Ask a Trainer: Why is my cat pooping on the floor?

It’s no fun to have a cat pooping on the floor, especially if your cat is suddenly pooping on the floor. This frustrating problem can often be solved by changing your litterbox setup and ensuring that your cat is physically healthy and happy. 

Got a cat pooping on the floor? I offer 15-minute consultations to find a solution – and yes, we can often fix it that quickly. 

In our most recent “Ask A Trainer” question, a reader asked:

Any thoughts on how to break Panda, my 17-year-old cat, of peeing and crapping outside his litter boxes? He used to crap under the oil tank but now he is starting to use other places in the basement. I’ve been cleaning his litter box more often, but now he won’t use his covered box at all!

Perplexed in Pilsen

 Step One: Figure Out Why Your Cat is Pooping on the Floor

There are many things leading to a cat pooping on the floor. Let’s run through some common scenarios. Remember, it’s possible that Panda is suffering from several of these. Luckily the solutions are similar for all of them!

1. Your cat is sick.

If he’s got a UTI, urinating might be painful. He might learn that peeing inside the box hurts, so he tries peeing elsewhere to see if that helps. Given his age, it’s a good idea to check with the vet to rule out other serious medical concerns. No matter what you do for his behavioral health, we can’t fix anything if he’s physically unhealthy.

2. Your cat is in pain.

When older cats won’t use the litterbox, it could be because they’re in pain. Squatting might hurt, or stepping into the litterbox might be more difficult than it used to be.

  • Sometimes, cats develop a suspicion that the litterbox is causing pain, rather than the fact that it’s their own body that hurts.

3. Your cat is stressed.

Many cats don’t deal well with stress. This could relate back to being sick – he might be stressed because his joints ache. Or he could be stressed by something that’s never bothered him before (like the oncoming brutally cold Wisconsin winter). There might be something you’d never notice that’s bugging him – like a raccoon behind the house that’s driving him nuts. Failing litterbox habits are a common symptom of stress.

If your cat is pooping on the floor, take a look at what’s new in their life. Cats don’t deal well with change and they’re easily stressed. Many cats start peeing or pooping on the floor due to stress.

4. Your litterboxes aren’t clean enough.

As cats age, they might get more particular about their litterbox setup. He might not like that the litterboxes are all the way in the basement. Did you recently change the litter? Just changing the litter type is enough to set some cats off! Some cats like large, shallow boxes; others like deep, small ones. Many cats don’t like covered boxes at all. He might prefer more litter, less litter, a cleaner box, a bigger box, or just unscented powdery litter.

  • Tip: most cats prefer just a half inch of soft, sandy, unscented litter in an uncovered box. Scoop the box daily and dump it weekly! They don’t want yesterday’s poop or last week’s pee on their paws.

5. Your cat’s bladder control just isn’t very good anymore.

Given that Panda’s accidents are limited to the basement, I’m skeptical of this one. If he truly had little bladder control, I’d expect him to have accidents throughout the house. But this is a common reason for older cats to stop using the litterbox.

If we could talk more, I’d ask:
  • How long has your cat been pooping on the floor in the basement? If this is a sudden change, it’s extra-important to get him to the vet for a checkup.
  • How often does he not use the boxes? Does he skip the box once a week when it’s super dirty? Or does he avoid the boxes all the time?
  • Does anything happen right before he stops using the boxes? For example, does he stop using his litterbox after guests visit?
  • Is his poo extra stinky? If so, you might want to change his food and get a vet checkup to ensure that there isn’t a medical problem.

Are none of these things the answer for you? Click here to solve your cat’s litterbox woes. 

In order to know which of these problems is plaguing Panda, the first stop should be the vet’s office. Even though Panda is both peeing and pooping on the floor, we need to rule out a UTI or more serious medical concern as the first step. Tell your vet what’s been going on with the box and they’ll run the right tests.

Step Two: Your Options for Stopping Your Cat From Pooping on the Floor

Let’s go through the options. It won’t hurt to try each of these options to help your cat use the litterbox again. Keep in mind that fixing a medical problem and reducing your cat’s stress need to be your #1 priority. The cleanest boxes in the world won’t help if your cat has a UTI!

Even if your 16 year old won’t play like a kitten, he’ll enjoy watching the toys!

1. Clean the boxes more.

Many cats simply won’t use a dirty box. Even if your cat has always been a trooper about getting his paws dirty, he might be getting picky in old age. Try to scoop the box daily or even twice daily.

2. Add another box.

If your cat already has a bad association with the old box, you might be best off trying a new box. If your current boxes are deep and covered, try a shallow box in another area of the basement.

