Senior Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box

Senior cat pooping outside the litter box

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Senior Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box — Why Is It Happening and What Can We Do to Fix It?


Just as humans, cats go through different stages during their lifetime. So, it’s not at all uncommon for an obedient cat to turn rebel and start acting differently as it ages. One common issue many of us go through is a senior cat pooping outside the litter box for seemingly no reason. However, this isn’t unheard of, and many cat owners go through the same frustrating period with their feline friend. 


Still, we need to invest some time and play detective in order to get to the bottom of the issue and help our cats get over it. In this article, we’ll go over every possible factor that could be to blame for a senior cat pooping outside the litter box, and see how to remedy the situation.


Senior Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box

Medical Issues


Even if we think that our cat is making a mess just to annoy us, and the issue is behavioral, we still need to rule out any medical issues first. So, we’ll need to take them for a vet visit, and allow a professional to assess the situation before we do anything else. These are some of the most common medical issues that could cause a senior cat to poop outside of their litter box:

  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Decreased vision/blindness
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Lower urinary tract disease
  • Muscle atrophy or joint thickening
  • Spondylosis Deformans
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Thyroid issues


These medical issues could make our cat feel physical discomfort when it’s trying to relieve itself. Thus, it will start associating the litter box with pain and will simply stop using it.


Additionally, boxes that are closed off at the top might pose a physical challenge for a senior cat. Because climbing in and reaching the box is too difficult, the senior cat will likely start avoiding it altogether. Finally, some intestinal problems may even result in the cat not having time to make it to the litter box.


Whatever the case, our vet should help us get to the bottom of it by performing a number of tests. They might even ask us to bring a stool sample so they give a definitive diagnosis. However, if they don’t think there’s anything physically wrong that would lead to the senior cat pooping outside the litter box, we’ll have to look for answers elsewhere.


An Elderly Body


Not all senior cats will fall ill as they age. However, they will still go through the process of getting older, which has a degenerative effect on their bodies. So, the answer behind a senior cat pooping outside the litter box could come down to its advanced age. 


Moreover, once a cat reaches its elderly years, their bones and muscles will start aching in some positions. When this happens, they’ll start avoiding the litter box (and pooping elsewhere), as it will bring up feelings of dread.


If we think this might be the case with our cat, we should take it to the vet so it can get a proper diagnosis. Additionally, our veterinarian could recommend ways for us to make living and pooping easier for our senior cat. 


Senior Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box

Survival Instincts


There’s no denying that cats are weird creatures, but sometimes, there’s a method to their madness. For example, a cat could feel perfectly safe marking a litter box with urine, but won’t use it to poop. The reason behind this is that they have an instinct telling them that a predator will attack while they’re vulnerable.


Luckily, there is a simple way of remedying this — getting a second litter box. By separating the two activities (marking and relieving), the cat will feel much safer pooping inside of the litter box.


The key is separating the boxes and placing them in different rooms so our cat can feel like it can do its business in peace. Should the issue persist, we should try moving the boxes around until our cat feels comfortable with the new setup.


Additional Safety Concerns


Even though they’re not bringing a cellphone or newspapers to the bathroom, cats also like to take their time when they’re pooping. However, a household with multiple cats likely won’t offer the time and space for them to do so in peace.


They’ll also feel intimidated and be in constant fear of other cats coming in, and they’ll take their business elsewhere. Additionally, if the litter box is shoved into a corner, the cat might be afraid that it won’t be able to escape in case of an emergency. 


Again, this issue doesn’t require a complex solution; all we have to do is ensure our cat(s) feel comfortable while they’re doing their business. So, if we have several cats in the home, we’ll need to match their number with the number of litter boxes.


Additionally, we should keep the box in a clear area, without any obstructions that would cause the feline to feel endangered. Finally, if we have a senior cat pooping outside the litter box, we should avoid purchasing covered litter boxes, as they might make the feline feel trapped.


The Litter Isn’t up to Par



The reason behind a senior cat pooping outside the litter box could have something to do with the type of litter we’re using. For example, most cats prefer feeling soft, sandy litter under their paws, rather than the harsh silicone one. We can easily fix this by purchasing softer materials and trying them out to see which one our cat prefers.


Also, while we’re on this topic, not all cats enjoy the scented litter that we humans do. Moreover, our feline friends often prefer natural smells, so we should always purchase litter that smells of sand.




All cats, big or small, young or old, like to keep themselves and the space around them clean. So, if the litter box contains a poop pile, or is drenched in urine, our cat will most probably start avoiding it.


Thus, if we neglect to clean out the litter, we’ll likely be the ones to blame for our senior cat pooping outside the litter box. Luckily, we can easily avoid this by cleaning and replacing the litter regularly. A good rule of thumb is to clean out the waste at least two times a day and the entire box once a week.


Environmental Stress


Many cats don’t enjoy change, and can often feel stressed if we move, or even redecorate our home. On top of that, senior cats have a lower threshold for stress, and this could cause them to stop using the litter box.


So, with environmental stress, a senior cat might start pooping where it’s not supposed to, simply because it’s confusing. There’s no one way of handling this situation, but we should do everything we can to help our kitty adapt. We also need to keep in mind that this process might take time, so we shouldn’t try to rush things. If the problem persists, we should still take our cat to the vet to rule out any medical issues.


Now, we’ve discussed every possible issue that could be to blame for our senior cat pooping outside the litter box. However, there are some additional steps we can take to ensure our cat never starts exhibiting this type of behavior


Senior Cat Pooping Outside the Litter Box

#1. Closely Monitor Our Cat’s Diet


Senior cats tend to have sensitive stomachs and different dietary requirements compared to younger ones. So, many vets recommend specific types of diets for aging cats, that can keep them fed, energized, healthy and well-behaved. We should visit our vet to see if they have any advice on how we can improve our cat’s life.


Additionally, it’s important that elderly cats get ample supplies of water throughout the day. We should keep several bowls of freshwater all over the home to encourage them to always stay hydrated.


#2. Make Sure Our Cats Feel Comfortable



As we already mentioned, it can be quite easy to upset senior cats by changing up their environment. Basically, as our feline friends don’t understand what’s going on around them, they’ll start feeling stressed out. So, the best thing we can do for them is to keep the environmental changes to a minimum.


In doing so, we’ll ensure our cats always feel safe and comfortable within their space. Thus, we’ll decrease the likelihood of our senior cat pooping outside the litter box, and make them feel safer at the same time. Additionally, we can give them chews, and some light playtime whenever they desire it. 


Final Thoughts


A sudden change in behavior, such as a senior cat pooping outside the litter box, could be an indicator of a larger issue. So, the first thing we should do is take our cat to the vet to rule out any medical issues.


However, if it turns out the issue is behavioral, that doesn’t mean our cat isn’t suffering in some way. So, we should try to make them feel as comfortable as possible, and keep their stress levels to a minimum.




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