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cat182 08-31-2012 02:13 PM

HELP! Cat defecates outside the litter box
Original owner of 2 male cats, bought at the local Humane Society in 1999.

Basic stats:
Brothers from the same litter.
Mixed breed. Domestic Short hair.
They are fixed.
Indoor only.
They are ~13 years old.

The problem:
One of the cats defecates outside the litter box.
It all started ~6 months ago, when he began to not cover his stool inside the litter box. Initially it happened on occasion, then over time, he did it every time. Next, he would occasionally drop his stool outside the box. Again, it only happened on occasion. Now he defecates outside the box consistently every time.
He goes into the box like it's going to use it. He digs around a bit. Then he props himself up in the normal position (all four paws on the lip of the box, body sticking halfway out of the box), then slowly steps out and drops his stool on the tile floor (easy to clean, but obviously a smelly mess).

The solutions and where they have failed:
We took him to the Vet a couple weeks ago. As a first step, they prescribed a stool softener medicine since his stool seemed hard and thought this might reduce the struggle. However, the stool softener didn’t solve the problem. He continued to go outside the box.
Next we thought the litter box design might be an issue so we bought two new Dome style litter boxes with stairs (Booda Dome Cleanstep Cat Box). We did this because it appeared he might be straining by the way he positioned himself. To our amazement, we discovered that he did go inside the box 80% of the time. BUT a new problem was created. He began to pee on the stairs of the litter box. That was a bigger problem since he would step in the pee and then track it throughout the house. (Obviously, a major design flaw with this litter box). So, we quickly removed these new Dome litter boxes and replaced them with the old style ones (Petmate Hooded Litter box) they've used for years. He’s back to defecating on the floor again. [We are continuing to research new litter boxes, but haven’t found any new design that looks worth purchasing.]
He’s been walking a bit odd, especially with his hind legs. We took him back to the vet and did x-rays, but didn’t find any evidence of severe (or even mild) arthritis.

Nothing in the cats’ environment has changed. They have lived in the same house with the same occupants for over 4 years.
Food diet has not changed.
Litter and litter box have not changed (although we added a new second litter box after we realized there was a problem).
There is no change in food or water consumption.
Body weight has remained consistent. (No weight loss).

We’d love to hear from others who had the same issue and how they solved the problem.


ilovefatboy 09-03-2012 12:45 AM

I think bring the cat back to the vet to have him checked for other illnesses? When cats change habits, it means something HAS changed, so better to have him checked. Remember, cats will try to hide illness as best they can and it's up to us to notice the subtle (or in your case, not so subtle) changes in them.

acerlt 09-03-2012 09:04 AM

At his age any number of things could be going wrong. Chronic constipation, arthritis, kidney failure.

Start with blood work, including thyroid. Hyperactive thyroid and kidney failure both can cause constipation.

Arthritis can cause constipation, because the pain of squatting makes them never be able to clean themselves out.

I think giving him a box where he has to climb stairs to get in is going in the wrong direction. Older cats need boxes that are easier to get into, not more difficult.

An x ray to check for mega colon.

Give him several low sided boxes that are large enough for him to maneuver and easy to get in and out of, keep them clean.

Get him transitioned to a grain free low fiber all canned diet. Senior cats should be on canned food. All cats should be on canned food, but especially seniors.

The food may have changed even if you don't realize it. Pet food manufacturers change ingredients and suppliers without notice.

Give him cosequin for cats, to help with arthritis, along with changing to a wet diet.

This is definitely health related.

cat182 09-04-2012 02:22 PM

Let’s recap the problem.

Imagine a cat that goes inside the litter box, digs around, then props himself up in the litter box entrance to do his thing. Then he slowly steps one paw out, like he’s straining to go. Then another foot steps out. Now one of the hind legs comes out of the box. Finally the other hind leg comes out as he tries to push his poop out. He continues his slow quest forward away from the litter box. Each step gets him closer and closer to going. Eventually he has stepped so far that he has walked into the wall in front of him (~4 feet). Even then, he appears to try and step further forward. Then, finally, the poop appears. Yeah! Success!

So, what is happening here?

This isn’t a litter issue. Nor is it a lack of the proper number of litter boxes. It has nothing to do with something new and/or different in the environment. As I mentioned earlier, the stool softener medication definitely softened his stool, even made it runny. But that didn’t stop this issue.

We think it's a muscular thing, like he doesn’t have the proper contractions to push it out properly. Although he isn't arthritic, he definitely is having some sort of physical issue.

Today, we picked up a medication that is supposed to strengthen the muscles that aid in bowel movements. It’s a bit expensive and will see if this has any effect.

Again, I ask everyone reading this in the cat community, who else has experienced this?

We need more input.


acerlt 09-05-2012 10:31 PM

The problem is constipation. The cause could be any number of things or a combination of things.

Kidney disease causes constipation. Megacolon. A life time of dry food can cause the bowel to lose elasticity so the cat has trouble getting the stool out. Sort of similar to the issue you are thinking of, when you say his muscles aren't contracting properly.

Cisapride is a motility drug often prescribed for this problem but I recently read that it is being taken completely off the market now, I don't know why.

So again, I urge you to have a full senior blood profile done, including thyroid. I urge you to have an xray taken of his colon and bowel. I urge you to (if he isn't already) put him on a grain free, fruit and vegetable free canned diet.

This problem is not behavior related. This is a health issue. If your vet is out of ideas, find another vet. In fact, if your vet has not done blood work or an x ray yet, you should be looking for another vet in my opinion.

kskat 09-06-2012 01:29 PM

Acerlt knows what she's talking about. Is there a feline specialist or veterinary college anywhere near you?

cat182 09-06-2012 02:41 PM

Appreciate the replies.
We added wet can food a few weeks ago and have been slowly increasing the amount so they don't start puking it up. (Both cats have had a history of puking... sensitive stomachs, so we have had them on a duck and green pea diet for a couple years now. Thankfully, puking has dramatically subsided with duck and pea). The wet food (also duck & pea) helped soften his stools, but the problem still persists.
The vet already did an x-ray.
Blood work may be warranted soon if the motility drug fails. We are 2 days into the 30 day med cycle.
Updates to follow...

cat182 09-18-2012 05:14 PM

Well, we've run out of inexpensive options with the vet. There's no point spending more money on this issue. The motility medicine hasn't done a darn thing to help.

BUT, we may have solved the pooping problem.
As I mentioned earlier, the cat walks inside the box, digs around in the litter and then props himself up to go. Slowly he walks out and eventually poops somewhere outside the box.

I'm so F'n smart!
I turned ALL of the litter boxes around (180 degrees) so they point against a wall with a 4-6 inch clearance. It's just enough room for the cats to get inside the litter box. When he props himself up, he has nowhere to go because his head is almost bumping into the wall. HAHA! He can't walk out forward, because the wall prevents it.
So far, it's worked two days in a row as he's gone in the box twice now.

I'll post some pics later, so you can visualize the positioning of the litter boxes.

cat182 09-21-2012 03:30 PM

So far, it's working.
Four days of success!
I'm so happy!

No more cleaning sh*t off the tile floor!

kskat 09-26-2012 04:12 PM

Smart and creative! Good for you!!:)

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