Cat holds a grudge, poops on floor

by Travis
(State College, PA, USA)

My wife and I have had our cat Magnolia for 7 years. The first year, she (the cat, not the wife) used her litter box like a champ. No problems whatsoever.

Then, my wife gave birth and, due to complications, we ended up away from home for five weeks for a hospital stay. During that time, Magnolia was cared for in the homes of two families (one family is a cat foster home).

Ever since that month, Magnolia has refused to use the litter box for bowel movements while consistently using it for urine.

This has remained true for six years. I've tried a variety of boxes (large, small, covered, uncovered), a variety of litters, and have had her checked by the vet, but all signs point to a behavioral issue.

I've just sort of grudgingly dealt with the fact that I have to pick up poop every day when I get home, spray down the floor, and clean it thoroughly, but I'm really getting tired of this after such a long time.

Obviously, I love Magnolia - it takes love to pick up poop for over half a decade - but is there anything I haven't tried yet that could get her to park her poop in the proper place?

My thoughts:

That's a long time! I'd say you're a very patient cat parent. It may be very difficult to retrain her at this point. You might want to consult an animal behaviorist.

It's commonly accepted that cats are incapable of holding grudges, although I see posts all over the Internet from cat owners who claim they do. Cats will react to certain circumstances, and we attribute this to things like "my cat doesn't like me because I took her to the vet" but it doesn't work that way.

But they do get off kilter due to stress and it's hard to get them back on track. When a cat doesn't use the box, it's typically stress, some medical issue, or something not quite right with the box from your cat's point of view.

Have you tried confinement and retraining? With difficult cases, confinement is sometimes the way.

This article talks about confinement.

See the house soiling section on this site for some insight on the nature these types of issues.

I'm assuming that you've tried offering two boxes at the same time placed in various areas of the house as well (after thoroughly cleaning the soiled area and either blocking it off or using aluminum foil or double sided tape)?

Some cats get to the point where they won't pee and poop in the same box. Having the two boxes, and keeping them both extremely clean and well-placed is sometimes the answer.

I've also described in other answers a couple of times the method of using aluminum foil or double sided tape to keep the cat out of the area. You need to clean the area thoroughly, then put down the foil or tape so your cat won't go there. Also, citrus smells are usually a good cat repellent.

Again, in extreme cases, and I would say this qualifies, confinement may be the way to go. Either that or call in a pet psychologist and get an evaluation. You might also try Feliway (a synthetic cat cheek pheromone), which has been shown to reduce the effects of stress on some cats and help with behavior problems.

I hope that helps and good luck!
-Kurt

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