Why Is My Cat Dragging Poop Out of The Litter Box?

Hiding feces is instinctual for cats because it enables them to avoid detection by predators. So, if your cat is routinely dragging poop out of its litter box, there will be a logical explanation.

So, cats drag poop out of their litter box due to:

  • Immobility (arthritis, overweight, disibilities, injuries, etc.)
  • Not being taught how to use a litter box
  • Claiming territory
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Boredom (lack of toys and enrichment)
  • Wanting attention from an owner

Pulling poop out of its litter box isn’t normal feline behavior. Cats are instinctively driven to bury their waste so their presence can’t be detected, but they can do so when their litter tray, health, or home have become a problem.

Why Does My Cat Take Poop Out of Its Litter Box?

Let’s explore the reasons for cats dragging poop outside of their litter trays:

Mobility Issues

If your cat is elderly, disabled, injured, or obese, it could be tracking poop outside of the litter box accidentally.

When defecating, your cat may get some feces on its fur, especially if the feces are runny. If the cat has mobility issues, it may lack the flexibility to clean off the waste.

Arthritic and overweight cats, in particular, will have trouble with this process. Long-haired cats may also find life difficult because they get feces in their butt fur and struggle to clean it off as they age.

To solve this problem, help your cat groom. Use an unscented wet wipe on its fur, paying close attention to its butt. Clean off any stubborn waste that your cat has trouble reaching.

Poor Litter Box Habits

Cats learn grooming and litter box habits from their mothers when they’re young.

If you’ve adopted a kitten or stray adult cat, you may need to teach them to use the litter box properly. If your cat’s pooping outside its box, it may need some training so that it knows the location and how to use the tray.

If your cat isn’t covering its poop, it may step on its waste and track it around the house. If so, your cat may need to be taught how to cover its poop.

You can do this by staying with your cat while using the litter box. Gently take the cat’s paw and help it cover the poop once it’s finished so that it learns the correct process.

Marking Territory

According to the Journal of Chemical Ecology, a cat’s feces contain a pheromone used to identify the owner. Consequently, cats use their poop as a way of marking territory.

Usually, cats do this with urine, and unfixed males are notorious for spraying walls. If they’ve been fixed, they may use poop as a marker. 


A stressed and anxious cat claiming an area will leave its poop uncovered to mark its territory.

Cats don’t have a set hierarchy, but they are protective of their space and resources. Leaving poop out in the open is a safe, indirect way for stressed cats to show dominance.

Boredom And Attention-Seeking

If your cat is bored and lacks suitable toys, it may enter its litter box.

Here, it’ll bat around a piece of dried poop. If you keep finding whole pieces of poop around the house, your cat is almost certainly bored and finding ways to entertain itself. 

If your cat wants more attention from you, it may start dragging poop out of its litter box. It’s smart enough to know that this is bad behavior and that you’ll respond.

Ensure that your cat has plenty of toys and increase its playtime.

Why Is My Cat Getting Poop Everywhere?

If you keep finding cat feces outside of the litter tray, it’s likely for the following reasons:

  • Not covering waste: The cat steps on it while leaving the box and tracks poop everywhere
  • Fecal incontinence: This causes it to spread a mess wherever it goes
  • Going to the toilet is painful: Cat experiences discomfort while using the litter box
  • Insfficient space: The litter box is too small or dirty

Let’s explore these different situations in more detail:

Cat Runs Out of Litter Box While Pooping

If your cat never appears to finish and still leaves the box, it may be experiencing discomfort. An obvious sign is that your cat cries out after going to the toilet.

A cat may feel too exposed while using the litter box due to a lack of privacy. The litter box may not feel like a safe place for your cat, so it’ll be in a hurry to do its business and leave the area.

If so, move the box to a quieter, more private location.

cat dropping bits of poo

Cat Won’t Poop In Litter Box

The litter box may not be to your cat’s liking for the following reasons:

  • Too small
  • Too dirty
  • Used by other cats
  • Scent or texture of the litter

Cats won’t compromise in these situations. If there are no suitable litter trays available, pooping under your bed or in your closet are acceptable alternatives.

To prevent that from happening, you can do the following:

  • Larger litter box
  • Clean the litter tray more often
  • Additional litter boxes
  • Change the type of litter

Ensure that you have at least one litter box per cat and clean them after usage.

Cat Dropping Bits of Poo

If you keep finding small bits of poop around the house, your cat may be constipated. In this case, bowel movements are painful, so it poops whenever it can and gets the urge.

If so, you’ll find that its waste will be small and oddly shaped. Your cat may also have bowel incontinence or leaking anal glands, which leads to it passing waste unexpectedly and without control.

Why Is My Cat Dragging Its Butt on the Floor?

Cats will drag their butt on the floor, called scooting, leaving a mess everywhere.

Cats scoot for the following reasons:

  • Poop stuck to its butt. Cats with mobility issues will struggle to clean themselves.
  • An itchy butt. This may be due to an uncomfortable growth or worms.
  • Anal gland problems. Infected or irritated glands, making them itchy.

A vet should examine your cat for growths, worms, or anal gland problems.

How to Stop A Cat Dropping Bits Of Poo

If your cat has developed bad habits, you can teach it to stop these behaviors:

  • Mats for outside the box. This will catch any litter and poop before it gets onto your flooring.
  • Hands-on training. Put your cat in the litter box when it seems like it needs to poop. If it goes to the toilet, you can bury the waste with the cat’s paws and praise it for a job well done.
  • Regular cleaning. Clean the litter box daily since cats don’t like the smell of waste.
  • More litter boxes. One litter tray per cat, plus one extra, is recommended.
  • Different litter. The texture or scent of the litter may be off-putting to your cat.
  • Private, quieter location. Your cat may find the litter box unsafe, which causes it to flee soon after usage.
  • Assistance with grooming. If your cat has mobility issues, clean its butt and fur with an unscented wet wipe.

Why Is My Cat Tracking Poop?

You’ve applied the above solutions, but the cat still persistently tracks poop everywhere.

This may be for the following reasons:

  • Undetected medical issue
  • Struggling with litter-box training
  • Unhappy with its litter box

According to the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, cats prefer larger litter boxes than those usually provided. If your cat prefers a much bigger litter box, it could be getting poop elsewhere for this reason.

The litter-box habits of your cat are one of the main indications of good or poor health. If its waste habits have suddenly changed, your cat should be checked over by a veterinarian.

Perhaps your cat is learning how to use the box properly, but it’s taking more time. Be consistent with your training plan and trust that the cat will get the idea eventually. This will take longer for older cats and adopted strays.

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Richard Parker

I'm Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I'm experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. I'm a proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.

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