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Pooping Outside the Litter Box

Don’t overlook the very important first step of visiting the veterinarian if your cat is pooping outside of the box. I have lived with a cat who had inflammatory bowel disease and know how much pain he must’ve felt when his intestines starting cramping. I also have a number of clients who have cats with intestinal problems. Getting your cat diagnosed and on appropriate medication (and in some cases, prescription formula food) as soon as possible will be most important.

Survival Instincts

There are some cats who don’t like to defecate in the same area used for urination. For some cats it may be that urination has more territorial connection or it may just be a quirky feline instinct. Regardless, a simple solution you can offer is to make another box available for defecation. Don’t place the box right next to the original box or it’ll just be regarded as one big box and your cat will still not poop in it. In many cases you can put the second box in the same room (depending on the size of the room), but in other cases, you’ll have to locate the second box elsewhere. Your cat will certainly let you know when the location pleases her.

Safety Issues

It typically takes a cat a bit longer to defecate than urinate. In a multicat household where there is even the smallest amount of tension, it may be too stressful for a cat to hang out in the litter box long enough to poop. If the box is covered, wedged in a corner or hidden in a closet, this truly reduces the cat’s escape potential. She may feel it’s safer to poop in another location that allows her to have a better view in case an opponent is coming. The location she chooses may also give her a better opportunity to get out of there more safely.

quote from dr. haug



The solution in this case may be to provide uncovered boxes and to make sure there are enough boxes located through the house. Don’t place them in hidden, cramped areas that may cause your cat to feel trapped or confined. In many cases, all you’ll have to do is remove the lid from the box. Covered boxes are often to small and low for a cat to feel she can comfortably perch on the litter for defecation. They also limit the cat’s escape to just one way in and out. Should another cat come by, the one who is in the litter box can be vulnerable to an ambush.

Substrate Preference

Some cats, for whatever reason only they seem to know, have a substrate preference when it comes to the feel of the litter for defecation versus urination. Perhaps it has something to do with the amount of time they spend in that perching position for pooping. If you think that might be the case, offer another litter box with a litter that has a different texture. In general, cats prefer a soft, sandy texture when it comes to the litter substrate.


  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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