Has your cat stopped using his litter tray? Is he urinating but not defecating? There are a number of possible reasons your cat may be defecating in other places which we will look at in this article.
Firstly, if you do find your cat gone somewhere else, don't punish him. It won't teach him to use his tray, it will only make him fearful of you.
If your cat is not using his litter tray, he should be checked out by a veterinarian to determine if he has an underlying medical condition. Make note of the type of feces your cat is passing. Are they watery, firm and pebble-like, or do they look normal? Has this behaviour just started or has he been going outside the tray for a long period of time? Bring along a stool sample if possible.
Reasons your cat is defecating in other spots falls into two categories-medical or behavioural.
Pain - If defecation is painful, your cat will begin to associate this with his litter tray and avoid the "source of pain". The most common causes of pain when defecating are constipation, colitis, intestinal parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and anal gland problems (blocked or abscessed anal glands).
Diarrhea can sometimes come on so quickly that your cat doesn't have the time to make it to the litter tray. Diarrhea is usually a passing (pardon the pun) condition which resolves in time, however, fecal incontinence can occur in cats, especially older ones. It is frustrating to live with but isn't always something which can be treated short of limiting where your cat can go in the house. Thankfully fecal incontinence is not something which occurs a lot.
Arthritis - This can fall into behavioural or medical. Arthritis can make moving painful, and if the litter box is located in a difficult to access spot (for example, upstairs), or if the sides are too high for the arthritic cat, he may find more convenient spots to go to the toilet.
Declawing pain - Again, pain related but this time it is associated with his feet. Some declawed cats can experience a great deal of pain after surgery, and digging in his litter tray can make this worse, leading him to find a softer spot to scratch in (your clothes for example).
Senility - As cats age, they sometimes develop the feline equivalent of dementia. Common symptoms include a change in sleeping habits, increased vocalisation, and inappropriate elimination. Often, cats just simply forget where their litter tray is. If this happens, try to provide more trays, particularly in the areas your cat spends most of his time.
Most of these causes relate to inappropriate elimination in general, which can include urinating and defecating.
Dirty litter trays are a common cause of refusal. Cats are fastidiously clean animals and will quite often turn their nose up at a dirty litter tray. Enough trays should be provided so that each cat has one tray, plus one extra. So, if you have two cats in the house, three trays should be provided.
Stress can be caused by any number of reasons, bullying (with another cat), moving house, a new family member can all lead to changes in behaviour, including inappropriate elimination.
Type of cat litter. Some cats can be fussy about the type of litter you use, I always recommend when bringing a new cat or kitten into the home, find out which brand of cat litter he has been using and stick to that for a while. If you want to switch over to a different brand, so it slowly over a few days.
Incorrect position of the litter tray. Cats like privacy when going to the toilet, but they don't like feeling hemmed in, especially if there's more than one cat in the house. The tray should be in a quiet area, but with more than one exit, should the need arise. Particularly if inter-cat bullying is occurring.
Another litter tray issue is covered vs open. Some cats like covered, others prefer open. I always think it's a good idea to have one of each and let your cat choose which he prefers.