Why kittens? Why!
September 28, 2014 4:02 AM   Subscribe

Why have our two kittens started pooing on the cellar floor? They started this at about four months old. They arrived litter trained and have used the two covered, adult sized litter trays ever since. Then two months ago, with the run of the whole house, started the odd poo in the cellar. Its still only once every few days. We moved both the trays into the cellar as they spend a lot of time there (its cool when the house is very hot), but it persists. The majority of the poo is still in the trays. We change the litter weekly and scoop the trays at least once a day.
posted by Gabriel ricci to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
Don't know, but my cat does this too. Not a big deal since we usually keep the cellar door closed, but I do wish I knew WTF was going on in her little walnut-sized brain.
posted by aimedwander at 5:04 AM on September 28, 2014

It could be a few things and it's probably worth a vet check to ensure it's nothing medical like a bowel issue. Bring a poop sample.

If it's not medical, it could be the covered box.

Cats take longer to poop than pee, and they need to have privacy and space because of their instinct to be able to escape. When boxes are covered or right next to each other, they lose that escape ability and sometimes poop on the floor.

I'd buy three new uncovered boxes and place them away from each other in different parts of the house, leaving one in the cellar.

(These are all tips from my kid in veterinary school.)
posted by kinetic at 5:51 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Try uncovered trays.

If I needed to do a poo and my options were a tiny closed-in space that already reeked because I'd left another poo in it a few hours earlier, or a clear spot on the cellar floor, I'd use the floor as well.

If your cats are actually competent poo-buriers (mine never was), you might also care to try switching to a clumping sawdust-based litter, which is more effective than other kinds at absorbing smells and might be enough to render the inside of a covered box tolerable to delicate kitty nostrils.
posted by flabdablet at 6:15 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's what it was with our cats.

1. When they were kittens we kept them in the basement bathroom, with the litter box under the sink. Then we saw crap on the floor. Moved the box, no problems. Cats got too big to poo under the sink's U-pipe.

2. We got a fancy piece of litter-box furniture and put the cat box in it. Cats had no problems with it for over a year. Suddenly crap on the floor. We scratched our heads, and got a second box. Problem solved.

So...remove the covers, if that doesn't work, change the litter.

Cats are weird little beasts and sometimes they up and decide that they want different accommodations.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:26 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

One guideline that's frequently quoted is "your number of litter boxes should equal the number of cats plus one extra" It sounds like you have two cats and two boxes. Maybe it's time to try adding a third box?

(Then again, my household has 2 boxes for 3 cats and we've never had problems. Still, I see the suggestion everywhere, so either there must be some wisdom behind it, or it's a big conspiracy to sell more litter boxes and litter.)
posted by radwolf76 at 7:01 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Are they long haired? My long haired cat prefers pooping on things that don't result in her butt hair getting gravelly. We have one box that's actually just empty, and another regular litter box for pee
posted by spunweb at 7:22 AM on September 28, 2014

Maybe there are other animal smells in the cellar and they are trying to put their smell in the area? Any mice down there?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:45 AM on September 28, 2014

Have you thoroughly, thoroughly cleaned the spot where they are pooping? They may be smelling the remnants and thinking it's still a legit pooing spot. Use one of the Nature's Miracle products.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:08 AM on September 28, 2014

I had a cat who protested by pooping outside the litter box when he deemed it too dirty.

The size of the litter box can make a difference. We get the jumbo sized ones for our guys. It holds more litter and manages the smell a bit better and there can be more burying action.

Cats sometimes panic if the poop gets stuck because it is to hard or dry. They may walk or run around until it falls out. If you can catch your kittens going it may answer the question.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:44 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're not scooping enough.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:26 AM on September 28, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions guys. The boxes are in the corner in the cellar and stacked on top of each other. The boxes had a lot more space around them upstairs,so I think it could be feeling "hemmed in". I will try to reposition the boxes (I have to get my bike in and out every day) and also try uncovering them to disperse the smell after use.
posted by Gabriel ricci at 10:45 AM on September 28, 2014

Do you mean that they're actually going on the floor or just that there's like little "remnants" on the floor near the box? My cat sometimes drops a little poo outside the box because it either sticks to his fur and falls off as he leaves or he gets out of the box a little prematurely. He also has a very strange way of "perching" on the edge of the box like a bird when he goes and sometimes he just plain doesn't get his butt in the box far enough.

Short of shaving his back end and retraining his poo technique, we just got him a much bigger box and started putting a puppy training pad or two around the box for easy cleanup.
posted by Kimmalah at 11:21 AM on September 28, 2014

Response by poster: Unfortunately they are actually "going" outside the box. I have uncovered the top box and will see if they prefer that one; and if it reduces the "dirty protest's".
posted by Gabriel ricci at 11:43 AM on September 28, 2014

I think stacking is a problem. It might have felt roomy and secure to the kittens when they were littler, but presumably they are growing and the top one might be starting to feel more like a perch than a comfy place. I haven't seen a litter box yet that doesn't require a head or tail or both hanging out for a full grown cat, and perhaps that feeling "two stories" up is not sitting well with one or both of them. I strongly suspect unstacking will do the trick.
posted by dness2 at 12:52 PM on September 28, 2014

Seconding kinetic: take 'em in for a work-up.

Our cat Scout exhibits the same behavior when he feels uncomfy back there (apparently he seeks out alternatives, and fails to properly track and anticipate his needs).

If you'd prefer to start with the cheapest possible diagnosis and treatment: just go to the front desk and ask for a vet tech to express the kittens' anal glands. The vet tech should report to you what they've found.

If the kittens' anal glands are normal, proceed to make a vet appointment and/or request a urine sample. Last time Scout had this issue, his urine ph was borderline. We've been adjusting it with methigel, and the problem has not recurred.

posted by feral_goldfish at 5:52 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Recommended reading: The Litter Box From Your Cat's Point of View

The box may be too small or not cleaned often enough.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:14 PM on September 28, 2014

I kind of doubt that it's anything medical. My cat is perfectly fine, stays in her litter box (in our 2nd floor bathroom), wanders all over the house not pooping anyplace, yet mysteriously, if I leave the door down to the cellar open (which we in general try not to do) and she wanders down there, she's likely to leave a little pile of poop in the floor, right in the middle of the open area. I'll point out, this is not a finished basement or even an unfinished basement, this is a cellar: fieldstone walls, rough-pour cement floor that seeps water when it rains heavily, pipes and ducts everywhere, the only purpose is for laundry, the furnace, and a tool storage area. It's almost always dampish, and definitely smells funny even to my insensitive human nose, so lord only knows what the cat thinks of the place. My theory is that she's pooping there because (a) it is a crazy terrifying moldy wasteland that needs to be claimed for all catkind and/or (b) mice and who knows what have been across that floor recently and she needs to show them who's boss, and/or (c) it smells like dirt and wet rocks and dust and wild things, and obviously a little bit of poop wouldn't do any harm.
Conveniently (?) she always chooses approximately the same area, which is open and obvious enough that it won't fester, but not quite where I'd step in it. Our solution is to remember to close the door when we're not down there. When we first moved in, we'd considered putting her litter box down there but decided not to just on the theory that it wouldn't be easy to contain (not totally sweepable floors, humid air that carries heavy smells) and the whole cellar would get litterboxy. Given that she seems to like random poops there, and hearing your issues, I'm thinking that keeping her out of there was a wise choice.
posted by aimedwander at 10:30 AM on September 30, 2014

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