Why doesn't my cat poop in the litter box? » Animal Education (2023)

If your cat poops outside the litter box, you'll want to fix that problem sooner rather than later, and you'll have questions about it. Why do some cats poop outside of the litter box? How do you get your cat to poop there? How long does it take for your cat to change behavior? Here are the answers to all of these questions and more.

So why doesn't my cat poop in the litter box?Cats shouldn't poop in the litter box if they don't like the type of box, the location, the litter, or the environment (due to smells or sounds). In other cases, it may be a medical issue.

There are a few possible reasons that should be explored here.

To help you figure out which one it is for your cat, let's investigate each possible cause further.

Then we look at how you can, and perhaps should, respond to each contact. So read on!

Table of contents

Reasons why a cat shouldn't poop in the litter box

Your cat may not poop in the litter box because she doesn't like the location, the size, or the litter. Sometimes a cat can have bad experiences in or near its litter box. In other cases, a medical problem is the cause.

They don't like the location of the litter box

It could be that your cat doesn't like the location of the litter box - there is something that deters them, such as:

  • The smell.There could be something in or near the litter box that has an odor that your cat doesn't like. For example, if the litter box is near something that smells like citrus or cinnamon, your cat will want to avoid that area. These smells may be pleasant to us, but they act like natural cat repellents!
  • The noise.Cats are very sensitive to noise levels, so the litter box might be too close to a busy part of the house where there is a lot of coming and going. Or maybe it's near a window where construction is going on or there's a lot of traffic that might startle your cat.
  • The competition.If you have multiple cats in your home, don't put their litter boxes close to each other. Each cat will prefer their own litter box, food and water bowls, and toys - they don't like to compete for space, so try to put their stuff in different places in your home if possible.
  • Your food and water are nearby.Cats do not like to go to the toilet near their food and water bowls as it is unsanitary. Cats are naturally clean creatures - they don't want to use the bathroom in your dining area, and neither does your cat!

The litter box is dirty

Cats often stop using their litter box because it has gotten too dirty.

If a cat canOdora drop of blood in an Olympic size pool (and they can), imagine how bad a drop of urine in their litter box is!

Litter boxes should be kept clean - scoop up any droppings as soon as possible and remove soiled litter at least once, if not twice, a day.

Deodorize and disinfect the litter box two to three times a week (using pet-friendly products, of course).

They don't like the throw

Most cats prefer sandy-textured litter, but there are exceptions.

(Video) Why Your Cat Poops Outside the Box!

Note:Despite its convenience, clumping cat litter is a no-go. Cats can pick up pieces of this litter when cleaning their paws, and the pieces will clump together when they reach your cat's wet stomach, forming a rock that your cat cannot dislodge. Clumping cat litter can cause dangerous intestinal obstructions that can be fatal, so it's not worth the risk!

They don't like the litter box itself

A litter box should be large enough for your cat to roll over and dig comfortably. Many litter boxes are too small, so your cat may not want to use them.

On the other hand, some cats can feel unsafe if a litter box is too big.

Covered litter boxes can be frightening for many cats, as they feel they won't be able to get out quickly if they need to (cats feel more vulnerable when they're going about their business).

Some cats find it difficult to access their litter box as they age due to issues like arthritis.

If your cat has to climb stairs or a high side to get into the litter box, she may decide the pain isn't worth the effort.

You have had bad experiences

Sometimes a cat may have a bad experience in or near its litter box and then associate the litter box with that experience.

Perhaps your cat heard a very loud noise or was attacked by another pet. Or maybe an eager child abused your cat and startled it.

Some clues that your cat has had a bad experience near their litter box are:

  • Poop nearby but not in the litter box
  • Avoid the entire area where the litter box is located (even the room).
  • Running in and out of the litter box

Your cat has a medical problem

If your cat has been using the litter box all the time and then suddenly stops, it could be due to a medical problem, in which case a visit to the vet is essential.

