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He poops just outside the litter box!-Best Friends message Board

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Again, I thought this might be helpful:

Question from Darlene:

I have 5 inside cats - three females and 2 males. The youngest is a boy who came to us because someone I worked with found him as a stray and brought him to me to take to the shelter I was volunteering at. Needless to say, I couldn't give him up, so we kept him. He was about 3 months old when we got him and he was neutered at 4 months.

When we first got him he was unfamiliar with the litter box. It didn't take long for him to use the litter box, but he didn't cover. We had some private lessons on covering and within a week, all was good. He was fine for the next six months. He had a history of loose stools and we discovered that he was suffering from IBS when he began pooping right outside the litter box (we have 3 large and 1 small litterboxes). He uses the litter box for other functions. He had diarrhea and some blood. At the time, we thought he was trying to "tell" me that he was sick. He is being successfully medicated and has normal functions once again (it took about 2 1/2 months, but he's been fine for about a month now). But he is still pooping right outside the litterbox. And all the cats get along wonderfully. I wish I had a better understanding of what his needs were so that I could get him back on track fully using the litter box. Is he trying to tell me something? Thank you, I'm looking forward to your insight.

Response from Dr Patricia Simonet:

One of the earlier questions and answers regarding urinating on fresh laundry may also help with this problem (the portion on UTI). However, let’s talk about your little guy.

Cats experience discomfort when they have diarrhea. Their bottoms become irritated and raw. Cats will learn to avoid discomfort. Sometimes this avoidance behavior becomes part of the cat’s repertoire of behaviors. Also, sometimes animals (including humans) develop what is called superstitious behaviors (that is a real term in animal behavior).

Superstitious behaviors appear when the animal accidentally associates a behavior with a stimulus or outcome. For example, the cat potties and it is painful. The cat happens to be in the litter box. Hmm. The cat does this again, potty and pain in the litter box. The first association develops – litter box and pain. Then on one occasion the cat potties, there is the accompanying pain but right as the cat leaps from the box (before the poop drops from his bottom) there is relief. The poop drops to the floor. The cat sniffs it. The second association is formed and the superstitious behavior develops. Poop outside the box and there is no pain. Another example of a superstitious behavior in cats is avoiding a certain yard in the neighborhood because at one time a dog, that nearly killed the cat, used to live there.

Think of all the poor black cats; I am pretty certain they do not impart bad luck onto people. So you see, their superstitions are pretty harmless compared to ours!

So knowing the cause of poor kitty’s litter box blues is little consolation to you, of this I am sure. However, cats can recover from this incorrect association very successfully. One way, which is easy on the cats but difficult for the human, is to isolate the cat into a quiet room (a spare bathroom is ideal). The bathroom should be big enough to place the food and water at least five feet away from the litter box. Keep the cat housed in this bathroom for 3 days while you retrain your cat to use the box. Each day you will enter to clean and feed. Make your visits quiet without a fuss. On the third day, invite the cat into the entire house. If kitty uses the box appropriately, then all is well. If kitty poops outside the box, place kitty back in the bathroom for one more day. The next day invite kitty back into the house.

This litter box training is most difficult for humans to endure because we want to be with our kitties. But you must be strong. Invite kitty back into the house with the rest of the family. Encourage little kitty with praise anytime he poops inside his box. When you see him smelling and sniffing before he poops (and he is not in his box) then gently pick-up your kitty and place him in the box.

One note on litter box placement:

If litter boxes are placed in high traffic areas, cats will either not use them or quickly use them and depart before completing the task. I know that you said you had multiple boxes, and that 3 are large, but consider that some cats do move around quite a bit when they are pottying. Check to see if he is a mover. If so, then give him an even larger box. My cats have a Rubbermaid container that is made for storing garments under beds. It is about 2.5 feet long and over 14 inches wide. It takes a little more litter to fill it, but it is well worth it for my kitties’ comfort.

Finally, if you say, “I cannot bear to be without kitty for three days!†One can always place newspaper around the box to catch the errant poops. Cat poop flushes nicely down the toilet.
post #2 of 3
Thanks for posting this. I will copy the information into our Stopping Poop Problems thread at the top of the Behavior Forum.
post #3 of 3
I sympathize with you. I had a rex (she's 16 yrs old now) and ever since she was a kitten she would not poop in the litter box (she would pee in there - no problem). The only time she'd use it properly was if the litter pan was on tile. If it was on carpet, she'd go besides it - even on the extra rug.

At first I figured "territorial" but she did it as a kitten. She was never sick. It tried EVERYTHING that anyone mentioned as to the cause/cure. Nothing worked (other then the tile).

No one ever came up to what her issue was; I just dealt with it. When we moved and I had to find another home for her, a good friend who had lots of cats took her - she keeps her pans on tile and not carpet and has never had a problem with Taz.

Sometimes cats are just plain weird
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