There are a few different explanations as to why your cat is suddenly pooping outside the litter box. As it turns out, this is a common issue with cats that’s called inappropriate elimination. While a behavioral disorder may be the underling culprit, health problems are a distinct possibility. It’s important that you rule out a medical condition first so you know your feline is safe. Something as seemingly harmless as a bladder stone can be potentially life threatening, so it’s important to stay ahead any health problems.

Inappropriate elimination (or house-soiling) can be also be caused by a territorial marking problem or some sort of environmental or social problem. There are several factors that may be in play here. However, only once you have have an explanation for this behavior can you begin working on stopping it. With that in mind, let’s discuss the reasons why this is happening.

Why Do Cats Poop Outside the Litter Box?

If your newly adopted cat or kitten is peeing outside the litter box, more often than not it’s a behavioral or environmental issue. Cat’s are creatures of habit, so any change in their routine is likely to cause problems. However, if your kitty has been house-trained and has suddenly started pooping outside the litter box, it’s likely a health issue.

Stress and Behavioral Issues

Behavioral issues can usually be narrowed down to two common causes: a dislike of the litter box (litter box aversion) or stress- related misbehavior. Let’s review the first cause.

Dirty Litter

You might be wondering why a cat wouldn’t like its litter box. Well, the main reason is that it’s dirty. This is why keeping your feline’s litter box tidy is so important. Otherwise, instead of cleaning the litter box you’ll be cleaning your floors! However, if you’re not often home this can sometimes be challenge. Check out our guide for the best self cleaning litter boxes if you need a helping hand.

Wrong Litter

Another possible explanation for your cat pooping on your rug is that she doesn’t like the litter you bought. This is called substrate aversion. If you have recently changed litter types, it may be time to try and change back. Your kitty is possibly associating the current litter with a past stressful event.

Litter Box in Wrong Location

Most cats prefer privacy when doing their business. As a result, it’s important to keep their litter box in a private location. If that’s not possible, it would be wise to invest in a litter box cover or hood. Stay away from noisy appliances like the washer/ dry and dishwasher. You don’t want your sensitive kitty to be disturbed during their potty break. If you have children or other pets, keep the litter box somewhere that is not well- traveled. Above all, don’t make you cat walk a mile to get there. Keep it somewhere convenient that is easily accessed.

Wrong Litter Box

Another thing to keep in mind is the actual size of the litter box. Make sure it’s big enough to stand in without your kitty feeling cooped up. While younger cats mostly appreciate a litter box with higher walls for privacy, older cats may find these difficult or painful to get in and out of. Depending on the age and behavior of your furball, you may need to invest in a new litter box.

Not Enough Litter Boxes

This only pertains to multi-cat households. Many cats aren’t overly fond of sharing their potty place with other felines. In fact, some cats prefer pooping in one box and peeing in another.


Stress is another big reason for inappropriate elimination. Cats are known to use defecation as a means of communication with others cats. Leaving their mark is a signal that this is their territory. This can occur for a whole bunch of different reasons, including:

  • a pet that’s recently left the house
  • a new pet in the house
  • a new person in the house
  • moving to a new house
  • a new neighborhood dog that can be heard from inside the house
  • movement of the furniture
  • a person that’s recently left the house
  • new furniture, carpet or drapes
  • a cat in heat in the neighborhood
  • a new neighborhood cat that can be seen from inside the house

Health Problems

A health issue is another possible reason why your cat is suddenly pooping outside the litter box. Such problems should not be taken lightly. As previously mentioned, a big indicator of a health problem is that your kitty was using the litter box and now is not. If that’s the case you should bring them to the vet to be tested and examined. This mostly pertains to older cats but young adults have been known to have issues as well. These conditions include:

  • Bladder stone: more common in female cats than male
  • Diarrhea: can happen at any age
  • Conditions that lead to excessive water consumption: there a lot of these, but most are common in older cats
  • Bladder infection: common in senior cats
  • Feline idiopathic cystitis: common in young adult cats
  • Constipation: can happen at any age
  • Arthritis: usually pertains to elderly cats
  • Bladder tumor: not common but still should be ruled out in older cats

As you probably noticed, the older your cat the more likely the issue is health related. Consult your veterinarian to rule out these common health issues before you try to treat behavioral problems.

Can This Problem Be Treated?

