Our cat is defecating RIGHT OUTSIDE of his litterbox. How to stop?
August 24, 2016 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Our lovely Russian blue has always had diarrhea, but is usually pretty good with going to the potty in the right spot. Now, however, he has started pooping right next to the litter box, onto the carpet. I sleep with him, and don't want to have to lock him up at night so would like to find a way to nip this issue in the bud. Help?

Our Russian blue got weird about his pooping habits when we introduced a new cat into the house a while back, but things have settled and they've been on friendly terms for years now. The problem sprung up again maybe a few months or so ago, and I can't think of anything that might have brought it on. What he does is stand right next to his letter, defecate (again, diarrhea) onto the carpet, then scratch the wall/surrounding area for a while and leave. Then I commence the hazmat cleanup.

The cats that don't like each other are segregated, and they all have their own litter boxes (we have five litter boxes for four cats). We've tried bigger boxes + smaller ones. We haven't tried a new brand of litter since he used to go in his litter box with no issues. I've noticed that he scoots his butt more across the carpet than he used to, so I suspect something's bothering him down there. His anal glands have been impacted in the past, but they've never interfered with his litter activities.

I've also thought about changing his diet, since diarrhea is never good. We currently have him on I'm also going to try and vary the amount of litter in the box. I'm careful not to shame him or frighten him when he's in the act as I don't want to make him neurotic over the whole process.

I talked to a vet over the phone and she said to bring him in to check his stools since he has diarrhea, which I'll be doing even though this has been going on for a while. Anyone have any ideas on how to mitigate the litter problem in the meantime? Can anyone think of a reason our cat would be defecating right next to his litter box? Anyone have any suggestions for fixing his bad habit? Please help me solve this so I can keep my lap cat in the main part of the house!
posted by CottonCandyCapers to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot to mention: He's overweight, and we're just starting him on a diet. We feed him Purina cat chow which from what I understand isn't the best food in the world, but we're strapped for cash. The litter is called Scoop Away Complete.
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 12:08 PM on August 24, 2016

If I were you, I would:

- Add at least two more litterboxes. You want +1 for every extra cat. So, 2 cats? 3 litterboxes. 4 cats? 6 litterboxes. Seems like overkill but I think it could make a difference.
- Have you tried Feliway? I have a diffuser plugged in next to the LBs and that makes a difference.
- Are the litterboxes covered? Consider uncovering some and covering others -- some cats want privacy, others want to be able to see 360 around them because they feel unsafe when doing the deed - and others want privacy but don't like the smell in the covered ones. So I think you may need to experiment a bit.

Definitely visit the vet to see what's up with the diarrhea. He may need special food or some meds. And if none of those things work, prozac may help.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:13 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Often I've heard that avoiding the litter box happens when the box is associated with pain, so getting the medical stuff addressed might help.

Once that's addressed, and you're ready to entice him to "litter box 2.0, which is much better than previous litter box", definitely try Cat Attract litter. It's amazing.

In the meantime, you could at least try using puppy pads, which should help make the cleanup easier.

I've heard that yogurt can help with this.

Also: I don't see a way out of this without spending more money, at least a little. Puppy pads are expensive, too (although you could try newspaper or washable plastic, I guess). Vet visits, too, of course.

You could try some samples of "sensitive stomach" food; there are kibble forms available, which should help.

Diarrhea can be very uncomfortable and acidic; it can burn a bit coming out, and make the associated areas pretty raw, depending on how severe it is. Check him for extreme redness, just in case.
posted by amtho at 12:14 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, he really needs a vet to check him over.
My best guess is there's pain or discomfort associated with going poop, so he's avoiding the box. It sounds like there may be something wrong with his anal glands as well as whatever is happening in his digestive tract that causes the diarrhea.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 12:14 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Put a large easily-washable mat under the litterbox to mitigate the cleanup issues while you're solving the problem.
posted by erst at 12:15 PM on August 24, 2016

If he's doing this and it's not normal poop, there is something physically wrong with him and you need to take him to the vet. When I had a cat who did this, it turned out he was allergic to a common ingredient in his food and we had to feed him prescription low-allergen food instead. Doing this completely solved the problem.