Many medical conditions can cause cats to defecate outside the litter box, such as:

  • Urinary tract infections (your cat may associate the litter box with pain)
  • Kidney or thyroid disease (resulting in your cat going to the bathroom more often)
  • Diabetes mellitus (same)
  • Digestive problems (making it painful for your cat to poop or causing diarrhea so she can't get to the litter box in time)
  • cognitive problems(making your cat confused or disoriented)

If you suspect a medical problem, take your cat to the vet for a check-up as soon as possible.

How do I get my cat to poop in her litter box?

You can encourage your cat to poop in her litter box by keeping it clean, removing odors from spots she previously soiled, and finding the right type of litter and box that your cat prefers.

Keep the litter box clean

This may seem obvious, but a clean litter box is more attractive to your cat than one that is even slightly soiled.

Also, keep the surrounding area clean and avoid strong smells (like air fresheners, which aren't healthy for pets anyway).

(Video) 10 REASONS CATS POOP OUT OF THEIR LITTER BOX l (With Voice-Over Narration) l V-18

Clean and deodorize places where they pooped

It's important to thoroughly remove odors from the areas where your cat wants to poop.

When your cat poops or pees somewhere, they leave scent marks that encourage them to do their business again in the same spot.

You can buy pet-friendly products to remove these odors, although the best solution is often to make your own enzymatic cleaner by dissolving enzymatic laundry detergent (10%) in water.

Thoroughly clean the area, then rinse with cold water and allow the water to dry.

Once the water has dried, lightly spray the area with rubbing alcohol and allow to air dry.

Find the right type of cat litter that your cat prefers

By trying to find the type of litter your cat prefers, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and speed up your cat's litter box process.

Here's how to experiment to see what your cat prefers:

  • Try two or three different types of litter.Place different types of litter in multiple litter boxes next to each other to see which litter your cat prefers. Make sure you use identical litter boxes so you know your cat is choosing the litter box and not the type of litter box.
  • Once you've found the species, experiment with the depth of litter.Some cats prefer a shallow layer of litter - less than 2 inches deep. If you have a long-haired cat, she may prefer an extra shallow layer that allows her to dig all the way to the bottom of the box. Some cats prefer deeper layers of litter for digging than others, so see what your cat prefers.

Note:If you need to change litter because your cat's favorite pet is no longer available, try to make the change gradually. Once you have found the closest equivalent, mix a small amount of the new litter with the old (clean) litter. Mix in more of the new variety and less of the old variety each time you change the bedding.

Get the right kind of litter box

As with litter, it's important to know what type of litter box your cat prefers.

If you think your cat is happy with the litter but doesn't like the box (e.g. if she uses the litter outside), here are a few things to consider when choosing a new litter box:

  • look at the depthSome cats like deep litter boxes that allow for a thicker layer of litter, while others prefer shallow boxes. Older cats may find it more difficult to climb into a box with high sides than younger cats.
  • Consider whether you will get coverage or not.Some cats love covered litter boxes because they feel safe — but other cats feel trapped. Test both options to see what your cat prefers.
  • look at the sizeWhile all cats need a litter box big enough for them to turn around comfortably, some cats prefer tight turning space and others prefer extra space.

Whatever type of litter box your cat prefers, try to avoid these two factors:

  • Self-cleaning boxes.These may appeal to us to save time, but many cats are afraid of the noise these boxes make. Think about it when you use a public toilet that startles you with a loud flush - not nice, right?
  • plastic linings.Lining a litter box with a plastic bag may make cleaning seem easier, but these liners can catch on your cat's claws and cause problems when she tries to dig. And if your cat likes to chew on plastic bags (like mine), you don't want them chewing the liner anyway.

How long does it take for your cat to start pooping in her litter box?

Because there are so many different reasons a cat might not poop in its litter box, there is no set amount of time it will be before your cat starts pooping in there again. The time it takes for your cat to adjust will depend on your circumstances and your cat's personality.

Some catslearnand adapt faster than others.

More nervous cats may take longer to adjust to something new, and it may take weeks to get used to every aspect of a new routine (like a new litter box).

Regardless of how long it takes for your cat to start pooping in the litter box again, it's important that you never punish your cat for pooping outside the litter box.

