My cat has taken to pooping and peeing all over our flat. Several trips to the vet haven't stopped it. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to stop this?
May 8, 2011 10:42 AM   Subscribe

My cat has taken to pooping and peeing all over our flat. Several trips to the vet haven't stopped it. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to stop this?

We adopted our cat in January from a shelter. She is partially blind so has to be kept indoors and we live in a flat. The shelter said she sometimes had problems using her litter tray and had previously been adopted and returned by someone else (returned because of her litter tray problems). We took pity on her and she adapted to our home well - always using the litter tray for both types of toilet 'function' perfectly.

Great, until about 6 weeks ago. She began starting to poo in her litter tray but then run around the room whilst still pooing. Sometimes she would even drag her bottom along things. We now wake up to a scene of devistation most mornings. She has also started peeing in different parts of the flat - using her litter tray about 50% of the time for pees but never for poos. We don't think it is territorial because she was fine for several months beforehand and nothing has changed in her environment. Also, she doesn't pee against vertical services, just onto the carpet and she has been spayed.

We have been the vet several times. He checked her anal glands, gave her anti-biotics in case of an infection, said her anus doesn't seem inflammed or have any problems. He gave her anti-inflammatories just in case. We have also been giving her a prescription pro-biotic paste in case her stomach has been irritated somehow. None of this has had any effect.

We are getting really desperate now because our home just feels like one big cat toilet and we seem to spend a ridiculous amount of time cleaning up after her and trying to get rid of the smell. We have been using proper cat urine cleaner too. We have tried mixing in special 'cat attract' litter into her litter box but that has had no effect. It feels like we've done everything obvious and nothing will work, yet there is no obvious cause for her to suddenly start doing this. I've searched online for hours for a solution.

The only clue we have is that she seems to have had this problem in the past, yet was fine when we first adopted her. We're thinking now that it is maybe something psychological like depression, or perhaps physical like some kind IBS type thing. Those are guesses though. We're going to take her back to the vet I think, but don't hold out much hope - it is so expensive each time we go and is so depressing because nothing works. So, hence I thought I would turn to the good followers of AskMeFi in the hope that just maybe someone might know of something that could be done (apart from putting her to sleep!).
posted by Pilly to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You need AT LEAST two separate trays. My mom had a cat who would not pee and poo in the same box, she required one for each. To start with, I'd keep one in every room. Maybe she is a little incontinent and can't get there in time? Having more trays close at hand would help her there.
posted by hermitosis at 10:46 AM on May 8, 2011

Has anything - anything at all - changed in the vicinity of her litter box?
posted by likeso at 10:48 AM on May 8, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry - we've tried that already - we have 3 trays in the flat, two of which are in the room where she sleeps. When she poos, she will sometimes start off in the litter tray and then just charge around the room (while the poo pours out!).
posted by Pilly at 10:48 AM on May 8, 2011

Response by poster: Nothing has changed that we can think of. She does use the trays sometimes for peeing, but not all the time.
posted by Pilly at 10:49 AM on May 8, 2011

Has any renovation or construction work been going on in your neighborhood?
posted by likeso at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2011

(I know that sounds strange, but my the flat next to mine was being overhauled last summer. Through sheer dumb bad luck, Kittylikeso was visiting the box on two different occasions when they busted out the jackhammer and fired it up. It took a month or so to convince her that her litter box wasn't hatching some Nefarious Plan.)
posted by likeso at 11:00 AM on May 8, 2011

posted by k8t at 11:01 AM on May 8, 2011

As your cat been checked for worms? Thats one reason it could be dragging it's butt. Another is that cats are notoriously clean animals, and don't like poop on their butts anymore than we do. Carpet makes good toilet paper.

Personally, I'd keep poopy-cat in a room that's easy to clean for the time being (spare bathroom? Laundry room?) Just to keep everyone's sanity.

Maybe all of a sudden she doesn't like the litter you are using? Maybe she's developed an allergy, or just plain got a case of being picky-cat. Have you tried other brands? Since you have so many litter boxes, maybe try another brand in one of them? Since she's already pooping inappropriately, it might be worth trying...

Also, try some Feliway. It's expensive, but for some cats is works like a charm; if it's something stress related, it might be enough to calm her down a bit.
posted by cgg at 11:02 AM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I suspect the reason for the change is as a partially blind cat, she's heavily depending on her sense of smell to tell her where she's relieved herself before, even more so than a sighted cat (who also tend toward going where they've gone before). When she first moved in, the only thing that smelled of her waste was the cat box but then she had that first accident and now her OK spots are spreading. You'll want to get industrial on the places she's gone before with the best enzymatic pet waste cleaners you can find.

While the cleaner is taking effect (it takes a few days) you should confine her to a very limited area (small bathroom or better yet, largish dog kennel) with a bed, food & water and litterbox so she doesn't have a chance to make more spots. The goal here is to reset the scents in your home to where it was when she joined your household, something you need to do before trying whatever behavior modifications you plan to try.