3. Restrict his space.

Depending on where he’s peeing and pooping, a good short-term solution is to block off the areas he’s using as an alternate box. Closing him into a small area (like a bathroom) with his box can also help kickstart litterbox habits.

4. Super-clean the offending spaces.

Get something like Eco 88 or Nature’s Miracle and a blacklight. Go through the house and find all of your cat’s old accidents and clean the crap out of them. If your cat smells old urine or feces in a corner of the basement, he might think it’s a good idea to pee there again. So clean it really well using a cleaner that’s made for pet urine!

5. Add Cat Attract to the litterboxes.

This little product is made to help remind cats to use their box. There’s frustratingly little information about what’s in Cat Attract or why it works. The website just says that it’s natural, they tested it, it works, buy it. I’d be skeptical, but… we use it at the shelter and I know several people who swear it makes a difference. Can’t hurt to try.

6. Increase your cat’s daily mental enrichment.

This could mean playing music when you’re at work, giving him some daily play sessions with a good wand toy (even if he just watches it), giving him daily treats through a puzzle toy or just spending more time with him. All of this will help reduce his stress level. Remember, stress is often the root of litterbox issues!

7. Try a Feliway diffuser.

Again, this stuff seems like voodoo stuff – but Feliway can really help in some cases. It’s a calming pheromone that you can put into a wall diffuser or use as a spray. I know plenty of people who swear by it. As far as I can tell, it can’t hurt.

Unfortunately, there’s not much of a training quick fix when it comes to your cat pooping on the floor. Make sure that the litterbox issues aren’t medical. Then your best bet is to improve litterbox setup and decrease stress levels. There are some diffusers and other products that can help, but alone they’re unlikely to solve the problem.

Got a cat pooping on the floor? I offer 15-minute consultations to find a solution – and yes, we can often fix it that quickly. 

Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but currently lives on the Panamerican Highway. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, and as a private dog trainer. She is currently putting her knowledge to use as a freelance writer while she builds Journey Dog Training. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her dog Barley and her boyfriend Andrew.

Comments 32

  1. All of our cats use the litter box except2. One Male and one female. We clean out the litter box regularly. In the house we have at least 10 cats. Help us please!!

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  2. My Male cat has been pooping in our toddlers bedroom for a few months on and off. His poop smells terrible. Hes a sweet cat who loves snuggles and allows the kids to grab at him all day. Our toddler boy specifically may be upsetting lex (our cat) . He tries to pick him up and tips his fur out ..lex continues to lay around the kids though like he doesnt care at all. Hes not fixed and only about q yearold. He shares 2 liter boxes with 3 other female cats. .

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  3. I had to rehome my cat of 14 years to my daughrter because of health reasons.
    She is a high anxiety kitty and only wishes to be around me.
    She is pooping all over my daughters house and I dont know what to do about the situation and my daughter now doesn’t want her anymore because of this reason.

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      I’m so sorry to hear that, Sherry! It’s always hard to give up our pets, and I’m sure that your daughter is frustrated. Has she seen a vet or gotten any calming treats? That’s always a first step for sudden changes. What else have you tried so far? I’d recommend reducing her space in the house to just a room (bathrooms are easiest to clean) while she adjusts. If you’d like more help, I offer email support and 15-minute or 1-hour phone calls to troubleshoot. We have excellent success with litterbox issues using a combination of the email support and 15-minute calls.

  4. I have a 4-5 year old female cat , she’s used the litter box her whole life ! The last 2 days she has been pooping in random places . Everywhere OTHER THAN THE LITTER BOX she’s eating drinking and peeing and pooping . I’m at a loss ?

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      I’m so sorry to hear that, Lauren! It’s so frustrating to have our cats suddenly change their litterbox habits. Has she seen a vet? That’s always a first step for sudden changes. What else have you tried so far? If you’d like more help, I offer email support and 15-minute or 1-hour phone calls to troubleshoot. We have excellent success with litterbox issues using a combination of the email support and 15-minute calls.

  5. I have 4 cats and 1 of the females will not use the litter box. She was found after Hurricane Irma last year and we got her from the shelter a few weeks after. I’m assuming by her interactions with the other cats, she was an only cat in a household somewhere.

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      Michele, I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling with this! Cats that don’t use the litterbox can be really challenging to live with. What have you tried so far to introduce her to the other cats and reduce her stress? If you’d like more help, I offer email support and 15-minute or 1-hour phone calls to troubleshoot. We have excellent success with litterbox issues using a combination of the email support and 15-minute calls.

