Pet Lovers ~ What Would You Do About This Cat??

Updated on February 28, 2012
L.M. asks from Chicago, IL
24 answers

I have a cat who is 12 years old. As she has gotten older, she has developed a sensitive digestive system and often has very soft poo. It's not diarrhea where she can not control it, but rather "cow pies." The problem is, she will not use the litter box for these. She will poo outside the litter box. Also, she is not as clean as she should be and carries it around the house. I use wipes to clean her as soon as I see it, but in the meantime....

We have taken her to the vet countless times and tweaked her diet to the point where she can tolerate only the poultry based soft pate cat food. Perscription or specialty cat food does not work, in fact the one the vet recommended was very expensive and made the problem much worse. We make a special effort to clean up the kitchen so she does not get our left overs or half full glasses of milk etc.

She is on a medication I give her each day to help with inflamation, which worked great at first, but seems to be becoming less effective as time goes by. The vet said this is the last medication that will help her with her problem.

I have moved the litter box to where she wants it, as opposed to where I'd like it, hoping this would help her. Of course, the box is cleaned regularly. I've even put puppy training pads around the box to help catch her mess, but she will typically mess next to them, on the carpet.

We have tried everything the vet has suggested, outside of extensive and expensive out-of-state medical attention. This is not an option. She vet suggested reducing the cat's stress, which with a 6 yo and 3 yo is somewhat laughable, but the cat has a place (under our bed) that she can escape to for "safety." She spends most of her day there until the kids are in bed. The kids don't really like the cat because she is not fun and doesn't play so they pretty much leave her alone anyway.

I can no longer handle this mess. My carpeting is not a toilet and my patience is gone for this problem. I am a clean person, who likes a clean house, and can no longer put up with this. It is disgusting and has gone on too long without getting better, in fact, is getting worse.

My last hope is that I send this out hoping someone has some good advise, at the embarrassment of airing our dirty little secret. I will try anything within reason to help our little kitty feel better (I can't imagine she feeling well), but just can not have my carpeting used as a toilet any longer.

Pet lovers - please give any advise you have on this. I don't want to put our cat down, but my tollerance of this disgusting behavior has come to an end.

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So What Happened?

Thanks so much for all your thoughts on this - it really touched me that others have been here too with this same difficult situation.

DVMMOM - Reading your post I'm assuming the DVM is for Dr. of Veterinary Medicine?? I do not think the cat is making a conscious effort to deficate on the carpet. While it is frustrating for me, for sure, I do not think it's intentional at all. We did have blood work done, twice, and it came back normal across the board, and, in fact, they do it every time I want to refill the prescription (prednisolone, btw). And this is why I'm so purplexed.

We have had the cat in the basement, esp during the day when the kids were running around, then let her up at night after they were in bed. The Vet thought she may not like this and asked us to keep her upstairs, which we did. I think he was right. While the cat doesn't like to part of the action, she doesn't want to be excluded either.

We have tried to find another home for her, maybe someone with no children who may have a quieter life style. No luck, and the shelters don't want to take an elderly cat that is already being taken care of by a family. They have said the cat would not last long in that environment anyway.

Outdoor isn't really an option. My husband suggested this too, but like some have also said, she has been a spoiled indoor cat for 12 years, and she is declawed in the front to boot. In the past, we have put her out in the snow for some fun, and she immediately runs to the door wanting to get inside so she can groom herself and take a nap from the exertion of it all. I think outdoor would be worse than putting her down at this point.

The cat has always stayed away from the kids, and the other cats we have had in the past too. She hisses and growls at them if they get too close (which isn't often) and swats and hisses - which she did to my daughters friend the other day. She is ornery around most anyone (or anycat) except my husband and I - but that's always been her temperment.

I will try the enzyme based cleaners to clean up the messes, as well as the Rescue Remedy.

Thank you all so much for your thoughts and please keep them coming if you have anything else to add. Thanks again!

