My cat poops outside the litter box

by Gail
(Massachusetts)

I have a Maine Coon cat 14 years old. She started about 2 months ago pooping outside the box.

The poop is about 8 inches outside the box on the bathroom floor.

She knows she is bad when she does it but continues to still do it.

Once in a while she will poop in the box. Any solutions?










My Thoughts:

With a generic and intermittent problem like this, I think this is probably a good time to point out some key thoughts with regard to solving litter box problems:

1. Remember that, in an ideal world, your cat wants to use the box. Cats are tidy creatures and have a strong instinct to bury their feces and keep things clean. If your cat is not using the box, something is not right in her world.

She may have associated pain with using the box, or she may have a physical problem of some kind that is preventing her from using it. This problem (or pain association) may come and go.

2. There are both physical and emotional causes for litter box problems. As long as a physical cause is at work, you'll never solve the problem. First, get a clean bill of health from the vet.

3. All house cats will suffer from constipation at some point in their lives. For some felines, it can be an occasional occurrence, but not serious. For others, regular constipation can lead to a serious bowel disorder called megacolon, or simply cause litter box mishaps. The major cause of constipation in cats is hair balls. This can be made worse if your cat is dehydrated.

4. Impacted anal glands are fairly common and will cause bowel trouble. This turned out to be Cinnamon's problem with "scooting marks." Your vet will need to relieve the pressure, and the procedure may need to be done more than once.

5. Stress, in various forms, is often at the root of a litter box problem. Until you uncover (and remove) the source of the stress, the problem will continue or recur.

6. Always praise, never punish. When your cat uses the box, praise lavishly. When your cat doesn't use the box, don't punish. Your cat won't understand the punishment, and it just adds to the stress. Remember, she wants to use the box, but she can't.

7. Clean the area thoroughly with a cleaner that removes all of the odor and its source. The instinct to return to the spot will be strong until the source of the odor is gone.

8. Any life changes are suspect. Cats like to keep to a general routine. Any disruption in their routine can throw them off their box habits. This includes changes in feeding schedules, type of food, the addition or deletion of a family member (including other pets) in the house, different litter or box type, home remodeling, or even a change in your work or sleeping schedule.

9. Exercise, attention, and toys. Less active cats, especially overweight kitties, may have more constipation issues.

Increasing your cat's exercise levels has been said to help with constipation, as well as burn off pent up stress.

Extra attention and affection can reduce stress, and more toy play can help give your cat the "hunt and kill" satisfaction that she craves. I recommend, among others, Da Bird...



10. Help your cat groom. Grooming is a major activity for cats. It's estimated that cats can spend up to one-third of their waking lives cleaning themselves. A FURminator can dramatically reduce the amount of fur that ends up in your cat's gut, and around your house. Added help with grooming is more and more important as your cat gets older.

11. Diet. If you've changed your cat's diet, that can lead to constipation. Any diet changes should be made slowly or you risk upsetting your kitty's stomach. Remember that excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration, which leads to constipation, which leads to litter box problems.

If you're feeding dry food, mixing in a hair ball formula may help, although reports are mixed on this. Hair ball treats, which usually contain a laxative can help. Many cat owners have reported much less in the way of vomiting and constipation issues when feeding a premium wet cat food.

12. Hair ball remedies may help. Your vet can prescribe a few, such as lactulose.

13. Isolation retraining is sometimes the best method for getting a cat back on track, once any physical issues have been ruled out. Basically, you restrict your cat to a section of the house. Set her up with a bed, a litter box, food, water, toys, the works. Then ease her back into her regular routine after the problem is solved.

14. Get professional help. Your vet needs to be brought into the conversation for the physical aspects. As I've said, if you don't fix a physical problem, you'll never resolve things. If you're having trouble with the emotional side of things and you've tried everything, it may be time to call in a pet psychologist or cat therapist.

Solving box problems can be difficult when there are many variables. Try to reduce those variables and maintain a stable environment until the problem is solved. Try to think back to the 6 month period prior to the time the problems started. Were there any major changes in your cat's life? Any indications of problems?

Don't go changing litter types and boxes and food at all once, or you could make things worse. Make one change at a time.

