Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Eleven years ago I found two abandoned kittens and took them home. They are both neutered males and have always shared an extra large litter box which I clean twice a day. In the last six months, one of them, Smokie, has stopped pooping in the box. He will crawl in to urinate and then step out to poop five inches from it. I had not changed anything about the box, litter, location of the box, and basic routine when this began. I have tried different litter, an additional box, changing locations and scolding since then and nothing is working. My family is becoming fed up with the issue and I am at loss for a solution. Do you have any suggestions?
Siouxsie: We think we can help you to cope with Smokie’s pooping issue. But we’re going to start by explaining a few basics about the way cats pee and poop.
Thomas: There’s a “pee squat” and a “poop squat.” What we mean is that we take different positions when we pee and poop. The photo to the right shows what a cat looks like when he’s peeing.
Dahlia: As you can see, he’s settled in with his back end very close to the litter, so as to avoid splattering urine on his behind.
Siouxsie: This is a pretty easy and comfortable posture to maintain for however long it takes for a kitty to do his business. It’s almost like our natural sitting posture.
Thomas: The “poop squat,” on the other hand, takes a bit more energy. You see that his back is hunched up high and his back legs are set in a serious crouch.
Dahlia: This particular squat helps keep the cat from getting feces on his britches by keeping his bum high above the surface of the litter box (or, in this case, the toilet bowl).
Siouxsie: Because the poop squat requires a lot of strength, it can be hard for a cat with sore joints or an overweight cat to maintain that posture for the all the time it takes him to do his business.
Thomas: Often, this is why you’ll see an older cat have no problem peeing in the box, but you’ll find his poop on the floor just outside of it.
Dahlia: So, with those things in mind, what’s a cat caretaker to do?
Siouxsie: First of all, try to have some compassion. I have to admit I have an issue with leaving my poop outside the box, too. It’s mostly because, well, I’m not exactly a kitten anymore (I’m 15), and it hurts my hips to maintain that pooping pose — so when I have to poop, I prop my back feet on the edge of the litterbox and leave my front legs on the floor. As you probably know, there are muscles that contract when we do a No. 2. Sometimes those muscle contractions propel my back feet off the edge of the box and onto the floor. And by that time, I can’t stop the poop from coming out … so it ends up on the floor.
Thomas: The second thing we’d suggest is what we tell anyone whose cat has had a behavior change: Take Smokie to the vet to have a checkup and make sure he doesn’t have any other health issues.
Dahlia: If Smokie is obese, work with your vet to put a nutrition plan together to help him get back to a healthy weight.
Siouxsie: And if it turns out that arthritis or other aches and pains may be causing him to be unable to maintain his “poop squat,” try giving him a glucosamine/chondroitin cat treat as a daily supplement. Mama gives me a Hip Action treat every day, and I get to eat it just before supper. It does help my joints feel better, and I love the taste!
Thomas: But even with a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement, your cat may still have issues with poops outside the box. Fear not, though; there are two solutions that will make it easier to clean up.
Dahlia: First of all, some behaviorists and vets advise using a large litter box with very low sides–perhaps even a cookie sheet. You could probably put the cookie sheet with some kitty litter in it right outside the edge of the box where you usually find Smokie’s poop. This would allow him to bury his waste a little and make it easier for you to clean up.
Siouxsie: Another option, which might be helpful if Smokie poops in different locations around the box, is to put a plastic carpet runner under the box. This will catch the waste and, once again, facilitate cleanup.
Thomas: Another benefit of a carpet runner is that it will catch the litter scatter and keep your cats from tracking litter on the floor.
Dahlia: Don’t scold Smokie. Cats don’t respond to scolding, and it only makes them confused and possibly resentful.
Siouxsie: Scolding could also have the unfortunate consequence of making Smokie think it’s bad to use the litter box at all.
Thomas: So, in short: Take him to the vet and make sure all is well; make it easier for him to poop in an appropriate place that’s easier for you to clean — and finally, encourage your family to have some compassion and understanding for Smokie’s changing needs and abilities.
Dahlia: We hope this helps a little. Good luck, Josephine, and please let us know how things turn out!
This is an awesome response to this human’s question! I couldn’t have explained it more clearly myself!