Featured Answers


answers from Washington DC on

sorry - I'm not a cat fan - but if I had an animal that was in this state - I would seriously consider putting her down. I know that's not what you WANT to hear - but at 12 years old - she might be suffering from other medical issues - especially if she isn't cleaning herself...that would be a huge red flag.

My neighbor, Barb, has a cat with a thyroid problem who is 13. She will be putting her down when she moves to KY this next week. She doesn't want to do it here. Her cat is using the carpeting as the litter box as well. The doctor said she's old and this is going to happen all time if you don't want to put her in a diaper.

i hope someone has better guidance for you than me. You should NOT be embarrassed by this at all!! You have loved this pet for years, taken care of her - it's sad when they get old and lose their way!!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest that since the cat and the family are not enjoying life and the cat is old and sick, that putting her down would be the humane thing to do.

I have a very old dog who poops in the house. I put up with it because we're all still enjoying each other. He's not sick and although not playful still likes to be petted and shows an interest in life. For me that is the criteria for allowing a pet to continue to live. Because I value his life with us, I'm able to clean up his messes and not let them be aggravating to me.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I have a 17 year old cat, she lives outside - but we live in texas. When it gets really cold we put her in my shed with a fan heater on. When she was indoors she would poop everywhere, now she is an outdoor cat she is happy and contended, and if she poops it doesn't matter. She has lived outside exclusively for 5 years.
Maybe it is time (if you have a yard) to put her outside.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Detroit on

She sounds like she may have inflammatory bowel disease, or possibly lymphoma (lymph node cancer) that is affecting her colon. Both are relatively common reasons for chronic diarrhea in older cats. Or she may have an issue with her pancreas that is causing her to have trouble digesting nutrients, leading to the diarrhea because she can't digest her food properly (generally uncommon in cats). Or it could be related to other conditions, such as liver disease. She have developed food allergies or food intolerances that manifest as GI symptoms. It could be something as simple as intestinal parasites, especially if she goes outside or does any hunting outdoors, but I would have assume that your vet either ruled that out already, or at least tried medication to treat them (which would not hurt if she didn't have any).

Please realize that your cat is sick, and cannot help it. The tone of your post seems to imply that you somehow expect the cat to be aware of what it is doing and not continue to do it, and you feel you have to keep up the appearance of a clean and perfect home. The cat is just a cat, and cannot control what is happening to her, or the fact that it is having diarrhea. Stress could be a factor, but there could also be a underlying medical condition and without further testing, you are not going to be able to completely determine that. I know you said she was on medication, but you did not say what it was or how much or for how long. Because of the variety of conditions that your cat may have, different medications may be indicated and may have to be tried if diagnostics cannot be pursued. This is not a "dirty little secret" - it's a common problem, and nothing to be embarrassed about. That's life. People get sick and animals do too. Animals can develop almost all the same conditions that people can and often can be treated the some way.

You say you don't want to put her down and I understand that, but I don't know if there really is a simple easy solution - if there was, I would think your vet would have already offered it or tried it. Either decide to pursue at least some or a portion of the diagnostics offered (we usually start with the simplest and least expensive and then work our way up if necessary or if owner consents), or decide to have kitty euthanized. She is suffering to some extent, if she is that stressed by the kids plus having a medical condition that causes the diarrhea. And it is not fair to allow her to suffer if the decision has been made not to do anything more about it.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

My cat of 14 years would do this same thing. He had the nastiest, runniest of bowel movements- always on the floor. And at his age, the kids drove him nuts. So we moved him out to the garage. He had no interest in being inside with the kids anyway. We had a little magnetic cat door and he would go outside to do his business, and then would come into the garage to lounge about. At his age, I knew he would stick close by the house, and he did. He and we were all happier and he ended up spending his last few months in peace and quiet.
I am not sure if this is an option for you, but if so, having the cat go outside was a lifesaver.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I am not sure any of us can tell you whether it is or is not time to look at putting her down. That is a decision for you and your family.

