Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box? 5 Things to Consider

It’s perplexing when you find cat poop outside the litter box yet your cat still pees in it. While you might chalk it up to random kitty kookiness, most of the time there’s a good reason for the behavior. Here are five reasons your cat might be pooping outside the litter box and some things you can try.

1. Medical Reasons – Please don’t ignore this possibility! If your cat suddenly starts pooping outside the litter box, there could be an underlying medical reason – pain while pooping, for example. Get that kitty to the vet!

2. Furry Butt Syndrome – Some cats with long hair don’t like the feel of remnants sticking to their fur so they may try to resolve that issue by pooping elsewhere. They associate the box with kitty, um, dingleberries so they avoid it. A simple fix is to trim the fur around your kitty’s bottom and keep it nice and clean.

3. Box is Too Small – If the box is too small, your cat might hang over it or be uncomfortable using it. Pooping and peeing require different stances so while it might be fine for #1, your cat might not like it for #2. I love big, clear storage containers like these. Also, if you use a covered litter box, consider trying something without a cover. Your cat might be having a hard time finding a comfortable position in the covered box.

4. Litter – As mentioned above, I’m sure you have noticed that the poop position is different than the pee position so try some different litters in different boxes to see what your cat prefers. Also, try some varying depths of litter to see if that helps.

5. Location of the Box – Pooping requires a bit more time than peeing does so your kitty might be feeling a bit anxious about being “vulnerable” that long. If there are other cats in your home, they may be intimidating your cat during litter box visits. Make sure the box is in a location that offers an easy “escape” for your cat and, even better, make sure you have several boxes in different locations so your cat has options.

Readers, have you had this issue? What solutions have worked for you?

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Terri K. August 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I just went through this with one of my cats… I must have brought fleas home from work and of course he got them. Well, he became 100% miserable, refused to set foot on the floor. He retreated to the top of the fridge and would only jump down (directly) onto the kitchen counter to eat/drink. THEN he started to refused to go to the litter box and left me presents (both) on the stove top. (He was going to the box at a full speed mad dash for a couple of days after he moved ‘up.’) I used a ‘one-spot’ flea killer and within a couple of days things went back to normal.


Lori August 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm

My Eli has chronic diarrhea (vet can find no logical reason – all tests negative) so he gets a steroid shot every 8-10 weeks, which helps tremendously. He always lets me know when its time for a shot by leaving me a nice surprise by the front or back door, and occasionally on the counter.


jessica walker August 16, 2012 at 4:35 pm

My big tortie-point Siamese called Squid has always pooped outside the box – and her problem is if there are a couple clumps in there, she heads for the rug. When it’s nice and clean she has no problems. I use one of those long underbed plastic storage containers because she’s a big girl and that helped some, but with 3 cats I can’t always get clumps out of there before she decides she doesn’t like it. There are 3 boxes in the house, but that big one seems to be Squid’s favorite. Carpet-pooper.


Robin Craft August 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm

We had this happen with a foster kitty. She had full anal glands that caused her bum to hurt and made her feel like she had to go. She wouldn’t make it to the litter pan. Full anal glands are more often associated with dogs, but it is a problem with some cats. After her anal glands were expressed and all the “gunk” was removed, the pooping outside of the litter pan ended. Her new owner knows to have the anal glands checked every 6 months and has had no more problems. Many vets don’t think of this (because it is not very common in cats), so we were lucky to have such a great vet who suggested we express the glands. I now suggest this to anyone having this problem. It has been the reason several times now.


Alyssa August 24, 2012 at 7:32 pm

One of my cats occasionally poops outside the box (usually on one of the area rugs, though she’s not picky). It’s not medical (she’s been checked for darn near everything), but I am starting to think that it is a territorial thing, or she’s getting bothered in the litter box by her brother and sister. I’d love to put out a bunch more litter boxes, but in a small apartment I only really have room for 2.


Oscar September 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm

My cat has a reason not in the list. We switched to this German Eco-friendly litter brand, and she uses it only for peeing, but she never ever covers it. It’s like she doesn’t like the texture or feel of this litter. After some days she started using it for poop, but just once in a while and only when the litter was completely fresh out of the box. We got her another box of the previous brand, ScoopAway, and it’s all back to normal. Anyway we also like ScoopAway better, so no German litter ever again.


Jeannie H. November 2, 2012 at 8:47 am

I’m realllllllly hoping SOMEONE with experience will read through my post and offer up some advice, tips, anything! I am almost to the end!!!!!
My sweet calico cat Joy, is fixed and front declawed. She was born Nov. 20, 2007 and I have had her since January 2008 (she is almost 5 years old). She is up to date on all her shots, and overall very healthy (we took her to the vet 5 months ago.) She has seemed to be a high anxiety kitty when I reflect back to her is only progressively getting worse. She started peeing outside of her litter box about 3 years ago after I had a room mate who had MANY wild cats. She has not been exposed to that environment in 2 and a half years now since I got married. For almost a year after this, she was the only kitty. About a year and a half ago, my husbands friend had to get rid of their male cat who is fixed, otherwise they were going to put him down (Oliver). We took him in. We noticed some alpha/beta issues almost immediately, but with her. The new kitty Oliver was very meek and quiet. They have a love hate relationship. Oliver is a bit territorial when it comes to HIS toys, HIS food, HIS litter box, but they DO play together and do the usual kitty stuff.

About 2 months ago, Joy started pooping outside the litter box, peeing on all of my area rugs, and has always marked certain spots within the apartment. Just a few days ago, I came home from a long 12 hour shift and smelled her urine in our bathroom. She is now peeing on a very expensive rug that was a wedding gift. We have lived here almost 3 years and just now is going into the bathroom, after the fact she has already claimed most of the dinning room (where she is always pooping underneath the kitchen table nook), rugs, etc. Our apartment is pretty much all carpet except for the kitchen and bathroom. being a kitten. However, she has always been exposed to other cats.

