, they don’t want their litter box tucked too far away in some isolated corner of your house. Accessibility is key. 

Have Multiple Litter Boxes

Having multiple litter boxes significantly reduce the chances of your cat pooping outside of them. The general rule is to have one more litter box than the number of cats in the house.

So, if you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes. An additional litter box gives your cat options and reduces competition if you have multiple cats. I recommend placing the boxes in different locations to give your cat variety and convenience.

Deep Clean Accidents

When accidents happen, it’s essential to clean them thoroughly. Cats are likely to return to a spot where they smell their scent.

Use an enzymatic cleaner to remove any lingering odors that might attract your cat back to the same spot. I recommend cleaning the area as soon as you notice the accident to prevent your cat from establishing a habit of pooping outside the box.

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