Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Box?

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, facing left
Paw prints coming forward


Hi there… Skye Blake checking in to update you on my findings about that head-scratching situation…“Why is my cat pooping outside his litter box?”

While this doesn’t happen as often as inappropriate peeing, it does happen and here’s what you need to know…

Don’t Punish Your Cat

Let’s look at what your buddy’s NOT doing. He’s not being spiteful, mean, bad, jealous or an idiot cat! He doesn’t hate you or your boyfriend, mother, or other person. Those are emotions that humans project onto us poor felines! No wonder we’re nuts! But I digress…

sad looking cat

We felines never do anything random… there’s always a purpose, even for pooping in weird places. You just need to figure out what it is to solve the pooping problem. If your furry friend is constipated or has a medical problem, no punishment or behavior modification will fix it.

So set aside your emotions, put away that awful squirt bottle and don’t punish your cat. Any form of punishment, yelling, scolding, time out, spraying, pushing his face in the poop, or swatting, will make things worse.

He’ll only be afraid of you, more insecure in his territory, and look for safer places to go. Not what you’re trying to accomplish…

Constipation & Other Icky Cat Poop

Now that you know your kitty isn’t being mean, let’s find out what he might be doing…

Curious cat

He could be constipated from too little water in his food, an illness, or intestinal blockage. Or he could have diarrhea from an illness or something he ate. If you pick up the poop with a tissue and it doesn’t stick, it’s too dry and hurts kitty when coming out. If it’s unformed and watery, it could also be painful, especially if his bowels are irritated.

He might not be able to make it to the box in either case and if it’s painful, it only takes once for him to decide the box is causing the pain. Then he won’t want to poop in it.

Is It A Medical Emergency?

The first thing to do is decide if this is an emergency medical situation by answering some questions:

  • Is your cat straining to poop with nothing coming out?
  • Do you see blood (either dried/black or fresh red) in the poop?
  • Does he cry out in pain when he tries?
  • Has he become lethargic (not moving much)?
  • Has he stopped eating and/or is vomiting?
veterinarian with kitten

If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions or you’re not sure, get your kitty to the vet immediately! Some conditions, like a blockage, can kill a cat very quickly! DON’T WASTE TIME TRYING HOME REMEDIES OR ASKING QUESTIONS ON THE INTERNET!

If the answer is “no”, it’s still best to eliminate the possibility of a medical issue causing the problem. This is important for kitties of all ages, especially older cats. Make an appointment to have him seen as soon as possible.

Your vet can check for underlying problems and discuss the diet you’re giving your cat. You may just need to add water to wet or dry food. There are probiotics and stool softeners available for cats that your vet might recommend. Talk to your vet in detail about how to get your cat’s poop back to normal.

Always talk to your vet before changing your kitty’s diet since any changes can affect his health, especially if you’re dealing with diabetes, kidney or liver problems.

Determining the Poop Culprit

If you have more than one cat in your household and can’t tell who’s pooping outside the box, get some motion sensor cameras pointed at the areas you’ve detected. Then take bets on who you think it is. You might be surprised at the results!

Cameras representing motion cameras

This is an important step because you can’t waste time since it’s very likely there’s a medical problem involved in the situation.

Motion cameras are available at Walmart, Best Buy, Samsung, GoPro, and other online sites. Search “motion detector camera” to find them in all price ranges.

Unless you’re going to use it for something else, you probably just need something simple that can detect and record motion in low and normal light.

Other Reasons Your Cat is Pooping in Weird Places

Middening

Outdoor cats sometimes leave uncovered poop as a territorial signal to other cats. This marking behavior is called “middening” and is rarely used by indoor cats.

drawing of cat poop

While spraying is much more commonly used to mark territory by all cats, you may have that rare housecat who’s the exception to the rule.

We cats are nothing if not mysterious!

One way to tell whether or not your cat is middening is to note where the poop is located. Middening is done in obvious and prominent places for other cats to see so if it’s proudly displayed in the middle of your couch with no sign of attempts at covering it, you may have a middening kitty.

Look also for signs of covering. Are there scratch marks in the rug or on the floor around the poop? Is the bathroom rug turned over to cover it? Is there a pillow covering it on your bed? If you see signs of covering, it’s not middening.