In most cases, yes. Having said that, the treatment is more likely to be successful if one or more of the following is true:

  • You only have one cat
  • This has only been going on for less than a month
  • It’s possible to neutralize the odor caused by the stool/ urine
  • There are only one or two locations in the house your cat soils
  • It’s possible to identify and relieve what’s causing the stress

Usually the treatments count on a mix of drug therapy and behavior modification techniques. We will discuss these techniques in a minute. First, let’s look at some of the prescription medications your vet might prescribe for behavioral problems.

Tricyclic antidepressants

  • Amitriptyline: Treats anxiety, aggression, compulsive disorders
  • Clomipramine: Treats anxiety, aggression, compulsive disorders, urine marking

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

  • Fluoxetine: Treats anxiety, aggression, compulsive disorders, urine marking
  • Paroxetine: Treats anxiety, aggression, compulsive disorders, urine marking
  • Sertraline: Treats anxiety, aggression, compulsive disorders


  • Buspirone: Treats anxiety, urine marking


  • Alprazolam: Treats anxiety
  • Clonazepam: Treats anxiety
  • Diazepam: Treats anxiety, urine marking

Monoamine oxidase inhibitor

  • Selegiline: Treats cognitive dysfunction (senility)

How to Stop Your Cat From Pooping Outside the Litter Box

There’s not much you can do for a health issue outside of discussing options with your vet. On the other hand, there are plenty of things you can try to address behavioral problems.

Clean the Litter Box

Regardless of whether your cat is pooping in the house all of a sudden or not, keep the litter box clean. Get rid of those nasty clumps and replace the old litter with a fresh bed of it. You’ll also have to periodically empty out all the litter and do a full scrub with soap and water. That is, if you don’t want your entire house to stink to the heavens.

When doing so, always be sure to use gloves and a face mask to protect yourself from litter dust that may be harmful. As we said before, an automatic litter box can work wonders to keep your house tidy and odor-free.

Aversion Therapy

If you notice that your cat tends to defile a specific location, do everything you can to make that spot undesirable. The most reliable way to do that is using scents your cat doesn’t like.

What scents do cats not like? I’ll start with the big one- stinky litter boxes! Who would have guessed. So after the litter box is clean with a fresh bed of litter, lay some of the dirty litter on some aluminum foil where your kitty is defecating. The stinky litter smell plus the unpleasant surface of the foil will drive her straight back to the box.

If that’s not working, you can try using cat repellent spray. Or, if you have the materials, you can make your own. Here are some home remedies to stop cats from pooping on the carpet:

  • Apple cider vinegar (mix with water 1:1)
  • Citronella
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Eucalyptus
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Peppermint
  • Pepper

As you can see there are a lot of essential oil scents there, so if you have some laying around they’ll work great. Pick one or two and mix it 1 part oil 3 parts water. Spray the concoction at and around the area your feline soiled.

Choose a Better Location

If you’ve cleaned the litter box and are still having trouble, try picking a different spot in the house. Make sure it’s peaceful and quiet with not too many interruptions. It also helps if your kitty spends a lot of time in that particular room.

Furthermore, don’t place the litter box too close to the food and water bowl. Cats have a very keen sense of smell, so the scent of the food may be distracting. You can also try closing certain doors and using baby gates to try and direct your cat to the litter box.

Add Another Litter Box

Cats can be very choosy about who they share their litter box with. If you have two or more cats in the house, one of them may stop using the litter box because there’s no enough privacy. It’s better to have too many litter boxes than too few. Trust me, it’s a lot less hassle cleaning an extra litter box than it is cleaning up after a kitty who refuses to use one.

For two cat households three litter boxes is recommended. If one troublesome feline decides to make one his property the other kitty has alternatives. Worst outcome is they shun one of the boxes. Better than your old cat pooping everywhere!

Attraction Therapy

Attraction therapy is the opposite of aversion therapy: we’re trying to encourage the cat to go to the litter box instead of repelling her away from the spot of the accident.

Take note of where your cat tends to poop outside the litter box. Is it on the wood floor? Carpet? Tile? Do your best to make the litter box a bit more like that area. For example, if your feline seems to like soiling the carpeting especially, place a litter piece of carpet in there. Once she’s back in the groove of the litter box you can remove it.

Get Rid of the Evidence

It’s important you wash the sullied area quickly and thoroughly after the accident. If not, your kitty may catch that scent again and think it’s okay to go there again.

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