Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Our lively, fun and playful 16-year-old Maine Coon has started pooping on the floor! He has two homes, spends half the year as an indoor cat in Florida and spends the other half as an indoor/outdoor cat in Alaska. He started pooping on the floor this winter in Florida. He has a great litter box area with just the right amount of light and privacy. I have tried different litters which seem to work at first and then he goes right back to his dirty deed. We started spraying a deterrent in all his favorite places, all tile spots thank goodness. Then he would choose a different location. Before we could resolve the issue it was time to head north to Alaska. We didn’t think we would have the same issue here because he has the freedom to poop outside, but we do. We have been here for 2.5 months, he prefers to use his litter box rather than going outside and has just began his floor pooping routine here. We are devastated. Any clues to help us with our dilemma?
Siouxsie: First of all, Raymie, rest assured that your cat doesn’t like this very much, either.
Thomas: This behavior is more common than you might think, particularly in older cats.
Bella: And the culprit usually is arthritis!
Siouxsie: It might be hard for you to believe, especially because your kitty seems lively and playful. But the fact that he’s only having accidents with poop is especially telling.
Thomas: You see, the squat we hold when we poop is a lot different than the squat we hold when we pee. Our back is much more arched, and our rear legs have to nice and strong to hold ourselves up that way so we don’t sit in our poop.
Siouxsie: We cats are good at hiding our pain. It’s a natural instinct. So you usually just get hints like litter box mistakes. When I’m feeling especially painful and weak, sometimes I prop my back legs on the edge of the litter box. I’m trying my best, but when my body squeezes the poop out, it pushes me off the box edge and I end up leaving little poopie son the floor. *sniffle*
Thomas: We’d recommend that you take your big boy to the vet and get him checked out. Your vet may want to take an X-ray to check for arthritic changes. If indications of arthritis are found, your vet may make some recommendations about pain management.
Bella: Another thing: Constipation can make it even harder for an arthritic kitty to poop properly, so make sure your cat gets plenty of liquid in his diet and always has fresh water available to drink.
Siouxsie: Mama always feeds us wet food, so at least I don’t have to worry about constipation!
Thomas: So, how did Mama figure out that Siouxsie was in paine? She started watching Siouxsie walking around and realized she was more “hunchy” than usual. Then mama took her to Doctor Alden and told her what was going on.
Siouxsie: Doctor Alden moved my legs and hips around, and it hurt! I grumbled at her. Then she told Mama that she felt crinkling and crackling (vets call it “crepitus”) that indicated arthritis in my hips.
Thomas: They talked about options for managing the pain. Mama had been giving her a glucosamine-chondroitin supplement and it hadn’t been helping much, so Doctor Alden recommended gabapentin. That’s a medicine that dulls the pain signals produced by nerves in arthritic areas.
Bella: Other medical options include Adequan injections and, for very severe arthritis, meloxicam.
Siouxsie: Meloxicam (sold under the brand name Metacam) is an NSAID, and NSAIDs are not good for cats. Doctor Alden said Metacam is only to be used when you’re more interested in quality of life than length of life, because the toxicity will inevitably cause cause problems.
Thomas: When we moved out west, Mama noticed Siouxsie’s pain was getting worse. When we went to see our new vet, Doctor Sarah, she took X-rays of Siouxsie’s hips, and the cartilage between her leg bones and hips is almost gone.
Bella: No wonder she was so grumpy! That must hurt a lot!
Siouxsie: Mama found out from Doctor Sarah about an herbal supplement called Canna Companion. It’s a cannabis supplement for pets, developed by Doctor Sarah and her husband, who did years of research to make sure it was safe for all pets. It’s legal all over the U.S. because it has barely any THC at all in it. Mama started giving it to me and it changed my life!
Thomas: Siouxsie’s still not as playful as she once was, but she says she’s in a lot less pain.
Bella: And she’s in a much better mood, too!
Siouxsie: And I’ll stay in a good mood if you quit chasing me all over the house, young lady!
Thomas: So, Raymie, we strongly recommend a visit to the vet and mention the litter box issue. It could very well be that your big guy is suffering from arthritis. Some good pain management could change his life and solve his pooping problem.
Bella: Please write back and let us know how things go. Purrs to you!