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Pooping Outside the Litter Box

Safety Issues

It typically takes a cat a bit longer to defecate than urinate. In a multicat household where there is even the smallest amount of tension, it may be too stressful for a cat to hang out in the litter box long enough to poop. If the box is covered, wedged in a corner or hidden in a closet, this truly reduces the cat’s escape potential. She may feel it’s safer to poop in another location that allows her to have a better view in case an opponent is coming. The location she chooses may also give her a better opportunity to get out of there more safely.

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The solution in this case may be to provide uncovered boxes and to make sure there are enough boxes located through the house. Don’t place them in hidden, cramped areas that may cause your cat to feel trapped or confined. In many cases, all you’ll have to do is remove the lid from the box. Covered boxes are often to small and low for a cat to feel she can comfortably perch on the litter for defecation. They also limit the cat’s escape to just one way in and out. Should another cat come by, the one who is in the litter box can be vulnerable to an ambush.

Substrate Preference

Some cats, for whatever reason only they seem to know, have a substrate preference when it comes to the feel of the litter for defecation versus urination. Perhaps it has something to do with the amount of time they spend in that perching position for pooping. If you think that might be the case, offer another litter box with a litter that has a different texture. In general, cats prefer a soft, sandy texture when it comes to the litter substrate.

If your cat is defecating on the floor or other hard surface and won’t go in the litter box no matter what type of litter you use, try an experiment and set out an empty litter box. If the cat does eliminate in the box when there’s no litter, keep the box available to her (clean it every time she poops) and then you can eventually try adding a scant amount of litter in the box. If she continues to accept that you can add gradually increase the amount.

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Last But Not Least: Cleanliness

A cat may decide that the box is too dirty if there is any waste already in there. She may urinate but then feel it’s now not clean enough for her to then use for defecation. Understandably, you can’t stand over the box 24 hours a day with a litter scoop in your hand in order to remove waste the nanosecond it touches the litter. Just make sure you’re scooping at least twice a day and have more than one litter box so there will be a greater chance that kitty can find a clean patch of litter for defecation.

Want More Information?

Your veterinarian should be your first stop whenever there is any kind of litter box problem. Have your cat examined and if she gets a clean bill of health, talk with your veterinarian about your specific litter box set-up. For more information on cat behavior and training, refer to the best-selling books by Pam Johnson-Bennett. Pam’s books are available at bookstores everywhere, through your favorite online book retail site and also here on our website.

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