How Can I Stop My Cat Tracking From Poop?

Photo of Cat Using Litter Box
Cat Using Litter Box. Getty Images

Question: "How Can I Stop Kittens Tracking Poop?"

Jackie and Shane share their household with two male neutered cats, Elvis and Taz, both adopted from the local shelter on New Year's Eve of 2009. They provide one uncovered litter box situated in the guest bathroom, far from feeding and sleeping area. They first noticed the problem in the middle of January.

"Every two or three weeks they will step in their own poop or actually poop on their own leg and even their own tail while in the litter box.

I have looked at several websites, I asked my vet, and other pet owners. A couple of people have suggested I get another litter box but I don't have any other spot in my home for another box at the moment. Someone else suggested covering the litter box which I have not tried yet. I have read that sometimes it takes time for kittens to figure things out. It is strange how they won't do it for a while and then all of a sudden they will do it? I clean the litter box twice a day, I use Arm & Hammer Multicat, I made a litter box out of a Rubbermaid storage box that is slightly bigger than the original box I bought, and it doesn't make any difference. Sometimes I watch them back up to the edge of the box and poop right against the high side of the box. I have never had a cat that did this before and they both do it."

Amy's Answer

A kitten's potty habits vary and can be quite individual. Problems with elimination frequently result from health issues, but may also be influenced by environmental factors.

I like to review potential problems against my H.I.S.S. Test, which stands for health, instinct, stress, and symptom solvers. That can help rule in (or out) different causes so that a solution can be found.

H=Health

Intestinal parasites can sometimes cause issues with cats and cause their fur to be soiled when they defecate.

This is a particular problem with long hair kitties. When a cat has arthritis (more common in aging felines) it can be painful to squat. It's not as common but hip dysplasia can appear in some cats which also makes it painful or difficult to squat. A standing stance during defecation could lead to the problem you describe.

I=Instinct

There are many common causes of cat potty problems. Cats tend to be naturally clean creatures. Some prefer one box for solids and others for liquids. Many also don't want to share facilities and object to "going" after another cat. I suppose that's equivalent to a human entering a bathroom and finding that another person used the toilet and failed to flush. Ew!

S=Stress

The stress of sharing toilet facilities can influence how a cat uses the litter box. Squatting places a cat in a more vulnerable position. So if one kitten is (ahem) poised to pose, and the other appears, he may be reluctant to assume the position and lessen the ability to leap away.

S=Symptom, Signs & Solutions

You don't mention the ages of Elvis and Taz, but if kittens, sometimes it does take a while for kittens to learn litter box etiquette how all the cat equipment works. Littermates and kittens raised together can "copycat" behavior from the mother, from other adults they watch, or from each other so it's not surprising that they'd both practice this habit.

Good for you for providing a larger storage box for the cat's toilet. That's often an issue, especially with big cats. While I do understand the problem of not having adequate space, the ideal solution would be to offer another box. I suspect that the behavior of backing up to "deposit" right against the box barrier has to do with getting as far away as possible from the "liquid" deposits in the facilities. Since these boys must share, they might be designating one portion of the box for urine and the sides for feces. Even when you scoop as often as you do, they occasionally run out of room to squat.

Here's what I'd suggest. Buy a second box, and STACK them. Use a cheap end table or even a modular bookcase or shelving, and place the first litter box on the floor level. It needs to fit over top and straddle the first litter box or the box needs to sit inside while allowing the cats to enter/exit.

And then situate a second toilet on top of that end table or an upper shelf. This way, you're going up in vertical space rather than spreading it out and that might be easier to manage with your space. Office supply and container stores may have cardboard, plastic or other modular types of units you can adapt.