I never thought of some of the above explanations to a problem I had with my 14 year old cat, John L., before he died. Somehow he got hurt when he jumped off the couch one day and his back legs dragged. The vet couldn’t find out anything through an x-ray, so I had to keep him confined in a large cage for awhile until he seemed like he could walk okay. However, he started pooping on the floor in the kitchen after that. Would not use the box to poop, onlly to pee. I just put newspaper down and he would go on it every time. It was not a big deal. His appetitie (he was a huge 20 pounder) diminished after that, from a cat who ate everything in site to a cat who became picky. I had tests run but found nothing. I had him put to sleep because he was literally starving to death. It was so sad. But I never scolded him because I knew something was going on, even though all the x-rays and ultra sounds showed nothing. Be patient with your kitty.
Our 14 year old cat, Bambou, suddenly began draggng her hind legs as her hind muscle strength suddenly was gone. We thought she disclocated them or hurt herself…perhaps a break….or even a stroke. After a vet’s visit, nothing showed that. After the stroke, sprains, breaks and dislocations were ruled out, they thought it was perhaps arthritis. That also proved negative. Then the head vet said he was recently attended a seminar on cats lacking potassium. Voila…that was the problem. A week on potassium pills twice daily (and now on a daily dose) brought back the leg strength and gave us a new cat too. No more hard barrel shaped mid-section (a nice soft tummy now)and also her former greasy, and matted fur laced with dander is now soft, fluffy and dander free . Also…a 2 cat family should have 3 litter boxes. Always one for each and and extra.
I have a 5 year old Ragdoll Cat that does this. Between my two cats I have three boxes that are cleaned daily. The Ragdoll even has an extra large box. She pees in the box, but poops on the floor in front of two boxes. I put her in a large cage at night with a bed, food&water, and a litterbox. She will pee in the box, but wait until I let her out of the cage in the morning to poop on the floor, sometime during the day. There is NOTHING physically wrong with her. Healthy young cat. At one time whe would poop in her box, but she quit a couple years ago. I suppose I could leave her in the cage 24×7, but I hate to do that. Any other suggestions?
I was really confused, and this asnweerd all my questions.
When I met my boyfriend, he had two wonderful cats, Scarlett and Amber. Amber is 9 years old and Scarlett is 7 years old. The reason for my comment is ever since he got Scarlett Amber has been deficating on the floor. We have tried everything to stop this behavior. We have taken Amber to the vet and tried every suggestion given, from relocating the litter boxes, different types of litter boxes, different kinds of litter, different levels of litter in the boxes, cleaning it different times of the day, we clean it regularly. We keep constant supply of food and water for both cats. I am home with the cats during the day, so they never lack for attention. We provide our cats with plenty of love and attention, they have everything that they need. We have tried absolutly everything and are at our breaking point, Amber has ruined carpet after carpet and we are unable to continue to allow this behavior, we have two children who cannot continue to be exposed to this. If we can’t break this habit we will have to get rid of Amber. Please help.
Amber, maybe you could try a different vet? It seems like the advice you received was all about the litter box. This article says that there could be a physical cause for the litter box problems, and that a supplement, medication, or simple weight loss might help. If it were me, I would put my cat on a diet if was was overweight and take my cat to another vet for a second opinion, making sure to ask about arthritis, aging, and possible supplements to help her out. I’d also watch the cat to see if it looks like she is having a harder time moving around. I’d also try to cover up or replace the carpet on whichever areas of the house the cat likes to use as a toilet. You could put down a surface that’s easier to clean instead of replacing carpet with more carpet, since you’ve learned that it doesn’t really work.
My mature female cat began pooping on the floor, and what I found out after a vet visit is that she had a clogged rectal gland. the vet explained that cats have an extra gland on each side of their rectum, and when they become inflamed there is pressure much like a hemroid. The vet cleared the gland and my cat was back to good health. I also purchased a new litter box ,and began using a new litter called Cat Attract, if you have not tried it I can not tell you how awesome it is. I must say I am so glad that my good friend Pertie is back to her healthy self, and there is no more pooping on the floor Hope that information helps someone else.
My cat, ziggy, had started to poop on the floor about a month in a half ago. He started to poop outside the box, when it was clean, and only pee in it. Then he started to poop on the family room, the room right next to the laundry room were his litter is, but would still pee in the box. Now, he is pooping in the family room and peei.g under the air hockey table. I would really like to know what is wrong with him, bef9re my mom and stepfather get rid of him.
Thank you so much for this info! I’m a scientist and find detailed explanations comforting. I provided my elder cat with a more shallow box and she just used it instead of the floor for pooping. I knew something was bothering her, but couldn’t figure it out, and am so relieved to help her go through her day with more ease.
Lena and Britain Kitten Kat