But, since she doesn't like to go in the litter box and will go just outside it on the carpet (and purposely avoids the puppy pads-which doesn't really surprise me, that would be like walking on something odd, and cats generally avoid walking on plastic-y things)---have you considered trying to find some carpet remnants and placing THOSE around the litter box? If you have a few of them, you might be able to use those and take them outside to spray them off afterwards (swap them out while some are drying). If you have a carpet store around, ask them what they have. Or contact some of the local builders in your area and see if they have any scraps of carpet to dispose of.

If you think it would leak thru the carpet remnant, you could glue a sheet of plastic or laminate to the back of the carpet. The top should still be fine for the cat, I would think.
Just an idea...

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If she will go near the box, but just on carpeting near the box, maybe get some old carpet bits or trashy rugs or make a very large box around the box to put the rugs in. You can get corroplast at a sign store - ask them for odd bits they can't otherwise sell or misprints. Use packing tape to make a box. You can also use a box cutter to cut out a door for her and if you only score the plastic but don't cut through, it will bend.

I also wonder if feliway will help her any with stress.

You might also look for a cat forum where people have seen more issues and know more about cats specifically. When our one cat had serious litter issues, it was something more sinister - pancreatitis. Has the vet run bloodwork? Had I a re-do, I would have let our cat go much sooner. We were given a lot of hope by the various vets, but it wasn't a good quality of life.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Oh jeez, do I ever feel for you! I am NOT a clean person, my housekeeping skills leave much to be desired...and I STILL don't like cat mess on the floor. We are actually going through this with our geriatric Russian Blue, only it's with pee. While she makes it to her box, she's too arthritic to squat down very far so she usually just whizzes over the edge. We put down pee pads but they don't quite cover everything:P

I'm not an animal behaviorist, but I have lived with quite the cast of cat characters ever since I was my kid's age. Take this FWIW...

The good news is, cat poo is about 1000x easier to get out of porous surfaces than pee. Cat pee is just EVIL, so it could be worse. The bad news is it doesn't sound like the poo problem is going to go away. That being said, do you live somewhere where your cat can have her own space with the door closed, like even a basement or a guest room? It might sound inhumane but as a former veterinarian reminded me, humans spend a week at a time in a hotel and call it "vacation", so there you go. You'd definitely need to spend time petting her and playing with her, and if there's a window where she can perch so much the better. I don't know if you can get her (now don't laugh) butt shaved so the poo doesn't stick to it. (I used to have a Maine Coon and it was like trying to get the proverbial peanut butter out of shag carpet, otherwise he'd scoot all over the apartment with it.) You also might want to pick up an enzyme based solution to dissolve whatever poo sticks to the carpet. Regular cleaning solutions don't cut it in my experience, plus the enzyme ones are far less toxic. Your vet can suggest some brands, or you could pick up something like Nature's Miracle or Simple Solution at the pet store. Additionally, it double dips because it gets human pee and poo out of upholstery. (I won't tell you how I know this but let's just leave it at my daughter was not quick to toilet train.) Last resort, if she still has her claws intact you could give her to someone who needs a barn or farm cat.

Sorry for your struggles. You deserve huge Brownie points for being a responsible pet owner, and working closely with your vet on the problem. Not everyone is willing to spend their patience and money. Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

Well you can try cat attract in the litter box. I had a kitten who did this all the time. I know your cat is older but maybe whatever is in that litter will work. It worked for our kitten. Maybe he/she just needs a reminder.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I feel your pain. I am a huge cat lover. I had a cat who constantly peed on our carpet and I tried dealing with it for 2+ years. She was a very old cat, so I put her down. You have done all you can and you should not feel bad to have that as your option. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Usually, one of the signs of illness is litter box issues. Our 9 yr old calico started peeing outside of her box and we couldn't figure out why. After a few months of doing this, we noticed a decrease in appetite. We took her to see the vet and she was in the early stages of kidney failure. Not being able to afford kitty dialysis and the like, we opted to have her put to sleep.

