Help! My cat is pooping outside the litterbox!

Q: My cat has started pooping right next to his litterbox. We recently had to change the type of litter because I’m pregnant and can’t be exposed to regular cat litter. Should we switch back, try a new one, or will he get used to it?

A: Inappropriate elimination–defecating or urinating in unwanted places–may be caused by behavioral and medical problems. Before we get into that, though, congratulations! I’m sorry to hear that litterbox troubles are overshadowing the excitement of a new baby right now.

Behavioral problems usually result from litterbox or  litter aversions and stress. Either might be in play in your situation.  Add a new cat litter to all the changes in a home expecting a baby and you’ve got a perfect storm brewing.

Arthritis is a frequent medical cause of inappropriate elimination, but other diseases can cause it too. Your kitty needs a thorough physical exam  before we make any assumptions.

I imagine a well-meaning doctor or family member suggested the change in litter types because of a disease called toxoplasmosis (a parasitic infection that can harm your developing baby). While it’s important to be aware of the risks of toxoplasmosis, changing cat litters won’t protect you from infection. Wearing gloves, emptying and sanitizing the litterbox daily or having someone else take over this chore for awhile will, though.

For now, change back to the litter you were using. Ask another family member to clean the litterbox for you on a daily basis. And call your vet to schedule a physical exam and time to discuss this problem further.

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