It’s odd behaviour when you find your cat sitting in the bathtub, and it may be a sign of a bigger issue. But a cat pooping in the bathtub is definitely a problem you want to address as soon as possible.
A cat may poop in the bathtub if they’re dealing with a medical issue (physical or mental), if they’re upset or stressed, or if they’re unhappy with the state of their litter box. They may prefer the cool, smooth surface of the bathtub, and the fact that it’s always a clean space for them to do their business in.
This article will take a closer look at the potential reasons a cat may poop in the bathtub, as well as solutions.
1. Medical problem
Your cat may be dealing with a medical problem that makes it painful or hard to poop. If they pooped in their litter box and experienced pain, they may now associate the litter box with pain and avoid it. The bathtub may feel cool and soothing to them and seem like a better spot to go.
Some of the physical issues your cat may be dealing with are:
- Indigestion (from eating something they shouldn’t)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Aside from physical issues, your cat may also be in mental distress. Just as mental health is extremely important for us, it’s important for your cat too. They can deal with mental or mood disorders, such as:
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Cognitive dysfunction
If your cat is depressed, they may act out of the ordinary. And if you have a senior cat, they may be dealing with cognitive dysfunction and be confused about where their litter box is or forget their litter box training.
HOW TO FIX:
It’s important to take your cat to the veterinarian to rule out any health issues. Catching an issue early is important to your cat’s health and will help you avoid even bigger vet bills down the road if you wait too long. There are also medications that can help with chemical imbalances or mood/mental disorders in our cats.
2. Territorial issue
When a cat covers their poop, it’s to hide the scent from predators. When they leave their poop uncovered, they’re telling other cats and animals that this is their territory and to stay away. If you have multiple cats in your household, or perhaps your home got a new roommate, your cat may be feeling more territorial than they once did and could explain why they now poop in the bathtub in an attempt to mark their territory.
HOW TO FIX:
When you have more than one cat in your household, you must have more than one litter box. The rule is: one litter box per cat, plus one extra. So if you have two cats, you need three litter boxes. It may help to place the second or third litter box in a different area of the house than the other(s). This can help your cat feel like they have their own space and that there’s always a free litter area to use.
Perhaps you only have one cat but have a dog. Consider these tips to keep your dog away from the litter box.
If you don’t have other pets in the house, but there is another human getting your attention, your cat may feel territorial over you. Try giving them more attention to see if that helps resolve the issue.
You may also try adding a pheromone diffuser to the bathroom to see if helps to calm your cat. They’re also supposed to help reduce spraying (peeing while standing), which is a territorial act, so it may be beneficial.
Simple changes to a cat’s environment or routine can cause them stress, that stress can lead them to change their behaviour. If you introduced a new pet, human, or object to the household, it may be upsetting your cat. It doesn’t have to be a big change to cause them stress. Remember, their world is much smaller than ours, they likely rely on one or two people (you and any other house members) and only know the world inside your house.
It may even be tension in the house that’s causing your cat stress. If you’ve ever been crying or fighting and all of a sudden, your cat is by your side, you understand that they can read and feel our energy. If you’re stressed or are fighting with someone in the house, your cat can pick up on that. They may not like the energy in the house and are have decided to poop in the bathtub in an attempt to tell you something is wrong.
HOW TO FIX:
As long as their stress isn’t related to a medical issue, it’s pretty simple to fix. No matter how much love and attention you already give your cat, start giving them more. There’s no such thing as giving a cat too much love. By simply creating a calmer environment for them, talking to them more, using a loving tone when you talk to them, spending more one-on-one time cuddling/petting/brushing, or increasing their playtime, you can reduce their stress levels.
The location of your cat’s litter box may be making them feel vulnerable. If they were scared by a loud noise while in the middle of a poop, or were ambushed by another cat, they’re going to associate pooping in the litter box with something bad.
Or, they may not like the way the litter box is situated in a room. Even though there may not be “predators” in your home, you cat has natural instincts that help keep them safe. They don’t want their backs to be exposed, to feel like something could be lurking behind a corner or object, or to feel trapped when they use the litter box.
The bathtub may feel like a safe space for them, away from loud noises or where other cats in the house know where to find them when they’re more vulnerable.
HOW TO FIX:
Try adding another litter box to your home and placing it someplace where it’s convenient (e.g. not in the basement your cat never spends time in), but is quiet and open. If there’s lots of clutter in a room, or it feels small and confined, your cat may hesitate to go there.
The reason you want to add a second litter box, as opposed to moving the existing litter box, is because you want to limit stress. Suddenly moving their litter box to a new location may cause them more stress or confuse them.
Placing a second litter box in a new location and creating a positive association with it, may encourage them to use it instead of the bathtub. Speak to your cat in a loving calm tone, gently pick them up and bring them to their new litter box location. Speak words of encouragement to them, pet them, give them lots of attention, and even give them a treat if you notice they’ve just finished pooping in it.
Cats may not understand the words we speak, but they understand our tone and the energy we’re giving off. Keep it light, fun, and positive around the new litter box location.
Your cat may have started pooping in the bathtub when they were dealing with a medical issue or expressing some stress. They may now poop in the bathtub out of habit, even though the issue has been resolved.
HOW TO FIX:
To break the habit of your cat pooping in the bathtub, you must build a new habit. You don’t want to all of a sudden lock your cat out of the bathroom; they’ll find someplace else in the house to go.
They likely started pooping in the bathtub because of some type of reward they felt they received from doing it. It may have been that it was a better environment, or they may have received attention from you (even if it was negative, your cat still craves your attention).
Use positive reinforcement to develop the habit of them using their litter box. You may bring your cat to their litter box area and help them associate good things with it, such as love and attention, perhaps even treats. When you notice your cat using their litter box to poop, don’t interrupt them, but talk to them in a loving tone once they’re done to tell them “good job”, give them pets and even a treat.