Did your vet test her for any issues or just offer suggestions about the box and lowering her stress?

Your cat is 12 yrs old, so she's an older cat. She's stressed and hiding all day and having litter box problems. I don't think it would be inhumane to have her put down if that's what you would really like to do.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

In your situation, I would probably either keep dealing with it, or put the cat to sleep. I'm sure some people will gasp that I could even suggest that, but it sounds like your cat is no longer enjoying life. She's hiding out from your kids (or from life itself - who knows?). She's in pain enough that her bathroom habits are off. And it's affecting your family and your house.

If she was the happiest, most L. cat who was fully integrated into your family's life, then I would say you just have to deal with the mess. But if she's spending her time hiding, it means she can't handle the noise or the chaos, or how quickly children move. Happy cats don't hide.

We put a six year old cat to sleep last year and it was the hardest thing ever. She was chronically ill, and puked daily -- all over the house. Unless we cleaned it up immediately, it ruined whatever it hit. And she had to be on an incredibly expensive prescription food, and prescription medicine. We dealt with all of that for four years. She was still happy and playful and loved life. But when she started hiding under the furniture and no longer wanted to be held and petted, we knew that we weren't doing her any favors by trying to prolong her life.

You know that your cat isn't going to get any better. You know she's ill. And you know that your family life stresses her out. To me, you already know the decision you have to make... you just don't like it. (I didn't like it either when I had to make it). Many hugs...

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answers from Chicago on

aside from a diaper or putting her down the only option is for you to find her a home that can deal with this issue -she is an old woman who needs extra care.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

my uncles cat used to do this when she was old. poor thing eventually passed. she is probably loosing control and cant help it. maybe ask the vet about a fibe supplement you can give her (metamucil?)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You could try Rescue Remedy for pets. It's an all-natural bach flower essence that you can put in her water, on her skin or in some food. I did that with one of my cats who peed in our house. She peed all over our rug so the Rescue Remedy was my last resort. As long as I gave it to her daily, she didn't pee on anything. I also gave it to another one of my cats when she got depressed when one of our cats died. She was biting off all the hair on her legs! The Rescue Remedy calmed her down. You can buy Rescue Remedy online or in a health food store. It's not expensive, and it can't harm your cat. They carry it at Fruitful Yield, if you have one in your area. There's one in Schaumburg and one in South Elgin.

I would try Cat Attract litter. I don't think it's a litter box problem, but that worked for us. It's just the right size and the smell attracts the cats.

Have you looked into a raw diet for your cat? Will she eat raw, organic chicken? I have heard of cats whose health has been turned completely around by going on a raw diet. You'll have to research it, my one cat won't eat anything but dry cat food. Cats' digestive systems weren't made for dry food or even our version of wet food.

My cats also drink alkaline water. It has made their fur shiny and so soft. Our vet said they are in excellent health! They are also not too fat. I attribute it to the alkaline water. In fact, when they don't have alkaline water, just regular water, in their bowl my one cat meows and "yells" at me, running back and forth between her bowl and me.

I also agree that if you can give Kitty a room all her own, maybe the garage or one without carpet, she may calm down and live a happier life. If you have a holistic vet in your area I'd recommend that. They probably could solve your problem better than a regular one.

Good luck! You are a responsible pet owner!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

Does she have a litter box with a very low way to get in. That helps sometimes if she has any issue getting into the box as she gets older.

It sounds like your cat has bigger issues going on and she just can not help it though, especially since you say it is getting worse. Has she has had blood work, ultrasounds, fecals, etc done along with diet changes? Talking to your vet about more diagnostics might get down to what the real cause of her problems are if you do not already know. If a cause is know it may open up more options for treatment.

