Defecation Issues

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    Our 8 year old obese (19 lbs) dilute calico has a problem that is increasing in frequency. It started maybe 8 months ago. She will poop outside of the litter box. None of the usual causes are suspected. We have 6 cats & 6 litterboxes throughout the house. They are cleaned twice daily. The litter is also disposed of and the boxes are washed monthly. The litter is a brand they all enjoy and does not have strong odors. We even have a large "doggie" sized litter pan since she is pretty large. She will poop in the litter box but not entirely. She used to start in one box, run to another box, and finish. Occasionaly we would find poop in the box & also directly outside of it. We figured that she wasn’t done and had a little accident. Now it is apparent that she is doing this on purpose. She will poop a little in the box & finish the bulk of it somewhere in the corner on the carpet. She would do this about once a week usually in the early morning (If I am awake, she will use the litter box completely). Now it seems as though she is doing this more frequently and finding more places to poop on the carpet. We even added small litter boxes in the places she would go on the carpet. It is a healthy stool and is not diarrhea. She is healthy in all other respects. I don’t think she was spooked in the litter box since she does use them to pee and to partially poop. She does not go outside. Because she is obese, she cannot clean herself either and we must keep her clean down there. Any ideas to this strange behavior? I can only think to confine her during the early morning to an area with no carpet (only the bedrooms are carpeted). She may still do this on a rug however. I cannot possibly add more litter boxes to every corner of the house. How can I make her litter boxes even more inviting to her without locking her in a room? We hate to do that to her, but we also hate all the clean-up. Thank you!



    Has the cat been checked for diabetes? It’s common in older cats. How about a food allergy? Has the vet checked for a bowel or digestive problem? What is her stool like: loose, firm, or hard – dark or light?
    I’m peppering you with questions because I’ve had so many diseases, including diabetes, that I know far more than most people about cat ailments.
    Are you sure SHE still likes the litter? Cat opinions can change. What brand do you use? (For conventional litter boxes, I prefer Yesterday’s News – great odor control, no inherent aroma in it, & you can feel noble because it’s recycled newspaper. But now I use a SmartCatBox with shelled corn as litter; it has a reservoir for the liquid & the litter air-dries. I bought it when I had a FeLV-positive cat living with a Negative cat.)
    If she’s not sick, & there’s no physical reason for this problem, then she needs some strong aversion therapy.
    First: take away all the litter boxes except the original set. You’re being way too accommodating.
    Second: Wash the boxes more often; use a cleaner that removes pet odors. For a multiple-cat household like yours (6 is a lot of cats), monthly isn’t enough. Up it to every 1-2 weeks. She may be smelling the boxes. (I only have 2 cats & 1 litter box, & I wash it every week.) (Also: how old are the boxes? After awhile, plastic will hold an odor permanently; you may need to replace some of them.)
    Third: Put her on a diet, if she isn’t on one already. Give her "light" food or a food for obese cats from the vet’s (Hills is the most common), & cut her food; ask the vet how much she actually needs. My cats are on a diet, & they get 1/8 cup of dry food twice a day, & they’re very active & healthy. (In fact, feed all the cats a limited diet at specified times, it’s more healthy for them.)
    Here’s my home-grown Aversion Therapy:
    "Bad things happen to me when I do this forbidden thing." I used it on one of my (past) cats, and broke her of a bad piddling habit in a week flat. It sounds harsh, but it won’t hurt.
    You’re going to need to tie up a bathroom for 1-2 hours.

    You’ll be punishing the cat by depriving her of food & attention & isolating her.
    When she does the forbidden thing (pooping outside the box, whatever):
    Grab her immediately, by the scruff of the neck: this is a "Mother" action, & you are Mother. You don’t have to lift her, just immobilize her.
    Whap her (in a firm manner) on the nose w/your finger, enough to make her understand. Speak very sternly – yell, if that makes an impression: "NO! BAD FLUFFY! BAD CAT! DO NOT poop outside the box!! I will NOT have you pooping outside the box!! BAD CAT!!"