(Video) Why Won't My Cat Cover Its Poop Anymore?

Your cat is doing this to tell you something she can't do with words, so it's up to you to be patient and kind while you figure out what your cat wants.

When you poop outside the litter box, your cat's main message is confusion, frustration, or fear—all of which require gentle understanding and care.

Punishing a cat for pooping outside the litter box will only cause more anxiety and stress, and make the problem that much worse.

The more patient you are with your cat, the easier the transition process will be and the sooner you can stop cleaning up cat poo on the floor or elsewhere.

Below are some tips to help your cat learn where to poop without scaring or frustrating her.

Other suggestions to help your cat poop in the litter box

You can also help your cat by creating positive associations with the litter box, discouraging her from visiting other areas of your home, and using small amounts of materials she already likes to get her used to the litter box.

Create positive associations with the litter box

You can teach your cat that the litter box is a safe place to encourage them to use it.

Try spending time with your cat near the litter box—perhaps cuddling or playing with their favorite toys.

Note:You may be tempted to reward your cat for using the litter box, but be aware that this may make your cat uncomfortable. They don't see poop as something to celebrate! Also, do not offer treats or other foods near the litter box, as you will discourage your cat from going to the litter box there, which is the opposite of what you want! Remember that cats don't want to go to the toilet near their food or water sources.

Keep your cat from going to other areas

There are things you can do to discourage your cat from going to the bathroom in other areas, such as:

  • Include motion-activated lights (if your cat has chosen a dark part of your home)
  • Hang curtains out of reach
  • Block access to parts of the house where your cat has gone to the bathroom
  • Place your cat's food and water bowls in the area (after you've thoroughly cleaned and deodorized them, of course). You're using your cat's natural preferences to get her to go somewhere else
  • Line the area with aluminum foil or double-sided tape (cats don't like the feel of these things on their paw pads)

Use small amounts of material that you already like

You can use what your cat already likes to transition her to using the litter box.

If your cat likes carpets

Once your cat has chosen the carpet to poop on, here's what you can do:

  1. Line the litter box with a similar carpet (without the litter).
  2. If your cat uses the litter box with the carpet, replace it with a clean piece of carpet and sprinkle a small amount of cat litter over it
  3. Repeat this process, gradually adding more and more litter until the litter box is full
  4. Finally, you can take out the rug and leave the cat litter behind!

Note:You may need to roll up, block access to, or otherwise protect the carpet in your home while your kitty moves.

If your cat likes a hard surface (floor covering, etc.)

If your cat likes laminate or another hard surface, try the same process as for carpeting, but use pieces of hard flooring instead of carpet.

When your cat goes outside

If your cat goes outside in the sand or dirt but still goes about her business outside of the litter box, you can do the following:

(Video) Cat Peeing Outside of the Litter Box? A Vet Explains Why

  • Put sand, dirt, wood shavings, or any other material your cat uses in the litter box (no litter on top).
  • Once your cat has used the litter box, add a small amount of litter while keeping the sand or soil layer.
  • Gradually add more bedding to the box (while keeping a supply of clean soil or sand underneath).
  • Eventually, your cat will use the litter box without the need for additional substrate.


Your cat may not use their litter box for a variety of reasons, from where it is placed to the actual box/cat itself.

Luckily there are many things you can do and try to see if you can solve the problem.

And you might even find that it's a relatively quick fix.

However, if you know or suspect a medical problem in your cat, consult a veterinarian.

In these cases, it doesn't matter where you put the litter box, how many new litter boxes and types of litter you try, or what you do to the environment, you probably won't be able to solve it.

Besides, it also ensures your cat's better health, which should always come first.

Related guides you may want to read:

  • Why do cats poop in their carrier? [And how to stop them]
  • How Long Can Cats Hold Their Poop? [When Should You Be Concerned]
  • Why does cat poop smell so bad? [And the things you can do]

Why doesn't my cat poop in the litter box? » Animal Education (1)


I am a seasoned pet owner with decades of experience owning various pets. I'm also the lead writer and editor-in-chief here at Pet Educate; a website I created to share everything I've learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.


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