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Pooping outside of box.

Species: Cat
Breed: mixed black/white, m
Age: 11-15 years
Hi, I have a 13 year old cat named Dagmar. Apart from being slightly overweight, she is in very good health for a cat her age. She is energetic, eats well, and is extremely affectionate. About six months ago however, she developed a behavior pattern that has caused me frustration and confusion: she began making bowel movements on the floor outside of her litter box. At first I thought she might be having mobility issues, so I bought a new litter box with a lower entry. When that didn't work, I moved the box to a different room, started changing the litter more frequently (I use a 'crystal' cat litter), and tried to 'discipline' her when I caught her in the act. None of these strategies helped. An important note: during this time she has continued to urinate as normal inside the litter box. Please help!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Problems like this can really be frustrating. It sounds like you are doing all of the right things as well. I usually do recommend getting a new box, trying one with a lower entry and moving the box to a new place.

While I won't be able to say for sure what is happening, I have a few thoughts for you.

The first thing I always recommend is a thorough vet exam. At 13, there are several medical conditions that could possibly be contributing to these issues. I have seen cats with hyperthyroidism that have bowel movements outside of the box.

Another very strong possibility is if Dagmar has arthritis near the end of her spine. This is something called lumbosacral syndrome. It can make it painful to squat in the right position for defecation. A lot of the time, for some reason, cats with lumbosacral syndrome feel better if they stand outside of the box and poop. If this is what she has, then sometimes anti-inflammatory medication can help.

If the vet can't find a medical reason, one thing that sometimes helps is to put incontinence pads around the litter box so that she is pooping on the pad. This will make cleanup a little easier. Sometimes, if we can get her pooping on the pad, we can very gradually move the pad so that it is partly inside the box. You may be able to eventually get her to actually go in the box again.

I hope this helps and I hope she is behaving better soon!

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Dr. Marie,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I think there's a strong chance Dagmar has the type of arthritis you describe, as I've noticed that she's having more and more trouble jumping onto the bed, couch, etc. recently, and occasionally she looks a little stiff when she walks. I will definitely take her to a vet, and in the meantime try your incontinence pad suggestion.

Sincerely, Aaron


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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.