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Pooping Outside the Litter Box

pooping outside the litter box

Your cat may diligently urinate in the box but what do you do if she decides she’d rather leave her solid deposits somewhere else? It can be very confusing for a cat parent when the cat faithfully uses the box for one function but refuses to use it for the other.

Rule Out Medical Issues

Even if you’re absolutely certain that the problem is behavioral, you need to have your cat examined by the veterinarian to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical problem. There are a number of medical issues that could be causing your cat to feel uncomfortable about pooping in the box. If she experiences constipation, for example, she may associate the box with her discomfort and attempt to go somewhere else. If your cat is older and has arthritis, it may be difficult for her to perch on the litter substrate in order to eliminate solids. If you have a covered litter box, she may feel cramped in there while perching in position to poop.

There are a number of intestinal problems (inflammatory bowel disease for example) that commonly result in cats defecating outside of the box. The cat may experience cramping and the discomfort causes her to try to eliminate wherever she is at the time. She may also become so uncomfortable that she can’t make it to the box.



When you take your cat to the veterinarian, try to bring along a sample of her stool so the veterinarian can run some tests and also examine the appearance (for signs of blood, mucous, hair, etc). If you’re unable to bring a fresh sample, the veterinarian will be able to get one but it’s much more comfortable for your cat if you can bring one along. Just make sure it hasn’t been sitting in the litter box too long. You can also take the sample, seal it tightly in a plastic bag and place it in the refrigerator — although for many people this is an unacceptable option. Keep in mind that the veterinarian doesn’t need a huge sample. He/she needs just enough to do some testing and also to be able to examine the consistency of the stool.


  1. Very informative and well written article! When I first got my cat, she started pooping outside the litter box because it was too small. We got a bigger litter box and voila.. Problem fixed!

  2. We replaced our covered commercially made litter boxes with 3 modified (entrance cut out, sharp edges removed) sterilite see-through plastic bins available at Walmart for $11. We are not using the lids. Extra-Large litter boxes cost 4 times that. Not only did that immediately fix the pooping-outside-the-box problem, they are incredibly easy to clean. Instead of sitting/crouching down to clean them, we can stand using a stand-up pooper scooper and so much easier to see. We’ve also noticed less litter being dragged outside the box, presumably because our girls don’t feel they have to “run” out of the box when they’re done because of the “ambush” issue which we had never considered but which makes perfect sense. We thought it would smell more, but it actually smells less. Our felines love them. Great article. Thank you!

  3. HI. I am having a lot of trouble with my female cat pooping outside the litter box. Would you be able to send a picture of your modified litter box. Our male cat is always trying to play with her. And he’s sneaking up on her at the most inconvenient of times.

  4. Anyway i can see your new litter box? I am having issue with my cat pooping out of the box for years. I have tried all kinds of things like he has right now 4 litter boxes. It worked for a bit but he back to pooping out of them now. Can send them to this email with subject litter box so I dont over look it. Thanks

  5. really helpful.Thx

  6. Another issue that should be addressed in the article is overcleaning the litterbox. There is a conversation going on in one of my groups about a person who used strong cleaning agents, and her cat is now going outside the litterbox due tot he odor of the cleaning agents.

  7. I have only one cat, an entire room dedicated to him, his toys, food etc. He has pooped in the box since I got him and suddenly, he’s decided he doesn’t want to poop in the box. I keep the urine clean and the substrate is soft and doesn’t leave any urine smell. I clean it every day regardless. There is no top on the box and nothing has changed. I really don’t get why he has to poop on the spare bed in his room. So frustrating. If he at least pooped on the floor it wouldn’t be an issue.

  8. My cat had diarrhea. I took him to the vet – vet said he’s just get over it but it got worse until the poor cat started pooping outside the box about 50% of the time, but he pees in the box every time. Took him to different vet – got clean bill of health and had anal glands expressed but still outside the box half the time for almost 5 months now. We now have 8 litter boxes all around the house with CatAttract and no lids. I love this cat and don’t want to give him up.
    Any suggestions?

  9. What color is the poo. If you are seeing thin stool a golden color treat him for coccidiosis. My wilburn did this we cleared it up he stopped. Giardia ? Both are easily carried in on shoes hands etc

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