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Home > Cats > Do Cats Poop Out of Spite? Vet-Reviewed Behavior

Do Cats Poop Out of Spite? Vet-Reviewed Behavior

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats have a rich emotional life and are capable of feeling myriad emotions, ranging from joy and anger to frustration and contentment. However, contrary to some beliefs, these mysterious creatures do not hold a grudge. So, your kitty won’t be pooping out of her litter box out of spite, but rather because of a medical, behavioral, or circumstantial issue. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons that lead a cat to defecate outside her assigned tiny bathroom.


Medical Causes

When a cat urinates or defecates outside of its litter box, it is called house soiling or inappropriate feline elimination. Besides, a cat that pees unusually, either in its litter box or outside, may have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or other medical causes related to its bladder. However, these urinary problems do not explain why a cat would poop in an inappropriate place.

Instead, gastrointestinal issues could be to blame for this behavior:


Constipation is quite common in cats. It can be caused by dehydration due to kidney disease, diabetes, megacolon, hyperthyroidism, bowel obstruction, or other bowel problems. It can also be caused by improper diet. Thus, cats suffering from constipation will use their litter very little but may have small dry stools that they will leave anywhere in the house.

calico maine coon in litter box
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock


Like you, cats can suffer from diarrhea and if an urge hits them, they may not have time to get to their litter box. Gastrointestinal infections and stress are common causes of diarrhea.


Histiocytic ulcerative colitis is a bowel disease that causes the lining of the cat’s colon to thicken and ulcerate. Symptoms of inflammation of the colon or rectum in cats are frequent toilet trips with only a small amount of stool.

Thus, gastrointestinal problems can lead a cat to defecate outside of its litter box, due to poor bowel control and increased frequency of defecation. Constipation, diarrhea, colon inflammation, and colitis, are just a few of the medical issues that should be ruled out when determining the cause of improper defecation.

There are also other medical problems that can cause this behavior, which are related to the cat’s mobility:

a fat persian cat lying sideways on wooden surface
Image Credit: jklugiewicz, Pixabay


Arthritis is another common condition that can cause a cat to poop on the floor instead of in its litter box. This condition affecting its joints and muscles can cause enough pain, discomfort, or stiffness for your cat to avoid entering its litter box (especially if the entrance to it is more difficult to access).

Other conditions affecting the joints can make it harder for your cat to enter his litter box and defecate in a comfortable position. Your cat could also suffer from cognitive dysfunction, preventing him from being able to orient himself in the house and find his personal toilet.

To determine the best treatment for your kitty, you will need to visit your veterinarian so that he can do a complete physical examination and establish an accurate diagnosis.

nebelung cat getting checked at a vet clinic
Image Credit: Juice Flair, Shutterstock

However, if your cat has a medical condition that cannot be fully relieved (for example, arthritis related to his advanced age), you will need to make changes to his toilet area. For example, move his litter box to an easily accessible place and buy a box more suited to his reduced mobility. Your veterinarian can advise you on the right things to do to help your cat find his way back to his litter box.

Note: Even if the medical issue is resolved, your cat may maintain the habit of pooping outside of his box. You may have to teach him again to use his litter box properly, with the help of a behavioral therapist.

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Behavioral Causes

If your cat isn’t suffering from a medical condition, house soiling may be related to a behavioral cause:

Stress and Anxiety

Your cat can suffer from stress for a multitude of reasons. For example, if you’ve been away for a few days, your cat may suddenly start pooping outside his litter box when you return. But it’s not out of revenge, but rather because your return upsets the new habits he had to take when you left. And this is particularly stressful for him. Indeed, the cat is a creature of habit and if there is one thing it hates, it is that its environment changes.

kitten in a litter box
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Thus, when a change disrupts its environment, a cat may tend to defecate out of its litter box to reassure itself. This behavior may seem strange to us but surrounding itself with its own scent gives the feline a sense of security and confidence.

This is probably why many cat owners think their pet poops out of spite. They think their cat is angry at the change in their routine and suddenly starts soiling the house in retaliation. But it’s just a way for the cat to manage its stress because surrounding itself with its own scents is reassuring during hectic and stressful times.

Frustration, Aggression, and Territorial Defense

As you know, cats are very territorial in nature. If you have multiple kitties in your household, it’s possible that one or more of them will start pooping in another area, especially if you don’t have enough litter boxes for all of your cats. If there is some animosity between your cats, they will certainly not all go to the same litter box to do their business!

Litter or Litter Box Issues

Your cat may also have an aversion to his litter box or the litter itself, which will lead him to defecate in another place. For example, the new brand of lavender-scented litter can irritate his airways. Or maybe his litter box location is noisy or too far away. It’s up to you to try to find what’s wrong with his litter box—the substrate or the location—even if it means doing some trial and error before pinpointing the exact problem.

maine coon on top entry litter box
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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What Should You Do First?

Make an appointment with your veterinarian to do a complete checkup on your cat. If, in the end, your kitty does not have any health problems justifying this behavior, discuss the possible options and actions to be taken with the veterinarian.

If you have multiple cats, make sure they all have access to a separate litter box. Keep the litter spotless and place the litter box in a quiet and easily accessible place. Buy a new litter box that suits your pet’s needs. A huge self-cleaning litter box might be a dream option for you, but your cat might be stressed out just looking at it!

Finally, if his house soiling problems are stress-related, your veterinarian can advise you on certain medications and other treatments to soothe his anxiety. In the end, whatever the problem of your dear feline, patience, time, and outside professional opinion will be your best allies.

vet assessing birman cat
Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock


Bottom Line

Although cats have emotions, they don’t hold grudges or poop out of spite. So, if your cat seems sulky when you return from vacation and starts pooping everywhere, it’s probably because he had to adapt to a new routine while you were gone. However, house soiling problems can also be due to medical causes, so a visit to the vet is always the first step in these cases.

See also:

Image Credit: Kristi Blokhin, Shutterstock

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