Defecating Outside Litter Box

Cat standing alongside a litter box

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to deal with a cat defecating outside of the litter box. Our visitors share their problems in this area and LoveToKnow editors offer tips and suggestions for overcoming this behavior problem.

Visitor Questions About Cat Defecating Outside Litter Box

Cat Defecating Outside Box and Meowing Loudly

My cat is approximately ten, and my vet says that she is in very good health. She is the sweetest cat in the world! I keep a very clean litter for her, cleaning it once a day. She does not urinate outside the litter box. In addition to using the litter box for a bowel movement deposit, daily she will leave a bowel movement deposit on the scatter rug that I keep directly in front of the litter box. Occasionally, she will leave a bowel movement deposit in other locations. I was wondering why she would do this when I really do a consistent job of keeping her litter box clean on a daily basis. I have another concern. My cat meows fairly loudly approximately four to five times when she uses her litter box. Other than at this time, I have never known my cat to meow. Why would she be meowing at this time?~~Susanna

Expert Reply

Dear Susanna,

It sounds like your cat could be experiencing some pain during bowel movements. Anytime there is a change in your cat's litter habits, such as starting to defecate outside of a clean box that can indicate a health issue. It may be something as minor as worms or something a little more serious (but not usually life threatening), such as an anal gland infection. Some cats change their litter habits when they have a urinary tract or kidney infection.

I really think you should go ahead and take her to your vet and explain what she has been doing. Be sure to mention the loud meowing when she uses the litter and how this is very out of character for her. It may turn out to be nothing serious, but it is best to be certain in this case.

Also, I would thoroughly clean any areas she has soiled with a good enzymatic cleanser. Whether it is a health related issue causing her behavior or not, the smell of previous accidents can cause a cat to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, and soil there again.

Please check back and let us know what the vet says, so we know she's doing okay.


Change in Litter Box Habits

My cat is eight years old this week. She has started to rub her bottom on the rug after using the litter box, and she once left a small bowel movement on the rug.


Expert Reply

Hi, Rose,

A cat rubbing her bottom on a rug could be an indication of several things. Usually it means the anal glands are causing the pet discomfort, but it can also be an indication of worms. Your best bet is to take the cat and a fecal sample to your veterinarian. If it is worms, he can detect what kind and prescribe treatment.

If it is an irritated anal gland, then there are procedures the veterinarian will perform to offer your pet some comfort, which include expressing the gland to provide relief. It will depend upon how thickened the normal gland secretion is, but the vet may need to use a catheter and a sedative. In extreme cases of recurring anal gland problems, cats can get infections. Vets will sometimes remove the glands if repeated infections occur.

Don't worry too much until you have her tested, as it may be something very minor. However, just to be on the safe side, I'd feel better if you made a trip to the vet this time. Please come back and drop us a note to let us know how your cat is doing.


Cat Defecating on Carpet

My cat is probably about thirteen years old, but I did not get him until he was already twelve. Basically, he uses the litter box but sometimes defecates on the carpet within five feet or so. He always urinates in one of the two available litter boxes. This morning, I cleaned both boxes and then he urinated in one and defecated on the carpet, but I don't know in what order this happened. He seems to be completely healthy and this is not a new behavior. He is neutered and does go outdoors. I got the second box when I thought he would not use a soiled one but that does not seem to be the problem. If anything, it's clean ones he might avoid but there's no consistent pattern. Sometimes I think it would be better to leave a small piece of feces in the boxes to remind him of where to go. The carpet spots have been cleaned a lot but probably retain enough old smells to attract him.

~~Carl K.

Expert Reply

Hi, Carl,

Count your lucky stars that he at least urinates in the litter box. Cat urine is a very difficult smell to get out of carpet. Now, let's talk about the behavior problem of the cat defecating on the carpet. There are some things you can try to help him get the idea of where to go.

  • First, you don't mention what type of litter you are using, but you may want to switch. A cat's paws are sensitive and some cats seem to be more sensitive than others. When a cat defecates, he covers his feces by scratching at the litter with those sensitive paws. You can see how a sensitive cat might have problems in this area. If you do choose to switch the litter, do so gradually. Start with a mix of 25 percent of the new litter to 75 percent of the old litter. Then, try 50 percent and 50 percent. Continue in 25 percent increments until you have switched entirely to the new litter.
  • Another thing you will definitely want to do is invest in a good enzymatic cleaner and get as much of those old smells as possible out of your carpet. If you are away from home for extended periods of time, try to contain the cat in a small room with his litter.
  • Make sure you're scooping the litter at least twice a day and changing it once a week or more often. If you only own one cat, you shouldn't need two boxes. The rule is usually one box per cat. And, since the two boxes didn't help, you are creating a lot of extra work for yourself with that extra litter box.
  • Finally, what type of pan are you using? Some cats only like a covered pan and some only like an uncovered litter box. Some are picky about the depth as well.

Basically, you are going to play detective. Grab a notebook and pen and jot down the changes you make and the cat's responses. Try one new thing at a time so you can clearly see what helps and what doesn't. Very occasionally, a change to a high quality food can help as well. You may also want to mention this problem to your veterinarian as he or she may have additional ideas. Good luck!

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Defecating Outside Litter Box