Inappropriate Elimination by My Cat


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Our question this week was:

I have a 12-year-old cat who has always been an indoor outdoor girl. As of the past year she has been stooling outside the litter box almost exclusively. This behavior is so uncharacteristic of her I am perplexed. Her health is good, there have been no changes in her household nor have I changed food or litter brand. I have experimented with other litters to ascertain if that might be the luck. Any thoughts?




Hi – thanks for your email Debra. Sorry to hear about that. Cats can stop using the litterbox for both behavioral or medical reasons. Some common reasons that Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a wonderful behaviorist wrote for us, about common reasons that cats avoid the litter box which include:

  • Too few boxes
  • Inappropriately positioned boxes (damp cellar, high traffic area)
  • Inconvenient location (basement)
  • Hooded box (most cats dislike hoods)
  • Box too dirty (not scooped often enough)
  • Box too clean (cleaned with harsh smelling chemicals, such as bleach)
  • Liners (some cats are intimidated by plastic liners)
  • Plastic underlay (convenient for the owner but not always appreciated by the cat)
  • Wrong type of litter
  • Litter not deep enough
  • Animosity between cats in the house (competition/guarding of litter boxes)
  • Difficulty getting into/out of the box, especially in elderly, arthritic cats

    Sometimes changing the litter brand or type, box location, personality changes in other cats, etc. can all cause this behavior changes. Many times it is impossible to determine the underlying cause.

    Medical problems such as parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, diarrhea, and other issues can also cause this problem.

    A couple articles that might be helpful to you are Inappropriate Elimination in Cats and Understanding Normal Elimination Behavior in Cats.

    Try to look for ANYTHING that is different and fix it. Adding more litter boxes is always a good idea. It is also a good reason to take your cat to the vet for an evaluation to ensure there is no underlying medical problem that may be causing this.

    Best of luck!

    Dr. Debra

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    About The Author

    debra-primovic Dr. Debra Primovic

    Debra A. Primovic, BSN, DVM, Editor-in-Chief, is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Nursing and the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Following her veterinary medical training, Dr. Primovic practiced in general small animal practices as well as veterinary emergency practices. She was staff veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Clinic of St. Louis, Missouri, one of the busiest emergency/critical care practices in the United States as well as MedVet Columbus, winner of the AAHA Hospital of the year in 2014. She also spends time in general practice at the Granville Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Primovic divides her time among veterinary emergency and general practice, editing, writing, and updating articles for, and editing and indexing for veterinary publications. She loves both dogs and cats but has had extraordinary cats in her life, all of which have died over the past couple years. Special cats in her life were Kali, Sammy, Pepper and Beanie.