Defecation Issues with Cats | Dr. Elsey's
cat with litter box

Defecation Issues with Cats

I receive many emails from clients that want to know why their cats are defecating outside the litter box. Defecation issues can be difficult to sort out and it can be frustrating to try to stop the behavior. Hopefully this entry will give you some insight to try to get to the bottom of this difficult problem.

First of all, it is important to look at all the simple solutions first – the type of litter, location of the litter box, does the box have a hood or not? Typically we don’t recommend having a hood on a cat litter box – cats feel trapped and a hooded box can trap odors that are offensive to a cat. As we have talked in past entries cats are very texture driven so if they decide they don’t like the texture of the litter they may avoid the litter box. Also, we recommend at least two boxes for cats that are not using the litter box to defecate. One box for defecation and one box for urination and do not place the boxes side by side. If the boxes are side by side the cats perceive the boxes as one box – even if you place them in the same room you need to give them some separation. Our Cat Attract® and Kitten Attract® are very texture friendly and they do contain a natural herbal attractant that draws the cats to the box by smell.

Another issue with cats not using the box often times is some sort of bowel issue like constipation or a loose stool. If a cat is experiencing any of these issues they may avoid the litter box since they can associate the box with something unpleasant. It is important to watch your cat’s stool and consult with your veterinarian if you notice anything different. Along those lines another thing to keep in mind is that cats take a different stance to defecate than they do to urinate. Older cats and overweight cats then may have difficulty standing in deep litter to defecate. Cats hid pain very well so they may have some discomfort in their lower spine or legs that may hinder them from being able to stand in the litter box. We do have the Senior litter that was discussed in the last blog which does address this issue in overweight, pregnant and senior cats.

Although there is no hard research to back this up long haired cats often have more issues with using the box to defecate than short haired cats. One notion is that they don’t like getting litter and feces on their pant fur and litter in between their toes so they will avoid the litter box to defecate. We always recommend that you have your vet shave the hair around the rear area – it is called a hygiene clip and also clip the hair in between the toes if the hair is really long. This will sometimes solve the problem with a long haired cat. Our Precious Cat Long Hair litter can also be a solution for this problem in that you keep it low in the box like the Senior litter and it does not stick to the cat’s coat.

If it is truly a behavioral issue than the Feliway plug ins may help with the stress the cat is experiencing and or talking to your veterinarian about using anti-anxiety drugs.

One other idea I would like to mention that has worked well for some clients. If your cat is defecating right outside the box place a mud tray in front of the box like an extension of the box if you cat begins to go on the tray make is smaller and smaller until the behavior transfers to the box.

Defecation issues an be tough to get a handle on but I hope this information has helped answer some questions. Until next time take care and please remember to hug your cat.