    Pick her up, still holding by the scruff of the neck, the other hand supporting the body. No matter how much she swears at you, don’t let go.

    March her into the bathroom, plop her on the floor, & order her to "Stay there!" Then turn on the light & close the door.
    Leave her alone in the room for at least an hour. Ignore all cries & yowls.

    Then let her out – just go by & open the door without looking inside. She’ll creep out slowly, wondering what she’s going to find.

    Ignore her, for at least 2 hrs. Do not speak to her, pet or play with her, anything. Pretend she doesn’t exist.

    If it’s near mealtime, don’t feed her – denial of food always gets a cat’s attention. It won’t hurt her to miss a meal (every few meals) (especially at her weight), and it’ll make a point, coming right on the heels of the time in the cells (bathroom).

    After 2-3 hrs, you may talk to her again, but don’t be overly attentive: be civil. Make her realize that you’re still mad. By morning (or evening, if the incident happened in the morning), go back to treating her as normal.

    And every time she pulls the same thing, send her to their cell again, the same way, with the same aftermath.

    This may make an impression, & convince the cat that doing the Forbidden Thing isn’t fun enough to make up for the nasty treatment she gets afterward.



    Thank you Ahtnamas for the advice. Her name is Girl-Girl by the way. 🙂
    She was checked for diabetes and everything else about 3 yrs ago when we were trying to figure out why she might be so fat (she really doesn’t eat much). Everything came back negative but she should probably get a full blood panel again. We havn’t tested for a food allergy or digestive problems. Her stool is firm to hard and darker in color but not black.
    I don’t think she has a problem with the litter since she uses it to pee and MOSTLY poop in. It is a clumping brand I got at Costco with lemongrass in it (I think it is called Litter Purrfect). The difference is that she exclusively uses the litterboxes since she does not go outside like the others do, which probably is why she is so big. She literally lays around ALL DAY. When I clean the boxes, I use dish soap and vinegar. The boxes are old and probably do need to be replaced.
    As far as the diet goes, it will be hard since we free feed and all the other cats are within their normal weight range. We also feed them wet food at night and I control her portions of that food. I don’t think she eats that much dry food but I’m not there 24-7 to know for sure. She does do the pooping accidents when I am either sleeping or gone. If I am around in the early morning (when she usually goes) she will do it in the litterbox (or two) and have no accidents. She is sneaky about it. I did yell at her this morning and showed her what she did as well as gently spanked her. My concern is that she will not understand and will fear me. You’re right I have to avert the behavior right when it happens which is hard since she usually does it when I’m not available to see it happen. I think I will have my husband confine her with the litter box when he leaves for work but before I wake up, which is when she does it.



