Cats exhibit territorial marking behaviors to warn other cats of their presence. That minimizes contact with other cats and increases their survival chances.
Cats use poop to mark their territory primarily to let other cats know of their presence and to claim the people and space in the territory. Also, the process decreases the chances of fighting for limited food resources because the other cat is scared off by the potential of opponency.
This article will tackle how cats use poop to mark their territory and how to reduce this inappropriate territory marking behavior.
Let us start by defining the difference between inappropriate eliminating and territory marking.
Inappropriate Eliminating Is Not Marking
Inappropriate eliminating is also known as house soiling, and it has nothing to do with marking territory; it is typically a behavioral problem. When inappropriately eliminating, cats will defecate or urinate large deposits on horizontal surfaces, only taking a definitive urinating posture of squatting to eliminate.
Cats Tend to Mark Territory Vertically
On the other hand, territory marking is done in small deposits and mostly on vertical surfaces, though cats sometimes mark horizontal surfaces too. When marking territory, the cats tend to back up to the object and lift their hindquarters while quivering the tail and treading with the back feet.
Once you are sure your cat is territory marking and not having litter box issues or urinary tract problems, there are some fundamentals which you need to understand about poop marking that can help address your concerns.
Poop Marking Is Uncommon in Domesticated Cats
Cats mark territory by spraying urine on vertical or horizontal surfaces. The stool is also used for
territory marking in a behavior experts refer to as middening. Though this behavior is not so common in our domesticated indoor felines, it is typical of feral and big cats such as cougars.
Once in a while, a cat may act up in this manner, and it could be your cat.
Poop is usually deposited in open, conspicuous locations to mark their territory when this happens. Cats are very sensitive animals, and any change in their environment might lead them to communicate in different ways.
Try to figure out anything new that might cause your cat stress and provoke the instinct to protect its turf by warning intruders through middening.
Some sources of stress in cats include:
- Introducing a new pet or furniture
- Stray cat or wildlife coming near the window
- Visiting humans who is unfamiliar to your cat
- Recent move to a new house
- Your home may be smelling different lately
Other Reasons a Cat Poops Outside the Litterbox
Apart from middening, cats can defecate outside the litter box for other reasons.
Some of the reasons are listed below:
1. Litter Box Size, Design, and Cleanliness
Litter box size, design, location, and hygiene are factors that can contribute to your cat defecating outside the litter box. Cats are naturally clean and prefer using a clean litter box.
Litter box hygiene is a key factor in whether the cat will utilize or ignore the litter box altogether. Some cats choose to defecate in one litter box and urinate in another.
2. Medical Issues Can Cause Litterbox Avoidance
Some diseases can cause your cat much pain and discomfort when using the litter box. As a result, the cat might associate the pain and discomfort with litter box use.
If your cat has any of the above medical issues, make it easier for the cat by providing a low-sided litter box that it doesn’t need to jump into.
Place the litter box in a convenient location to make it easier for your feline to access.
You can avail litter boxes on all floors of the house for convenience or find a location on the floor where your cat spends most of its time to avoid using the staircase.
In some cases, constipation, diarrhea, or impacted anal glands can lead to discomfort in defecation. The cat might inadvertently link that pain to the litter box use, hence avoiding future use of the litter box. Cognitive dysfunction is common in old cats, and they may forget to visit the litter box.
If your cat isn’t using the litterbox, the first thing you should do is visit your veterinarian for a check-up.
3. Behavioral Issues
Besides, middening poop deposits outside the litter box may indicate behavioral issues.
4. Fear of Using the Litter Box
Fear of the litter box can present in two ways:
- Being fearful of the litter box due to a nasty past experience. For instance, a loud bang or noise startled your cat when defecating inside the litter box.
The cat develops a phobia that the noise will recur anytime it visits the litter box. It then looks for alternative places outside of the litter box to poop.
- Fear of other cats within the household can discourage your cat from using the litter box. Some cats tend to guard the litter box and attack their housemates when using the litter box, causing the other kitty to relieve itself in a safe location nearby and away from any threats of attack.
5. Stress From Recent Life Changes
- Cats are very sensitive animals. Normal occurrences like moving houses, taking in a new pet, getting a visitor, a change in your schedule, or loud parties and noise can cause the cat stress.
New cats, strange cats, raccoons, or other animals strolling through your yard can also cause general stress that can manifest in ways such as marking territory using poop (middening).
How to Remedy Poop Marking
Understanding what stresses your cat can help remedy middening. A good place to start is to visit a veterinarian who will examine the cat to eliminate any medical issues.
Once your cat gets a clean bill of health, use other methods to correct their territorial behavior.
If you have other cats, start by ensuring each cat has its own litter box. All litter boxes should be in different locations in the house.
This arrangement provides comfort, safety, and freedom for all your cats and reduces the potential for middening.
It’s a difficult habit to break once your cat takes it up, but you can overcome it with persistence and the right techniques. You need to follow several steps and be extremely patient with your cat to stop this behavior.
1. Clean the Poop Thoroughly
Thoroughly clean the areas where your cat has pooped. Improperly cleaned areas will keep attracting your cat to defecate in those areas repeatedly.
