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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 8909
Experience:  I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years.
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She won't use the litter box, yet I have placed clean litter

Customer Question

She won't use the litter box, yet I have placed clean litter boxes in the places she likes to poop. She poops just outside the litter box not in it. As far as I can tell she is urinating in the litter box. What can I do to get her to use the litter box?
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 5 months ago.
Hello, I'm Dr. Deb. I recently came online and see that your question about Yoda hasn't been answered. I'm so sorry that you've had to wait for a response, but if you still need assistance, I'd like to help if I can.I'm sorry for this concern for Yoda; inappropriate defecation (and urination) issues can sometimes be a challenge to address especially if they've been going on for a while. Cats often use urination and defecation as a means of communication with other cats (if more than one is present in the household) or psychological stress can also trigger inappropriate elimination as well. However, when a cat is using the litter to urinate but not using it to defecate, then in my experience, the reason traces back to the litter box and/or the litter itself.Much research has been done on this topic ....litter box preferences...and the following is a summary of this research as well as other problems which might trigger inappropriate defecation: 1. Some cats like a very clean box; when it becomes dirtier than they prefer, they'll poop elsewhere. So, the box should be scooped at least daily or twice daily and the entire box cleaned weekly with soap and water; avoid harsh smelling chemicals.2. The number of boxes and size is important: The rule of thumb is one box/cat plus one box. A litter box length should be at least one and a half times the length of the cat (not including the tail) so they have adequate space to maneuver and cover excrement.3. Cats prefer clumping litter.4. Cats prefer unscented litter.5. Cats don't like hoods on their boxes because they retain odors.6. There is something about the texture of the litter that they don't like, for what ever reason. This is known as Litter Aversion and is a fairly common problem. One way to know if this might be the issue is if there is minimal digging or disturbance of the litter that's in the box. Digging is a natural instinct to cover waste material, especially feces. If they don't like the texture of the litter, they don't want to touch it with their feet.7. They associated pain with the box when they had a bowel movement in there and don't want to repeat the experience.8. Cats don't like their boxes where there's a of noise or foot traffic; they prefer privacy.9. Use of enzymatic cleaners to degrade the fecal material rather than just cover up the odor (the cats can still detect it) are preferred. If Yoda defecates in one particular area more frequently, she may think that it's ok to do so if the smells are still there.Other helpful hints in addition to the above: 1. Use of Cat Attract in the litter which is a product available at many pet/grain stores or can be purchased online.2. Sometimes confinement in a smaller room/space with food/water and the litter to "retrain" the cats can be useful.3. It may not be convenient, but mixing sand or dirt with the litter may make it more appealing. Studies have shown that cats actually prefer sand or dirt to the litter we provide for them but it's not terribly practical to use these substrates instead of commercial litter. There are some vets who believe that inappropriate defection issues may be related to underlying medical issues, even if the stools are a normal consistency. They'll often suggest that x-rays and a rectal under sedation be done to look for abnormalities. Others recommend or suggest a low-residue diet, or a low-carb canned diet (carbs < 7%). The following link provides the carbohydrate content of many semi-moist or canned foods:'s clear that for some cats, Inflammatory Bowel Disease issues may be the cause of their inappropriate defecation issues which will resolve with the use of limited ingredient diets. Options include:Grain free, Z/D (from your vet), or Natural Ba***** *****mited Ingredient Diets, Nature's Variety Instincts line, Evo duck or venison, Nature's Variety Frozen Raw Medallions (I recommend that they be zapped in the microwave for 10-15 seconds on each side). Personally, I think that if she's defecating right outside the box more often than in other places around the house, this is still related to litter aversion or issues with her box rather than a medical issue but I wanted to provide other options for you to consider. I hope this helps and provides various options to consider in trying to change this behavior. This is not an easy problem to solve, unfortunately, but I hope that by making a few changes, you will be successful. Deb