How to Stop Cats From Pooping Outside of the Litter Box

Updated on April 1, 2018
GALAXY 59 profile image

Galaxy has had the privilege of sharing her life with many wonderful animals. Her current companion is a beautiful cat called Nikolai.

Cats Are Usually Clean, Tidy Creatures

Pair of ginger cats.
Pair of ginger cats. | Source

Mother Knows Best

Most cats learn how to use a litter tray from their mothers. This is an important fact to remember when sourcing your cat or kitten. It is always best to know the history of your future companion. If buying a kitten, always use a reputable breeder or someone you know personally. Any cat that hasn't had the benefit of a good start to life is likely to give problems when it comes to litter training. They are much more likely to do their business in corners or behind the sofa than a well adjusted, socialised cat.

Once a cat has started to find its own toilet facilities elsewhere, it can be pretty hard to convince them to only go in the litter box.

Where to Put the Litter Tray

Getting the placement of a litter tray right is relatively simple, it just takes a bit of common sense. Most people wouldn't want to eat sitting anywhere near the toilet, no surprise there! Neither does a clean creature such as a cat. So, for an easy life, just make sure you put the litter box as far away from the cat's food and water bowls as possible. Somewhere away from human food is a good idea, too. If you have a utility room, store room or a hallway, that is a great place to put the tray. Just make sure that the cat can find it easily and that it is readily accessible—it's no good hiding the tray in an awkward corner (cats don't like to feel trapped).

If your cat repeatedly goes to the toilet somewhere in your house, then place the littler tray there and leave it for a couple of days. Clean up any mess on the surface or the floor, but don't do a deep clean until the cat has used the tray at least twice.

Establish a Reward System for Good Behaviour

If you happen to catch your cat going to the toilet outside of the litter tray, pick it up, so "no" in a firm but not loud voice, and then put it in the litter tray. Stroke the cat and let it know it is being good. If it uses the tray, then make an even bigger fuss of it. Tell it how good it has been in a quiet, calm voice. Whatever you do, never shout at your cat (they are sensitive creatures and don't respond well to stress). Making a huge deal out of the cat pooping on the floor will only make matters worse.

Tip: Think reward not punishment.

Keep the Litter Tray Clean

Cats are naturally very clean creatures, and they will be reluctant to use a dirty litter box so make sure you keep it nice and clean. You can buy a special scoop and bags to use for this. Always give the tray/box a thorough clean and replace the litter every other day. Remember, if the tray smells bad to you, it will smell ten times worse to your poor cat. If the tray is dirty, your cat will look for somewhere else to go to the toilet.

Don't use a plastic litter box liner because they can encourage the growth of bacteria. Avoid harsh cleaning products, and use very hot water to clean the box. Make sure the box is bone dry before adding the litter. It is probably best to avoid scented litter because cats are very sensitive to smell and might find it unpleasant and avoid the box for that reason.

Rule Out Medical Conditions

Sometimes, a cat will pee or poop outside the litter box because it is suffering from a medical condition such as feline interstitial cystitis; it isn't being naughty or bad, it just can't get to its litter box in time. If your cat seems to be having trouble peeing or maybe peeing more frequently than normal, you should really take them to the vet to get them checked over.

This is particularly important if going outside of the litter box is a new behaviour for your cat. Check how much your cat is drinking. If your cat is taking water much more frequently then normal, it could mean it has a urinary infection. It might experience pain when it tries to pee or poop and will then associate the litter box with pain and avoid it.

The important thing to remember is that the majority of medical conditions can be easily treated if caught early.

Choose an Appropriate Litter Box

Cats are individuals. Make sure your litter tray is appropriate for your cat; a large cat needs a large tray. If your cat is short or elderly, it will need a tray with lower sides. If you have more than one cat, you will need a separate litter tray for each one.

It might be worth having more than one tray anyway. Place them in different locations to give your cat a choice, using different types of litter in each tray will let you know if your cat has a preference.

Outdoor Cats and Litter Trays

Outdoor cats are free to do their business outside but they can still find a litter box useful. Outdoor cats may still cause a problem with pooping and peeing around the home, so don't imagine that just because your cat can use the garden as a toilet that it will.

Outdoor Cats Are Free to Poop Anywhere

White cat sitting in a patio chair in the garden.
White cat sitting in a patio chair in the garden. | Source

Territorial Cats: Spraying and Marking Problems

Cats will often mark their territory by spraying or peeing on surfaces—they seem to be particularly keen on marking upright objects. They are no respecters of property, so, walls, doors and furniture are all fair game to them.

This often happens when you first bring your cat home or if you introduce another cat to the family. Cats will often carry on using their litter box as normal at the same time as they are making their mark around the house. If you find your cat marking in this way, deal with the problem in the same way as peeing or pooping outside of the litter tray.

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    © 2018 Galaxy Harvey

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