Under ideal circumstances, a cat owner will rarely encounter poop. Cats are secretive about their elimination habits. Most felines quietly and efficiently eliminate in their litter boxes and bury the evidence. Unfortunately, some cats track poop around the home for a variety of different reasons.
Your cat may be dragging poop out of its litter box unwittingly because it’s immobile. If waste clings to its fur, it will lack the flexibility to clean it off. It’s possible that your cat no longer considers the litter box safe, and is hiding waste elsewhere to avoid detection. In some cases, cats will move poop to mark territory. Some bored felines treat their waste as a toy, or even a snack.
If your cat is dragging poop from the litter box, clean it up and seek a solution. This behavior is unsanitary and problematic. If your cat is tracking waste due to immobility or poor grooming, seek to make life easier for it. If it’s a conscious act, you need to learn why and engage in training.
Table of Contents:
- 1 My Cat Tracks Poop Everywhere
- 1.1 Why is My Cat Taking its Poop Out of the Litter Box?
- 1.2 How to Stop a Cat Tracking Poop
My Cat Tracks Poop Everywhere
If your cat has tracked waste throughout your home, cleaning must be your first action. There is obviously an aesthetic concern. Feline excrement can leave distinct and visually unappealing stains if left to set.
There is also the aroma to contend with. Scented cat litter exists because cat waste does not smell good. You’ll want to rid your home of the scent ASAP.
In addition, a cat’s sensitive nose will detect the waste. If you’re not careful, outside the litter box will become a designed elimination spot. The longer a cat develops a habit, the harder it is to break.
Also, consider the health implications. Cat waste can contain bacterial diseases. Toxoplasmosis is the most common, which can lead to blindness in children and vulnerable adults.
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association describes toxoplasma gondii oocysts in feline feces as, “substantial environmental contamination.” To remove any trace of cat waste from a rug or carpet:
- Wearing gloves, pick up any solid waste and dispose of it
- Rinse the area thoroughly with cool water
- Apply vinegar and baking soda to remove stains and absorb scents
- Allow the cleaning products to dry
- Apply a secondary odor-removing spray for safety
Once this is done, look into how you can prevent a recurrence. This involves determining the cause of the behavior. There will always be a reason for a cat treading waste in the home. Your first action will be learning whether it is by accident or design.
Why is My Cat Taking its Poop Out of the Litter Box?
A cat tracking poop around the house is not standard feline behavior. In fact, it’s the opposite. Cats usually bury their waste and stay as far from it as possible. It is common for cats to flee the litter tray after elimination.
This is survival instinct. Cats rely on scent to hunt, so they understand that predators will do the same. The cat wants to leave no trace of itself. The burying of waste is a way of masking a cat’s presence. The only exception to this is a dominant cat using waste to mark territory.
If your cat is tracking waste throughout your home, there will be a reason. It could be accidental, or it may be part of a behavioral or training issue. Resolve the problem as quickly as you can to prevent your cat from developing a poop-tracking habit.
Lack of Training
Was your cat ever trained to use the litter box correctly? If you adopt an adult cat, this is not a certainty.
Cats learn from their mother’s in their earliest days. Responsible owners then take the lead on training. If your cat lacked the best start in life, it may not know any better.
Watch your cat carefully, and ensure it knows how to use a litter box. If this is not the case, it will understandably struggle. Training will be required, even if it’s just a refresher course.
Before psychoanalyzing your cat and seeing an explanation for this unwanted behavior, watch it eliminate. There is every chance that your cat is tracking poop accidentally.
You’ll know if your cat is accidentally walking waste into your home. The cat will seem edgy and nervous, constantly grooming. The cat can scent its own waste. This leaves it feeling insecure. The cat has tried, and failed, to remove traces of its scent.
Cats want privacy in the litter box, so pick a vantage point from a distance. Watch your cat go about its business. You may notice an issue with the logistics of your cat’s personal toilet.
Unsanitary Litter Box
Sometimes, the simplest explanation is also the likeliest. If your cat’s litter box clean? If not, the cat may be stepping on pre-existing waste. This is especially likely if multiple cats share a litter box. Poop gets trapped in a cat’s fur or paws and is tramped around the home.
