Ask the Vet: A Messy (and Stinky!) Litter Box Problem

What to do when kitty doesn't want to use the litter box

cats, kittens, pet health, pet behavior, cat behavior


Logo courtesy of Covedale Pet Hospital

It’s time for another edition of “Ask the Vet,” with expert advice from Dr. Bill Obert of Covedale Pet Hospital. Dr. Obert can also be heard every Sunday on 1480 WDJO, where he hosts Pet Time from 10:00 am – 11:00 am.

This week’s question is about an issue that can be a problem for both our kitty cats and ourselves!

Question: My cat is pooping outside of the litter box. I keep it clean and he uses it to pee, but lately he will poop just outside of the box. What could be causing this?

Answer: The first thing to do is make sure there is not a medical reason behind the cat’s behavior. If a fecal check is negative for parasites, and the stool is formed and solid, it is usually a behavioral problem.

It can be challenging to figure out why the cat is behaving this way and come up with something you can do to get them using the litter box again. You can try changing litters – clumping vs. gravel – and changing boxes – covered vs. open or short sides vs. tall sides. If none of these changes make a difference, you can put the litter box inside a large Rubbermaid container lined with newspaper or something else that can be easily cleaned. Unfortunately behavioral issues such as these can sometimes be more difficult to solve than medical problems. Good luck and keep trying to find a solution that works for you and your cat.

Have you ever had a cat who didn’t want to poop in the litter box? If it wasn’t a medical issue, what did you do to solve this problem?


Do you have a health or behavior question about your pet that you would like to ask Dr. Obert? If so, send your questions to me at and we can feature your question in a future Ask the Vet column.

Thanks again for your advice, Dr. Obert!

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