Q We adopted a healthy 12-week-old kitten. At first, we kept him in the bathroom at night and when we were not a home. He peed in the litter box but pooped in the bathtub. Now that he is older, he has full run of the house. We keep the litter box clean, scooping it every day, but he still poops on the tile floor next to the litter box. I am tired of cleaning it up. What can I do to get him to use the litter box?
A The one saving grace is that your kitten is targeting easy-to-clean flooring surfaces rather than carpets or furniture. Having become accustomed to using the smooth tub, he is continuing to find a familiar surface. Your young but savvy kitten is trying to tell you that he is not jazzled by the litter box shape or size, the location, or type of litter. Too often, people forget that litter box usage needs to be addressed from the cat’s point of view, not the owner’s. Keep in mind that urinating takes less time than defecating. Your kitten may not like to spend a lot of time in the litter box and opt to defecate outside the litter box.
Perhaps the litter box is too small or too large or the litter too deep for his liking. Try adding a second litter box of a different size without a hood. Position this one near the “scene of his poop crimes” but do not put in any litter. Instead, leave it empty or place a liner inside to create a smooth surface to attract your kitten. You may discover that he appreciates this new feline bathroom customized to his liking.
As with all elimination problems, you should have your veterinarian give your kitten a head-to-tail examination to verify that no medical problem exists. Some intact males will do fecal marking to establish their territory, so if you have not done so already, book an appointment to have your kitten neutered. That often cuts down on inappropriate elimination issues and also reduces his risk of developing prostate cancer.
To learn more about your cat’s behavior, purchase The Cat Behavior Answer Book from Catnip.