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Help, My Cat is Pooping Outside the Litter Box!

Princess Leia
This is Princess Leia. Lately, little miss Leia has had a bit of an issue. She's been pooping outside of the litter boxes. See? Even a cat behaviorist can have cats with issues. Luckily, Leia's problem was quickly and easily diagnosed. My Bengal, Loki, had been bullying her away from the litter boxes. We set up a nice little box for her in a quiet area of the house and she hasn't had any issues since. I really think she is enjoying the fact she gets her own powder room. But, there can be many reasons a kitty starts this type of behavior so I am going to go over the most common ones below.

Here are some of the basic reasons:

1. A recent litter brand change.
  • Cats are huge creatures of habit and often finicky when it comes to their poop dirt. If you recently changed their litter try going back to the old stuff.  
2. The litter isn't deep enough.
  • Some cats love a lot of litter and are big diggers. If they don't have enough litter (an amount to their liking, not yours) kitty might be super dissatisfied. 
3. Litter Pan Liners.
  • Your cat my not like the liner you are using in your litter pan/box. It might seem like a convince to you but to your cat it's just a huge inconvenience when trying to dig/bury.  Sometimes it is the sheer noise a liner can make when accidentally getting struck. Try removing the liner and see how kitty responds.
4. Cleanliness.
  • Are you cleaning the litter box enough? I can't stress this enough to clients. My cats require I scoop their boxes once (sometimes twice) a day. Try cleaning the litter box more frequently and both you and your kitty will be happier. Piles of stinky pee and poo aren't really appetizing when you need to use the potty. You don't like using port-a-potties right? Well built up cat litter that isn't cleaned enough is how your cat sees their box. I wouldn't want to use it either.
5. Is your litter box big/small enough? The right kind for your cat?
  • I have two very large male cats. They each have two very large high backed open litter boxes. My little petite female seems to be intimidated by the size of their boxes so hers is smaller and covered.  It took me a while to realize that boys being boys, weren't very picky about their boxes as long as they had enough clean space. My little female though, she likes more privacy and a smaller space. 
6. Do you have enough litter boxes?
  • If you have more than one cat you need more than one litter box. The general rule of thumb is one extra box per number of cats. I have three cats, we own four litter boxes. Now, they don't even use the forth one and haven't in years so we removed it from the house (but keep it in storage in the garage just in case). The boys have their two big boxes and our female cat has her smaller box. Make sure you have enough litter boxes. Even with one cat, it is better safe than sorry to have two litter boxes. Put them in two different areas of your house so kitty has two bathrooms to choose from.  Also, if you have multiple levels in your home make sure there is a litter box on each floor of your house.
7. Location!
  • I find a lot of past clients have placed kitty's litter box in the same area kitty eats. Um...do you want to eat where you poop? Exactly, and most cats don't want to either. Try to either move where kitty eats or move the box to a different location away from kitty's food area. 
8. Bully Cats.
  • If you have a multi cat household make sure one of your other cats isn't being a bully. This was Leia's situation in my house. 
9. Senior Cats.
  • If you have an older cat and they have arthritis try getting them a litter box with a low entry point so they don't have to step up or over anything too high.
10. Medical.
  • If you've tried all of the above tactics and they did not work your kitty might be suffering from a medical condition. Maybe your cat had a painful experience while trying to poo in the litter box due to a health issue. Now, kitty associates that using the litter box is painful. Seek medical attention for kitty and talk to your vet about kitty's recent poop issues. 
Good luck and I hope you and your kitty/kitties find a happy litter box balance.

Bonnie

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