  6. I have this cat and she wont quit poping in my kids rokm bayhroom or dingin room she is the only one doing it the litterbox is clean what can i do ahe will even use the bathroom outside I am getting irrated cause she poops on the plywood but vould ahe being doing it since we have a kitten and before thr kitten please help me

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      Hi, Cherie. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having problems with your cat’s litterbox habits. So frustrating! I’d start by confining your kitty to a smaller space (like a bathroom). Use some Feliway to help calm her down and clean everywhere that she’s had an accident with Nature’s Miracle. Then slowly start to increase her space. If you need more help, I offer a variety of different services over email or phone to help you get your cat back on track. Since your cat has been doing this for a while, I’d also get a vet checkup. Finally, you might want to try offering a variety of litter boxes and litter types. That often helps!

  7. My cat is about 7 years old. She has always used the litter box before and hasn’t had problems. Recently she has been pooping everywhere around the house and we made sure her litter box was clean. What’s wrong with her?

  8. Hey there!!
    My cat Luna is a rescue. And when I got her 5mo ago she was pregnant. Used the litter box fine always has. Kittens are 11 almost 12 weeks old. They all use the boxes as well. She had 5 and now only has 3 left. She has NEVER went poop outside her box and I keep all three very clean. I got rid of another kitten last night and she has not shown any signs that she noticed him gone. Went to vet all is good. And recently had 1st treatment of Revolution. What the heck should I do? I’m getting mad. And she pooped twice on my pile of dirty laundry

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      Hi, Bri! So sorry about the litterbox issues, I know they’re a huge pain. I’d start by confining your kitty to a smaller space (like a bathroom). Use some Feliway to help calm her down and clean everywhere that she’s had an accident with Nature’s Miracle. Then slowly start to increase her space. If you need more help, I offer a variety of different services over email or phone to help you get your cat back on track. Since your cat has been doing this for a while, I’d also get a vet checkup. Finally, you might want to try offering a variety of litter boxes and litter types. That often helps!

  9. Thanks for sharing this article! You go very in depth into this
    I’m very fortunate my Cat does not poop outside the litter box
    As you mentioned, it’s so important to take them to the vets asap because it could be a medical condition

  10. My cat Gus has been pooping about 2 ft in front of his litter box. At first I thought I wasn’t cleaning it enough but even after cleaning it really good and adding arm and hammer to make his litter smell fresh that night he did it again! I don’t know what to do. One site I saw said that the litter box needs to be 1 1/2 times bigger than the cat’s length, and I’ve got a pretty big boy (he’s not fat just big and long, about 15lb) so I’m not sure where to get a larger one than the one we have. He’s 6 years old so he’s not old be any means…and he’s never had a problem like this aside from a time when he was pooping in a certain plant about 3 years ago.

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  11. (Gonna post this here, reply from another post, in case it can help..)

    I hope this will help some of you. My cat pooping out of the box issues – Understood and Resolved!!

    My cat Cosmo who is 13 years old, suddenly starting pooping outside his litter box, but he would oddly enough, still go Pee in the box. But he wasn’t just pooping outside his litter box, he was way, far away from it, shitting on the carpet in our living room =/ I didn’t know what was going on. He was having bouts of diarrhea that ended up on the hallway or living room carpet, and it wasn’t because he couldn’t make it to the litter box in time, or anything like that. I caught him about to drop one right in front of me on the carpet, so I moved him quickly to his litter box, but he jumped out, waited for me to leave, and then went and pooped on the same spot I had just moved him from! You can imagine my stress. I changed boxes, locations, litter, anything I could try, I did, and nothing worked.

    Meanwhile, I went to the vet to get Cosmo looked at because his diarrhea and occasional vomiting was getting quite bad. It kept coming back. I took him in and we had blood work done and I found out that my little Cosmo had somehow been infected with Feline Leukemia :’-( Particularly in his pancreas (btw positive FL cats CAN live with negative FL cats without infecting them. A great study was done in 2016 at a cat shelter proving this, and I have another cat that is, and continues to be, FL negative).

    This illness is causing Cosmo a lot of indigestion, so the vet put him on a special diet and thankfully, that’s been helping a lot, and he’s even put weight back on. However, he still kept pooping outside the litter box. And depending on where I moved the litter box too, it would affect where in the box he decided to do his business, (which corner he would go pee in). Nothing seemed to make any sense.

    I started to read about some cat psychology and observations that doctors have made regarding cats, how they feel about territory, how they react when they’re scared, ill, etc… and I started to think about the things I was observing in Cosmo. , because I realized his aversion to the litterbox was ALL MENTAL. How do I know this? I did an experiment. I placed the litterbox EXACTLY where he was ‘using the carpet’. Yup, right in the middle of my hallway, one of the most heavily trafficked area’s. And guess what? He used the litter box to take his poop! That sealed it for me, my cat was having some kind of ‘mental/psychological’ issue around going to the bathroom.