It's really common for cats to communicate their health problems through litter box issues. The fact that he's had diarrhea for a long time doesn't mean that isn't part of the issue. It's probably actually the main problem. There's something wrong that needs to be addressed.
posted by something something at 12:27 PM on August 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

how old is he? We just took our beloved 14 year old cat to the vet about this problem and she thought that his arthritis was making it hard for him to get into the box and posture correctly in the soft litter. She suggested just giving him some cardboard to poop on and starting a glucosamine supplement.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:57 PM on August 24, 2016

Yes, feliaway, cat attract, and more boxes.
posted by k8t at 1:00 PM on August 24, 2016

We had an issue like this with one of our two cats, who is likely part Russian Blue. She would do part of her business in the box, but sometimes she would have her head in the box but not the rest, and do her thing. This included solid and liquid.

To help with this, we got two of the top entrance cat boxes, which made her jump up and get inside of it to do her thing. This helped hugely, and she very rarely misses now.

Sometimes, however, she does get a little bit of poop stuck to her butt, and we find it just outside the box. Could that be what is happening?
posted by strixus at 1:05 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

How clean do you keep the litter boxes? Do they smell, even a tiny bit? This would be separate from the diarrhea problem but one of my cats used to do the poop/pee right next to litter box whenever it wasn't super pristine. She got nutty over it and I basically had to scoop extra times a day and every few days fully scrub the litter box and then she was happy. But yeah also take to the vet and I nth more litter boxes.
posted by FireFountain at 1:25 PM on August 24, 2016

My 20 year old cat has some minor mobility issues—so far, the only problem associated with this is that she squats so close to the edge of the box when she pees that she ends up peeing next to the box. I've put her litter box inside a very shallow plastic box (actually, the lid from a large rubbermaid storage container), which also contains enough clumping litter to absorb these near misses.
posted by she's not there at 1:30 PM on August 24, 2016

It sounds like your issue is probably related to the kitty's health, but for folks who might be coming to this thread from Google, our very similar problem was solved by getting a JUMBO litter box -- we use this one: WhiskerCity Jumbo Litter Box.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 1:41 PM on August 24, 2016

Purina made my cats VERY ill. In fact, the food I had from them was from a factory that had multiple health violations. Not disclosed to the public. I would change to a high quality food like Science Diet.
posted by agregoli at 2:15 PM on August 24, 2016

My experience, which is probably not the same as yours:

1. I adopted two cats and started feeding them fancy grain-free high-protein food, which they liked a lot, but which gave one cat diarrhea.

2. Said cat started pooping immediately outside the litterbox very consistently, every day.

3. I experimented with foods until we found one that they find less delicious but digestible. Cat continued pooping outside the litter box. For years. We tried additional boxes and various kinds of litters. I continued cleaning up cat poop every day.

4. We moved to a new place and got an entirely new litter box. Cat pooped in it! But only if I immediately cleaned it after either of them used it for anything. Eventually, I was out of town for a weekend and we fell back into our previous habits.

5. I gave in and bought a litter robot self-cleaning box. Now I have fewer dollars, but everyone poops in the litter box (well, not me), so I count it as a solid win.

Mostly I think you should figure out what's up with the diarrhea and then go from there. For ease of cleaning while my cat was pooping outside the box, I tried puppy pads (but she didn't really want to poop on them) and those plastic carpet protectors that people put under office chairs (that worked better for us).
posted by Vibrissa at 3:48 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

When our cat was pooping (normal poop, though) outside the box, we got her .... a bigger box. It's a rubbermaid type box from home depot. Very large. No further problems related to this.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 3:54 PM on August 24, 2016

To help with the clean up, I use absorbent pads designed for puppy training. If my elderly cat misses the tray now, all I have to do is throw away the pad. My calm in the mornings has been much restored.
posted by Helga-woo at 4:08 PM on August 24, 2016

When I first got my Henri, he had diarrhea that nearly killed him, and nothing seemed to help. The vets were at a loss. I gave him some BeneBac, and that cleared him up. Petco usually has it. Seven years later, he's doing just fine.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:04 PM on August 24, 2016

Forgot to add - the little 4-tube pack for $2.87 is all you need.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:06 PM on August 24, 2016

They make really large trays to go under washing machines to catch dripping. I got one of those, lined it with a puppy pad, put the box in it too. This was for an ex's cat who peed directly next to the box. Saved the floors. Didn't save the relationship!
posted by clone boulevard at 9:06 PM on August 24, 2016

I don't really have anything to add except some humor. Also, house rules are you have to post a picture of your little pooper.
posted by funkiwan at 3:30 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

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