Cleaning up after your cat can be a chore – especially if they’ve dragged poop all over the house. Cats are usually very clean animals, so it’s worrying to see feces outside of the litter box.
Also, many cats develop bad toileting habits if their litter box is dirty or difficult to access. We’ll explore the reasons why cats drag poop out of the litter box. Since an inadequate litter box is often the cause of this behavior, we’ll also show you how to make your litter box more cat-friendly.
Why Is My Cat Pulling Feces Out of the Litter Box?
If you’re finding poop outside the litter box, this could be due to one of the following reasons:
- Burying Poop – Most cats will instinctively try to bury their poop. According to the SPCA, cats probably bury their poop to hide their scent from predators and/or protect themselves from parasites. If you are consistently finding poop outside the litter tray, perhaps your cat is making a very messy job of trying to bury their poop. If your cat has too much (or too little) litter in their tray, this can create a lot of mess when they dig.
- Medical Factors – Painful joints and stiff legs can make it hard for your cat to go to the toilet. They may accidentally trail feces outside of the litter box because they’re unstable and disoriented. Also, cats who have itchy bottoms (due to various medical problems) may not be able to tell if they’ve emptied their bowels. After using the litter box, they may also rub against the floor – or other surfaces – to clean their bottom.
- Boredom – Some kittens may start to ‘play’ with their poop. They could be trying to mark their territory, or they may feel bored and under-stimulated. If you play with your kitten on a regular basis, they are less likely to engage in this behavior.
- Discomfort – As mentioned, an inadequate litter box is the cause of most toileting troubles. Cats may behave strangely in a litter box that is dirty, cramped or accessed by other cats.
Indeed, if you make the litter box more ‘cat-friendly,’ this will often improve their toileting habits.
How to Stop Your Cat Dragging Poop Around
Your cat’s behavior could be caused by several different factors. If you can’t see any signs of illness, you’re probably dealing with a behavioral issue rather than a medical problem. In that case, the following five interventions may help to stop this behavior:
1) Clean the Litter Box Regularly
Keeping the litter box clean is one of the kindest things you can do for your cat. If the litter box is visibly dirty, most cats won’t use it. Even if they do reluctantly use it, they might leave the box before they’ve had a chance to empty their bowels fully.
Try to scoop out any poop as soon as you see it – and at least once per day. Once a week, empty the litter box and wash it with a scent-free soap. Once the box is dry, place fresh kitty litter inside. It’s vital to use a scent-free soap because cats find some popular fragrances (citronella, peppermint, lavender) very irritating.
Finally, don’t put your cat’s food bowl near their toilet. This can cause them to behave strangely in the litter box.
2) Try a New Kitty Litter
Fine-grained kitty litters such as sand and clay are well-tolerated by cats because they are very soft and dusty. Cats prefer to poop on sand or clay in the wild because it is easy to bury waste in these types of terrain.
However, sand and clay litters can cause a lot of mess if they are kicked about; you might find bits of sand and poop around the sides of the litter tray if you use this type of kitty litter. If so, consider switching to a silica gel crystal litter instead. Crystal litter is not soft and dusty like sand so that it won’t create as much mess. Also, because the litter is not as soft on their paws, this may dissuade kittens from playing in the litter tray.
Although paper towels or newspaper might seem like a good substrate because your cat can’t bury into them, your cat may become very anxious if they can’t bury at all.
Finally, consider how much kitty litter you’re putting in the tray/box. Generally speaking, it should be about an inch thick (2.5 cm). That way, your cat will have enough litter to bury their poop, but not so much that they’ll kick it everywhere.
3) Is the Litter Box Fully Accessible?
Cats feel vulnerable when using the litter box, so it’s important to place the box somewhere non-threatening. If your cat gets scared while using their litter box, they might run off prematurely – leaving a mess outside the litter box for you to clean up.
So, where should you place the litter box? Pick a quiet room in the house that people (and other pets) rarely use. Make sure the litter box is not backed into a corner; your cat should have at least two clear escape routes. Finally, make sure each cat in the household has access to their litter box.
4) Try an Enclosed Litter Box
If you regularly find poop outside the litter tray, try using an enclosed litter box with a lid. An enclosed litter box feels safer to some cats so they might be more inclined to use it. However, it’s important to say that some cats would not tolerate a litter box with a lid.
If that’s the case, your cat might tolerate a litter tray with high edges (i.e., at least 12 inches). Litter trays with high edges will trap more of the mess and make it harder for your cat to kick poop out.
If you plan to introduce a new style of litter box, don’t get rid of the old one until you see your cat using the new one.
5) Play and Distraction
As mentioned, some kittens ‘play’ with their poop. Some kittens have even been known to bury their toys in kitty litter. The good news is that most kittens can be easily distracted from this behavior. Often, they are just doing it because they are bored.
Most kittens require at least 3 x 10 minutes of active play per day. This is in addition to any cuddling or petting. So, if your kitten has developed some strange toileting habits, try playing with them more frequently throughout the day. If they’re left alone during the day, make sure you provide some toys for your cat to play with.
Why Is My Kitty Trailing Poop?
As mentioned, if the litter box is dirty or badly positioned, your cat may run off halfway through using it – leaving a trail of mess behind them. But the litter box is not always to blame. Here are some other reasons why your cat may be trailing poop throughout the home:
- Learning How to Clean – Kittens need to learn how to use the litter box so be patient if your kitten is having problems. Indeed, kittens that are taken away from their moms before nine weeks have particular difficulty keeping themselves clean. There are some things you can do to keep your kitten clean until they learn for themselves (see below).
- Long Fur – Long-haired cats find it harder to keep themselves clean, especially after going to the toilet. Here are some tips on how to keep a cat’s bottom clean.
- Itchy Bottom – If your cat has an itchy bottom, they may use the carpet (or other surfaces) to scratch against. This inevitably means they’ll spread mess around the house. Constipation, parasites, and issues with the anal glands (sometimes caused by obesity) can cause an itchy bottom. Cats that eat a kibble-only diet are more likely to suffer dehydration – which can lead to constipation.
If your cat seems uncomfortable and itchy, it’s important to take them to the vet for treatment.
How to Help Your Cat Stay Clean
Cats can generally look after themselves, but if they are having toilet problems, you may need to lend a helping hand. If you keep your cat clean, this should stop any harmful bacteria from spreading. Besides keeping the litter tray clean, here are some ways you can help:
- If your cat is long-haired, have them groomed professionally. A vet or cat groomer can trim the hair around their bottom very short so that it’s much easier to keep clean.
- If your cat is dragging poop around, their pads might become very dirty. It’s a good idea to buy some cat wet wipes to clean your cat every now and then. Cat wipes are especially useful for keeping kittens clean. It’s important not to use any wipes made for humans as these could dry out your cat’s skin and may even be toxic.
What to Do If Your Cat Is Eating Poop
Occasionally, a cat may start to eat their feces. This behavior often indicates an underlying health condition, such as:
- A vitamin or mineral deficiency
- Thyroid disease
Although you should dissuade this behavior, don’t scold or punish your cat. Instead, take them to the vet for an examination.
Fix Litter Box Problems for Good
Cats do sometimes develop bad toileting habits, but these bad habits are usually quite simple to fix. Take a good look at your litter box and make sure it is clean, safe, easy to access, and the litter is at the correct thickness.
If your cat is still trailing poop around, perhaps their fur needs trimming, or maybe they’re just bored, and you need to spend more quality time with them.
If you’ve tried to change your cat’s behavior but nothing seems to help, a visit to the vet will be required. Constipation or parasites might be to blame so don’t let your cat suffer for longer than necessary.