Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box: Why & How to Stop It

Photo: @fosterkittendiary

Ever encounter one of those ‘surprises’ your cat left you outside their litter box? You’re not alone. A cat pooping outside the litter box is a common issue that many cat owners face.

Why does it happen, though? Well, this quirky behavior can be due to a variety of reasons – from medical issues to just plain old dislike for the litter box. And it’s not just frustrating; it’s a sign that something might be off in Kitty Land.

In this article, we’ll dive into some of the most common causes and solutions for this stinky problem. 

Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box?

You come home after a long day at work to find that your usually well-behaved cat has decided to use your living room as their new bathroom. I get it, it’s frustrating and downright confusing. Why is my cat pooping outside the litter box all of a sudden? 

Health Issues

First up on our list is health issues. Just like us humans, cats can suffer from digestive problems too.

If Fluffy suddenly starts doing her business elsewhere, she might be dealing with something passing like an upset stomach or worse yet, a more serious medical condition such as kidney disease or hyperthyroidism. So don’t punish them, they are trying to tell you something!

Digestive Issues

Digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, or inflammatory bowel disease can make Fluffy associate the litter box with pain.  This happens when they start connecting their discomfort with using their box.

So next time they need to go, they’ll choose somewhere else hoping it won’t hurt as much. If symptoms include vomiting, this could be the reason. 

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

It’s not just poop we’re talking about here; peeing outside of the cat litter box can also signal a UTI. Symptoms include frequent urination, blood in urine, and yes – going outside of their usual spot.

If your cat’s got any of these signs along with avoiding their litter tray – get them to a vet!


If your feline friend is getting up there in years – arthritis might be causing some trouble too – and could be the reason for pooping in seemingly random places.

Climbing into a normal sided litter box can become painful for older cats suffering from joint problems. It’s like asking granny to hop a fence every time she needs to go.

Litter Box Cleanliness

Another common reason is cleanliness – or lack thereof.

Cats are extremely clean creatures and they love their toilet spotless as well! If you’re slacking on cleaning duties with a dirty litter box or using types of litter that isn’t up to par for kitty’s standards (like unscented when they prefer scented), they may respond with litter box aversion.

And every few weeks, empty the litter out and deep clean the litter box with warm water and unscented soap.

Litter Box Location

Let’s also think about where the litter box is placed. Would you like using a bathroom right next to a blasting stereo? Probably not!

Similar rules apply for our furry friends too – loud noises or high-traffic areas can intimidate them and make them seek more private grounds.


Now, let’s talk stress. You might think your kitty leads a pretty chill life, but you’d be surprised at how many things can stress them out. And yes, stress could indeed be the reason behind your cat deciding to poop outside their litter box.

Cats love a daily routine. They like schedules and predictability.

So when something in their environment changes – even if it’s something as minor as moving a piece of furniture or major as moving house – they can get stressed out. This anxiety makes them do weird stuff like pooping outside the litter box.

Then there are more serious issues like bullying by other pets or loud noises consistently coming from somewhere at night– these unpredictable factors can also lead to our furry friends feeling anxious enough to cause litter box issues.

Marking Territory

Lastly but certainly not least is behavioral issues. Sometimes cats poop outside of their litter boxes simply because they’re marking their territory (yes – even indoors!). Did you adopt a new cat or bring home a new kitten recently? That could be the cause. 

This behavior is more common in unneutered males but can occur in any cat.

How to Stop a Cat From Pooping Outside the Litter Box


First thing first – cleanliness is a priority for our feline friends. If your cat’s litter box isn’t clean enough, they might just go on strike and not use it. Clean litter boxes are a must!

Here’s what I’d suggest: Make sure you’re scooping out waste daily or even a few times day. And also give that box a thorough scrubbing at least once a week. Use unscented soap because scented ones can deter cats.

Change Litter Box Locations

The next common mistake we make is placing the litter box in an inconvenient location for our feline friends. For instance – next to noisy appliances or high-traffic areas where the dog likes to hang out.

