What to Do if Your Cat Defecates Outside the Litter Box

When a cat starts to defecate outside the litter box, it might be a result of behavioral issues. Scolding your cat won't help, and you'll need to find a solution.
What to Do if Your Cat Defecates Outside the Litter Box
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

When a cat starts to defecate outside the litter box, it might be a result of behavioral issues. Cats are usually very meticulous when it comes to their hygiene.

Behavioral issues can be brought on by stress. It’s important to find the cause of the stress and find a way to relieve it. Scolding your cat won’t help; you need to find a solution.

Cats that eliminate outside the litter box: health problems

The first step is to take your pet to the vet for a checkup to rule out any underlying health issues.

Some feline illnesses can cause an increase in the amount of urine they produce, incontinence, or pain when they urinate. For example, this occurs when the animal has a lower urinary tract infection like cystitis, renal insufficiency, diabetes, hyperthyroidism etc.

Old age can make getting to the litter box difficult

A cat in its litter box.

Health problems linked with old age, such as neurological issues or arthritis, can make it difficult for your cat to make it to the litter box in time.

To resolve this, you need to move the litter box to a more accessible place for your cat. You could also buy a shallower litter box and place it closer to their bed or favorite sleeping spot.


There are many things that can change our cat’s routines and behavior.

Some examples might be the arrival of a new tenant or family member, moving house, or coming back home after a long stay at the vet’s. Simple changes in their routine can have a significant impact on your feline friend.

When these changes occur, the best thing to do is to respect their usual timetable, whether it be with regards to their feeding times, brushing or anything else. You also need to make sure you spend time with them, stroke them, and help them relax.

Certain natural remedies, such as Bach flowers or feline pheromones can be a great help. They’ll help your cat relax and feel comfortable in its environment again.

Why isn’t my cat using the litter box?

If your cat has started to defecate around the house instead of in its litter box, it might be because it doesn’t feel comfortable in the litter box. This could be for a number of reasons:

  • A dirty litter box. Cats are very meticulous when it comes to their hygiene, and won’t use a litter box that’s not clean. It’s best to remove any dirt on a daily basis, and change the litter regularly.
  • If you use a clumping cat litter, it should be changed every day. Traditional cat litter should be changed every 7-10 days, and silicone pearls around once a month.
  • The litter itself can be a contributing factor. You have to be careful about the type, texture, and smell of the litter you choose.
  • Where you place the litter box is important. You should place it in a quiet area of the house so that your cat feels safe. It needs to be in a low-traffic area far away from its food and water.
  • Don’t move the litter box, as it might confuse your cat.

What makes a good litter box?

Cats usually prefer large, deep litter boxes, which are comfortable for them to hop in and out of whenever they need to. While some cats prefer open litter boxes, shier cats might prefer covered litter boxes which offer a bit more privacy.

Whatever litter box you choose, it’s important that your cat feels comfortable.

Lonely cats

A kitten and its litter tray.

If your cat feels lonely or sad, it might start to defecate around the house. There are scientific reasons for this.

Substances excreted in their feces can produce odors which can make the cat feel more comfortable and less vulnerable. They may even be doing it for attention, hoping that their owners will find it and understand that they’re trying to tell them something.

Places such as bedrooms, dining rooms, or hallways are common places for cats to defecate, as well as behind sofas and chairs.


The presence of some threat in your home could also make your cat start to go to the toilet outside the litter box.

It might be some one-off event like a loud noise, a new visitor, the presence of another cat or other animal outside the house, or maybe you shouted at them or scolded them for something. Alternatively, it could be something more permanent, that’s begun to upset them more and more as time has gone on.

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The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.