    There are two spots in the house that Cosmo had started poopin in. The living room hallway and at the bottom of the stairs going into the basement (both high traffic areas). When litter box’s were placed in these locations, he used them. I thought about why. and honestly, I think it’s because my Cat knows he’s ill, and it’s affected his behavior. Being in the high traffic areas, I think makes him feel safer, and where his box’s were located before, were area’s that were sort of out of the way. I don’t think he felt safe or secure. with that in mind, I’ve selected a new place for his litter box at the end of our hallway, around a corner, still a high traffic area, but not underfoot. I’ve been moving the litter box every day or two, about half a foot or so. I wait until I know Cosmo’s pooped in it at least once before I move the box again. It’s been slowly creeping along our hallway, lol, but it’s almost where I need it to be now, and you know what? he’s been great! the slow, gradual movement is helping, and now that I understand what he needs (he wants to be close to people, because he’s terminally ill and it’s affecting his behavior) I’m now able to provide a much more comfortable place for him to go to the bathroom, and my carpets stayclean! 🙂

    Please, please, please, do NOT LOCK YOUR PETS IN A CAGE OR CRATE to “Re-Train” them. Imagine how you’d feel if that was you. These are sentient creatures. I know it’s inconvenient to have shit in your house, I’ve stepped in more puddles of liquidy poop than I ever care to remember, but my kitty trusts me to do right by him. He trusts me to take care of him, physically, emotionally, and mentally. If your pet is having an issue going to the bathroom, and it’s not any of the regular stuff, then consider the pyschological ramifications that might be going on in your pets life. They FEEL things. When my dad died a few years ago, my other cat Blu, sat on my kitchen sink and cried real human-like tears for twenty minutes! All we could do was hug him, pet him, and console him. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. So please, treat your pet with as much kindness, love, and respect as you would want anyone to show you.

    I hope Cosmo’s story will be of help to someone. Best of luck to you all!

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      Thanks for sharing Cosmo’s story! The only thing that I would add is that in mane cases, it is important to close the cat into a smaller room. A crate isn’t necessary, but a smaller space often is. And be sure to clean those spots!

  12. About a week ago I was taking care of my mother’s cat for a week and I had a put him down due an illness. Then suddenly my own house cat starts pooping on the floor twice in a week. One near his litterbox and in kitchen. Help.

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  13. Hi I hope you can help. My British blue Lucy who is 12 years old. She has become our only cat a year ago which she loves.
    Unfortunately this has ment that neighborhood cats about 4 have invaded her territory. She was attacked about two weeks ago ( not hurt) which has shaken her badly. Since then she has taken to pooping under our dinner table her litter box is about 8 feet away. She will only go outside when we are with her. She has always tended to more indoors cat. I really hope you can help.

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      Hi, Glenda. So sorry that your kitty is struggling. It sounds like the outdoor cats are posing a problem for her. She might prefer to just stay indoors for a while, especially as she gets older. I wonder if pooping under the table feels more secure for her right now. Is your litter box covered or uncovered?

  14. Hey I have been having a problem with my cat she has been pooping and peeing in the floor. We have 3cats,please help us!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  15. My female cat, about 9 years old, started defecating just outside of the litterbox when we adopted a kitten in late August. She wanders calmly next to the litterbox… and “goes.” I have 4 litterboxes, 3 cats (including her -14, 9 and 6 months) and we clean the boxes every day. I vacuum the floor and clean the area every day. Luckily, it’s linoleum. But I don’t know how to stop this behavior. I even caught her in the act and she did not stop! Kept going! She only urinates in the litter box, thankfully. I’m at a total loss!

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      Hi Rachel! That sounds really frustrating. Let’s hop on the phone (15 minute call here) to get things solved for you! I unfortunately don’t have any suggestions beyond the ones listed in the article without asking a lot more questions! If we can talk one-on-one, I can give much better support.

  16. My kitten was shiting in its box and my other cats box them I moved the kitty litter box into the same room as the other she’s now shiting on the floor , iv moved it back but the problems not resolved she’s shiting in the middle of the laundry /same room as the trays I’m so confused iv put her poo into the tray told her off , put her in her tray I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong she’s a beautiful kitten

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      Chan, can you try confining the offending cat into a smaller space and/or adding extra litter boxes? It’s possible that your new kitten isn’t litter-trained yet. Reducing her space is more helpful than putting her in the tray!

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      Hi Agatha! World’s Best Litter is a go-to for me, but it kind of depends on the cat. Most cats prefer sandy-like litter, but that’s not a winner with ALL cats.

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