What to Do When Your Cat is Pooping or Peeing Outside the Litter Box

Unlike many other pets, cats have a natural instinct to use the bathroom in a specific area. Litter box training usually comes easily to cats, preventing late-night trips outside and training accidents. However, there are times when a cat may start pooping on the floor or not peeing in the litter box regularly. Fortunately, there are often underlying causes for these issues, and with the right treatment and patience, they can be resolved.

Medical Causes

One common cause of cats peeing or urinating outside the litter box is urinary tract disease. This can include urinary tract infections or feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), also known as idiopathic cystitis. These conditions can be painful for cats, causing an increased urge to go and making it difficult for them to urinate normally. Symptoms may include peeing in small amounts in various areas throughout the house, straining to urinate, and blood in the urine.

Medical issues that cause cats to drink and pee more than usual can also result in a cat not using the litter box. Conditions like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and kidney or renal disease can all contribute to this behavior.

Arthritis is another medical condition that may cause a cat to poop outside the litter box. The pain makes it difficult for cats to lift their back legs to step over the edge of the box or assume a normal posture when pooping. Cats with arthritis may avoid stepping inside the litter box, preferring to go nearby. Additionally, they may have trouble walking, struggle to jump, or exhibit signs of pain along the spine when being petted.

Gastrointestinal (GI) disease is another medical cause for pooping outside the litter box. Constipation is common in cats and can be caused by dehydration from renal disease, hyperthyroidism, megacolon, or other intestinal issues. Cats with constipation may use the bathroom very little, strain to poop or pee, and have small, dry bowel movements. On the other hand, diarrhea or loose stool can also make it difficult for cats to reach the litter box since the urge to go can come on suddenly. GI infection and stress are common causes of diarrhea.

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Territorial Marking

Territorial marking, also known as spraying, is a common behavior in cats, particularly in those who live in the wild. Pooping or peeing in certain places is a way for cats to send messages to other cats or creatures in the area. This behavior serves to mark their territory, communicate warnings, or indicate a readiness to mate.

When cats engage in territorial marking, they typically do so in obvious, high-traffic areas like the middle of the living room or frequently-used furniture. Instead of on the floor, they often spray their urine onto vertical surfaces. Cats may also mark their owner’s possessions, such as laundry and the bed. This behavior is normal, especially when a new pet is introduced to the household. Since cats can’t communicate verbally, they rely on body language and scent to convey their messages.

Reactionary Causes

Stress and anxiety, often associated with social problems in multi-cat households or the introduction of a new cat, can be challenging causes of inappropriate elimination to address. When a cat feels stressed or worried, they may poop or pee outside the litter box to surround themselves with their own scent. While this behavior may seem uncommon to humans, it actually helps the cat feel more secure and confident in dealing with stressful situations. Contrary to popular belief, cats are not acting out of spite. For example, a common scenario reported by veterinarians is a cat pooping on the floor after a veterinary visit. The cat isn’t necessarily saying, “I’m mad at you for taking me to the vet,” but rather, “That was a stressful experience, and my own scents make me feel better because they’re familiar.”

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Fear or anxiety related to the litter box itself can also lead to pooping or peeing outside the litter box. If you introduce new litter that your cat doesn’t like, use a new detergent to clean the box, or try a noisy automated litter box, your cat may avoid using it and find a more comfortable spot instead. Similarly, if the litter box is in a location where the cat feels unsafe, such as within reach of a curious puppy or toddler, they may choose to use the bathroom elsewhere.

What to Do About Pooping and Peeing Outside the Litter Box

If your cat is pooping or peeing outside the litter box, it’s important to start with a veterinary visit. A check-up will help rule out any major medical issues and ensure your cat receives the necessary care. If your cat is otherwise healthy, discuss the issue with your vet, noting when it started, how often it occurs, the type of elimination (poop or pee), and any other factors that may be influencing your cat’s behavior. If territorial marking is a problem and your cat isn’t spayed or neutered, your vet may recommend the procedure to reduce the motivation for marking.

If anxiety or stress is a contributing factor, your vet may suggest medications in combination with environmental enrichment and support to help alleviate your cat’s distress. Regardless of the underlying cause, patience, kindness, and expert guidance are often required to get your cat back on track and create a harmonious environment for everyone involved.

Remember, understanding and addressing your cat’s needs is key to maintaining a happy and healthy relationship with your furry friend. For more information and professional assistance, visit Katten TrimSalon.