You don’t want to ignore your cat or any serious symptoms, but it’s not helpful to react to them pooping in the bathtub. Your cat loves you and craves your attention, so when they feel they’re not getting enough of it, they’re going to act out in ways that get your attention. They don’t care if that attention is good or bad, they just want it. If you yell their name, pick them up, bring them to the bathtub and tell them they’re a bad cat after you find poop in the bathtub, they’re getting your attention. When they make the connection from pooping in the bathtub to getting your attention, they’ll use that action to get your attention when they want it.
The combination of positive rewards when pooping in their litter box, and a lack of reaction when they poop in the bathtub should help to slowly encourage them to only poop in the litter box.
6. Litter box issue
There are so many litter box variables that may not meet your cat’s standards. Some that are unsatisfactory may be more obvious, such as a dirty litter box, while others may take some testing, such as type of litter.
These are the litter box areas to explore:
- Type of litter box (size, entry height, style; covered, top-entry, etc.)
- Location of the litter box
- Litter (scented/unscented, clay, clumping, pellets, etc.)
- Level of litter
- Number of litter boxes in the household
- Cleanliness of the litter box and area
HOW TO FIX:
If you’ve recently changed something about your cat’s litter box situation, change it back if you can. For example, if you moved their litter box or purchased a new type of litter, move the litter box to the old location (being sure to show your cat it’s there) or switch back to their old litter.
Just because you haven’t changed anything, doesn’t mean your cat is happy with their litter box situation. Cats become more finicky as they age, and just as one bad experience can turn you off your favorite restaurant, one bad experience can turn your cat off their litter box.
Here’s what to try when it comes to their litter box. Always make changes slowly, and one at a time. Don’t change the location, litter, and litter box all at the same time.
Cats have natural instincts to eliminate where they feel safe, and away from where they eat and nest so they don’t attract predators. Keeping that in mind will help you find an appropriate spot for the litter box.
It’s best to get a new litter box when trying to find an appropriate new location. If they go to use their litter box and it’s not there, they will find someplace else to go. It may also confuse them. When they have to go, they have to go. They don’t have time to wander around the house looking for their litter box.
Try placing a new litter box with their typical litter in a location that’s:
- Away from their food and water
- Good access; it should not be anywhere they may accidentally get locked out of
- Quiet, warm, and well-lit
- Is a part of the home and where they would normally hang out
A dirty litter box is a very common reason for a cat pooping someplace else. Some cats prefer a completely clean litter box to go in every time. Every time they go to the bathtub, it’s a clean box for them to go in. They may prefer the cleanliness of it over their litter box.
If you’re not scooping the litter box every day, you must start. Perhaps you’ll even need to scoop twice a day to correct the issue.
It’s also important to regularly change the litter. How frequently you must dump old litter and fill the litter box with new litter will depend on the type of litter you use. Some pellet litters require you to change it once a week, while some clay litters allow you to go a month before changing.
When you do empty the entire litter box, be sure to thoroughly wash it to remove any odors. If the litter box is really old, or has been used by several cats before your current cat, it may be helpful to purchase a new litter box that only has their scent on it (or doesn’t have as strong of a scent in it).
Stainless steel litter boxes are a bit bigger of an investment, but they won’t absorb odors and house bacterial like plastic litter boxes do. Check out these ones.
INCREASE LITTER BOXES
The rule is: one litter box per cat plus one extra. So if you have one cat, they should have two litter boxes, if you have two cats, they should have three litter boxes. This helps avoid territorial issues, and helps ensure they’re more likely to have a clean litter box.
CHANGE THE LITTER BOX
The litter box may be too small, too confined, or too hard to get into for your cat. If they’re jumping up on the bathtub ledge, it’s unlikely they have mobility issues that would prevent them from getting into a high-sided or top entry litter box. However, they may not appreciate the confined space a covered or top-entry litter box provides.
A litter box should be 1.5x the length of your cat so they have enough room to fully step into the litter box, dig, and move around. The bathtub is much more spacious than any litter box, so litter box size could be the issue.
It may not seem like a big deal to you, but how much, or how little litter you put in the litter box can affect your cat’s litter box use. Too little litter means they can’t properly cover their urine or feces and they may even step in it when moving around. Too much litter means they may have a hard time walking in the litter box and digging around. It may also mean you’re going longer between changing the litter, which can lead to a smelly litter box.
How do I stop my cat from pooping in the bathtub?
To stop your cat from using the bathtub to poop, try keeping a little bit of water in the bottom of a tub, or adding a litter box to the tub. If you’ve found they’ve started pooping in their litter box but occasionally still go in the bathtub, perhaps out of habit, the water or extra litter box may help.
Be sure to use the other solutions mentioned in this article to actually correct the issue. Locking them out of the bathroom or keeping them out of the tub is just putting a band-aid on the issue. You want to find the underlying cause for why they’re pooping outside of the litter box and correct that first.
How to clean cat poop from the bathtub
Clean up the cat poop as soon as you notice it by wearing rubber gloves, using a plastic bag to pick it up, and tossing it in the trash. You’ll also want to disinfect the bathtub to kill bacteria and potential parasites in your cat’s poop. Use a bathroom cleaner the disinfects and be sure it doesn’t contain ammonia. Cat pee contains ammonia and to some cats, the ammonia smell in cleaners tells them it’s a good place to pee.
You don’t want your cat to start peeing in the bathtub too. But here’s how to correct the situation if they do.
Pooping and peeing aren’t the only odd behavoirs cats participate in when it comes to the bathtub. You may also find they like to lick the bathtub. Here’s why.
I hope this article has helped you determine why your cat is pooping in the bathtub 🙂