THINGS I HAVE TRIED (things the Vet suggested and I have read): 1. We have 2 cat litter boxes. (we had 3 and the 3rd one went untouched for 4 months so we got rid of it.) 2. We have tried odorless clumping litter, Arm and Hammer brand corn type of litter (to which she seemed to like for awhile), then switched brands because I read about not choosing a cat litter smell for my preference, but for her’s, so I got a pine smelling kind, still no effect. 3. Using two different types of litters in each litter box. 4. changing granuel sized litters (still no effect). 5. moving the cat litter box to where she is peeing and pooping (she used it for a few days then would start doing it right outside the litter box.) 6. Scrubbed, and scrubbed and scrubbed and….SCRUBBED! 7. Threw pepper down in all the area, after a few days she was back at it again. 8. Placed sticky paper over the area she was doing her business. She just ended up pushing the paper in the corner to continue her thing.

Joy has always been the kind of kitty that will run and hide from anyone that comes over. Eventually she will warm up, but it takes a very long time! She can be purring so contently on me where she likes to be with the fleece blanket, and one little noise and she jumps and runs and hides. Sometimes I think she acts like a kitty who has been abused but that seems impossible because I’ve NEVER hit her (altho I’ve reallllllllly wanted to sometimes!!!!).

QUESTIONS: 1. Is there a litter that I am missing?!?!?! 2. Would medication help her because of her anxiety?!?!?! 3. IS there safe medication out there for anxiety?!?!?!?!

ANY suggestions would be so grateful…Anyone who may read this, I’m already grateful for you taking the time to read this long saga!!! hahaha.
I love my Joy…She IS my daughter, I have no kids. I love Oliver too! Our cats are our children. I can’t imagine having to get rid of either, but I just do NOT know what to do!!!!!!!!!


Robyn Hooper December 12, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Try shredded newspaper I adopted a 9 yrs old f. Grace and she was using sawdust and wood shavings. What a mess running around with bits of tree stuck to her we both hated it. (She told me). Loved the newspaper .Robyn


EAugustine December 25, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Hi Jeannie, I am also looking for solutions to our problem (almost similar to yours) and came across this site:

We will be trying it ourselves. Good luck!


Gina January 18, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Can’t help with the litter problem, but for smell control I found out that you can spray full strength AMBER colored listerine(or generic) on the areas that smell and it will cut the smell! I’ve had cats and kittens for years and could never get out the smell! Now I know!


Clint March 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm

The abuse and anxiety probably stems from the declawing. I believe it’s the texture of the litter that is the problem. We have a recue cat with similar problems that is also front (de-clawed) and it is a very traumatic experience for a cat that some (probably most) cats will never get over. My suggestion is to keep trying different litter types. In addition, if the cat is not burying the urine when she does use the litter box, then she probably doesn’t like that litter type. Also, get one if those black light things to find all the spots you may have missed with cleaning just to be sure. Hope this helps!


Karen June 24, 2014 at 12:10 am

What you are going through I think all declawed cats go through. Declawing is like taking our own nails off our fingers and then be told to play in a sand box. Your cat needs a soft cat littler. Check pet smart or pet co.


Robyn Hooper December 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Thanks for advice .I adopted a 9 yr old who was called Candy. ,I renamed her Grace, after princess grace when she’s good and grace Jones when she’s bad.She is peeing in litter tray but not looking in it All the time, I find surprises . I will give her 103 litter trays. I adore her but she is desperate to get outside ,not desexed I think I will have to have open done. Thanks again. Robyn ‘. Aust


Sue Huss April 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm

My cat started peeing and pooping outside box and both times the vet said she had an uti and gave her an antibiotic shot and she was fine. This time she continues to pee and poop in her bed. Don’t know what to do?


Polly June 22, 2014 at 11:43 am

I have a 9 year old male cat who just started pooping outside the litter box onto the carpet is family room. He had a good check up at the vet 2 weeks prior to this. I have 2 cats and 2 boxes. Same litter for 3 years. No issues with the other cat. He pees in the box fine. Behavior is as always. I have sprayed the carpet area. I have blocked the area although it is fairly open to litter box area and cannot be closed off. Nothing scary about the litter area. Same area for 3 years. He has travelled with me and had no litter box issues.
Now what?


Gail maison. February 17, 2016 at 9:36 pm

Give one capsule of Cosequin sprinkled into a small amount of wet food daily. This seems to calm the bladder. We have used this quite successfully with rescue cats returned for inappropriate litter box issues. I agree the declawing is also a major cause.


Lizzie June 25, 2016 at 11:41 am

Sometimes my cat poops outside, a distance, away from the litterbox, and it’s always very “loose”….I figured he was anxious, upset and/or….?? We will be moving to Hawaii in Oct. and I’m concerned about how he will be during the long flight….he’s a service cat, so will be with me…..guess I’d best discuss this with my vet in advance, huh


Lizzie June 25, 2016 at 11:51 am

THANKS for all the other superb ideas I just read!!!!! Especially about the best way to remove “THAT” odor!!!! I will be asking my vet about steroid shots AND my cat’s anal glands when we visit next, before we leave the mainland.


Terry Martin August 17, 2016 at 4:38 pm

My Two month old kitten is litter box trained but occasionally poops on the carpet in another room.I clean the box twice daily and change the litter frequently.he eats well and seems to be healthy.He eats soft kitten food as well dry kitten food.please help


Sandra Kolodzik September 25, 2016 at 7:56 am

cat pooping on couch in room next to litter box. Why? Never done before. Cat is 14 years old.


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