Dealing with waste is, unfortunately, part of being a cat owner. Unless your cat comes to you house-broken, there’s often a bit of a learning curve while they master the mysteries of the litter box. If you buy a properly reared kitten from a responsible breeder or adopt a mature cat who was previously owned by caring people, you shouldn’t have too many problems. Rescue cats can sometimes need a bit more time and patience. Once a cat is housebroken, you should only have to clean up accidents on rare occasions. If your cat suddenly starts pooping outside the box, that’s a sign that something’s wrong.
Why is my cat pooping in the house all of a sudden? This is often due to a gastric upset, a stomach bug, or worms (intestinal parasites). Other issues might include a lack of litter-box access, a litter-box that isn’t being scooped regularly, or a litter-box that’s too small.
You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about your cat defecating in the house. Why is my housebroken cat suddenly pooping outside of her box? Why is my indoor-outdoor cat pooping in the house? How can I stop my cat from pooping outside her box? What makes a housebroken cat suddenly stop using her box? Keep reading, because we have the answers you’re looking for. You’ll find out why your cat isn’t using her litter-box, and how to prevent her pooping in the house.
Why is my cat pooping in the house all of a sudden?
If your cat was using the litter-box with no problems, suddenly pooping outside the box might mean that there’s something wrong. Dealing with pet waste is never pleasant and you may find yourself tempted to shout at your cat or treat her differently when she does this. Chastising your cat is a mistake, however. First of all, it’s cruel. She doesn’t really understand why you’re angry and might become very stressed. Secondly, it’s ineffective and can be counter-productive. Your cat is not capable of connecting the act of defecating outside the box with whatever harsh words or treatment she’s receiving. The additional stress may make future accidents more likely.
A common cause of poop accidents is some kind of gastric issue. If you’ve recently changed your cat’s food, or if she’s eaten something she shouldn’t, she may develop diarrhoea. This can stop her from getting to the litter box in time. All you can really do in this case is change her food back and wait for the problem to pass. If her stomach upset persists for more than a day, she should see a vet. This will ensure she doesn’t have a more serious issue and hasn’t become dehydrated due to her stomach issue.
Another cause of pooping in the house can be an infection or a parasite. Some kinds of intestinal worms can cause diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting. This will subside once the parasite is dealt with by de-worming. Infection is also a possibility. Stomach bugs can be quite nasty in cats, as they can very rapidly become dehydrated.
Cats may also start missing the litter-box when they start to get older. It may be that the cat has less control over her bowels, or that she is having trouble getting to her box due to joint pain or a lack of energy. You can help by providing a litter box that’s closer to where she normally sleeps.
This ties into another possible reason for cats to poop in the house: a lack of litter-box access. There needs to be at least one litter box available for each cat in your home, and each box needs to be located where they can find it and use it easily.
Litter-boxes need to be kept clean. Cats will poop outside the litter box if you haven’t scooped it in a while. My American Shorthair and British Shorthair are both very fastidious about this. The only time they’ve had problems with soiling outside the box was when they were in the care of a pet-sitter who was lax about scooping.
Cats may also poop outside the litter box if they’re afraid or stressed. Scary events, like moving to a new home, getting another cat or some other pet, new people joining the household — all these are stressors that can cause a range of undesirable behaviour.
Feline puberty can also cause cats to act out, which might include spraying and fouling inside the home. It’s important to have your cats spayed or neutered as soon as they are old enough.
If soiling does occur, you will need a good quality enzymatic cleaner. This will get rid of any lingering smells.
In the following sections, we’ll look in more detail at some of these problems.
It should go without saying that if a cat doesn’t have easy access to a litter box, she is more likely to soil inside the house. I do encounter quite a few people who overlook this, however. Typically, these will be people with indoor-outdoor cats who they expect to poop outdoors, and who assume they won’t need a litter box in the house.
Assuming you don’t object to fouling in your garden (I’m afraid I don’t agree) his usually works reasonably well when the weather is good and there are no threats in the area. If something happens to disrupt this, though, the cat may resort to pooping in odd corners of the house. Bad weather can drive a cat indoors, as can hostile felines or other animals in the area. If the cat is no longer comfortable pooping outdoors, she’ll go indoors instead.
I’m generally opposed to allowing cats access to the outdoors, as this tends to be dangerous (both to the cat and to the local wildlife). If you do decide to let your cat in and out of the house, you should make sure that she has a litter box indoors too and knows how to use it.
Cats can struggle to access a litter box for various reasons. Older cats or cats with disabilities might struggle to get in and out of the box if the sides are too high or are unable to get to the box in time if it’s too far away from where the cat normally hangs out. You need to ensure that the box is close on hand and that your cat can climb in and out. If it’s the height of the box’s sides that’s the issue, you can help by cutting down part of the box or making a ramp for her to climb up. If you’re not aware of any disabilities and your cat is suddenly struggling with the climb, have her checked out by her vet. She may have an injury or some other issue that requires medical attention.
You also need to make sure that each cat in your household can access a litter box. Cats can be oddly territorial about their boxes, and it may be that one cat has decided to monopolise the box. The optimal number of litter-boxes in your household is equal to the number of cats, plus one. At the very least, each cat should have their own box.
Sizing the litter-box
Litter-boxes also need to be properly sized for your cat. If the cat can’t turn around comfortably in the box, she may feel unable to use it. This goes double if you’re using one of those boxes with a cover. If your cat is still growing, the reason that she’s started pooping in the house instead of in the box may be that she’s outgrown it.
Measure your cat’s length from her nose to the base of her tail to establish the width you’ll need. Add half of this length again to establish the length of the box. For example, a cat that’s 50 cm from nose to tail would need a box that’s 50 cm by 75 cm.
You may find that the boxes in your usual pet store are too small. It can be quite hard to find a properly sized litter-box for larger breeds, such as the American Shorthair and British Shorthair. I use those shallow plastic crates designed for under bed storage, with one side cut down and carefully sanded to avoid rough edges. Yes, this might seem like rather a lot of trouble to go to — but it’s worth it to avoid cleaning your carpets.