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She keeps pooping outside the box. She will fo in the box to…

She keeps pooping outside...

She keeps pooping outside the box. She will fo in the box to void then comes out and later goes and scratches up litter while standing outside the box and poops on the floor. This has been going on occasionally for 3 months but constantly now. I have given her the choice of 2 kinds of litter in the same room. Stool is normal, she is not behaving any differently otherwise than she has for the last 6 years. Food is the same.

Veterinarian's Assistant: I'll do all I can to help. What is the cat's name?

Lucy - her sister Ethel is not having any problems like this.

Veterinarian's Assistant: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about the cat?

No, all is normal.

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Answered in 3 minutes by:
3/7/2018
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 18,837
Experience: Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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Hello, I'm Dr. Kara. I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian and I'd like to help. Please give me a moment to review your concerns.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
ok
Customer reply replied 4 months ago
No this is fine

I understand your concern about Ethel's behavior. It's no fun to find stool where it shouldn't be.

Cats stops using their litter box to defecate for a few reasons:

1) They don't feel well and associate pain with their litter box so go elsewhere hoping not to experience discomfort.

2) Their litter box is dirty, hard to get to or in or out of, too small, they don't like the litter in the box, or they don't have enough privacy in it or feel trapped in the location it is in.

3) Other cats (can be indoors or outdoor strays), dogs or people are scaring them when they are in the box or trying to get to the box.

4) Social stress and overcrowding. Cats in the wild do not live together. It is socially stressful for them to have to be confined together. That is likely why many cats stop "marking territory" once they are allowed to go outside. They are less "socially stressed" because they have more room and get more exercise.

Because she is going into the box, but coming out side it to defecate then it seems she knows where she should go, and is going as close as she can to the box, but for whatever reason she is NOT comfortable going in the box to defecate.

First I recommend getting a larger, low sided litter box so she has plenty of room to go in and it is easy to get in and out of. The large low sided plastic containers for slipping under beds or furniture sometimes work well. I also recommend plastic matts set upside down (nubby side up) around the box to protect the floors so it is uncomfortable to stand and defecate on. You also need to make sure that the area that she has picked to go has been cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner, like Nature's Miracle. Although it may smell fine to you their noses are much better than ours and as long as the odor is there she will be attracted to the spot.

The longer this goes on the more it becomes a habit so we do want to discourage her behavior. The longer this goes on the more it becomes a habit. If this has been going on for a while it is likely that we need to find and treat an underlying problem that started all this as well as retrain her.

Ideally she needs a physical examination to make sure all is well. Make sure her anal glands are checked, and that she doesn't have parasites (check a stool sample) or spinal arthritis that makes it painful for her to defecate or maintain her position. Some older cats need more room in a litter box as they age and can no longer crouch over in the same manner to pass stools as they once did. If she ever has blood or mucous in her stool, it is soft, hard or very large or small and difficult to pass she may have inflammatory bowel disease, constipation or megacolon which are all uncomfortable. She may also have early internal organ compromise or hyperthyroidism which can cause intestinal cramping. Ideally a senior blood panel with a T-4 should be checked.

We need to address any medical problems to have hope of retraining her successfully.

Make sure her box(es) is/are spotlessly clean, scoop stools daily, change litter completely weekly and clean the box itself. If the litter box is older than a year get a new one. Many cats don't like odor and an old litter box stinks to them. It might be fine to pass urine there as that is quick but stool takes longer so they are more particular. Ideally we recommend one more box than the number of cats in the home boxes in different locations and where she cannot be bothered and they are easy to get to. Some cats like to urinate and defecate in different areas and are very sensitive to being interrupted.

Make sure she has privacy when she goes, yet also make sure the box is easy to get to and get in and out of. As I said many cats appreciate low sided, larger boxes, especially big cats as they age. The plastic very low sided storage containers that fit under the bed work very well.

If you are using scented litter I recommend plain clay litter or plain scoop litter. Most cats find scented litter objectionable.

To help ease social stress you can try using Feliway sprays or diffusors. These are synthetic pheromones which mimic those produced to mark areas as safe and many cats find them soothing. You can also use pheromone calming collars as well. See this link for some examples: http://www.amazon.com/Sentry-Behavior-Pheromone-Collar-Inches/dp/B0026JAKWG

If these measures aren't enough you can try a homeopathic calming oral medication called Bach's Rescue Remedy. See this link for further information: http://www.bachflower.com/Pets.htm

And you could discuss oral medications with your veterinarian as well such as fluoxetine or amitriptyline as calming agents to decrease her stress.

