My cat has started pooping outside the litter box

by Bernice

We have 6 cats (4 are Maine Coon). One of the boys has started pooping outside of the litter boxes (we have 6).

I see him poop upstairs in one of the litter boxes and then he goes and poops in the basement?!

We know it's him because his poop has a very "pungent" odor.

My thoughts:

I'm sorry to hear that your kitty is having issues. This isn't a lot to go on, Bernice, but I'll put on my detective hat and see if I can give you some questions to ponder.

I don't know if you've consulted your veterinarian with this specific issue in mind, but I believe it's possible that he has a bowel problem that's causing him not to use the box.

I'd be asking... why does his poop smell like that?

If he's eating the same diet as the other cats in the house but his bowel movements smell particularly bad, he may have a problem with the natural flora in the intestinal tract.

Perhaps his system is taking longer to digest his food than it should, and bacteria (the bad kind) is building up.

Has he had constipation, diarrhea or loose stool, or other bowel related problems in the past?

Some integrative veterinarians are recommending enzymes and probiotics as part of a cat's regular diet.

It could be intermittent constipation (or something else) that's causing him to miss the box. He may have any one of a number of bowel related ailments.

Has he had particularly bad hairball issues lately? If he's got a bad hairball stuck in his gut, this may cause issues.

Does his poop often look particularly dry? That's often a sign of constipation. Or, is it too loose?

I don't know how old he is, but could it be age related?

If it's
strictly behavioral and not a health issue, that requires some investigation. If he were my cat, I'd be asking myself the following additional questions...

Does he have any other health or behavior problems? Have you noticed any other behavioral changes?

Does he always use the basement, or does he go outside of the litter box elsewhere in the house as well? (That may indicate a location preference -- why? Block access and see what happens.)

If he uses different areas, does he always use the same type of surface. (That may indicate a surface texture preference -- why? Block access to this type of surface and see what happens.)

Is he under any stress? Think back... what was going on in his life and in the house around the time the problem first started. Any changes can bring on problems.

Does he get along well with all the other cats? Have there been any issues with litter box guarding?

Are there any animals (cats or other predators can be a challenge) outside the house, perhaps that go near the basement area? Sometimes their presence is enough, but it might be worse if the basement has windows and he can see the animal outside.

Does he need more attention or exercise? Perhaps you should set up a playtime just for him, 10 minutes, twice a day.

Does he have a space in the house he can call his own? Are there enough spots for all 6 cats to be able to effectively time share territory? Is there climbing furniture and good use of vertical space? Enough scratching posts and boards?

Is there anything else you can think of that might help us solve this?

I hope that helps. Keep praising him whenever he uses the box, and please let us know how his situation progresses.


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