Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My cat, Andy, is a 2-1/2 year old tabby. He is unneutered because I haven’t had the money (I know I’m a bad “mother” in that respect). He eats well, is playful, all that good stuff. The problem is that he has developed a habit of not using his litter box to poop. It is clearly not the litter or the box, which I scoop daily, sometimes twice a day, because he pees in there just fine. But he insists on pooping elsewhere… under a living room table, just outside his box, even on my bed (ewwwwwww). Why is he doing this and what can I do to make him stop?
Siouxsie: There are a few reasons why cats will poop outside the litterbox, even if they’re content to pee in the litter.
Thomas: You’ve certainly eliminated (tee hee hee) one of those reasons because you’re scooping and cleaning it daily.
Bella: We always suggest a vet check when cats start doing their business outside the litterbox. Sometimes pain can cause difficulties in maintaining the “poop squat” — which is different rom the pee squat.
Siouxsie: Another question: How big is Andy? If he’s a large cat and you’re using a regular-sized litterbox, it could be too small for him to feel comfortable in the pooping position.
Thomas: If he’s a long-haired cat, he may be getting poop in his bloomers when he uses the litterbox, and maybe using the floor helps to alleviate that problem.
Bella: But we think the most likely culprit for Andy’s pooping problem is territorial stress.
Siouxsie: Given that he’s not neutered, he may be feeling threatened by another cat in the neighborhood.
Thomas: The fact that he’s pooped on your bed gives us a big clue that the behavior may be about territorial stress. The bed is your territory, and his. If there’s somebody new in your bed, he may be feeling like he’s no longer welcome there. Hey, it’s been known to happen!
Bella: Pooping under tables can also be a territorial insecurity gesture. Is that living room table anywhere near a window, by any chance? If so, Andy may be seeing an intruder kitty outside and responding to that by pooping to mark his territory.
Siouxsie: Pooping next to the litterbox is another way to claim territory. If the litterbox is near a door or laundry room, he may be smelling something that’s making him think his territory is being intruded upon.
Thomas: Can you remember when Andy first started pooping outside his box? Was there a pattern to the pooping? For example, did he start in one place and then expand his leavings to other locations?
Bella: You might not know this, but we cats are very sensitive to changes in our lives. We prefer to have a routine we know and understand, and when new things come into our live, it can be quite upsetting!
Siouxsie: Did something change in your life shortly before Andy began his inappropriate elimination? Did you start a new job, start using new laundry detergent, get a boyfriend or girlfriend, or have a visitor for a while? Changes in routine and smells can cause stress.
Thomas: So, what can you do about the problem?
Bella: The first thing we’d recommend is checking into low-cost or free spay/neuter clinics in your area. SpayUSA has a comprehensive listing of clinics and voucher programs that can help you to have Andy fixed at a price you can afford.
Siouxsie: Your local animal shelter or rescue group may also be able to connect you with spay/neuter services.
Thomas: If Andy is pooping near windows, try covering the bottom two feet of the window with cardboard so he can’t see other cats outside. If you have a back yard or a deck, you can buy cat deterrents; products like motion-activated sprayers and motion-activated ultrasonic emitters can make it unpleasant for trespassing cats.
Bella: You’ll need to get a good cleaner to really deep-clean the poop smells out of Andy’s deposit locations. Even if you don’t smell the poop anymore, your kitty, with his exquisitely sensitive nose, does, and that’ll make him want to refresh his scent.
Siouxsie: We’ve had great luck with an enzyme cleaner called Anti-Icky-Poo, and a number of our blogging friends swear by Fizzion, a carbon dioxide-based cleaner. Both of these products are available through online outlets and sometimes in pet stores as well.
Thomas: To be honest, Mama hasn’t had much luck finding either of these products in pet superstores or smaller independent stores, but it’s worth trying.
Bella: And for any territorially stressed cat, Feliway is your (and his) best friend!
Siouxsie: This stuff releases “happy cat” pheromones into the air and helps de-stress your kitty. It comes in spray and plug-in diffuser form. We’d recommend a diffuser and a spray for you. Use the diffuser in the room where your cat likes to hang out, and use the spray in the places where he’s pooped — spray it at about nose height. Don’t spray or plug the diffuser in near the litterbox, though!
Thomas: Using Feliway in the pooping places will help Andy start feeling less stressed in those locations and may help to reprogram his mind not to use those places as litterboxes.
Bella: This product is also labeled Comfort Zone with Feliway. Mama’s seen them for sale in pet stores, vets’ offices, and online, so it should be easy for you to get your hands on that.
Siouxsie: We’ve had great luck with Feliway. It’s helped us through house moves, vet visits and shelter stress, so we think it’ll help Andy, too.
Thomas: Good luck, Toni. Please let us know how things turn out!