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Pooping Outside the Litter Box

If your cat is defecating on the floor or other hard surface and won’t go in the litter box no matter what type of litter you use, try an experiment and set out an empty litter box. If the cat does eliminate in the box when there’s no litter, keep the box available to her (clean it every time she poops) and then you can eventually try adding a scant amount of litter in the box. If she continues to accept that you can add gradually increase the amount.



Last But Not Least: Cleanliness

A cat may decide that the box is too dirty if there is any waste already in there. She may urinate but then feel it’s now not clean enough for her to then use for defecation. Understandably, you can’t stand over the box 24 hours a day with a litter scoop in your hand in order to remove waste the nanosecond it touches the litter. Just make sure you’re scooping at least twice a day and have more than one litter box so there will be a greater chance that kitty can find a clean patch of litter for defecation.

Want More Information?

Your veterinarian should be your first stop whenever there is any kind of litter box problem. Have your cat examined and if she gets a clean bill of health, talk with your veterinarian about your specific litter box set-up. If you’d like more specific information on litter box issues, refer to any of Pam’s books including Think Like a Cat and  CatWise. Pam’s books are available at bookstores everywhere, through your favorite online book retail site and also here on our website.



You can find more information on cat behavior and training in the articles on our website as well as in Pam’s best-selling books. If you have a question regarding your cat’s behavior or health, please contact your veterinarian. This article is not intended as a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care. This article is for information purposes only and not offering medical advice or providing a medical diagnosis.


  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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