On preview "When she poos, she will sometimes start off in the litter tray and then just charge around the room (while the poo pours out!)." I had a cat who was frightened of her own bowel movements and run away just like that. I put a hood on her box and turned the opening toward a wall to make it more difficult for her to bolt out mid-crap, which helped but didn't entirely solve the problem.
posted by jamaro at 11:04 AM on May 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the response - I'm not aware of any construction work happening around here, or anything bad happening whilst she's been using the litter tray. I've got a Feliway plug-in and have it on most of the day - been using it for about a month or so, but hasn't stopped the problem.

As she often does her toilet business after eating, we feed her in the room where she sleeps which is also the room with the oldest carpet that needs replacing anyway. We have tried various cat litters and different consistencies in one of the litter trays. However, she just treats it the same as the others - occasionally peeing in it or beginning to poo and then ignoring it the rest of the time.

We have been using some of the industrial type urine cleaner and have even got a blacklight so we can identify and eliminate any spots she has on the carpet. We also use a little green machine steam cleaner to make absolutely sure we get the areas. We've also tried putting one of the extra litter trays in one of the spots she started using, but she just finds somewhere else. She knows her way around the flat extremely well and never bumps into things and we've tried reinforcing the locations of the litter trays to her by gently putting them into them.

It all just seems so bizarre because she was perfect in this regard for several months and nothing has changed. Her diet is exactly the same as before too. Her behaviour is the same except she maybe seems more hungry than before (but she's slightly overweight anyway).
posted by Pilly at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2011

I understand that you've tried the cat-attract litter mixed in. I've had to switch to 100 percent Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract litter, and that helps. Expensive stuff, though. What also helps is spraying "Nature's Miracle" around the room where she had taken to pooping inappropriately. I'm told it's some kind of hormone/enzyme that tells the cat "this is a living place, not a pooping place." Had to do a deep cleaning first of course. This has . . . almost cured the similar problem we were having, except that sometimes the cat will get into the box, face the box, hang her butt over the edge and poop onto the floor. Newspapers under the boxes ameliorate that bad occasional habit. Her habits have improved with these changes. Slightly underfeeding seems to help too. Good luck. What a pain. Cats are weird.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 11:58 AM on May 8, 2011

I like Jamaro's take on this the best. Sounds reasonable.

After using the proper cleaner, I sometimes put down vinegar on top as a neutralizer for the smell. The enzyme cleaner + vinegar really helps the smell issue quite a bit more than cleaner by itself.
posted by jbenben at 12:12 PM on May 8, 2011

Maybe too personal a question to ask, but anyone in the household recently "with child"? I work at a vet clinic where a cat came in with sudden anxiety issues and inappropriate elimination. Owner did not know if anything that had changed in the household, and tests did not reveal any infection, issues with anal glands, etc. Six-ish weeks later, she discovered that she was pregnant. Her hormones were the only change in the household, which she was not aware of until she took a pregnancy test. Just a thought!
posted by asranixon at 12:27 PM on May 8, 2011

I've posted this on the green before, but my cat decided one day she hated the litter she had been using for 2 years and I had stocked up on. She peed on dog beds and pooped on the floor. I switched to Cat Attract completely (not blended) and she has not had a problem since.

As a side note, I have continued using the old litter I had stocked up on for our other 2 cats and she still won't touch the stuff. Cats are weird.
posted by murrey at 12:34 PM on May 8, 2011

Response by poster: Ha - as far as I'm aware my wife isn't "with child" - I think we'd both be shocked if she were! So hopefully that's not an issue.

I'll give the vinegar a try as if nothing else it'll maybe help with the smell. The problem I have with nature's miracle and cat attract is that I live in the UK and I haven't found anywhere here that sells it. The bag I got was shipped from the US and is very expensive to have to pay for both the litter itself and shipping.

Cats are definitely weird though!
posted by Pilly at 12:38 PM on May 8, 2011

I had a similar problem with one cat and tried all of the above and the only thing that worked was to have an animal behaviorist (vet) come to the house and assess the situation, and craft a plan that we hadn't thought of. Sometimes it really takes having a professional see the animal in its habitat to be able to truly understand the problem. It was a one-time outlay of a few hundred dollars US, but it solved the problem.
posted by FlyByDay at 1:18 PM on May 8, 2011

You haven't moved furniture around, have you? I'd also try different litters -- try non-clumping, or that weird newspaper stuff, or whatever else there is that is different from what you use.
posted by jeather at 1:22 PM on May 8, 2011

I've noticed cats running around if their poop is painful. You might try giving her some hairball remedy / CatLax as this can soften the stool and make it easier to poop (there may originally have been hair involved or not). Of course, the above advice indicating that she's navigating by smell now still probably applies, but the initial incident may have been from pain.
posted by amtho at 2:38 PM on May 8, 2011

Yeah, agreeing with amtho... I'm thinking it could very well be painful poop for some reason – she tries to run from the poop, basically – and as for the peeing, maybe half the time she's thinking the litterbox is that place where the pain was happening, avoid, avoid!

