5 year old cat started pooping in front of garage door instead of in litter box

by Sheila

My 5 year old cat has started pooping in front of the garage door instead of in her box. Lilly is 5 years old and has been pretty good about using her litter box, until recently.

At night we keep her in the garage in our basement, but otherwise she stays upstairs with the family and only goes down to litter and eat.

About 5 months ago, she started using a spot in a room we have downstairs and we were unable to break her so we shut her out of the room.

Now she has chosen a spot in front of the garage door where she pees and poops daily. I have tried a spray that is suppose to keep her from using the spot, but she does it anyway.

I rubbed her nose in it and scolded her and the next time she went, she used her litter box. The next day, she used the spot in front of the garage again. My husband wants to get rid of her. Help!

My Thoughts: OK, first things first, Sheila. The rule is, never punish, always praise.

Rubbing a cat's nose in it, scolding or any kind of punishment is the wrong approach and will not help solve any kind of cat behavior problem. The fact that she used the box afterward is not an indication of successful behavior modification.

Please see this page by Dumb Friends League on litter box problems...

"Don't ever punish your cat for eliminating outside of the litterbox. If you find a soiled area, it’s too late to administer a correction. Do nothing but clean it up. Rubbing your cat’s nose in it, taking her to the spot and scolding her, or any other type of punishment, will only make her afraid of you or afraid to eliminate in your presence. Animals don’t understand punishment after the fact, even if it’s only seconds later. Punishment will do more harm than good."

Also, the ASPCA's litter box problems article has some good information that may be relevant to your situation.

It also might be helpful to roll the clock back 5 months and see if you can figure out what it is that changed around that time. You also use the term "pretty good."

If she was not 100 percent prior to 5 months ago, you may be able to think back and see if there is a common theme. If a cat doesn't use the box 100 percent of the time, there's a problem.

she had an undetected medical problem that has since resolved itself, you'll never know. But, you might want to review what was going on then and see if anything rings a bell.

I'm assuming, of course, that she has no current medical condition, and that your veterinarian has been made aware of the problem and has given his or her opinion.

It's also possible that there's an outside factor (literally), such as stray cats outside that are threatening her.

I don't know your situation fully, of course, but I can tell you what I'd do if it were my cat and having these problems:

1. I'd take my cat to the vet for an exam and discuss the details of the problem.

2. I would stop relegating my cat to the basement and the garage. My cat would have access to the main living area of the house at all times. I've read too many accounts by cat behaviorists who have had clients with "basement cats" and "garage cats" to know that it's not a formula for long-term success.

3. I would have a litter box on every level of my house for easy access. The boxes would be filled with unscented, clumping clay litter (or whatever litter has been working well), and would be cleaned daily. Every few weeks, I'd thoroughly clean the box and replace the litter with a fresh batch.

4. The litter boxes would be placed in areas that my cat frequents, but in the quietest area possible. The boxes would be placed on a hard surface, using a board underneath if necessary to firm up the bottom and prevent tipping on carpeted surfaces.

5. I would put the food and water bowls on the main level of the house in an area that my cat frequents, far away from any litter boxes, and in a relatively quiet spot.

6. If none of the above worked, I'd resort to isolation retraining, the use of Feliway or Rescue Remedy to reduce stress, and possibly, a consultation with a cat behaviorist.

Additional thoughts:

Have you tried placing a litter box right on top of the spot she's using? Have you tried placing something on the spot that she won't walk on? Sometimes a piece of cardboard with double-sided tape or aluminum foil glued to it, or an upside down rug on the spot will cause a cat to avoid the area.

I hope that helps some. Please let us know what changes you make, if any, and what works for her


Comments for 5 year old cat started pooping in front of garage door instead of in litter box

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Jul 14, 2010
Thanks, Caren!
by: Kurt (Admin)

Thanks Caren! I feel that setting up an ideal environment for your cat is so important. When problems arise, getting back to basics becomes that much more important.

Jul 13, 2010
cat pooping by garage, I probably would too!! lol
by: caren gittleman

Kurt your entire response was the MOST FABULOUS advice EVER!!!!

I also caught the "some of the time" or "part of the time" or whatever it was inferring that the cat had litter box issues before this.

Also I am sooooo anti rubbing an animals nose in their pee or poop, be it a dog or a cat! I was cringing when I was reading this post.

ALL of your advice about not banning the cat from rooms etc, EVERY bit of your advice was right on the money!!

Cat Chat Caren

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