Pet owner cleaning up cat poop

Why pet owners are switching to online vet care with Dutch

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  • Fast access to Licensed Vets over video

  • Unlimited video visits and follow-ups

Domestic cats know how to use a litter box from a young age. Unfortunately, many cats defecate outside of the litter box for various reasons. Many types of cats display this type of behavior, and it can be incredibly frustrating for pet parents.

There are many reasons why your cat might be going outside of their litter box, including behavioral problems, health conditions, and stress. If your cat suddenly stopped using the litter box, you’ll need to consider whether or not they’ve experienced any stressful changes in their lives. If not, pooping outside the litter box could indicate a serious health concern. This article will address a few reasons why your cat is pooping outside the litter box and what you can do to fix it.

Why Would A Cat Poop Outside of the Litter Box?

7 reasons cats poop outside their litter box

If your cat has recently started pooping outside the litter box, it could be cause for concern. Unfortunately, your cat can’t tell you why they didn’t use their litter box, so it’s up to you to figure out if there’s something more sinister going on. Earlier, we mentioned that cats could have behavioral problems that make them poop outside of their litter boxes. However, it’s important to note that pets don’t revenge poop like many pet parents think they do.

Health Issues

Medical problems can interfere with your cat’s regular potty behavior. For example, digestive problems can make it difficult and painful for your cat to poop, increase the frequency of pooping, or decrease their control over their defecation.1 Additionally, age-related diseases can interfere with your cat’s cognitive function and mobility, making it more difficult to reach the litter box or get inside to use it.1

Other mild health issues, such as constipation, can make your cat’s urge to poop sudden, making it difficult to get to the litter box in time. If your cat has only defecated outside of the litter box once or a few times in the past few days, they may have constipation. Straining to poop and producing dry feces are constipation symptoms, so it’s always best to look at your cat’s stool before disposing of it to determine if they have health conditions.

Looking at your cat’s stool can tell you a lot and may even help you figure out why they’re not making it to the litter box. For example, worms in cats can be visible to the human eye and can cause symptoms such as cat diarrhea. Inspecting your cat’s poop can also help you figure out when it’s time to go to the vet. Unfortunately, even if your cat has healthy poop, they could still be experiencing some health problem causing them to go potty in strange places.


Stress can cause a change in potty habits, just like health problems. Cats experience stress differently than humans, and something that’s not stressful for a human could be stressful for their feline friend. Anything can cause stress and anxiety in cats, including moving to a new home, the addition of a new pet, or a new baby in the home. Even something as simple as a change in your cat’s routine can cause them to get stressed.2

stress could be a key factor if your cat is pooping outside the litter box

While you can’t always prevent stress in your cats, you can make some changes easier for them to deal with. For example, if you’re bringing home a new cat, you can introduce them to your old cat slowly to make it a more comfortable experience. Also, continue to provide positive reinforcement like praise and treats when there’s a change in your cat’s life to help ease their anxiety.

Litter Box Preferences

Believe it or not, cats care about where they poop. If your cat doesn’t like their litter box, they might start pooping on your floor instead. Cats have a preference when it comes to the litter box itself, the location of the box, and the litter inside the box.1 If your cat has a litter box aversion, they’ll also likely urinate outside of the litter box. Additionally, your cat could use the litter box inconsistently.

Cats also prefer clean litter boxes. If their litter box is too full, they don’t want to go in it as that can be an unpleasant experience for them. It’s recommended to clean your cat’s litter box every day at least once, but some cats will prefer you clean their litter box up to three times per day and freshen up their litter often.

If your cat’s litter box is clean and they’re pooping and urinating outside of it, consider getting them a new litter box or trying new litter. However, if the problem persists, it might not be the litter box causing the problem, and you should consult your vet to rule out any medical problems.


Fear is similar to stress and can cause cats to poop outside the litter box. However, fear is temporary, whereas stress is long-lasting. Anything can cause fear in your cat, including noises and strangers, which could make them poop outside the litter box. This fear response typically happens in younger cats, but older cats can also poop in strange places when they’re afraid.

If you can find out what scares your cat, you can prevent them from pooping outside the litter box. Additionally, you should ensure their litter box is in a quiet and private area where they can feel safe.