Many cats will outright refuse to use a dirty litter box. There are exceptions, though, especially in older felines. Sometimes, an older cat feels insecure and just wants to get the job done.
Always be vigilant about scooping litter. This must be done at least once a day, but ideally more often. Try to get into a habit of checking litter every time your cat wakes from a nap. It is likely that elimination will be the first thing the cat does upon arising.
How much litter is in your cat’s litter box? Unless the litter box has particularly high sides, three inches is more than enough. Any more could lead to litter being flicked out while your cat buries its waste.
In doing so, the cat will potentially knock soiled litter out of the tray. This litter – and waste – may then be stepped in and tracked through the home. Limit the amount of litter used. If your cat is a powerful digger, consider a hooded litter box to avoid spillages.
Both these solutions are preferable to switching to a higher-sided open litter tray. Senior cats need at least one low wall for entry to a litter box. If you make access difficult for a cat with weak back legs, accidents outside the litter box will follow.
Discomfort in the Litter Box
There is a possibility that your cat is uncomfortable in its litter box. In such an instance, the cat will do what it came to do and run. The cat will not bury its waste, potentially stepping in it as it rushes to escape. Common reasons for a cat to feel uncomfortable in a litter box include:
- Insufficient space
- Lack of privacy
- Inappropriate litter (scent or texture)
- Proximity to loud noises
In addition, the cat may consider the litter box to be ‘compromised’ and unsafe. This will make the cat nervous. Felines rarely feel more exposed and unsafe than while eliminating.
Consider whether your cat is having difficulty eliminating. This could be due to constipation, digestive blockages, or urinary tract infections. An upset stomach or irritable bowel syndrome also merit investigation.
If your cat is struggling to eliminate normally, it will become distressed and worried. This leaves a cat wondering if it will make it to the litter box on time. In such instances, cats stay put in their litter box, using it as a makeshift bed.
This may be comfortable for the cat, but it’s far from sanitary. Waste will eventually become trapped in fur or paws. This will then be tracked through the home. Look into resolving your cat’s lavatorial anxiety, potentially with the use of multiple litter trays.
Inability to Clean
Cats love to play with toilet paper, but do not use it after eliminating. Instead, cats rely on grooming to remove any lingering excrement from fur.
As cats grow older or more obese this becomes increasingly difficult. Grooming requires dexterity and a lot of energy. Arthritic or overweight cats lack both. Your cat will find it increasingly troublesome to obtain the right posture to groom.
Longhaired cats, in particular, will struggle with this. The more fur a cat has, the more chance waste will become trapped within it. You’re going to need to help your cat groom.
Cats urinate to mark territory. Some cats also use excrement for the same reason. As per the Journal of Chemical Ecology, individual cats can be identified through their poop. Sex, in particular, is made obvious by the chemical compounds within.
This means that your cat be using its waste as a calling card. It is claiming territory, warning other cats away. The distinctive scent of the feces is announcing a particular cat’s presence.
In addition, females in heat may use their waste to attract intact tomcats. Just like with urine, the poop will carry a, “come and get me” message. The human nose cannot detect this, but other cats certainly can.
Sometimes, a cat will use its poop as a plaything. It will drag it out of the litter box and bat it around with its paws. This behavior must be stopped.
There is a clear and obvious hygiene risk with this. In addition, it suggests that the cat is deeply bored and lacking stimulation. The cat is amusing itself the only way it can or acting out to gain your attention. Either way, don’t stand by and let this happen.
Remove the waste from your cat, clean its paws, and replace it with a toy. Make sure you get your cat into a regular play routine. If it is bored enough to play with its poop, the cat will soon become destructive.
The most worrying behavior is a cat removing waste from the litter tray to eat it. This is known as coprophagia.
Some cats eat their own waste due to a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Others mistake the scent of their waste for food or prey. In some unpleasant cases, the cat just enjoys the taste and habit.
The cat may also have chronic anxiety. It is so fearful of being detected it considers eating waste the safest course of action.