I hope that helps to give you some ideas and good luck with her. Let us know how it goes and what works for you.

-Kurt

P.S. Please add your thoughts in the comments!

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Jan 19, 2012
Maine Coon poops outside the litter box
by: Bruce

OK, I have a 13 year old male Main Coon. When my Granddaughter died 8 years ago he totally went useless and just laid around (that day).

I took him to the vet and found nothing wrong with him and the vet asked if something had happened at the house. When I told him, he said that was it and he would be OK in a week or so and so he was.

These are very touchy animals. OK, here he goes again!! I had another Granddaughter born 6 years ago and ever since he has not pooped in the box, always outside!!

The vet said that these Maine Coons do very strange things. Here is my fix: Last year I bought a cat tent approx 2 feet by 2.5 feet. In that tent I have his litter box and his pillow.

He always poops before 6:00 am. At night when we go to bed we zip him in the tent and he does use the litter box and all has been normal ever since.

A bit of a pain but if you love your Maine Coon the way I love mine, a little extra work is worth it... (I bought the tent at Walmart). Good luck!!! Dogs drool and Maine Coons rule!!!

May 10, 2011
Vet Visit?
by: Kurt (Admin)

@Lucy,

If your cat has been pooping outside the box for at least a year, I'm assuming that she's been to the veterinarian in that time? Have you discussed this with your veterinarian? Did your veterinarian rule out all possible medical causes? What were the suggestions given to correct the problem?

May 07, 2011
nasty cat
by: lucy

I don't know how old my cat is. But i've had her for nine years. Always was clean but since the past years she is pooping outside her box, at least once a week. I don't know what to do anymore. Please help.

Jun 08, 2009
Cat anxiety?
by: Kurt (Cat Lovers Only Admin)

In response to the 2 year old Maine Coon with what appears to be separation anxiety (defecating outside the box when you go away for too long), I created a new page on cat anxiety which has some ideas. My response was long enough to warrant a new page.

-Kurt

Jun 08, 2009
Cat deficates outside of box when I leave
by: Anonymous

I have a similar problem with my 2 year old Maine Coon. The first year after I got her we stayed in the same apartment with two other cats with whom she got along well. Then we moved in with my parents and their two cats and two dogs which she got along well with also.

Two months ago we moved again and now she is a single cat in an apartment with six people. Everyone is very nice to her and pays her ample attention but when I (her person) leaves to go on a trip (even if it's just for 24 hours) she poops in the living room.

She has never displayed this behavior before and I know it's an emotionally based problem but I don't know how to remedy it.

Feb 25, 2009
Why cats poop outside the box
by: Kurt (Cat Lovers Only Admin)

The question "why does my cat poop outside the box" can have many answers.

I would take a guess that in this case there might be an issue with constipation, since that is a common problem. This is especially true with longer haired cats (Maine Coon certainly qualifies) and more probable as they get older. If constipation is at fault (or another physical problem), you'll have to treat it. Then, you'll have to treat the behavioral side of the problem.

There are two main categories of reasons behind inappropriate elimination problems. First, is a physical condition or disease, and the second is a behavioral/emotional issue.

Among the physical reasons are constipation, arthritis, mega colon, parasites, or other intestinal condition. Among the behavioral/emotional reasons are stress, and association of pain with the litter box.

So, the first step is to determine if there is a physical problem. Let's say that your cat gets constipated and experiences pain and straining while trying to use the box. This happens several times, and at this point your cat doesn't want to poop in the box because...

the box + pooping = pain.

So, even if the constipation is relieved, your cat still poops on the floor. That's just one of many possible scenarios. It could also be related to arthritis or any number of issues, some of which are serious health conditions. That's why anytime there are litter box problems, your vet should be involved. What seems like just a poop on the floor can mean something much more significant.

Here's a list of common reasons your cat won't use the box.

And here's a question and answer article about a senior cat with a litter box problem. The cat is quite a bit older, but the same concepts still apply.

I hope that helps to shed more light,

-Kurt

Feb 25, 2009
Pooping outside the box
by: Barbra

You never really answered the original question as to why the cat poops outside the box - you focused more on why a cat can't poop.

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