Picture this: It is early in the morning and you are about to use your bathroom, when all of a sudden you see a dark lump perched in your sink – Fluffy has left you an unpleasant gift!
Cats pooping in the wrong places, like the bathtub or the sink, can occasionally be an issue for some fur-parents. There are several reasons behind this inappropriate elimination, from territorial marking to underlying medical problems, and you will need to determine the cause in order to stop this undesirable behavior.
Hopefully, with proper treatment, patience, and love, your kitty should be able to stop this bad habit.
Reasons your cat is pooping in the sink
Inappropriate elimination is one of the most common feline behavior problems reported by cat owners. It is not only unhygienic, but also quite frustrating to clean – especially the strong poop smell that remains behind.
But, before you get angry or disappointed, know that your cat is not being spiteful.
Sometimes, cats demonstrate their bond with their humans by marking their shared territory – be it a bed or a bathroom sink – through urination or defecation on said territory. Your cat’s inappropriate pooping might also be triggered by behavioral or medical problems that need immediate attention.
Your cat pooping in your sink is hugely inconvenient, and must obviously be corrected as soon as possible. But first, you need to understand the triggers behind this unpleasant behavior.
Let us take a closer look at some of the possible reasons your cat is pooping in the bathroom sink.
1. Behavioral problems
Pooping outside the litter box can be a sign of behavioral problems. This does not mean our furry friends are mean kitties; sometimes it is just part of who they are! And we, as their human guardians, need to help modify those behaviors into something more desirable and acceptable.
For instance, your cat may be displaying territorial behavior, especially if you have brought home a new pet or if your cat is living with multiple pets already. Normally in the wild, cats cover their poop to prevent other predators from tracking their scent. However, they might not cover their poop if they feel threatened by other cats or animals. They will then mark their territory by pooping or urinating in certain areas to keep other household pets away.
Another reason for pooping in inappropriate places is if your cat wants to mix her scent with yours. Perhaps she missed you during your long vacation and she wants to bond by marking your shared territory.
Cats also tend to emulate their human owners. Do you often let your cat go with you to the bathroom? Although she has her own litter box, that clean-looking bathroom sink can be an appealing, shiny box in which to deposit her poop!
2. Emotional stress
Cats do not take well to change – be it a change in their living environment or a sudden shift in their routines. These creatures of habit are wired to prefer predictability, because that is what helps them survive in the wild.
Change is inevitable, however, albeit hard for your feline to accept. And, when life starts shifting, cats can express their aversion to change in several ways – from spending days in hiding to eliminating outside their litter box.
Here are some common changes that might upset your cat:
- Any changes in her environment, such as moving to a new house, getting new furniture, or a family member leaving your home.
- Introducing a new family member to your home, such as a new baby or a new pet.
- A change in routine. Perhaps you are moving to a new place or entering a new chapter in your life (marriage, having a baby, etc.) that interrupts Fluffy’s regular feeding schedule or play sessions.
Besides the big changes, cats might also avoid the litter box if they are suffering from anxiety. There are several symptoms that can help you tell if you have an anxious cat, including:
- Excessive grooming and licking of the nose
- Shaking and frequent crouching
- Easily frightened by loud noises or sudden movements
- Digestive issues such as diarrhea and vomiting
- Chewing of random items
- Frequent hissing, yowling, or growling
- Rapid breathing
- Flattened ears
- Lethargy and longer sleep hours
- Following you around the house
3. Lack of privacy
It could be that your cat does not like the location of her litter box, and has decided to do her business somewhere else.
Cats can be a bit finicky when it comes to the placement of their litter box, because they feel vulnerable while they are pooping. If your cat is frightened by loud noises in the environment or ambushed by other pets while relieving herself, she will likely associate the litter box with a negative experience.
The instinct to look for a safer place to eliminate is a common cat behavior, as this is a survival tactic in the wild. Although domesticated cats do not need to hide from predators while pooping, the fear of becoming prey is still deeply ingrained in their behavior.
So, instead of relieving herself in her designated litter box, your cat will consider other places in the house to deposit her poop without being disturbed. In this case, she sees your bathroom sink as a safe place to eliminate.
4. Bad habits
If your furry friend has been treating your bathroom sink as her private toilet for some time, then she might continue to do so simply out of habit. Perhaps she started pooping in the sink at a time when she was feeling anxious or sick, but cats are creatures of habit, so without your intervention, she may continue to repeat this same behavior. And, if she always gets your attention after doing her business (even if the attention comes from anger or frustration), she will be more motivated to return to the sink again.
5. Litter box issues
If the litter box does not meet your cat’s standards, she will not use it. This means that if you do not want to deal with regular messy situations, you will need to investigate what is causing her to avoid her litter box.
