Cats are fastidiously clean animals. They self-groom, don't like to be wet or dirty, and usually bury or cover their waste matter. But sometimes cats end up tracking their litter and poop outside of their box. Thankfully there are a few things you can do to keep these messes to a minimum.
Why Do Cats Track Litter and Feces?
There are a few reasons why your cat might track litter and feces. Some of these problems are much easier to resolve than others.
Kittens learn by watching their mothers and littermates. Bottle-fed kittens and rescue cats that may not have been properly taught to use a litter box may benefit from a quick poop-covering lesson. When your cat is in its box, gently take its paws and show it how to cover the poop.
A cat that has experienced pain may also have litter box aversion and therefore not have good litter box habits. Declaws and other surgeries may cause chronic or acute pain in a cat and it may not want to use its paws or legs to cover poop if it hurts to do so.
Arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other chronic ailments can also make it uncomfortable for cats to cover their poop, as well as be able to or want to clean themselves. Talk to your vet about potential solutions, such as medications or supplements, if you think your cat is experiencing pain.
Litter Box Issues
Cats are notoriously fastidious and many will not complete their business in a litter box that is less than pristine.
You should always have one more litter box than you do cats. This means if you have one cat, you should have two boxes; or if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes. These boxes should also be placed far enough away from each other that the cat can only see the litter box it's using.
If you can figure out whether your cat has an issue with the litter box, chances are you can put a stop to any poop tracking.
Tips for a Cleaner Litter Box
A clean litter box means no poop can be tracked around the house. Some people have success stacking a few litter boxes of the same size with holes in alternating places to help them keep litter boxes clean.
These boxes drain or sift the clean litter out into the box below when you pick them up, which allows you to dump the waste matter into the trash. You then replace the empty litter box on the bottom of the stack, making sure the holes in the bottom of the box are not in the same location as the box it is under.
For some people, this is a quick alternative to scooping a box. In most instances, automatic litter boxes are not favorable, as they can scare a cat and cause litter box avoidance.
Simple rugs can help keep litter and poop from being tracked throughout your house and there are even specially designed mats that help catch the litter particles. Place one of these mats at the edge of your cat's litter box so that they will walk on it when they exit their litter box.
Some types of litter are designed to help keep litter tracking to a minimum. If your cat is not particular to the litter you are currently using, consider a different type of litter material. Different pet brands offer litter that isn't made from clay and might be the solution to your litter problems.
Get a Larger Litter Box
Litter boxes sold in pet stores are often designed for kittens, not large, full-grown adult cats. If your cat is having trouble finding the right spot in its small litter box, hanging over the edge to eliminate its waste matter, or you are finding urine or feces on the side of the box or outside it, you probably need a larger litter box.
Storage containers, utility tubs, kiddie play pools, sandboxes all can be used as large litter boxes. Don't feel restricted to what the pet store has available. If you can put litter in it and your cat can easily get into it, then you can use it as a litter box.
Trim the Fur on Your Cat's Feet
Long-haired cats often have a lot of foot fur. By keeping the fur on their feet trimmed, litter and poop will have less to stick to and will instead stay in the litter box.
Cat poop should be formed, firm, and consistent. If it is watery or especially soft, you should have a discussion with your vet about your cat's poop consistency.
Soft stools and diarrhea are often indications of medical concerns. Irritable bowel disease, intestinal parasites, and other medical conditions can cause stool to be softer than normal and contribute to poop being tracked around the house. Formed, normal cat stool is more difficult to make a mess of than diarrhea.
Dietary changes, certain cat foods, and stress can also cause loose stools in your cat.