Sudden change in pooping habits. The poop is right next to her litter box

Cat on litter box
This photo is for illustrative purposes only and is not the cat in question.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This title to this post describes a cat behavior problem which is fairly commonly encountered except I have specified a particular type of ‘inappropriate elimination’. Let’s remind ourselves that ‘inappropriate elimination’ means inappropriate for us. That is obvious. From the cat’s perspective what she is doing is appropriate and a preference.

In this instance the cat is pooping just outside the litter box. From that we could deduce that the location of the litter box is okay. If the location is okay and if the cat has been using the litter in a satisfactory way for a while, the focus should be on the litter material itself – the substrate.

In this instance, bearing in mind the exact nature of the ‘inappropriate elimination’, I think we can also eliminate causes such as:

  • behavioral problems due to stress (i.e. marking behavior)
  • medical problem
  • inability to get into the litter box
  • forgetting where the litter box is
  • negative experience when in the litter box

My guess is that she has developed a preference for the floor next to the litter box over the litter material. This developed preference may have arisen because she didn’t really like the surface feel of the litter material but put up with it. The cat’s caretaker uses: Tidy Cats Breeze system.

Also the cat may have decided the litter material was not clean enough. The lady says:

Dirty litter isn’t the problem as I just changed and cleaned it about a week ago

For me that is not frequent enough. I believe litter trays should be cleaned at least daily and sometimes twice daily depending on usage. The basic smells of the litter box need not be washed away but the surface needs to be free of feces and urine.

In the wild cats use the same sites as toilets sometimes but they will use a clear area. One unnatural aspect of a litter box is that it is a small area of material intended to replicate the outdoors. It needs to be kept clear of feces and urine.

Once a cat uses the floor next to the litter tray she’ll use it again. Cats can acquire a preference for eliminating on a specific substrate. Cats who dig and scratch their paws just outside the litter box before or after elimination may acquire a preference for the new surface and use it.

In addition to changing the litter material perhaps this lady could use an enzyme cleaner to clear up and kill the odor around the litter box and/or move the box.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

3 thoughts on “Sudden change in pooping habits. The poop is right next to her litter box”

  1. It could be that the litter tray isn’t being cleaned often enough for the cat’s liking, or they now want separate trays for peeing and pooing. Increase the frequency of the cleaning and provide a second tray in a different location to see if that helps.

    Does the cat have bad aim – is their bottom hanging over the side when they squat down in the tray? If this is happening, stand the litter tray inside a cut down cardboard box (or the upturned lid of a large box)which is a couple of inches larger than the litter tray. Fill the gap between the tray and the box with litter. This will form a “moat” to catch any “accidents” overboard.

    Thoroughly clean the soiled area with an enzyme cleaning product or biolgical (enzymatic) washing detergent mixed with warm water. Afterwards rinse thoroughly and when dry, scrub the area with surgical spirit. This is an antiseptic cheap from the chemist and safe to use around cats. It’s very important to be thorough with the cleaning because if you don’t remove every trace of their scent, it will continue to smell like an appropriate place for toileting.

    If those suggestions don’t help, then the problem is not connected with the litter tray.

    If the lady can provide us with more info; other pets, cats hanging around outside, does the cat have access to outdoors etc., then we can put our heads together and come up with something which may help.

    1. Thanks Michele. Great advice. I think this is a combo of litter tray not cleaned of feces and urine frequently enough + possibly substrate preference.

      It sounds like I am an expert ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

  2. Sandra Murphey, No. CA, USA

    There is a reason for this behavior, and it’s really up to the guardian to detect it through process of elimination.

    I clean up after my cat at least once, and maybe twice a day. Cats are very clean, but an indoor cat needs help with the litter box. That’s part of being a responsible cat guardian. She should try that, to see if it makes a difference.

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