This is essential: is your kitty’s loo in a tucked away in a corner she never goes? Or maybe it’s too close to where they eat? That could be why Fluffy’s taking her toilet elsewhere.

Cats need peace and familiarity when doing their thing – just like us humans. So try placing it somewhere quiet and calm, within her territory. 

Litter Type

Now let’s talk litter types. All litters are not created equal, and cats can be picky when it comes to what they prefer to use. You might need to test different materials and textures for a while and try out different types till you find one that fits just right.

The smell of litter matters too. Scented litters may seem like a good idea to us humans because it masks odors but remember cats have a much stronger sense of smell than we do.

Strong scents could be off-putting to them and lead them away from using the box entirely. Stick with unscented litter options instead.

Resolve Medical Issues

As mentioned above, health conditions can cause this behavior too. If none of these solutions work, don’t hesitate to call the vet. Sometimes this issue can be a sign of something more serious health-wise.

Change Litter Box Type

Next pitfall? It could be the type of litter box currently in use. For example, with covered litter boxes. They might seem super practical (and who wouldn’t want less odor?), but many cats dislike them.

Imagine having to do your business in a small space with limited air circulation – not exactly appealing.

Instead of opting for these designs which limit visibility and trap odors inside, try switching back to an open-top one. Or does your cat simply need a larger litter box because they are a big boy or girl?

Not Enough Litter Boxes

The number of boxes matters more than you may realize. The rule of thumb is to have one more cat litter box than the number of cats you own. So in a multi-cat household with two cats, three boxes would be ideal.

This gives your kitties options and helps prevent territory wars over who gets to use the bathroom first. Because no one wants a poop standoff.

Effective Cleaning Techniques for Cat Poop

Cleaning up after your cat isn’t the most glamorous part of pet ownership. But, we’ve all been there. It’s essential to know the proper methods to effectively and safely clean up cat poop, especially when it happens outside their litter box.

  • First things first: always wear gloves. This isn’t just about keeping your hands clean. It’s also about protecting yourself from potential pathogens in feline feces.
  • Next on the agenda is picking up the poop itself. You’ll want to use something like a paper towel or plastic bag – basically anything that can be thrown away afterwards. Once you’ve got the mess collected, flush it down the toilet if possible or toss it in an outdoor trash bin wrapped up nicely.
  • Now onto my favorite part: disinfecting! This is key to preventing any lingering odors and ensuring your home stays hygienic. Use a pet-safe disinfectant where your cat decided to do their business. Let it sit for a while (check the bottle for exact times), then wipe it down thoroughly.
  • Last but definitely not least, let’s talk odor control. Even after cleaning and disinfecting, sometimes those pesky smells can stick around longer than we’d like them too. Baking soda or special pet odor eliminators can really come in handy here – they work by neutralizing unpleasant smells rather than just masking them.

Remember, consistency is critical here! Make sure to clean up any accidents as soon as possible – not only does this help maintain cleanliness and hygiene in your home but it could also discourage repeat incidents in the same spot. 

When You Should Call Vet

When should we actually get worried and call the vet?

  • If your kitty’s unusual pooping habit persists for more than two days, my opinion is that it’s time to call your vet. Like, cats are creatures of routine and any major change in behavior is usually a red flag that something might be wrong.
  • Next up on our list is if you spot any blood or mucus in your cat’s stool. This could indicate inflammation or infection in the digestive tract – definitely not something to ignore! 
  • Now let’s talk poop consistency. If Fluffy’s poop is too hard or too soft (think diarrhea) for a couple of days straight, reach out. Changes in stool consistency can signal health issues ranging from dietary problems to serious illnesses.
  • Finally, if you notice any signs of discomfort while your kitty is trying to do her business – such as crying out in pain or straining excessively – don’t wait around. These symptoms could indicate constipation or urinary issues which can become serious pretty quickly.

There is no exact time limit for when to reach out to your vet. It’s essential to note that individual cats may have unique reasons for their behavior, and a comprehensive exam by a veterinarian is always recommended for any behavioral or health concerns.

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