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My Pet World: When a cat won't poop in the litterbox anymore

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

Our six-year-old housecat stopped pooping in the litterbox, but she still urinates in it. We find poop all over the house, but never urine. She doesn't have a favorite place to evacuate; it's on rugs, hardwood floors -- she isn't hiding it. We find it out in the open and it trails off. It seems like she continues to evacuate while she walks away. We've been to our vet and there is nothing physically wrong.

Nothing in the house has changed; no one new and no renovations. It's the same litter box, same room and same litter. Her litterbox is in a room we spend a lot of time in and she often is in there with us. Her food is in another room. We do have another cat, her sister. We've had both since they were kittens and have never had any problems until recently. They get along great, playing and grooming each other.

So far, we have tried a new litter box, removed the top from the litterbox and did bloodwork at the vet. We're out of ideas. Can you help us? -- Steve N., Massapequa, NY

Dear Steve,

Cats don't generally poop while they're walking. I am not a veterinarian, but it sounds a little like fecal incontinence. Your veterinarian probably ruled that out, but if you are not sure if he or she did, please discuss this with your veterinarian. Cats should not poop while they're walking.

If she's healthy and squatting to poop, then we need to dig a little deeper to figure out why she suddenly won't use the litter box. I know you went through a list of things that could cause that to happen, but let me offer a few more possibilities.

Cats are extremely sensitive to scents. Were any new scents sprayed into the air or a new air freshener located or plugged near the litter box? Did you use ammonia or citrus-smelling cleaners to clean the litter box? These scents are off putting to cats.

Sometimes, if a cat is startled near the litter box or experienced an especially difficult bowel movement (something you wouldn't know happened), he or she will associate the litter box with that experience and will poop someplace else. My suggestion is to add a second litterbox to your home, perhaps in a more private space. Use a fine grain, unscented litter product, and fill two to three inches high. Cats like to paw and scratch to cover up their waste and often prefer a little depth to their litter. If she starts to use this second box, then you know she might have had a bad experience at the other box.

Let me know if this suggestion helps her.

Dear Cathy,

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Do you have any information on area shelters where you can adopt pets? Originally, I was looking for a sheltie dog, but I am expanding my preference, and just looking for other shelters where I can adopt. -- Char F., Franklin Park, IL

Dear Char,

You can search several animal shelters and rescue groups all at one time on Enter your ZIP code and the type of dog you want based on size of dog, age, and even whether they are housetrained or not. You can indicate how far you are willing to travel to adopt a dog -- within 10 miles or anywhere in the country. Once you provide the search criteria, scroll through the online gallery of pets available for adoption. It might be an easier way to find your next canine companion.

Dear Cathy,

I have an 11-year-old Maltese. He'll be 12 in February. For the last two years, we've noticed that whenever people come over, he gets extremely anxious and whines throughout their entire visit. He humps his toys. He licks his privates. I've read that as dogs get older they become more anxious. I've tried an anxiety shirt. It doesn't work. -- Monica K., Deer Park, NY

Dear Monica,

Some dogs do get more anxious as they get older, which is why there are so many "behavioral health products" on the market now. Some of these products are available as daily supplements through veterinarians; some are available in treat form over the counter and online.

Many of these products contain "theanine," an amino acid that has been shown to impact mood and reduce anxiety in dogs. Try an over the counter product, and if it doesn't reduce your dog's anxiety, talk to your veterinarian about one of the daily behavioral health products they carry.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)



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