    Diabetes can come on at any time in cats. A full blood panel should be run ever 1-2 years, every year for a middle-aged cat (over 7 years). If the tests come up positive, she will have to go on a strict, specific diet – which means that you will have to stop free-feeding all the cats, because it would sabotage her recovery.
    I wish one of your cats was a rambunctious brat who would keep jumping on GG for fun & excitement. That would force her to move around.
    Use something stronger to clean the boxes, either commercial pet odor removers, or a strong solution of Oxyclean. Also, ever 2d or 3d cleaning, use Soft Scrub With Bleach & an Oxyclean chaser to get the bleach odor out.
    Replace all the old smelly boxes: you can easily tell which ones by washing each one, letting it dry, then putting your nose right next to the interior & smelling. If you can smell it, the cat can smell it far more than you.
    Litter: Lemongrass? Cats don’t like citrus. Does it actually smell like lemons? If it does, I’m very surprised any cat will use it. Try Yesterday’s News in at least a couple of boxes. See if this solves the problem (you’ll know in 2 days). When cats dislike litter, their reactions are unpredictable.
    Buy one extra box to use while you’re washing & drying the other boxes. Let the box dry completely & replace the drying box with the extra box. Round-robin the boxes this way; you’ll always have a clean one on hand this way.
    I don’t believe in free-feeding any cat. No cat can be trusted to limit their food & most of them will overeat. If at all possible, I suggest you strictly feed all of them twice a day. The active cats can have about 1/4 c. of food each time, or a little more (kibble amount). The strict feeding schedule will make sure none of the other cats also gain too much weight. Web-search a cat weight poster & see if any of the other cats weight too much (Has the vet seen all of them recently? The doctor should be able to tell you if the others are getting overweight.)
    You said it: You don’t know what she eats at night or when you’re out. She’s up to a lot of mischief at night & when you’re gone.
    Girl-Girl knows bloody well what she does & when she does it. I have seldom met a truly stupid cat – only lazy cats. She’s doing it on the floor when you’re away or asleep specifically because that’s when she can get away with it. When you wake up or come home & find she’s done it again, take the animal, put her right down next to it, & go at the Aversion Therapy program. She remembers perfectly well that she did it. Cats do not forget things in a few hours.
    If an alternate litter doesn’t help, then institute the aversion therapy. Gentle spanking makes absolutely NO impression on a stubborn cat. You have to put the Fear Of God (you) into them. And making her skip a meal can only be good for her – & with free-feeding, you can’t enforce this very important aspect of the punishment.
    The confinement is a good idea. Can you confine her in a large carrier or cage, so that she has just enough room for a bed area & water dish, & a place for a litter box? This will teach her that if she goes outside the box, by God, it’s going in her bed.



    Thanks again for the reply. Ha ha…too funny. We DO have a "brat cat" and his name is Crash. He picked on her this morning as a matter of fact, anything to get her waddling down the hall is a good thing!

    I thought the same thing about the Lemongrass. I used to buy unscented since the cats did not bury their mess because of the scented litter. I tried this lemongrass expecting disaster, but all the cats buried their business, even the ones that never cover up after themselves. They all seem to enjoy scratching in it. It has a light scent but more like the lemongrass herb rather than a citrusy smell.

    All 6 go to the vet yearly, they just went in September. The vet is really only concerned about Girl’s weight. The others range from 9lbs (small framed female) to 13 lbs (large framed male). It really boils down to activity level & metabolism. But you are right, when you can’t increase the activity level, you have to decrease the food. I wish I had a custom enclosed kitty treadmill that I could use on her! I will have to suck it up and feed them twice a day…what a pain, but I already spend almost every minute I’m home doing something cat-related…what’s a little more time right? I don’t think she eats all night since she comes to bed when I do & lays next to me until my husband gets up. When I’m home she nibbles in the morning & the afternoon. She probably eats a normal amount for a normal sized cat, but for her the quantity should be less since she is so inactive.

    I just can’t figure out why she started to go to the bathroom in one box and run to another one to finish…so weird. I will have to isolate her and do what you said when she finishes outside of the box. She is very smart and definately has a good memory. She knows when she is getting her butt washed when she hears the water running in the sink + the sound of the hall closet opening to get a wash cloth! If I do one or the other, she is cool, but the minute she hears both sounds, she tries to hide! I posted her pic. Thanks for the detailed aversion method. I will definately use it.

    Click on any picture to see full size:



    Do you have cat towers? Maybe if there was a "tree" in the house, she’d try climbing it. Any excercise is good.
    It’s not necessary to buy them, you can make them. I made one from plans I bought from a woodworking site.
    For plans, search "cat plans tree OR tower OR furniture".
    A range of types of trees is at:



    Cool plans! We did make one ourselves a few years back from plans purchased over the net…it’s pretty raggedy now from use. Maybe I’ll take some ideas from the links you provided instead of making the same design again. The tree sits in the same room as the wood burning stove and every winter all levels of the cat tree are full!

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