You might want to check out some of the most common litter box issues:
- The litter box is not regularly cleaned
- There are not enough litter boxes in the house
- The location of the litter box does not give your cat enough privacy
- Your cat does not like the size, style or entry height of the litter box
- Your cat does not like litter that is strongly fragranced
- Some cats prefer clumping litter, while others might not like it (you need to know your cat’s preferences)
- The depth of the litter is not comfortable for your cat (the ideal should be around three inches of litter in the box)
6. Health-related issues
Certain medical issues can cause your cat discomfort or pain when defecating. When this happens, she may start to associate the pain with pooping in her litter box, and will then seek alternative places to do her business.
Some health issues that affect your cat’s pooping behavior include:
- Intestinal parasites
- Flea infestation
Bad behavior such as pooping in inappropriate places might also be related to mental issues, especially in cats that have reached their senior years. Elderly cats can suffer cognitive decline that causes them to forget the location of their litter box, or their sense of sight might be declining and they accidentally relieve themselves in the wrong places, like the sink.
Mental or mood problems such as obsessive compulsive behavior can also be the cause of pooping in the sink or other strange places. Check with your vet or animal behavior specialist to help you manage this inappropriate behavior.
Ways to stop your cat from pooping in the sink
Breaking your cat’s sink-pooping habit can be difficult, especially if she has started doing her business regularly outside the litter box. To stop the unpleasant behavior, you need to first understand why she is avoiding her litter box in the first place. Once you have figured this out through careful observation, you can strategically eliminate the root cause and correct your cat’s behavior.
Here are several measures you can take stop your cat from pooping in the sink:
1. Add more litter boxes
As a rule of thumb, there should be one litter box for each cat in the household, plus one extra. This helps prevent territorial issues among your pets. Additionally, you will need multiple litter boxes if you have a large home so that your cats can have access wherever they are in the house.
2. Place the litter boxes strategically
It might not seem like a big deal to you, but cats do care about the location of their litter boxes. Their natural instincts can influence where they want to eliminate, so you must make sure to provide a spot where Fluffy will feel safe while doing her business.
Another important thing is to avoid changing the litter box location too frequently. New locations might confuse your cat and she will not have enough time to look for it when she needs to go.
If you have a large house, it is best to place a litter box on every floor or every corner so your kitty can have access wherever she is.
Here are some other tips for choosing an appropriate location for the litter box:
- Choose a spot away from areas where your cat usually eats or drinks
- The spot must be quiet and well-lit
- Make sure the location gives your cat a sense of privacy
- Place the litter boxes in areas where your cat usually hangs out
- Make sure the litter box location allows easy access for your cat
3. Keep the litter box clean
Cats prefer a clean litter box in which to eliminate. If they find their litter box dirty, they will often choose to hold their waste or do their business somewhere else. Either way, both you and your cat will suffer the consequences. It is therefore important that you scoop and clean your cat’s litter box every day.
Regularly changing the litter is also important; how often you need to change the whole batch will depend on the type of litter you use. Clumping litters can be changed every two to three weeks, while the non-clumping ones should be changed twice a week.
Also make sure to wash the litter box at least once a week to remove bacteria and foul odors. For hygiene purposes, it is best to use litter boxes made of stainless steel, because these materials do not absorb odors and bacteria like the plastic ones do.
4. Break the habit
Instead of punishing your cat or locking her out of the bathroom, you can help her develop new habits so that does not repeat the old behavior. Encourage her to use the litter box by using positive reinforcement. This means giving her treats or attention whenever you bring her to the litter box, so that she starts to associate good things with it.
As soon as you notice your cat using the litter box to poop, give her treats, love and praise when she is done. Never interrupt her while she is doing her business.
You can also implement strategies to discourage your cat from using your sink. While you are re-training her to use the litter box, make sure the sink becomes an unpleasant spot for her to eliminate. One way is to put some water in the sink. Cats hate getting their paws wet, so this strategy will likely deter her from using your sink again.
5. Create a calmer environment
Cats prefer to have privacy and quiet while they relieve themselves. Make sure that the litter box is placed away from noise and other household pets so your cat can do her business without being disturbed.
If your furry friend becomes easily anxious or stressed, try creating a calmer environment for her: talk to her and share more bonding time through cuddling or playing to reduce her stress levels.
6. Thoroughly clean the poop from the sink
Thoroughly clean the sink, ensuring that all the mess and odors are eliminated. Otherwise, the scent will attract your cat and she will continue pooping in the same spot. For best results, you can use a multi-purpose enzyme cleaner to effectively clean and remove pet odors.
7. Consult your vet
If you think your cat’s inappropriate pooping is caused by an illness, consult your vet right away. Look out for other symptoms such as straining to eliminate, vomiting, lack of appetite or lethargy, so that your vet can more easily identify the problem.
You may also request a referral to an animal behaviorist if you think your cat is suffering from mental or behavior-related issues. The specialist will help you understand the development stages your cat is going through as well as create strategies to correct her undesirable behavior.
Wrapping it up
Dealing with cat poop outside the litter box can be frustrating! The good news, though, is that you can correct your cat’s inappropriate elimination through the methods described in this post. With your patience, your furry friend should get back on track and stop making return visits to your sink.
Image: istockphoto.com / marieclaudelemay