How Can I Stop My Cat From Pooping On the Rug?

Psychology may be the key to success

Cat sitting on kitchen rug by food bowls
Virginia Macdonald Photographer ln/First Light/Getty Images

There are a wide range of strategies for ensuring that cats poop where they should (in the litter box) and nowhere else. Some of the most popular and effective techniques include:

  • Changing the type of litter (if perfumed, try plain; if granular, try scoopable, etc.)
  • Adding another litter box (especially with multiple cats)
  • Sprinkling the litter with a product called Cat Attract litter, which is often irresistible to kitties
  • Cleaning the litter box daily rather than weekly
  • Changing and cleaning the litter box completely
  • Changing the type of litter box (if covered, try uncovered and vice versa)

But what if you've tried all these strategies and your cat still prefers to poop on your favorite rug? In some cases, the problem can be ongoing and very difficult to resolve. But the situation is not hopeless! Here are a few additional idea to try.

Cat Training Strategies: HISS

To understand your cat's actions, you'll need to figure out their cause by looking at potential physical, emotional, and/or environmental factors. The HISS Test is a good tool for evaluating problem behaviors; the letters HISS stand for health, instinct, stress, and symptom solvers. 

H=Health

Cats are prone to a variety of digestive system issues, so if he hasn't been to the vet recently it's worth finding out whether there is a problem. If your cat receives a clean bill of health, it’s not likely that his behavior currently stems from a health issue.

However, it may have initially been prompted by a problem that he remembers. For instance, cats that suffer from a painful bowel movement (perhaps from constipation) may end up “blaming” the box for the discomfort. Even after the problem has resolved, they can continue to associate the litter box as the cause.

If he's a very large cat, he may have trouble posing inside the box for a bowel movement and a larger box might solve the problem.

I=Instinct

Cats often decide they prefer one place for urination and another for defecation. Leaving a bowel movement uncovered—out in the open—can be a type of marking behavior. Cats reach social maturity between two to four years of age, so marking may have become an issue If your cats have recently reached adulthood.

S=Stress

Adding a new cat to the household, even when the kitten gets along with the others, does add stress to the equation. It may take time for the stress to dissipate, and your cat or cats may need more attention in the meantime.

S=Symptom, Signs & Solutions

If you’ve done everything right, what else can you do? The 1+1 rule (one box per cat plus one) applies in this situation. Add an extra box, and put it on or near the spot where your cat likes to poop. While it's tempting to put litter boxes in a hidden spot, your cat may well want to be close to you.

If your cat is pooping on a bath mat or particular rug, consider putting a rug sample in the bottom—basically recreate what he likes about both the placement and the surface. Once he's using the legal box, you can work on moving it a few inches daily to a more appropriate, convenient place.

Tips for Coping With Cats and Rugs

Bathmats (especially the rubber-backed mats) are notorious targets of cats. The rubber backing smells attractive to kitties, and washing doesn’t help. Instead of continuing to make them available, a good choice is to either throw out the bathroom rug/mat or ensure that no cats have further access to it. Why not fold that soiled bathroom rug/mat up and put it inside a litter box and buy yourself something new?

Carpet backing often is treated with a substance that prevents mold/mildew, but it also proves attractive to cats. Once urine soaks into the pile, it can be very difficult to remove the odor because cats can detect such minute amounts and return to the scene of the crime. The defecation should be a bit easier to clean as it’s more a surface stain.

You absolutely must use an odor neutralizer product to be effective.

There are several good products, including Anti-Icky-Poo and PetTastic (aka Nature’s Miracle). We also like Urine-Off and Zero Odor. Each works in specific ways. Try one, and follow up with another until you find the best option for your particular situation.