The fact that she's done this in the past, and then didn't for months and months really makes it seem that there's some quite specific thing that sets it off, instead of just catwackyness. The running while pooping thing definitely seems like it points to a pain issue. Are her poops hard/dry? Or maybe the opposite?
posted by taz at 3:05 PM on May 8, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice/opinions - I concur that the pooing while running might indicate pain. The vet said that as she was pooing regularly and there was no indication of any problem around her anus, it didn't seem like it was a constipation issue. Nevertheless I think maybe a laxative might be worth trying if it makes passing poo easier. I'll make an appointment at the vets this week though and see what he says. I'd love to get a cat behaviourist round but fear the cost! Tonight she wandered up to her litter tray, had a sniff at it and then decide to pee on the newspaper next to it rather than get in it. I'd think it was maybe the type of litter except she used it fine for the first few months.

I scare myself when I realise how much I now know about cat's anus'...
posted by Pilly at 3:49 PM on May 8, 2011

I agree that this sounds like your cat is painful. I would keep in mind that it may not be the poop itself that's painful, it could be the posturing to poop that hurts, she may have a muscular or skeletal issue.
posted by biscotti at 4:59 PM on May 8, 2011

I feel your pain. I had a cat that would do this, and she turned out to have a bladder crystal problem. The vet told me that sometimes when a cat associates being in a particular place (i.e., litterbox) with pain, that can lead to 'experiments'. Did you have a urine test done? That cleared up the problem for us. Twice!
posted by TAP at 5:16 PM on May 8, 2011

Oh, and not too expensive to find out. We went the recommended route of locking the cat overnight in a bathroom with a (used) clean litterless litterbox, and harvested the pee next morning to take to the vet for analysis. Not a lot of pet trauma, and a quick fairly cheap peek through a microscope to confirm crystals. This resulted in a diet change for the cat, and encouragement to drink more water (in the form of a pet fountain - easy to hear!) has probably helped also.
posted by TAP at 5:45 PM on May 8, 2011

What's her diet like? One of our three can be non-conformist with her poo habits. While they've always been on no-grain kibble, the situation improved a little by switching to a rabbit-protein-only food. The resulting poops are smaller, and she doesn't seem to be as freaked out by them.
posted by mimi at 5:32 AM on May 9, 2011

You say it's running out--like diarrhea?

My cat used to have big time problems with his poop. It was quite runny--often to the point of, um, anal leakage. Disgusting to find that on your kitchen floor.

Usually he would go in the box, but sometimes there was excess drippage. Sometimes after ill-advised tinkering with his diet he would have a really bad day, and he would just poop everywhere--he preferred the bathtub, or a hallway, anything slightly secluded.

I mostly got this under control by mixing rather large quantities of psyllium husks into his canned cat food. This bulked up his stool considerably. He also started losing weight though.

Then on one routine checkup the vet said one of his teeth was rotten and would need to be removed. I thought this was a bit odd because no teeth problems were mentioned on previous visits. Whatever. I scheduled the procedure. There were some complications so it was another month or two before the teeth actually came out.

Yep, teeth. They removed nearly all his teeth! He has maybe two teeth left. Nearly all his teeth were rotten, and he lost a lot of jaw bone too due to the decay. They took before and after photos, and boy were the before photos nasty.

He of course was not happy for a few days and was drooling blood. But after a month or so he fully recovered. What's more, all his stool problems are now gone. He eats normal canned cat food, his poop is firm little tootsie rolls, and now he is an energetic cat that causes lots of ruckus as any good cat should. Pulling his teeth made a huge difference.

The vets did not expect that pulling his teeth would affect his stool as it did. They were talking about sending him to some specialty vet. I told them, hey, let's get the teeth fixed first and then see what happens. Clearly all that tooth decay was wreaking havoc with other, seemingly unrelated things.

I have no idea how your cat's teeth are, but I took this as a lesson for both cats and humans: tooth decay can have widespread ill effects, and some body systems can affect others in ways you would not necessarily expect.
posted by massysett at 7:25 AM on May 9, 2011

Response by poster: Off to the vets tomorrow - I suspect he is going to recommend changing her diet. She currently has half a tin of wet food a day and a small amount of dry biscuits at night - just normal brands (but I'm coming to realise these aren't the most nutrious). Funny thing is though that her diet hasn't changed and she was fine for those first months.

Her poos aren't too diarrhea like - once in the last month she did have one like that, but the rest have been normal (except for the running round while bits plop out!). That's a really interesting point about the teeth though - when we've been giving her the anti-biotic pills a few weeks ago I noticed that some of her teeth looked like they had a lot of tartar on them. I bought a cat toothbrush and some pet toothpaste but she wouldn't let me brush them whatsoever which made me wonder if they are giving her any pain. I'll ask the vet to take a look at them tomorrow. That's pretty crazy how it's possible they could be related to toilet functions.

Anyway, thanks for all the responses - I really appreciate them all and has given me some ideas of how to go forward and things to talk to the vet about.
posted by Pilly at 3:28 PM on May 9, 2011

Any answers from the vet? Just curious how things went!
posted by asranixon at 4:07 PM on May 16, 2011

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