There are also a handful of medical conditions that list coprophagia as a symptom. Pica (the desire to eat non-food items) is an obvious example. Others include:
- Cushing’s disease
If your cat has only done this once, it could have been an experiment born of curiosity or a mistake. If the behavior continues, and certainly if it becomes regular, seek advice from a vet.
How to Stop a Cat Tracking Poop
A cat walking waste into your home should not be ignored. There is every chance it was an accidental mishap. Just take the time to prevent it from happening again.
Assess whether your cat needs to be litter trained. This may be for the first time or refresher training.
Some senior cats never learned how to use the litter box as kittens. Others may be used to eliminating outside, but now must stay indoors for health reasons. Whatever the cause, get to work on retraining your cat to use the litter tray:
- Pick up your cat and place it in the litter box
- Encourage elimination if necessary (a warm washcloth to the bottom will do this)
- After your cat has eliminated, bury the poop with a scoop
- Encourage your cat to do the same
- Praise your cat heavily when it buries its waste
Cats are natural born imitators. If you consistently apply this training, your cat will quickly start to behave the same way. You may find that your problems with tracked waste cease faster than you expected.
Manage the Litter Box
Take a look at your cat’s litter box. Is it meeting all of your pet’s needs? If a cat is tracking litter accidentally, it may be the litter box that’s to blame. Follow this checklist to ensure your cat is comfortable:
- Easy access, especially for older and arthritic cats
- A quiet location where the cat will be undisturbed
- Appropriate amount of litter (typically 2 to 3 inches)
- High sides to allow for digging
- Clean, cat-friendly litter
The latter is particularly important. Remember to clean your cat’s litter box regularly. Check for waste at least once daily, ideally more often.
If the problems persist, consider changing litter box. Your cat may prefer a hooded litter box that affords more privacy. This will reduce the risk of the cat taking a, “poop and run” approach. You may also need to consider relocation to the litter box to quieter territory.
Think about the litter that you are using, too. If your cat dislikes the scent or feel of its litter, it may refuse to dig. This means no burying of feces, and inevitable tracking. Find a litter that your cat enjoys and stick with it.
You’ll also need to help your cat out with cleaning, especially it is older. There is a wide array of ways to improve a senior cat’s personal hygiene:
- Use wet wipes on the cat’s fur and bottom
- Clean a cat’s claws and encourage scratching to file them down
- Trim long fur around the bottom, paws, and belly
- Brush out any clinging litter with a fine-toothed comb
A clean cat will be unable to tread waste around the home. This will require regular maintenance, but it’s better than dealing with fecal staining and tread marks.
If your cat is marking territory with poop, it means one of three things. The cat is insecure, seeking attention, or is excessively dominant and territorial. None of these states of mind are sustainable.
Start by ensuring your cat knows that it has assigned territory. In an ideal world, this will be an entire room. If this is not possible, just stick with a set area. What matters most is that your cat feels safe in a particular part of the home.
In addition, get your cat into a strict routine. Ensure that your cat knows its needs will be met. This means feeding, petting and playing with the cat at set times each day. This will keep the cat calm. It is less likely to seek your attention by behaving inappropriately.
If an unfixed cat continues to tread poop, investigate spaying or neutering. Males cats calm down after neutering, becoming less aggressively territorial. Spayed females, in turn, will cease using feces to announce their availability to males.
Distraction and Entertainment
If your cat is playing with its poop, it is clearly bored. This is a dangerous situation for a cat. Boredom leads to a range of unwanted actions.
Keep your cat stimulated. As discussed in Behavioral Processes, this requires a combination of social interaction, toys and sensory stimulation. If your cat has enough to keep it amused, it will lose interest in its waste.
If you cannot be around to meet these needs yourself, ask for assistance. Ask a friend or neighbor to visit your cat while you are out. Build this into your cat’s routine and it will be much calmer.
A cat tracking poop from the litter box is never a behavior to ignore. Your cat is either struggling physically or attempting to gain your attention. Learn which of these scenarios applies and take action.