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Why Does My Cat Poop in the Tub? (6 Potential Causes)

Cute cat in the bathtub

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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 tend to be low-maintenance and well-behaved pets. They can be trained to use a litterbox reliably, reducing your cleaning tasks to scooping out soiled areas and refreshing litter every so often.

However, it’s not unusual to run into problems every so often. One such problem is your cat pooping in the bathtub, which could range from a medical issue to something as simple as a dirty litter box. Your bathtub is a nice, smooth surface that’s always clean, which can be appealing to your cat as a bathroom of its own.

This is an unsanitary and frustrating habit for you, of course. Here are some potential causes of a cat pooping in a litter box and what you can do about it.

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Why Does My Cat Poop in the Tub? (6 Causes)

1. Medical Issues

the veterinarian weighs an overweight cat on a scale
Image Credit: Zhuravlev Andrey, Shutterstock

Whenever your cat relieves itself outside of the litter box, checking for underlying medical causes is the first step. Your cat could be dealing with any number of digestive issues, including constipation, diarrhea, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, or simple indigestion. If your cat is uncomfortable when it goes, it may associate going with the litter box and avoid it.

If you suspect this is the cause, it’s important to take your cat to the vet to rule out health causes. Depending on the possible problem, you may have options for medication or other interventions that can make your cat more comfortable and prevent this problem in the future.


2. Phycological Issues

sad looking cat lying down
Image Credit: pasja1000, Pixabay

Aside from physical causes, your cat could be suffering from phycological problems that impact its bathroom habits. Just like humans, cats can experience mental health issues that affect behavior, such as depression, anxiety, stress, cognitive dysfunction, and more.

If you suspect your cat has been experiencing mental issues that are causing unpleasant behaviors, a vet visit is in order. You may be able to manage the situation with medication or identify and remove the source of stress. If your cat is elderly, it may be experiencing a cognitive decline (like dementia in humans), that’s impacting its litter box habits.

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3. Safety

Kitty's WonderBox Disposable Litter Box (1)

Cats are sensitive to their environments. Your cat may be willing to use the litter box but feeling too vulnerable to actually use it. When this happens, your bathtub offers a safe and secluded spot that may make your cat feel more comfortable.

The causes of your cat’s discomfort with the litter box can vary. It may have been ambushed by another cat in a litter box in the past, may have been startled by a loud noise, or may feel too far away from the rest of the family due to the litterbox’s location. Cats have natural instincts to keep them safe—no matter how non-threatening you make the space, cats can’t just shut those instincts off. See if adding a second litterbox to another room helps and try to find a space that’s open and quiet.


4. Territoriality

Black cat meowing at person
Image Credit: jingoba, Pixabay

Cats are territorial creatures. Often, cats will leave their poop uncovered as a sign that the space is their territory and to stay out of it. If you have multiple cats in your household, or you added another family member like a dog or a roommate, your cat may feel the need to establish its territory more than it did in the past. And this may include your bathtub.

If you have multiple cats in your household, it’s vital to have more than one litterbox. Generally, the rule is one litter box per cat, plus an extra. You may wish to put litter boxes in different areas to help your cat feel like it has its own space. If the issue could be a dog, make sure the litter box is a safe space that the dog can’t get to.


5. Habit

cat in the bathtub
Image Credit: Irina Borodovskaya, Shutterstock

Your cat may be pooping in the bathtub out of habit. Perhaps it happened due to a medical or emotional issue in the past, and now it’s a habit, or it could be left over from its previous living situation. Even if the issue that caused the behavior is resolved, your cat may have just gotten comfortable using the bathtub instead of the litter box.

The solution to this is NOT to simply prevent your cat from getting near the bathtub. If you restrict access to the bathroom, your cat will just find another spot to go. There was probably some reward that reinforced the behavior when it first happened, such as a better environment (with territoriality or fear), a more comfortable place (as with medical issues), or attention, even if it was negative attention from you. To combat this, use positive reinforcement to reteach the habit of using the litter box, such as offering treats or praise when it’s finished.


6. Litter Box Issues

Suhaco Foldable Cat Litter Box with Lid

Pooping in the bathtub may have less to do with the tub and more to do with it not being the litter box. Cats can be picky about their litterboxes and may refuse to use them. Everything from the cleanliness to the ambient noise to the type of litter can impact whether your cat is satisfied with the litter box.

You can address this by determining what isn’t ideal about the litter box. Consider the type of litter box (its size, style, coverage, etc.) and its location. Is the cat vulnerable or exposed? Can it be trapped by other cats or dogs? Then, consider its location and the type of litter you’re using. Cats have preferences for scents, litter type, and more. You should also consider if you have enough litter boxes and they’re kept clean—cats don’t like to use soiled litter boxes, especially in multi-cat households.


How to Stop a Cat from Pooping in a Bathtub

You have some ideas for what could be causing the pooping in the bathtub, so now you need to stop the behavior. One good way is to leave a small amount of water at the bottom of the tub, which will keep your cat out of it. You could also put the litter box in the tub as a small step toward getting your cat to use it again, then move it once the habit is reestablished.

Remember that your cat always has an underlying motivation to use the tub instead of the litter box, and you need to determine what it is. Leaving water in the tub is a short-term retraining measure, not a permanent solution. Locking your cat out of the bathroom also isn’t a solution since your cat is likely to find other places to go until you find and correct the underlying cause.

divider-catConclusion

If your cat poops in the bathtub, you know how frustrating and unsanitary the habit can be. Cats are typically reliable with the litter box, so if your cat is going outside of it, there’s likely an underlying cause. It’s important to find out what is bothering your cat and correct it to ensure you won’t be surprised by poop in your bathtub.


Featured Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

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