Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Box? - Cat Info Detective

Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Box?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

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?”

paw prints coming in from a distance

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

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides and explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, linking you to experts on each page. 

All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

What Your Cat’s NOT Doing

sad looking 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…

Tabby, white cat sleeping

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.

man yelling

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 Poop

Curious cat

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

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.

drawing of cat poop

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.

Is It a Medical Emergency?

veterinarian with kitten

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?
Orange, ginger tabby cat in cage - vet, shelter
  • Has he become lethargic (not moving much)?
  • Has he stopped eating and/or is vomiting?

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!

vet holding kitten

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.

tan cat eating from bowl on doorstep

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.

vet holding 2 adolescent kittens

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

Cameras representing motion cameras

If you have more than one cat in your household and can’t tell who’s pooping outside the box, put some motion sensor cameras near the areas you’ve detected.

Then take bets on who you think it is. You might be surprised at the results!

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.

ginger cat sneezing

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.

Motion cameras are available at Walmart, Best Buy, Samsung, GoPro, Amazon, and other online sites.

Search “motion detector camera” to find them in all price ranges.

Other Reasons Your Cat is Pooping in Weird Places

There are a few other possible causes you should know about…


drawing of cat poop

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.

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.

drawing of cheshire cat

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.

2 cats looking in litter box

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?

cat covering waste in clay litter box

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.)

The Litter Box Did It!

face of cat

Even after you deal with any medical or diet issues and your cat’s 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 JorVet Litter Magnet™ or Dr. Elsey’s Litter Attractant to make it pleasant for him to use it.

Products or brands mentioned on this page are for your information and convenience only… I make no money from them.

The Long-haired Cat’s Sticky Dilemma

Maine Coon longhaired black cat sitting on a chair

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 it causes painful filthy mats.

Your buddy may think the litter box caused this pain and is avoiding it.

Longhaired ginger, white cat by a rose

Not only is it uncomfortable for your cat, it’s unsanitary because everywhere the cat sits in your house (including your face!) 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.

tabby cat being groomed - not happy

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

white cat preparing to jump

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

cleaning supplies for killing fleas

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.

This will keep him from returning to those spots.

longhaired gray-cat-with-white-muzzle looking at camera

It would be smart to use a black light to be sure you’re getting everything, including any pee spots you happen to find.

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.

Cleaning will only work if you deal with any medical or territorial issues at the same time.

paw prints

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!

Get some ideas to help your cat get back in the 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

cat watching other cat in litter box

Curious about litter boxes, litter, and accessories? Check out “Supplies For Cats“.

If you’re having problems with a cat peeing outside the litter box, take a look at “Behavior” to find out what might be causing this and how to fix it.


Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re 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.

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

Updated April 11, 2024

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