Cat voids in bathtub

by Jason
(West Warwick, RI)

We recently brought an outside/inside cat in as both a favor to a friend and a pet for my wife. We have two other cats who have been in the family for years now, (one is 5, the other is 3) and they're both male cats.

The new cat is young, 6 months at the most, and is a female. For the first few weeks she was fine and voided in the litter box, but recently she has taken to voiding (stool) in the bathtub.

My wife figured it was due to the litter box not being as clean as the cat would like, but even after changing it every day the problem persists. Any ideas? Thanks.

My Thoughts: I've heard of cats urinating or defecating in the bathtub (or sink) to the point that it's a fairly common issue.

Remember that cats can change their preference for texture and location at any time, with no apparent cause. But, let's see if we can come up with some possible causes for your situation.

I've read some stories about cats with intestinal problems (such as would be caused by parasites) who may head for the tub.

I'm assuming she's been to the vet and has a clean bill of health.

In the absence of a medical problem, stress is a huge factor in many litter box problems. So, anything you can do to ease her stress is a good thing.

You should try to spend extra time with her, and make sure she burns off stress with playtime. Also make sure she gets lots of praise whenever she uses the litter box.

Has she been spayed? If not, I'd consider the possibility that her cycle may have triggered this behavior.

Cats don't like changes in territories (being re-homed) or routines, but will usually adapt, if you can keep the stress level down. It can take up to 6 months for a cat to get used to a new home, and longer if there are other considerations (lots of noise, constant change, other cats, and so on).

Has anything changed just prior to this happening? Sometimes even moving furniture can set a cat off.

In addition, I'd consider several possibilities:

  • She may be feeling threatened in some way
  • The litter box isn't to her liking (size, shape, quantity, placement, sharing)
  • The litter isn't to her liking
  • Something else (unseen to you) may have stressed her

The answer may be
that you simply need more boxes. For 3 cats, you should technically have 4 boxes. If you have a large or multi-story house, you may need even more to accommodate the cats.

While you may be able to get away with fewer than this, you may need to adopt the "one plus one rule" if you have problems. The litter box faq explains this rule.

Some cats don't like to urinate and defecate in the same location. So, a single box won't do in those cases.

Once you have more boxes in place, you could try restricting access to the tub (or filling it part way with water) and see what she does. She may find a sink, a smooth floor, or go back to using the box full-time.

If she's one of those cats that doesn't like a lot of litter in the box, she may have developed a preference for a smooth surface.

If this is the case, a box with very little litter in it may help, as she can move the litter out of the way and defecate directly on the smooth surface.

This seems to be a thing with longhairs more than short haired kitties, and I'm not sure why.

If she's feeling threatened, the threat could be from the other cats, a cat outside, or her own uncertainty with her new environment. Perhaps she's had a run-in or two, especially involving the litter box, with one or both of the other cats.

If the separation/introduction period was too quick, she may have appeared to get along with the other cats at first, but there's too much tension and she's stressing over it. You might try doing isolation retraining with her in a room with her own box, and then a second "soft" introduction to the other two cats.

You might also try placing a litter box inside the bathtub and see if she'll use it. You can block off the rest of the tub. If she uses the box in the tub, let her use that for a while, and then move it, little by little each day, to where you want the box to be.

See the answer to the second question on this page of cat behavior questions and answers regarding a cat defecating in the tub.

I hope that gives you some ideas to work with. Please let us know how she makes out.

Good luck with her,


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