Defecating outside the litter box only at night

by Paul Collins
(Greensboro, NC)

Einstein is a laid back Ragdoll that is full of hell, and he is my wife's second child. Our only problem is he started pooping outside the box but only at night.

We've had him to the vet and all is well there. We've exhausted the ideas from the vet and am looking for more suggestions. We do not want to get rid of him as he is loved dearly.

My thoughts:

I'm sorry to hear that Einstein (I love that name!) is having problems, Paul. I'm glad to hear that he's been to the vet and checks out OK.

I'm also happy to hear that you're not going to give up on him. The prospects for an adult cat with a litter box problem that's brought to a shelter are not bright.

Since the vet says he's healthy, and he's only doing this at night, I'd have to ask... "what's different about what happens at night?"

Did anything change just prior this starting? If anything changed in his life, the house, or with the litter box, I'd look to that as a possible cause.

I don't know how old he is or how long this has been going on, but here are several ideas that are worth looking into:

1) Vision problems:

It's possible that he's having night vision problems (undetected by a typical veterinary exam). If he's getting older or for some other reason has problems seeing the box at night, he may look elsewhere to do his business.

Have you tried placing a nightlight near the box, or leaving a room light on to see if that makes a difference?

2) Box size and type:

Ragdolls can take up to 4 years to reach full size. If the box is too small, or it's covered,
he may have outgrown it.

Also, if it's a covered box, he may not be happy with that any longer. Covers also reduce the amount of light, so that may go back to vision problems.

3) Box cleanliness:

A) some cats like to pee in one box and poop in another.

B) The one plus one rule says that you should have two boxes for one cat. You can get away with fewer than that, but if you're having problems, adding a box is always a good idea.

C) How often do you clean the box? If you clean it in the morning, maybe it's not to his liking by the evening. Can you clean the box at night, some time before he would normally use it?

D) Plastic absorbs odors over time. Is it time for a brand new box?

4) Location:

Some cats will develop a location preference, regardless of other factors. Can you place a box right on the location he's using?

If the location is next to the current box, sometimes two boxes, side-by-side will work.

I usually recommend that boxes be placed in different areas of the house, but in this case, we're just testing the waters. We'll figure the rest out later.

Additional ideas:

Increase his exercise level. Specifically, have a play session with him at night and try to wear him out. See if his bathroom habits change.

Try Feliway.

Isolation retraining:

The "last resort" method is to use isolation or confinement retraining. I've written about this many times and I'm not sure that it's necessary here as he's only doing this at night, but it may work.

I hope that helps. If you have questions, please let me know in the comments, and please keep us updated on his progress.

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Jun 11, 2013
Hope this works for you.
by: Anonymous

I agree with Kurt. Two boxes was the answer in our house when my older cat started to do this. I don't know the reason why she started because she was healthy like your cat, but she then started urinating in one box and pooing in the other box.

I thought that my cat was the only one who did this but I guess not. Good luck to you and your baby. Rachelle

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