Cat Poop Frequency
When we asked for topics that you all wanted advice and insight on, quite a few people asked us (some variation of) this question… How often should my cat go?
It’s an important question and one that — of course — has a not-so-straightforward answer.
As with many things about cats, there are several factors that will influence the answer.
These factors include, amongst other things:
- your cat’s age (kittens typically defecate more often than adult cats)
- what and how much you feed them
- how much exercise they get
- whether or not they have any underlying medical conditions which might affect their gut motility or health (inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroidism, pain, intestinal worms or other parasites, chronic kidney disease, or any of a host of other conditions)
- whether or not your cat is on any medications or supplements (especially certain pain medications) that might affect their gut motility (i.e., how fast their food passes through their "pipes")
General Rule of Thumb: All other things being equal though, the general "rule of thumb" is that a cat should pass a bowel movement at least once daily. Furthermore, that movement should be formed, but not too hard, a normal brown color, and they should pass it without difficulty or discomfort.
Specific Rule of Thumb: Perhaps a better, more specific “rule of thumb,” though, is that if your cat’s bowel movements start to differ from their normal frequency, consistency, color, odor, or anything else, and that change persists for longer than a day or two, it’s time to visit your veterinarian, as this could be a sign of a problem.
Important Warnings About Cat Poop
Regardless of which “rule of thumb” you choose to follow, watch out for these warning signs.
- Blood in the stool is an exception — if you see blood in your cat’s stool, even once, you should have them and their stool evaluated by your veterinarian.
- If you notice your cat straining to pass a bowel movement, be sure it’s that they are straining to defecate — rather than straining to urinate. Constipation is uncomfortable; urinary obstruction is rapidly fatal!
- Never, never, never (NEVER!) attempt to give your cat an enema at home! (Yes, some people have tried!) Not only is it likely to end with your arms and face scratched beyond recognition (can you blame them, though?!!), it may also kill your cat. Inappropriately administered enemas can cause rectal tears, and phosphate-containing enemas (e.g., Fleet®) and others can cause severe, life-threatening dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities. If your cat is constipated... take them to the vet!
- If your cat is straining in the litter box and you notice that it's because he has a string, dental floss, or other "linear" material hanging out of his rectum, don't just jump right in and try pulling it out without first reading our "Cats and String – To Pull or Not to Pull?" article.
If your cat is eliminating outside the litter box that's a whole other ball of proverbial wax. There are many potential reasons for such a change in behavior, and you should work with your veterinarian to try and figure out why your cat has taken up this new (and undesirable) habit.
Below are some simple things you can check and address on your own, too. (Nifty trick: if you have several cats in your home and you need a trick to figure out which one is pooping outside the box, check out this nifty trick using crayons.)
Picking the Right Size Litter Box for Your Cat
You should first check whether they have an appropriately sized box. Oddly enough, for most cats, the "best overall litter box” for general use usually isn’t a traditional litter box! The thing that most often fits the bill is actually a large, plastic under-the-bed clothes storage box.
They’re typically plenty long and wide enough, with just the right depth, too. I love using the inner drawers of the ones linked below, as they've got great dimensions for most cats: approximately 27" long, 15" wide, and 4.5" tall — and you can get them in multi-packs to save money!
You might also try the following boxes for "sprayers," "kickers," and cats with bad aim.
Using Litter Attractants and Pheromones for Cat Potty Problems
If your cat is still going outside of their boxes, you can try a litter attractant, which does exactly what you'd expect: attracts a cat to their litter boxes.
And since stress can cause a cat to eliminate outside of their boxes, consider placing a calming pheromone diffuser in the same rooms as their boxes so they feel comfortable and safe when they're ready to do their business.
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