Why is My Cat Pooping Outside the Litterbox?

Nothing can be more perplexing than cat behavior, especially since your cat cannot speak to you to tell you why they are doing something odd. When your cat poops outside the litterbox, it is natural to want to find out why.

Your cat may be pooping outside the litterbox due to a recent change in the home. Furthermore, their litterbox could be dirty, or they are simply being territorial. Cats prefer soft, fine litter. If you have recently switched the litter and your cat is not pooping in their litterbox, go back to the original litter.

You want to make sure your cat is happy with their litterbox. If you want to find out why your cat is pooping outside their litterbox, this is the article for you.

Cat pooping outside litter box in Peoria, IL

Why is My Cat Pooping Outside the Litterbox?

There could be several explanations as to why your cat is pooping outside the litterbox. Our concern as pet parents is to investigate possible reasons why they are doing this. The following are some common reasons for this occurrence:

Your Cat is Being Territorial

Let’s face it; cats can be territorial creatures. Whether there is a new pet in the home, or the existing pets must share space, and your cat does not want to allow another cat to sully their domain, your cat is marking their territory, and they are not shy about it.

They are pooping outside of the litterbox to spread their scent throughout the house. There are pheromone diffusers you can purchase to put near the litterbox that can calm your kitty down, and they will not feel so bold as to poop in the wrong place.

Your Cat Does Not Like Their Litterbox

The shape of the style of the litterbox may not be suitable for your cat. They may feel awkward in that particular space, prompting them to go outside their designated potty area. Many issues can come with the wrong litterbox:

  • Too tall
  • Too short
  • Too deep
  • Too covered

If you see that your cat does not like using their litterbox, you may want to try another type of box. Some cats also do not like automated litterboxes.

Your Cat Does Not Like Their Litter

Cats can be a bit picky about where they do their business. If you have decided to try a new litter, and your cat does not like it, they may poop outside the litterbox for sweet revenge. Some of the reasons your cat may not like the litter:

  • Quantity
  • Poor quality
  • Different scent
  • Unlikeable Texture

Your cat is smart enough to know the difference between their old and new litter. If you switch the litter back to the original one, your cat will likely go potty in the litterbox again.

Other Issues with the Litterbox

Your cat may have other issues with the litterbox that you need to figure out. They may be protesting any number of factors concerning their litterbox:

  • Dirty Litterbox – Your cat means to poop in the right place, but it is dirty and does not suit them
  • Not in an Accessible Area – For example, if you have an older cat, they may not be able to go all the way upstairs to go potty
  • The litterbox is Too Small – If the litterbox is too small for your cat, they may not feel comfortable going potty, and you need a bigger litterbox
  • Distasteful Litter – This is an extension of the above, as most cats prefer their litter to be soft with a fine consistency. Perfumed litter may also be distasteful to them.
  • Not Enough Litterboxes – Some cats do not like to share litterboxes and want their own space. You may need to try setting up another litterbox elsewhere.

Another factor is that the litterbox placement may become a problem if your cat cannot see out from the box while they are going potty. Cats like their privacy just as much as humans do, and if the family dog or another cat can spy on them, they might not be comfortable.

Your Cat is or Was Feral

With a bit of work and perseverance, a feral cat can become domesticated and happy with a new family. However, there are some traits and habits that even the friendliest and the most acclimated feral cat may find difficult to break. One of them is going potty in a litterbox.

Your cat may ditch their wilder instincts once they become better acquainted with the cushy lifestyle of a house cat. However, it may still be a process. Once they understand that they are safe, this will likely no longer be an issue, so be patient with your feral baby.

Your Cat is Old or Very Young

If you have a kitten, there is a good chance that they may miss the litterbox when going potty. You should offer them more room, which may give them a successful, more comfortable experience.

If your cat is on the older side, they may miss the box entirely. If this is the reason, you could increase the box size and allow them to have more space. Arthritic cats can also have problems when it comes to their litterbox being too hard to reach.

Kitten poops outside litterbox

Your Cat is Feeling Scared

This situation may be a case in which your ordinarily feisty feline is a “scaredy cat” for some reason, and they do not make it to the litterbox in time. Your cat may feel skittish due to loud noise or someone they do not know visiting the home. Even if the litterbox is in a different place than they are used to, it can set them off. Your cat may need the litterbox to be put in a safe place.

Your Cat is Experiencing Changes

Cats tend to become upset if there are any changes in the home. It could be as complicated as you renovating your kitchen to something as simple as you hung a new picture on the wall. Felines are creatures of habit, and the best way to get them used to a change is to acclimate them to it gradually.

Adding another cat to the family may also be daunting for them. When your cat is getting used to having a new feline companion, you should give them a safe place to retreat and ensure there is more than one litterbox.

Your Cat Has a Health Condition

If your furbaby is not pooping in the litterbox, they may be suffering from a medical condition. This condition could include:

  • Thyroid issue
  • Liver problems
  • Food allergies
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

If your cat is constipated, they may produce small, hard, or dry stools outside the litterbox. If you believe your cat has an underlying health issue, you must get them to the vet as soon as possible.

Many pet parents who have discovered that their cat has a health issue have found that their cat gets better once the health issue has been resolved. Make sure your cat gets their annual wellness exam, and you may prevent your cat from going potty outside the litterbox, as regular checkups can catch these illnesses early on.


There are many likely reasons your cat is not pooping in their litterbox. If you see that your cat is having difficulty, or if you think there may be a health issue, do not hesitate to get your veterinarian involved. If you are concerned about your cat pooping outside of the litterbox, or have any questions or concerns, Whitney Veterinary Hospital in Peoria, IL, can be reached at (309) 685-4707!