How to Stop Your Cat From Pooping in the Sink or Bathtub

Siamese in a bath tub.

Getty Images/Kimberley Cullen / FOAP

There are a few explanations as to why your cat might suddenly have abandoned its litter box and started pooping in the shower, bathtub, or sink. It's a frustrating, smelly, and all-around unpleasant turn of events. Fortunately, if your kitty is healthy, you can probably stop this unwanted behavior by changing up things in your bathroom and making the litter box more inviting.

Feline potty behavior varies between cats, and litter box issues may stem from underlying health conditions, stress, environmental factors, or a combination. It's helpful for you to take some time to review your cat's emotional and physical health so you can determine what the problem is and how best to solve it.

Why Do Cats Poop in the Bathtub or Sink?

Cats are generally very clean and neat animals. When your cat defecates in an off-limits area after faithfully using its litter box, it's trying to tell you something. First, check the litter box to make sure it's not full, smells odd, or has tipped over. Also, make sure that nothing has blocked your cat's access to the litter box. Anything about the box that seems off to your cat may prompt it to do its business somewhere else.

Health Issues

Then, consider a health issue. Cats that make a point of eliminating in front of the owner, squatting to pee or poop in your presence, may be crying out for help. Cystitis sometimes prompts cats to urinate in odd places and make a point of it by posturing in front of their human. Painful elimination due to constipation, for example, can prompt cats to avoid the litter box if they associate it with discomfort. If you suspect the change is due to a health concern, make an appointment with your vet right away. The vet will likely conduct a physical exam and may also use bloodwork to determine if there is an infection or digestive issue that could be causing this

Emotional Stressors

Cats pick up on emotional changes and may sense a shift in the household. If there's a new baby at home or a family member died or moved away, this may cause stress in the cat, which, in turn, may affect the cat's emotional health. Even if your cat wasn't bonded to the family member who left, it will sense the loss and react to your emotional state, as well as any changes in your routine. Consider other changes as well, like a new cat in the household, a change in routine, or simply boredom.

Behavioral Issues

With intact cats, pottying in the sink or tub can be a form of marking behavior, especially in a multiple cat household. Even some neutered cats use uncovered feces as a way to mark territoryFront declawed cats sometimes develop aversions to digging in the litter. Porcelain feels nice and cool against paw pads, compared to gritty litter. Also, the tub or sink cleaner may influence the preference. Cats often are attracted to the smell of bleach and like to eliminate on top of it. A shiny clean surface that hints at bleach may be very inviting.

Do you ever allow your cat in the bathroom while you're using the facilities? Cats often follow owners to the bathroom. It's not beyond the realm of possibilities that your cat tries to emulate you. Also, consider that some felines prefer to have separate facilities for solids and liquids. Even though there may be more than enough room in the single litter box, the cat may prefer to have a fresh box for potty deposits.

How to Stop Your Cat Pooping in the Bathtub or Sink

There are a few simple measures you can take to help modify the cat's behavior. Try the technique that seems to work best for your cat, lifestyle, and situation. Feel free to make a few changes at once.

Litter Box Changes

Making some simple changes to the actual litter box can help the situation. Add a second litter box, preferably in a different room so that your cat has an option for using a box for #1 and the other for #2. Consider placing the second box inside the empty bathtub. If the cat gets used to using it, then move it next to the tub for a few days, and then move it to the desired location. Empty the litter box up to 2 or 3 times a day and clean it out once a week. Try to use a larger sized litter box to encourage its use. Base the litter box size on the cat's size and not the location it fits in. The box should be about 1 1/2 times the size of your cat.

What to Avoid

Make sure the litter box is not near where the cat eats and drinks. Avoid high-tech or covered litter boxes. The lights and automatic actions can scare cats and an enclosed box can feel claustrophobic. Scared cats may avoid the litter box. Don't let your cat enter the bathroom when you are using it. Though the copy-cat behavior is rare, it's not helpful for them to see you use the bathroom.

Changes to the Environment

Fill the sink and tub with a small amount of water. This water may discourage your cat from entering the tub or sink and prevent the action from occurring. Try a new brand of litter. Some cats don't like the texture, smell, or other factors of certain types. If you think your cat may be bored, provide ample toys that provide entertainment and mental stimulation.

Next Steps

If your cat continues this behavior even after changes have been made, a pet behaviorist that specializes in felines could be helpful. This person can help reteach your cat the appropriate behavior and may come up with some solutions that are specific to your cat and living situation.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.