cat pooping outside litter box in boston, ma

Why Would a Cat Poop Outside the Litter Box?

If you have a cat, chances are good you’ve experienced some litter box issues now and then. Although cats are relatively easy to train to use their litter, some cats may start pooping outside the litter box now and then for a variety of reasons. But what causes this, and is it something to worry about?

Pooping outside the litter box—or inappropriate defecation, as it may be called—is typically a sign that there is some problem with your cat. Although the underlying problem may not be a serious one in many cases, it is still important to figure out what’s causing your cat to poop inappropriately. In the article below, you’ll find information about some of the most common causes of inappropriate pooping, and you can use these ideas to try to figure out what’s going on with your pet.

Food Intolerance or Allergy

Some cats with food allergies and food intolerances are prone to pooping outside the litter box because they have frequent digestive upset. If your cat’s inappropriate pooping occurs along with skin and coat health problems, there is a good chance food intolerance or allergy is the culprit.

New Cat or New Pet

Bringing home a new cat or any other pet into your cat’s personal space may cause temporary pooping in the wrong places. This is simply because your cat is upset about their territory being changed and are acting out as a result. Once they adjust to these changes, they are likely to go back to pooping properly in the litter box again.

Recent Litter Changes

If you change your cat’s litter suddenly or change the size, shape, or location of the litter box, they may poop outside the litter box for a little while until they adjust. This type of pooping issue resolves itself in a few days in most instances.

Dirty Litter Box

Some cats may not want to poop in the litter box if it is too dirty or smelly. If you have not cleaned or scooped your cat’s litter recently, try doing this to see if it helps with the inappropriate pooping problem.

Diarrhea or Constipation

If your cat is having diarrhea or constipation, they may mistakenly think the litter box is the cause of the problem. This could lead to pooping in other places to alleviate the perceived issue.


Arthritis may make it difficult or uncomfortable for your cat to climb into the litter box or to squat in litter. This may lead to them pooping in other places that are more comfortable to them. Try changing to a litter box designed for cats with mobility issues to see if this could help.


Stress and anxiety can lead to litter issues quickly with most cats. If your cat is upset about something, especially if that issue is a long-term problem, then they may start pooping in the wrong places because of being unhappy or stressed.

Stomach Illness

If your cat has a long-term stomach illness or disorder, or if they have a short-term infection or case of worms, then they may poop outside the litter box. These problems need to be addressed and treated with the help of a veterinarian, but most cats will recover from many of these issues relatively quickly.

Digestive Disorder

Digestive disorders may not have a treatment, but they can be managed with the help of your vet. If your cat has a digestive disorder, they may poop outside the litter box because they are unable to make it to the litter box in some instances.


Megacolon is a condition that causes a cat’s colon to enlarge. This problem can lead to a variety of stomach and digestive issues, including inappropriate pooping. If you know or suspect your cat has megacolon, work with your vet to determine the best management solution for this condition moving forward.

Boston Veterinary Clinic is Here to Help

As you can see, there are several potential causes of inappropriate pooping that may affect your cat. Although many of these causes are mild to moderate, there is a potential that they could be severe. For this reason, it is important to take your cat to the vet if you can’t readily determine what’s causing them to poop outside the litter box.

If you’re unsure what the underlying cause of this problem could be, or if you’re having trouble treating or managing the issue at home, then your vet is a great resource. And if you’re having behavioral difficulties with your cat, you may need to reach out to a trainer who is experienced in helping cats cope with behavioral problems instead. With the right professional assistance, you can help your cat start pooping properly again in no time.

Want to talk with a veterinarian about your cat’s care? Book an appointment online at Boston Veterinary Clinic today!