My cat poops near the litter box but not in

by Lynn
(Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada)

Smokey at Camp

Smokey at Camp

My cat poops everywhere near the litter box but not in it. For over a year now, my 10 year old cat, Smokey has started pooping outside of the litter box.

It started, I believe, after I cleaned the box and turned it the wrong way where she could not get in to poop and because she could not get in the box, dumped right outside the box (felt bad about that).

The box got turned back around and everything seemed fine but then I started seeing poop outside the box once and a while but not all the time. I actually blamed my younger 4 yr. old cat, Tango.

For over a year now there has been poop on the floor but not consistently until this summer. We found out it was not Tango because we took Tango away for a weekend and when we came back there were three spots of poop on the floor.

Now she is pooping all the time and also peeing and drinking a lot. She pees in the box but then lifts her tail and it sails over the box. I don't know if this is a behaviour problem or she is just getting old.

My Thoughts:

It's definitely more difficult to solve these problems when they've gone on for a long time. First, because things change over time, health and behavior problems come and go or get worse, and so on. Second, because these things can become habitual for the cat and therefore harder to correct.

So, you have to take the past into account, but also look at current circumstances as well. The cause of the problem when it started may not be what's causing it to continue.

She may be getting older, and she may be suffering from arthritis or have pain in her legs or back for another reason.

This may make it difficult for her to get into the box when her bowels are full. This may also explain why she's rising up while urinating as she may have trouble squatting for more than a few seconds (although some cats seem to do this anyway).

It may be painful for her to defecate, and there are many reasons why that may be. In addition to arthritis, impacted anal glands, spinal or structural problems, or any kind of nervous system problem can cause these issues.

Health problems are always suspect in litter box problems. Excessive thirst and urination is a sign of a number of potentially serious diseases, including feline diabetes.

So, I would definitely call the vet and describe all the circumstances, and go from there to work it from the health side.

From the behavioral side, it's highly important to thoroughly clean any areas that have been soiled. White vinegar works for recent accidents, but an enzymatic cleanser is recommended for any of the older spots.

If the areas are not cleaned well enough, she'll be tempted to return to the scene of the crime. Remember, your cat's nose is much more powerful than yours!

Stress is often a factor in box problems. Feliway has been known to relieve stress and resolve box problems due to stress, so you might try that. It doesn't work in every case, but I've been told that it can work.

Some cats can develop a preference for urinating or defecating on smooth surfaces. This is said to be more common in long haired cats. If this is the problem, then you can try using a small amount of litter, mostly placed on one side of the box so that Smokey can easily expose the flat box bottom.

In multi-cat households, there can be some aggression problems that can contribute to these issues. Box-guarding or ambushes can be a problem.

Some cats develop a preference for urinating in one box and defecating in another, or prefer not to share a box with another cat. If that's what's going on, you may need to increase the number of boxes in the house.

If the problem is not at all medical, and nothing is working for you, isolation retraining can be tried. It's hard in two cat households sometimes, but basically, you choose a sunny room and set her up in there with a litter box, food, water, toys, the works.

See Nancy Wigal's article on litter box retraining for a more detail on that.

I hope that gives you some ideas and please update us on how she's coming along.


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