Why is my Cat Tracking Poop Out of the Litter Box?
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It’s one thing when a cat tracks litter outside the litter box, but it’s another situation when they’re tracking poop everywhere. Not only is it gross, but it’s also unsafe as cat feces can contain harmful bacteria.
There are several reasons why cats track their poop outside the litter box. It may be due to a change in their stool, a matter of them stepping in the poop, or that they’re simply pooping outside of the litter box.
This is number one on my list because it’s so often overlooked by cat owners. We may not realize that something small, and seemingly insignificant to us, can call a lot of stress to our furry friends. And often, when cat behavior can’t be explained (even by vets) stress is the culprit.
Cats can exhibit odd behaviour when they’re stressed or feel like they’re not getting enough attention from their owner.
No matter how much love and attention your cat already gets, try giving them more to see if the situation improves. Spend more time playing with them, pick them up, cuddle with them, talk to them in a loving tone, follow them around, etc.
Although it may not make sense to humans, it is possible that a cat purposely steps in their cat poop and tracks it around the house.
Attention is attention to a cat. Meaning, they don’t care if it’s good or bad attention, they want it.
When your cat steps in their poop and tracks it through the house, you give them more attention. You likely pick them up and examine or clean their paws. You may even scold them. Although you may think getting mad at them would teach them not to do something again, it doesn’t always work that way.
Oftentimes, our cats are trying to tell or teach ussomething through their behavior. Their “bad” behaviour may be their way of telling you they need more attention, that something isn’t right with their home situation (e.g. dirty litter box or they don’t like the new litter), or that they’re dealing with an illness.
Animals also pick up on your energy. So if you’re stressed, anxious, or upset, it’s likely your cat can feel that and may act differently.
Try to lower the stress levels in your house, even though you’re dealing with the frustrating situation of poop being tracked around your home.
Spend more quality time with your cat and give them plenty of playtime.
#2 Change in diet
A change in diet can mean softer stools. And softer stools make it easier for your cat to step in their poop.
If your cat has diarrhea or softer stools in the litter box, consider temporarily switching back to their old food to let their stomach settle and then slowly reintroduce the new food. Over time, you’ll figure out what works best for your furry little friend.
#3 Dirty litter box
Cats do their business in the same location every single day. This means the litter box needs to be cleaned every single day (can you imagine if you didn’t flush the toilet for a few days?).
When your cat must step through a dirty litter box, chances are, they’re going to step on the poop at some point. If that poop isn’t solid or dry, it’ll get stuck to their paws, and they’ll track it out.
Also, keep in mind a household should have one litter box per cat, plus one extra. So if you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes. If you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes.
This may sound excessive, but it ensures your cat always has a clean place to go (assuming you’re scooping all litter boxes daily).
You’d be surprised at how many issues adding a litter box or cleaning them more solves.
#4 Litter box is too small
If the litter box is too small, your cat may feel like they can’t fit or feel they are in an uncomfortable space. They won’t have enough room to move around while doing their business, making it easier for them to step in their poop and track it.
The perfect litter box is high enough so your cat can enter and exit comfortably, but low enough so they don’t need to jump in or out of the box, and wide enough they can walk into it and turn around. If you have a kitten, you’ll need a smaller litter box to start, so they can easily get in and out of it.
Also be mindful that covered litter boxes may be ideal for cat owners, but cats don’t always like them. They’re dark inside and trap odors and dust, making potty time less enjoyable for them.
Many covered litter boxes are also not tall enough to allow a cat to squat naturally when they eliminate. The lid/cover may be forcing them to crouch more than usual, leading them to squat in their poop.
#5 Top Entry litter box
Many cat owners purchased covered litter boxes to help trap smells and keep dirty litter out of sight. However, if that litter box has a hole in the top, as opposed to an entry at the front of the box, it can be the cause of your cat tracking poop through your home.
A cat must jump up to get out of top-entry litter boxes; putting more force on their feet than if they simply had to step out of a litter box.
If they’ve pooped where they need to stand to exit the hole, they’re going to step in it and track it through the house. It’s a common complaint of people who try a top-entry litter box.
