On social media (Reddit), a daughter states that her parents are at their wits end and close to breaking point because their cat poops on the floor. They are at the point where they are considering getting rid of their cat. They need help. I’m going to try and provide some advice. I think that you will find that the advice I provide here will be universally acceptable to any expert on feline behaviour.
There are three main, possible causes for a cat defecating on the floor inside their home.
I think a health issue is the least likely cause but it is a cause that needs to be ticked off initially to get it out of the way. If a cat has uncontrollable diarrhoea this would be a symptom of an illness. It needs to be checked out by a veterinarian. And there you have a possible cause and the fix.
From my standpoint, the most likely cause would be stress. We know that domestic cats mark territory both with urine and with faeces when stressed. In doing so they make the area in which they live more environmentally friendly because it has their smell on it. It is a way for a stressed cat to feel more in control and calmer.
And if pooping on the floor has suddenly happened and if it is caused by stress, the cause should be identifiable. Something has changed if a cat is suddenly pooping on the floor. The kinds of changes in a cat’s life that can cause stress in an otherwise unstressed cat might be:
- The owner or owners suddenly being away from their home for much longer periods of time. Their cat might suffer from separation anxiety. This is a form of stress. My ex-wife stayed out after work and her cat started to poop on her bed. Her bed was a core place for her cat; a scent-soaker to use Jackson Galaxy’s language. He chose to defecate there because it had the maximum benefit. A merging of the cat’s scent and his owner’s scent.
- A guest is staying at the home for a few days or longer. This is a strange person to the cat; a stranger who has invaded the cat’s home range i.e. his territory. He wants to get rid of the stranger but can’t. Therefore, he becomes anxious and stressed. He marks territory by pooping on the floor.
- His owners are moving around the furniture or repainting the place and doing decorating. This is a sudden change to the cat’s home range and indeed the core area of his home range. This may be stressful. P.S. moving home may have a similar effect.
- Unbeknown to the owners a neighbour’s cat or a stray cat is coming through the cat door at night. This would be an intruder of the feline kind. It is similar to an intruder are a human kind only the cat can do something about this. The cat might fight or be too timid to fight with the intruding cat. The resident cat might become stressed.
- A full-time indoor cat might see a stray cat or a neighbour’s cat out of the window. The area around the family home will still be his home range. He can’t do anything about it. He becomes stressed.
- The cat’s owners have become stressed for whatever reason. Perhaps they start arguing. Perhaps they shout and perhaps they shout at their cat. This passes on their stress to their cat. His environment becomes hostile.
- Perhaps the cat lives in a multi-cat home and has been bullied but has made do by taking evasive action and hiding when necessary. Perhaps his hiding place has been taken away leaving him feeling exposed.
- Perhaps another cat has been adopted and introduced into the home. Once again this is a strange, invading cat trespassing upon the resident cat’s territory. This may well cause stress in the resident cat and indeed the incoming cat. They may well adapt but it will take time and the owner should embark upon a gradual introduction of one with the other to try and make it work.
The above are some examples of how a domestic cat can become stressed and poop to alleviate their emotional anxiety.
An obvious possible cause is that the cat has decided that he does not like the cat litter tray and/or substrate. If he has liked it for years then it would be unusual to suddenly dislike it. But perhaps the owners have bought a new cat litter or the manufacturers have changed the quality of the existing cat litter unbeknown to the owners. The owners should try various cat litters to find out which one their cat finds acceptable. Cat litter should be unscented and it should not create too much dust. I prefer wood-based cat litter but my cat is currently an indoor/outdoor cat and therefore he goes to the toilet in the garden.
There is one final point which is the positioning of the cat litter tray. It may have been moved into an unacceptable position from the cat’s point of view. This can be checked out by moving into a new position and a more private place.
It should be noted, too, that in multi-cat households there should be one litter tray for each cat and one extra. You can’t expect cats to share the litter tray. This is because one cat might be bullying another preventing the cat using the litter tray which would force him to poop on the floor.
These three items are the obvious ones to check out. It will require a bit of detective work which is exactly what Jackson Galaxy, the American cat behaviourist always recommends when dealing with feline behaviour which their owner finds unacceptable.