To help you understand territorial marking, see “The Territorial Cat”.

Enemies at the Box

cat watching other cat in litter box

Physical illness may not be the only reason your buddy can’t get to the box fast enough. If you find a trail of pee and/or poop anywhere in an active multi-cat household, it’s most likely the case that another cat, dog, or other critter is attacking him, guarding the box, or otherwise making it impossible for him to use the box. (You should have one box for each cat plus one extra always available.)

Associating a Litter Box with Pooping Pain

Even after you deal with any medical or diet issues and his poop is back to normal, your furry friend might still avoid pooping in the box. This is most likely because he thinks the box caused the pain so he wants to avoid it.

If so, you’ll need to offer him a new box placed separately from where he pees. Use litter that you know feels good to him and you can add something like Cat Attract or Dr. Elsey’s Litter Attractant to make it pleasant for him to use it.

The Long haired Cat’s Sticky Dilemma

Cats with medium or long fur, such as Persians, Himalayans, Maine Coons or Ragdolls, often have trouble with poop sticking to the fur on their behinds. At best it’s uncomfortable, at worst causes painful filthy mats. Your buddy may think the litter box caused this pain and is avoiding it.

Maine Coon longhaired black cat sitting on a chair

Not only is it uncomfortable for your cat, it’s unsanitary because everywhere the cat sits in your house (including your face at night!) is being contaminated with poop. Ewwww!

It’s best to keep the fur on his backend clipped short to avoid this problem. Don’t attempt to do this yourself unless you’ve been trained in how to properly groom a cat.

Have your vet or groomer do it on a regular basis. They can also show you how if you want to do it yourself. This is important because if you do it wrong and cut your kitty’s skin, he’ll never let you do it again.

The Picky Pooper

You might have a cat pooping elsewhere because she simply doesn’t want to use the same litter box for both poop and pee. Some of us cats are particular about that, so you’ll have to provide a separate box located away from the “pee” box. Don’t put it next to any other litter box because she’ll see them both as one box and find another place to go.

CLEAN It Up Immediately

Even if it’s hard poop you’re dealing with, it’s important to clean all areas where you find it. Your cat can smell it even if you can’t and that serves as a signal to poop there again. It would be smart to use a black light to be sure you’re getting everything, including any pee spots you happen to find.

cleaning supplies for killing fleas

You can use the same good quality enzyme cleaners that work for pee and scrub everything well. See “Cleaning Cat Urine” for more details. Be sure to follow product instructions carefully. Enzymes work differently than other cleaners and are the ONLY thing that will completely get rid of waste odor.

This will keep him from returning to those spots. Cleaning will only work, though, if you deal with any medical or territorial issues at the same time.

So now you know why we crazy cats are sometimes pooping in other places besides the litter box. Not pleasant but you can help your buddy get back to normal. You’ll both be glad you did!

paw prints

There’s a lot of helpful info in the links below about things you can do to help your pooping cat love the litter box. You’ll learn how to see the box through feline eyes… and that’ll help you too!

If you’re like me, a curious cat, I highly recommend reading the sources listed at the bottom of this page. They’re all by respected cat experts and are chock full of great info.


RELATED PAGES OF INTEREST

The Cat Box… Location, Location, LocationCleaning Cat Urine
Deciphering Pee PatternsSymptoms of Illness in Your Cat
Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?Cat Behavior… Is My Cat Nuts??
The Territorial CatWhat Are the Best Types of Cat Litter?

SOURCES

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary. Primary are always preferable and have the most reliable information because primary sources are original and directly referenced. Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own. However, sometimes they refer to primary sources. Thus, when I use secondary sources most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

LIST OF SOURCES

“The Cat Whisperer”, by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com, pp. 173-201

“Decoding Your Cat”, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, edited by Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVB, Debra F. Horwitz DVM, DACVB, Carlo Siracusa DVM, PhD, DACVB, DECAWBM, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., New York, NY, 2020, www.hmhbooks.com, pp. 165-189

“Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss” by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011, pp. 161-179

Total Cat Mojo by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017, pp.329-347