13 year old cat will not poop in litter box

by Keri
(New Jersey)

We have two indoor cats, a boy Oliver, and a girl Marie. They are brother and sister and we have never had major litter box problems with them ever.

We have two litter boxes, both in the basement side by side, where they have been for the past 13 years, one is covered and one is not.

Their food bowls are upstairs in the kitchen plenty of space away from the boxes.

About 3 months ago we tried to change the litter to a clumping one but the litter was getting stuck in their paws and was everywhere on our upstairs carpet so we quickly switched back.

About a month ago, the boy Oliver started to poop outside of his litter box, but he will pee in it. At first he was pooping next to it, but in the past 2 weeks he has started going almost anywhere their is free space.

If we watch him go and he knows we are there he will poop in the litter box. We have spied on him and he will pee in the litter box, cover it, hop out and then poop on the floor, and pretend cover it.

Oliver is a very finicky cat, and I swear he cleans himself almost as much as he sleeps. He's obsessed with being clean. We always clean the floors with clorox after he goes but nothing is working! PLEASE HELP!

My Thoughts:

I'm sorry to hear about Oliver's troubles, Keri. I'll try my best to offer up some possible ideas. (I'm assuming his problem is not age related or disease related.)

Generally, speaking, if you have a type of cat litter that is working for you and your cat, don't change it. We can't say for sure that the change of litter type had any impact here, but perhaps it did. There are many problem stories that start out... "everything was fine until I changed litter type, and then..."

Once a cat gets thrown off his game, weird things can happen.

If you must change the litter and it's possible to do so, then change it very slowly. In your case, it sounds like you were switching from non-clumping to clumping.

I would have gotten a third box and let the cats decide if they wanted to use the new clumping litter or not, and then gone from there. If you decided to stop using it, you could have removed the third box or left it in place and switched it to the old litter type.

The rule of minimal impact applies. Cats hate change!

OK, so...

He was pooping next to the box, but now he's pooping in other places.

Cats can develop a surface preference, or a location preference, or both, at any time. What set him off and made him originally not use the box may be a distant memory, but he may return to the same type of surface or the same location over and over.

Question... I'm assuming he's using the basement floor. Are these all hard surfaces?

If so, he may have developed a preference for pooping on hard surfaces. This would
explain why he pees in the box but poops outside it.

As odd as it might sound, some cats will decide that they like to poop on a hard surface. If that's the case, you can sometimes accommodate this by filling a litter box with a small amount of clumping litter, pushed to one side. That allows them to poop on the bottom of the box, but also cover it up when they're done.

When my cat Frankie was around, she used to like to move all the litter to one side to expose the bottom of the box, then cover it up when she was done.

Some cats find they like cloth surface texture and hit the couch, others like cold hard cement, and some like something in-between, like carpet.

If he likes hard or semi-hard surfaces, then the next question is... are you using box liners? I'm assuming yes, since you're using non-clumping litter?

Did you use liners with the clumping litter? With clumping litter, there are usually no liners, so cats get to feel the hard bottom of the box on their paws.

I'm guessing for the first time in his life, he now knows the difference? Just a thought.

Some cats hate the plastic liners, possibly because when their paws hit the bottom of the box, they slide a bit. Cats like stability.

Has he started to move to other areas of the house or are the incident areas all near each other?

Oliver may consider the basement his bathroom area, but watch out for residual bleach smell when you clean up after him. Cats usually hate it and you don't want to be causing more problems so make sure you rinse and rinse again. If he doesn't like the residual bleach (remember his nose is crazy sensitive) then he may start to move to other areas to do his business (or already has).

If he truly is looking for the hard surface, then you can try restricting his access to hard surfaces. Give him nothing but soft surfaces or a litter box as his choices. That may get him back to using the box every time.

Another option is to put a new litter box in a totally different room and introduce him to it by gently putting him in it.

It's probably not a bad idea to clean out the litter boxes and refresh the litter if you haven't already.

Just a reminder to always praise him when he uses the box, and never punish him when he doesn't. Just clean it up and that's that. I would also give him extra attention and exercise him daily if you're not doing that already. Enrichment is even more vital when a cat is having issues.

Another thing to think about: did anything else change in the household or in his life right around the time he started having problems?

I hope that helps to stir some thoughts. Please post a comment and let me know about the hard surface preference and the liners.


P.S. Is there a Disney theme here with the names, or is that a coincidence? :)

Comments for 13 year old cat will not poop in litter box

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Jun 01, 2011
Litter Box Blues
by: Bob

Our 16 year old male just cannot "hit the target" any longer but still goes to the box. We purchased a child's wading pool, cut out one side for an entrance, put doggy training pads inside and it worked like a charm. He goes to the pad every time and any spills are contained in the wading pool and easy to clean up. Our box is located in the garage.

Mar 19, 2011
You're welcome and thank you!
by: Kurt (Admin)


You're welcome. Anything for a "Disney kitty." And thanks for updating us. Please come back and post comments on what you try and what does or doesn't seem to work or to get more feedback.


Thanks very much for your input! You're right, he's an old kitty. We don't like to think of our cats that way, but with senior being seven plus years and the life expectancy what it is, he's elderly.

That's also a great point about a possible conflict with Marie. Cats are very emotional beings.

Mar 19, 2011
My thoughts
by: David

You've been given some excellent tips and observations, and I hope one of them works for you and your baby. The timing of this is relevant for me, since earlier today I was talking with our pharmacist who was having a similar problem with her male cat (I know, us "boys" just can't hit the target! ). I had previously given her some advice, including having her vet exam her boy. In her case, it was not good news.

Remember, at 13, like it or not, his is a "little old man" and they sometimes get forgetful, or just plain stubborn. Before our male Bengal passed (also at 13)he would go into the box, but hang his tail over the side. What we did was went to an office supply store and bought one of those plastic pads that are usually placed under a desk to make the chair roll easier, and placed it under the box. When he'd "miss the box" it was much easier to clean than the carpet or other flooring.

His sister, however, is another story. Bengals are very smart cats to begin with, and with her she is a little vindictive. If she has been disciplined (For me, that is holding up my index finger and telling her "NO!" and even wagging my finger) she has found innovative places to void to get back at me.

How is his relationship with his sister? Could they have had a "falling out" recently?

Mar 18, 2011
thank you
by: Keri

thank you! we are going to try multiple things! and Yes Oliver from Oliver and Company, and Marie from the Aristocats :)

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