If your cat has pooped on an inexpensive bath mat, rug or garments, you might just have to get rid of these items. Launder those that can go into the washing machine using a high-quality enzymatic cleaner for pet messes.
2. Consider Changing or Adding Litter Boxes
Cats prefer ultra-clean litter boxes and roomier open boxes, for that matter—the bigger the litter boxes without covers, the better.
Suppose you have one litter box. Add a second litter box in a different location, preferably where the cat has been pooping inappropriately.
Multiple cats require more litter boxes, and it’s always advisable to ensure you have one more litter box in the house than there are cats. If it is a multiple floored house, there should be litter boxes on every floor.
3. Switch to a Better Litter Type
Humans may prefer the scented litter to cover up odors. Cats find artificial scents overwhelming and repulsive.
A cat’s nose is more sensitive to smell than a human’s. The new smell may be great for you, but for your feline, it’s a foreign one, and they are not sure where it’s coming from. If you are using scented litter, change to unscented immediately.
The texture of the litter may also be an issue.
Try a new type of litter in a second litter box and observe if your cat likes it. Change the size of the litter particles and switch from clumping to non-clumping and vice versa.
Observe your cat’s reaction until you settle on its preference. You can also check the market for litter specifically designed to appeal to cats.
4. Train Your Cat
If your cat is young or was recently adopted, it may need a refresher course in litter box and overall training.
Do not only focus on your resident cat and forget your new one. The poop marking may be a problem with the new cat as it tries to establish its presence in the new home.
Remember, your new cat has just walked into an already claimed space, and it is not sure how safe it is in this new space.
Reassure your new cat of its place by talking to it, feeding it on time, and spending quality time playing with it. When it trusts you, it is likely to react and become friends with members of its new home. If the problem is persistent, you can get it trained by a professional.
5. Discourage Your Cat Using Inappropriate Areas
Make the litter box the most appealing option for your cat to poop by making the alternative spots where it prefers to poop unattractive. You can make these places unattractive by laying down aluminum foil or double-sided tape to discourage the cats from trying to access them.
Some people opt to spray scents that repel cats in inappropriate areas to discourage their cat from defecating there again.
6. Reduce Stress in Your Home
If you have recently taken in a new cat, make sure you properly introduce them to your old cat. Sometimes cats get along in just a couple of hours, but it can be an uphill task if you try to introduce your new cat too quickly. The amount of time spent on this vital process can be cut short by not rushing it.
The first couple of weeks will determine the kind of relationship to be enjoyed by the two cats.
Let me reiterate that getting it right the first time will save you a lot of trouble in the future.
Be patient because the introduction process can last from two hours to six months. With time, your cats will learn to be friends.
In the case of another animal, like a dog or a person, you will need to introduce your cat to them gradually. Ensure there is a haven for your cat to retreat if need be. Create enough room so that the food bowls of the animals are not close to each other.
If your cat is afraid of the new person in your home, do not force it to sit on the “stranger’s” lap.
Also, ask the person to be patient with the cat and avoid holding it by force. Instead, they can start with light touches and perhaps give a treat here and there. The cat will eventually warm up to the person, although gradually.
Unfortunately, you may have to consider removing one of the cats from your home if the problem persists and your feline friend struggles with anxiety. It could be the resident or the new cat.
7. Improve the Environment & Create Time for Play
A bored and frustrated cat is likely to poop in inappropriate places. Create more vertical spaces like wall shelves and cat trees for your cat to play and spend time.
When you’re away from home, leave interactive toys lying around the house for your cat to play with. Engage your cat in play as often as possible.
How to Clean Cat Poop Markings
The longer you take to clean the poop off the surface, the more stinky your home will remain. So here is a sure-win step-by-step guide to clean the poop markings from your home while eliminating the smell and the chances of your cat from revisiting the site.
- Wipe off as much poop as you can.
- However, do not use any ammonia-based cleaning products. That is because the ammonia in the products smells like urine, and it may encourage your cat to go back and repeat the offensive behavior at the same spot.
- Instead, use detergent or a carpet cleaner mixed with some water and let it sit for up to two hours.
- Now rinse the spot using a wet sponge and blot it dry.
- Next, spray the stain with an enzymatic cleaner to remove any bacteria that may be lurking there. Keep the cat away until the area dries up. Also, apply an odor remover to eliminate the cat poop smell.
- Some people use pheromones on the spot to mimic another cat’s scent and deter their feline from approaching the area.
- Do not forget to use gloves while cleaning.
There Is Hope to Stop Poop Marking
You can manage territory marking or inappropriate elimination if you identify it, apply the right techniques, and see a veterinarian to remedy medical problems.
Don’t expect change overnight. Maintain a happy and fun environment for your cat by cleaning the soiled areas and litter box and keeping it attractive. If you observe no improvement, engage an expert in the name of a veterinary behaviorist for professional intervention.
I always recommend that cat parents consult widely about their animals when training them or dealing with behavioral problems. One trainer’s approach may not work, but another’s may be the solution your cat needs.
Do not give up too quickly on your cat. A little patience and reassurance may be all your feline friend needs to shed the behavior.
Writer: Mercy Nandika Amatieku