Territorial Behavior

Cats are territorial creatures, so it makes sense that they would want to mark their territory in some way. For example, if you bring a new cat home, your old cat might become territorial over the house and start pooping in different rooms to show the other cat that it’s their home. Unfortunately, your cat might also become territorial by simply smelling or sensing the presence of another animal, such as a stray cat outside, causing them to defecate on the floor.

Too Few Litter Boxes

If you have multiple cats, you need to have a box for each because cats don’t like to share with other cats. Having too few litter boxes can result in them getting dirty quickly, deterring other cats in the home from using them. Ideally, you should have at least one more litter box than the number of cats. This allows the cats to have more choices, which will help reduce their stress level.

They Used to be an Outdoor Cat

If your cat used to live outdoors, it can be difficult for them to adjust to indoor living. Most outdoor cats adjust to using a litter box, but some have more trouble than others. For example, cats who used to live outside need private safe spaces just like they had in the wild.

Luckily, newly indoor cats can learn how to properly use their litter boxes, but it will require patience on the part of the owner. Always make new cats aware of the litter boxes and ensure the locations are private and safe away from any foot traffic in your home.


Kittens often miss the litter box when they’re first learning how to use it. While you don’t have to train kittens where to do their business like you do puppies, they can still have accidents in the house. When you bring home a kitten, show them the litter box so they know where it is. You should make the litter box accessible so they can get in without too much effort. Always have patience with your kitten since they’re still learning, and it can take time for them to start using the litter box every time they need to do their business.

How Can I Stop My Cat From Pooping Outside of Litter Box

6 ways to stop your cat from pooping outside the litter box

To stop your cat from pooping outside the litter box, you must determine why they’re doing it. For example, if your cat has a medical problem, you’ll need to treat it before you can expect the problem to be resolved. Here are a few ways you can stop your cat from pooping outside of the litter box.

Keep it Clean

Cats don’t like dirty places, so they won’t use the litter box if it hasn’t been cleaned. Always clean your cat’s litter box daily to remove old feces so they have a nice, clean place to do their business. Cats have a powerful sense of smell, so you’ll need to do more than just scoop the poop out of the box. Get rid of old litter frequently and scrub the entire box at least once a week for cats who prefer a clean environment.

Find a New Location

If you find your cat is pooping outside the litter box in a different room and continues to use that room, consider putting the litter box in that location. Additionally, you can block off access to other areas your cat might be pooping to force them to use their litter box. Finally, keep your cat’s litter box away from food and water in a safe and private area to make them more likely to use it every time.

Get Multiple Litter Boxes

If you have a second cat, it’s a good idea to have three litter boxes. As we’ve mentioned, cats don’t want to share, so it’s always a good idea to let each cat have their own litter box where they can safely do their business.

Pet owner spraying cat mess

Clean Accidents Thoroughly

Cats can smell the locations where they’ve pooped before and may be more prone to poop in those same spots. You can deter your cat from going potty in the same places on the floor by thoroughly cleaning up their messes.

Visit Your Vet

Pooping outside the litter box could indicate an underlying health problem. If you notice your cat has just recently started this behavior, and you’ve ruled out any problems with their litter box or changes that could have caused stress, visit your vet to determine if your cat could be pooping outside of the litter box due to health problems.

Properly Manage Stress, Fear & Anxiety

If your cat poops outside the litter box, they could be experiencing stress, fear, or anxiety. While it can be difficult to determine whether your cat is experiencing behavioral problems due to fear, there are some signs that can let you know your cat is stressed. For example, if your cat only poops outside the litter box when there’s a stranger in your home, they might be afraid of new people, which causes them to defecate on the floor. You can properly manage your cat’s stress by creating a safe space for them to go to help them relax.

When Should You Talk to a Vet?

Don’t panic if you notice your cat has pooped outside of their litter box. Your cat could be exhibiting this behavior for various reasons, including stress, litter box aversion, territorial behavior, or medical problems. If your cat continues to poop outside the litter box every day or often, consult a vet who can help you determine the underlying cause of the behavior.

Dutch’s licensed veterinarians can help you determine why your cat is pooping outside of the litter box and how you can stop them. Whether your cat has an underlying illness or is experiencing behavioral problems, a Dutch veterinarian can help your cat overcome this common problem so they can start using their litter box again and stop making messes around your house.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $7/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.