If she has evidence of stiffness or joint pain I recommend using a combination of a glucosamine/chondroitin product (examples are Dasuquin or Cosequin) and an omega 3 fatty acid (like 3V Caps or Derm Caps). I recommend an omega 3 fatty acid dose based upon the EPA portion (eicosapentanoic acid) of the supplement as if we do that the rest of the supplement will be properly balanced. Give her 20mg of EPA per pound of body weight per day. For example an 8 pound cat could take 160mg of EPA per day.

Omega 3's and glucosamine/chondroitins work synergistically and improve cartilage health and joint fluid quality and quantity as well as reducing inflammation. They can take several weeks to see full improvement but some cats do very well with them. They are available over the counter.

Another option is a product called Duralactin. This is an anti-inflammatory product derived from milk proteins and it also has omega 3 fatty acids incorporated into it which can be very helpful. See this link for further information: http://www.duralactin.com/products_feline.htm

Finally if she does better when allowed to go out you may wish to construct an outdoor cat pen so she can safely spend time outside and get some exercise. Here are some examples:

https://www.google.com/search?q=outdoor+cat+enclosure&espv=2&biw=1431&bih=700&site=webhp&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwiirMW8u_7RAhWISyYKHT9NBfQQ_AUIBygC

Best of luck with your girl, I suspect that there is an underlying medical reason for her behavior and she needs some help getting on the right track.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
I have two boxes. One with that white litter that you change monthly and scoop the poop as needed. The other, and new, box has unscented clump litter. both are in a 'privatte' area. I removed the top from one months ago and it is present on the newer one. She does socialize. We are in an apartment building with an area in front of the door. Lucy loves to go outside and roll on the concrete and even senses when certain people are coming home. About 5 people actually stop what they are doing and squat down and pet her and talk to her (she is a multilingual cat, understands English, Spanish, Hindi and Korean Ha) we also have a fenced patio that she has access to and visits thru a pet door. She is less physically active than her sister Ethel and always has been. Ethel can get over the wall and roams the neighborhood a couple times a week. Lucy even choses to sleep on the next doors doormat some days. Although she is a house cat and mainly an indoor cat she does have a healthy social life and will occasionally observe but not engage with other tenant cats. I've used a product called Knock Out with no good results. I can smell within seconds when they have defecated and scoop it immediately or now as in Lucy's case cleaned it off the floor. I am about to take a mop and bucket in their 'room' and contemplating the use of Clorox there today. Their boxes are temporarily moved into the bedroom until I finish whatever cleaning I do. Their room is kept clean and is somewhat private - it is actually an alcove with curtain and has worked well for 4 years. This is a 600' 1 bedroom apartment so my choices of placement are limited. She does not appear to have any muscular or joint discomfort as she still gets up on the table and sofa and bed with no problems. The stool is formed and has no visual evidence of mucous, blood or worms. On occasion it is loose (1-2 times a month) and I think it has to do with one of the foods but have not identified which. She eats about the same quantity as always and drinks about the same amount of water as well.

Sorry I see now Lucy is the girl with litter box troubles, I misread that the first time.

I am glad to hear that she has an active social life and gets outside for stimulation and exercise.

I think the fact that she is less active and sometimes has looser stools means she likely doesn't feel quite as well as she should and very likely has some cramping associated with digestion, intestinal motility and passing stools. She is likely associating pain with her litter box, and thus her reluctance to go there.

I understand that you have space limitations. I would try a bigger box, as if she doesn't have to crouch so much she may be more comfortable passing stools.

I would also consider changing their diet to a sensitive stomach variety. Hills, Purina Pro Plan and Royal Canin all make a sensitive stomach diet formula that you can buy at the pet store. In some cases these kitties need prescription food, but those are good ones to try first. Any diet switch should be done very gradually, over a 2 week period of time to lessen further upset.

Chlorox (bleach) is a great disinfectant, but won't clean enzymatically so there may be residual smells. I recommend a true enzymatic odor neutralizer formulated for pets to clean.

Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 18,837
Experience: Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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