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Catastrophe: Cat Pooping Outside Litter Box

Updated on December 15, 2011
By 十字花剑 (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By 十字花剑 (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Cats are supposed to be intelligent creatures, capable of learning how to adequately use a litter box. However, sometimes things don't go quite the way they planned. Your beloved cat might have been nice enough to use the litter, but somehow keeps leaving feces where they are not welcome. So would a cat be pooping outside the litter box?

Litter Box Sizes

A common mistake among cat owners who were lucky enough to adopt a kitten is lack of adaptability. Kittens grow and it's possible they may outgrow their current litter box. This is especially among first-time kitten owners, who may choose a small litter box to save money and not realize eventually an upgrade will be needed.

A litter box should be at least as wide as your cat

While your cat might be able to step into a smaller litter box, his rear end might protrude out. It is no wonder, then, that feces do not stay within the expected area. A litter box should be at least a little bigger than your cat's width when he is walking. Ideally, you want a few inches more. Of course, you can choose to simply get the largest litter pan there is if you don't want to end up guessing.

True Story

One time, my cat snuck into our unfinished basement and hurt himself on a nail. He had to get surgery and we had to switch to an approved litter. My cat had no problem with the new litter, but we weren't very keen on it - it was a plain litter with no scents, no clumping. When he was better, we tried to switch back to our old litter. My cat started to poop on the towel that we put underneath the litter pan. He also pooped on the nearby rug. We couldn't understand why he did what he did, but we remembered he didn't seem to have a problem on the boring litter so we switched back. The poo "accidents" stopped right away. Picky, picky.

Cat Litter Training Books

Other Reasons For a Cat Not Using Litter Box

Cats are usually picky creatures. They know what they like and don't like and this includes litter. A cat who does not approve of the current litter might choose to poop on nearby towels, rugs, or mats in protest. This is even more likely if the cat already has a favorite litter that you suddenly switch out.

Remember, there is no such things as the "best cat litter". There is only one thing that matters: the litter your cat(s) like.


Cats use their sense of smell to find their litter box. If the smell of the litter itself covers the cat's poo, it might affect his ability to find the litter in the first place. Even if this doesn't happen, your cat might simply not like the smell of it.

Size of Litter

Litter can come in sand-like particles, which are very tiny, or in pellet-like particles, which are about a quarter inch big. This can make a world of difference.

Imagine walking in sand and how messy it gets. Some people don't like sand because of that and because they don't like when the sand gets in places it shouldn't go into. Some cats are just like that; they don't like the feel of tiny pebbles around their claws and possibly making their way elsewhere as they try to find a comfortable spot.

Imagine walking around on an unpaved road with its many rocks. It can feel awkward to not have a smooth path. Perhaps this is the reason why some cats don't like the pellet-size litters. It's not comfortable and so they leave and choose to poop right outside.


Some cats don't want to share litter boxes. If you've recently added a new cat to your family and one of them starts to poop outside of the litter box, it might be a protest to tell you he or she wants a separate litter box.

Ways to Encourage Litter Box Usage

  • Switching back to an older litter, or to a completely opposite type of litter
  • Getting a bigger box
  • Getting another bigger box if another cat was recently introduced in the house

Litter Boxes With Enclosures

If your cat is using the litter, but just keeps missing, it might be worthy to consider a litter box that is enclosed. Such a clever cat litter provides privacy and keeps poop (and litter) inside.


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    • crazybeanrider profile image

      Boo McCourt 4 years ago from Washington MI

      Good information. I have a 18 year old cat that on occassion misses. I think it is more trying to rush his elimination. But I do agree the right kitty litter is important. I have learned over the years which ones my cats liked best and tend to stick to that brand.