In the meantime a large trash bag on the ground by the litter box may make clean up easier. It sounds like she really cannot help what she is doing and she is doing the best she can. Also make sure to use an enzmye cleaner to clean the area she goes to really get the smell out.


answers from Biloxi on

I had a cat once (I have, and have had, many cats) that only tolerated Science Diet WD cat food. Any other kind, including any other kind of Science Diet resulted in horrible bowel movements. So, my first suggestion is to talk to the vet about WD if you have not already tried that one. My kitty could not digest the crude protein in the other cat foods.

Later in life this same cat developed psychological problems, yes, diagnosed by the same vet, and would hide under the bed all day, only coming out at night, and would defecate outside the litter box. After many attempts with medication and isolation and more, I made the decision to euthanize the kitty. He was miserable and making everyone, humans and other kitties, miserable also. It was, in the end, the most humane thing to do.

So it may be a combination of physical problems, old age (i.e. senility) and behavioral issues causing your kitty to have these problems.

I wish I had a simple answer for you. A simple solution. But I don't think there are any.

You have to decide what is most humane for your kitty. And what is most right for your family. Unfortunately, our beloved pets age faster than we do and it falls to us to make the hard choices.

God Bless



answers from San Francisco on

If I understand your post correctly she is at least pooping near the cat box? I think the fact that she is doing it near the cat box and not all over other areas of your house says a lot. She is conscious of doing it in the right area just not the exact spot she needs to be doing it. I like the carpet remnant suggestions but you might also try a large linoleum scrap there. Easier clean up. Now if she is doing it all over the house? I would go with the suggestion of putting her in the garage with a cat door to go in and out. I know some people are against this but one of my cats is very happy with her own "room" and doesn't wander anywhere off of our property so it's a win win situation. Since it's not diarrhea she may not be as uncomfortable as you think. I do believe putting an animal down should be the last resort after you have exhausted all other possibilities and they are just not going to live a happy life.



answers from Chicago on

Have you ruled out the medicine you give her for inflammation? Sometimes medicines can effect the digestive tract - especially in older animals. I like the comment about carpet remnants but have you tried painter's drop cloths? The drop cloths have plastic on one side so things don't soak thru...and you can tear off pieces as they get soiled. I think this is a common issue with any pet owned - you do what you can until you can't do it anymore. It's about quality of life for the cat -- and your family.



answers from Chicago on

If you don't think she is physically hurting, and you really want to keep her, I think you should do the carpet remnants around the box as suggested below. What a great idea!!



answers from Chicago on

buy Cat Attract kitty litter and a new litter pan. I was SHOCKED at how it was that simple to solve the problem.



answers from Detroit on

I had a similar problem with my elderly cat but with urine. She would rarely go in the box, usually near it, occasionally in random places. It was a symptom of what turned out to be hyperthyroidism and then kidney failure. I learned that hyperthyroidism is common in old cats (one symptom is diarrhea - ?).

Not saying this is the case with yours, but I understand your frustration. Have you thought about going to a different vet for a second opinion? Has your vet done any other testing beside changing food? I have a feeling that the poo might be a symptom of another problem.


Has your cat always hidden from your kids or is that new behavior? That also happened to mine as her illness progressed.



answers from Chicago on

I also am a pet lover. But there comes a time to do the right thing for your pet. This cat has had a great life and a wonderful family to love her. You can't keep running behind her cleaning up her mess, this will only run you ragged and ruin your home in the process. I had a chow that was throwing up all the time when she was 13 years old, it hurt bad , but I put her down, it was the humane thing to do. Do the right thing. There are more kittens at the pound to be taken in. Good luck.



answers from Albany on

I had an elder cat.(and a baby) One thing that helped was having her litter box easy to get to. If you have more than one level you may want to consider an additional litter box. In addition to the litter box(es) food and sleeping area should be in a quiet place. (away from children). And if you have an indoor 12 year old domesticated cat -don't put the cat outside. That would be cruel. Your cat is ill-prepared to be put outside. Plus you're setting yourself up for more problems.

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