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How to stop a cat from pooping in the house

Cleaning cat poop from the carpet advice

Remember, if your cat poops in your house, they are never being naughty.

© Shutterstock

When your cat has started pooping in the house and is otherwise in good health, there must be another good reason, as you'll discover here.

By Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS

Updated on the 30/09/2020, 14:25

Many pet owners ask the question, “Why has my cat all of a sudden started pooping in the house?” First of all, you need to realise that it’s not always a case of your cat being naughty. Felines generally only foul in the house in cases of anxiety or ill health. Under normal circumstances, cats hate being messy.

The process of a cat pooping in the house is also known as the term “middening” in the feline professional world. Of course, this inappropriate elimination could also be caused by medical issues.

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It is certainly a good idea to try to discover the reason behind this peeing and pooping behaviour as a way of solving the problem. Inappropriate elimination issues can affect both male and female cats, as well as older cats too.

Why is my cat pooping in the house?

First of all, cats communicate by using scent markers. Just like they urinate to let other cats know they are around, they also poop too. Yet this is certainly a more extreme way to mark their territory and to tell other cats to keep away.

Generally, a cat will poop in the house only when they feel insecure and anxious. Remember your cat isn’t being naughty, so please don’t shout at them. Above all, it’s important to take control of the situation and remain calm.

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Trying to decipher the actual cause of why your cat has been pooping outside the litter box and in the house will require some detective work on your part. There are many different causes of cats pooping in the house, such as:

  • A new cat or kitten has joined the household (or perhaps a new baby).
  • Several cats are living in the same home, causing litter box problems.
  • Anxiety when separated from you – when you go to work or leave the house.
  • Older cats peeing and pooping in the house rather than in the cat litter.
  • Moving home, which can cause anxiety.
  • A male cat marking their territory.
  • A strange cat entering the house through the door or cat flap.
  • A change in diet or foodstuff, increasing the need to empty their bowels.
  • Inappropriate elimination related to a medical problem, for example arthritis, making it difficult to get in the litter box or get in the right position to poop.

Any of these reasons could give your cat reason to foul in the house. Take a look at your own home situation carefully. Because some cats are upset at the slightest thing, there are many possible triggers.

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What is a normal toilet behaviour in cats?

At around the age of 5-7 weeks, a tiny kitten will first learn to use a litter tray. By 7-8 weeks they should be able to cover their poops and wee in the litter. Almost all cats squat low down to urinate while, in contrast, they raise their posture to poop. Felines are very private pets, preferring to do their toilet duties in secluded locations. For this reason, litter trays need to be placed away from their sleeping, feeding and drinking areas. As such, it may be necessary to move the litter box.

How do cats mark their territory?

Territory marking is a different routine to regular pooping. There are several different ways that a cat marks his environment.

  • Rubbing: when a cat rubs their face against you, other pets and furniture, they are spreading pheromones secreted from facial glands.
  • Scratching: glands between the footpads deposit scent onto a surface.
  • Spraying urine: for various reasons, sexual, territorial and reactional.
  • Middening: this is pooping and leaving faeces in deliberate locations, purely for the purpose of marking their territory and not just emptying the bowels.

Try to have a think about the day that your cat suddenly stopped using the litter box. If it seems like that you can identify the cause or trigger, solving the problem will be so much easier.

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Are there home remedies to stop a cat from pooping in the house?

Once you have recognised that your cat is fouling in the house, for whatever reason, it’s important that you resolve the problem so it doesn’t continue. This is because not only is it unhygienic, but it will also (probably) drive you mad. There are several different factors that you can look at in your home.

Clean the litter tray frequently

Cats are very fastidious pets and, as they get older, this becomes even more obvious. Always ensure that their litter box is kept clean and empty the faeces often. It’s best to clean the litter box every day, especially if your cat is peeing and pooping there. Some cats are quite quirky and they may just not be happy with the amount of litter in the box. It’s a good idea to change this just to see if it actually does make any difference. Likewise, some felines don’t like using a tray with high sides. Resolve these litter box problems and you are well on the way to solving the problem.

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If it’s related to a health condition

A senior cat with arthritis might have an issue actually climbing into a litter box. There comes a point though when they may create a habit because of this, as they know it will cause pain. As such, they will refuse to do their toilet duties here and instead prefer to poop in the house. So make sure that it isn't medical issues that are causing this pooping on the floor outside the litter tray. Obviously, if this is the situation, you may need to talk to a vet about it.

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Provide a safe place for your kitty

Cats love nothing more than to withdraw away from the world at times, particularly older cats. Provide a place, preferably at height (a cat tree is ideal), where your cat can be secluded. This will certainly reduce the cat’s anxieties and give them a feeling of control.

If you have multiple cats

Every cat should be given the solitude to carry out eating, sleeping and toileting duties in peace and quiet. It’s a good idea to give each cat a separate feeding station and do likewise with litter trays. Your cat might be anxious to go to certain litter trays due to another cat frequently in that area. Providing litter trays all around the house will remedy that problem.

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Give plenty of playtime opportunities

A bored cat can quickly become a stressed cat. Set aside time every day to play with different toys. Stimulate the cat’s predatory and natural hunting abilities.

Human interaction is very important

Always provide predictable, consistent and positive actions when with your kitty. Be kind to them and create interactive bonding sessions. But only let it be on your cat’s terms, otherwise forcing cuddles on them may make them more stressed.

Try not to disrupt your cat’s sense of smell

In their environment, a cat will sense an odour that is made up of many things – other pets, furniture, people and virtually anything in the home. A cat can very easily become stressed by any change in this collective odour. Consider your feline pet when you introduce any new smells to the home – these can be from new furniture, new cleaning products and perfumes.

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When should I talk to a vet?

If you have tried altering your cat’s environment to decrease their anxiety and nothing has worked, take them to a vet to check there is nothing wrong medically. Alternatively, if you notice any other symptoms, a vet should see your cat sooner rather than later. For example, arthritis does not always manifest as limping. Instead it might be something subtle, such as jumping less often. Likewise, stress does not always manifest as behavioural issues. Instead your cat might be over grooming as a coping mechanism, and have bald patches. But this can also be a symptom of skin problems, which need to be investigated.

These are all things a vet can help with. The vet can prescribe treatments for underlying issues, but if there is nothing to treat, they can also prescribe feline pheromone products to help your cat feel calm.

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