#6 Incomplete bowel movements
Your cat may be leaving the litter box before they’re completely done. This may be due to discomfort, confusion (perhaps they’re a senior cat), or because they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have that doesn’t fully pass.
Your cat may have eaten an elastic, a piece of tinsel or dental floss, or even something as small as a piece of your hair. If the string/hair is partially in their feces and partially still inside them, the poop won’t fall into the litter box and your cat may be walking around with a small piece of poop hanging from their tushy.
Loose stools may also leave your cat with poop stuck to their behind. If they don’t clean it right away or are unable to clean their behind (perhaps they’re overweight or are older and aren’t as flexible), they may be leaving little bits of poop wherever they sit down.
#7 Low squatter
If your kitten or cat doesn’t hover high enough when pooping, their bottom may touch the feces. They may then leave marks around the house as they sit down.
A similar issue may happen if your cat has long hair. Feces may be getting stuck in that fur when they’re squatting in the litter box. You may try having a groomer trim their fur if you think this is the issue.
#8 Balance Issue
Cats are well known for their balance and agility, but as they age, it might be harder for them to get in and out of the litter box. They may lose their balance as they step out and accidentally step on their feces, then track it through the house.
It may not be due to your cat’s age though. It could be that they’re dealing with some type of discomfort that’s making it harder for them to move around on the uneven and loose material in their litter box.
Kittens are notorious for using the litter box improperly. They may leave feces outside of the litter box or be uncoordinated and step in their feces when they’re attempting to cover it or leave the box. This can be frustrating for new pet parents, but it’s important to remember that kittens usually grow out of this behavior as they mature.
#9 Feeling Unsafe
Your cat may feel like they’re vulnerable when doing their business in the litter box. It may be because of loud noises (such as the furnace kicking in), the litter box being in a dark spot, or because they feel cornered (another animal in the house or even children may be making them feel uneasy and they need to feel like they have an escape route at all times).
If your cat doesn’t feel safe when using the litter box, they may leave before they’re done, get distracted as they’re attempting to cover their poop, or run out of the box due to a loud noise. All of these scenarios could lead to them stepping in their feces or carrying it outside the box.
#10 Marking their Territory
Cats typically bury their waste to hide their scent from predators. However, if they’re feeling territorial, they sometimes do the opposite. This may be specially true if you have more than one cat in the household, have other pets (such as a dog), or have introduced something new to the home (this may be a new human or even a new piece of furniture).
Keep in mind, the change may not seem significant or even noticeable to you. It may be that a neighborhood cat is stopping by the window late at night and upsetting your cat. Cats are delicate creatures, and they don’t like change.
If you think your cat might be marking his or her territory, keep an eye on their behaviours. If they seem agitated and are scratching more than usual, there’s a good chance they’re attempting to mark their territory. If you notice this behavior, give them more attention and try to identify what caused the change in their environment.
You may even try using a pheromone spray near their litter box to help relieve their stress.
You also want to remove any trace of their fecal scent outside the litter box. If they can smell their scent in a corner of the house, they may think it’s a good place to continue to go.
Try an enzyme cleaner to ensure you remove all smells, even those undetectable to you. Below is the one I’ve used and have found works really well. It comes in a smaller spray bottle as well.
Cat Pooping Outside Litter Box
You’ll likely be able to tell if the poop being tracked through the house is coming from the litter box or if your cat is pooping outside the litter box.
If your cat is pooping outside the litter box, it obviously makes it much easier for them to track it through the house since they have nothing to bury it with and may be touching it with their paws in an attempt to cover it.
Sometimes there can be medical reasons for why cats aren’t using their litter box properly. It could be an infection, diarrhea, or inflammation of the bowel (IBD).
It’s important to check with a veterinarian if your cat is eliminating outside the litter box or if they continue to track poop throughout the house, despite your best efforts to stop it.
Cats are creatures of habit and will stop using the litter box if they’re feeling stressed, anxious, or upset. If you notice your cat stepping in their poop and tracking it around the house, try giving them more attention and try to identify if anything has changed in their environment. You may even want to consult a veterinarian to determine if there’s a medical reason as to why your cat is eliminating outside the litter box.