Cat pooing on the floor? What to do when your cat refuses his tray!

Discovering your cat pooing on floors is a disaster! There can be many reasons for this, and it is vital to rule out serious illness. Find out more.

Cat pooing on floor

Cat pooing on the floor?

When a cat refuses to use their litter tray, and starts urinating or pooing on the floor, it can be a disaster! This can mean your cat is pooing on the floor, or urinating in places he shouldn't, but either way, it is not good! There can be many causes for this, and this article will deal with some of the most common causes.

Solving this problem is often not a quick process: it is a process of elimination, so start with the cause you think is most likely and then work your way through the solutions, one at a time. Do not try everything at the same time because then you will not know which solution was the one that worked!

This article is really for cats urinating or defecating outside of the litter tray. If you have a male cat who is spraying around your home, this is a different issue and will be dealt with elsewhere.

Reasons why your cat is refusing to use his litter box: 

Reason 1: your cat is unwell

The first thing to do if your cat’s toilet habits change is see your vet. There can be specific and serious illnesses that cause the change in habit, so please visit your vet to have any potential illnesses ruled out first. With some illnesses you will see symptoms, but not with all illnesses, so err on the side of caution.

  • Your cat has diarrhea

If your cat has diarrhea, there can be multiple causes for this. We will be dealing with the causes of diarrhea in another article. For the purposes of this article, the point is  that diarrhea can cause your cat to toilet outside the litter tray either because they urgently need to go and do not have time to get to the tray, or because it is causing them pain when they go the toilet, which teaches them to associate the litter tray with pain, and avoid it. Diarrhea lasting more than a day or two, or any very severe or unusually coloured diarrhea needs a vet trip. Diarrhea lasting more than a couple of days can cause rapid weight loss which can, in itself, be lethal. Read more about cat diarrhea here.

  • Your cat has constipation

If your cat is constipated this can have two effects. Firstly, it can mean that he learns to associate the litter tray with painful straining, which can stop him from using it because of the negative connotations. Secondly, very constipated cats often 'leak' small, hard, compact lumps of cat feces. If you are finding small, hard, black lumps or balls of cat poo, this is a sure sign that your cat is constipated. Cat constipation can very quickly be a medical emergency. Please see cat constipation.

  • Your cat has a urine infection

A urine infection can cause severe pain, causing your cat to associate the litter tray with pain, and then avoid it. If you see any blood in your cat’s urine, if they are urinating more than usual, or outside of the litter tray, or look like they are straining, take them to the vet immediately.

Reason 2: your cat does not like the litter box

Cats can be fussy. Very fussy. If they do not like the toilet you provide, they will not use it! Here are some tips for litter tray:

  • Not all cats will use a hooded litter tray. If your cat doesn’t like a hooded tray, take the hood off!

  • Sometimes your cat might decide the litter tray on offer is too small...remember to upgrade the size of your litter tray as your cat grows

Reason 3: your cat does not like the litter

As we said, cats can be fussy! And cats can be very fussy about the litter you offer them! Some cats are easy to please, and will use any litter, but not all cats feel this way. The ideal litter for a cat is:

  • Unscented

  • very fine, and

  • easy to dig around in.

A telltale sign if your cat does not like the litter on offer is this: your cat may look like they are trying to avoid touching the litter: they may step on the outside edges of the litter tray, trying to make as little contact with the litter as possible, and get out of the tray as soon as they can.

If you think your cat might be unhappy with your choice of litter the best approach is to:

  • find around 3 different types of litter

  • put a litter tray of each down alongside the original litter

  • watch and see if your cat uses any of these other litter trays. If he does, then you know you have found the problem!

Reason 4: your cat does not like the location of the litter tray

First of all, particularly with kittens and new cats, make sure the litter tray is not too far away from them. If your kitten is upstairs for the first time and the litter tray is all the way downstairs….your kitten will almost certainly find a suitable alternative! Also, cats tend to like a little privacy so if their litter tray is highly viewable in a busy place, try moving it somewhere quieter for them.

Reason 5: the litter is not clean enough

Cats are very clean creatures, even as kittens. They keep themselves beautifully clean, and they like their litter trays to be clean as well.

  • If their litter tray is not emptied regularly, then they will stop using it. This does not mean you should spritz it with perfume at every opportunity - they would definitely not use it then! Just make sure that you scoop the tray daily.

  • Some cats are so wonderfully clean that they will. Very helpfully, refuse to use a litter tray more than once. That’s right - there are cats out there that require a litter tray clean after every use!

  • A good solution to this is to provide a second litter box for them to use, or even a third one if needs be!

  • There are also cats out there that require two trays - one for weeing in and one for pooing in! This is actually more common than you might think! It is easy to fix though - just provide two litter trays for them.

  • Be aware, that with a young kitten, you may be best scooping the litter but leaving the urine in it for a day or two so that it smells like a litter tray for them - in this case, litter being too clean can confuse them!

Reason 6: your cats don’t want to share litter trays

If you have more than one cat, make sure that you have at least one litter tray for each of them. It is not good for cats to share litter trays anyway, as many infectious conditions are passed on by sharing litter trays, and they simply don’t like sharing. Remember - they are very clean animals by nature!

Reason 7: your cat is territory marking

  • This is more common in male cats than female, and usually only if you have not had your male neutered before he reaches sexual maturity.
  • It can also be caused by overcrowding and stress, making your cat feel the need to exert his or her authority.
  • If you suspect your cat is marking his territory, give him a space, away from the other cats you have. 
  • Sometimes your cat pooing on floor can be because he is bored, unstimulated, or generally annoyed with you! If you leave him alone or without any attention for a couple of days, and come home to find he has pooed on the floor, consider enriching his environment and giving him more attention
  • If your cat is not spayed or neutered, get them health checked by a vet before subjecting them to any surgery, and once they have the all-clear, get them fixed.

Male cats more likely to territory mark


- discover how important litter tray hygiene is 

- find out whether to choose a male or female kitten

- what age should your neuter your male kitten?

- understand why GCCF registration is so important