Why Is My Cat Pooping While Lying Down?


Cats pooping while lying down is an unusual behavior that can indicate an underlying medical issue. This article will provide an overview of the potential causes, including litter box problems, age-related mobility issues, and medical conditions like constipation or loss of bowel control. We’ll also explore solutions like scheduling a vet visit, adjusting the litter box setup, and managing symptoms at home. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of why your cat may be pooping lying down and what can be done to address it.

Possible Medical Causes

There are several medical conditions that could cause a cat to poop while lying down, especially in senior cats. Arthritis is common in older cats and can make it painful to get into the normal pooping position. Injuries, muscle weakness, or neurological issues affecting the hind legs or tail can also make it difficult for a cat to properly position themselves in the litter box (Source: https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/digestive/fecal-incontinence-cats).

Diseases affecting the nerves around the colon and rectum can cause fecal incontinence in cats. Conditions like feline dysautonomia or Manx syndrome can damage the nerves controlling defecation, resulting in a cat pooping while lying down. Spinal problems like intervertebral disc disease may also impinge on spinal nerves and lead to an inability to control bowel movements (Source: https://vetster.com/en/symptoms/cat/bowel-incontinence).

Cats with megacolon or other gastrointestinal motility disorders may lie down to poop due to an enlarged, inflamed colon. Neurological conditions like dementia can also cause disorientation and inappropriate elimination. It’s important to have a vet examine an older cat with new pooping problems to diagnose any underlying medical issues.

Litter Box Issues

Cats can be very particular about the cleanliness and size of their litter boxes. According to the ASPCA (Source #1), if the litter box is not kept clean and free of waste, a cat may start defecating outside of the box. Cats also need adequately sized litter boxes – 1.5 times the length of the cat. If the box is too small, the cat may lie down to relieve themselves. Cats also prefer to poop in quiet, private, and consistent locations. If the litter box is in a high traffic area or has been moved, cats may protest by lying down while pooping.

Stress and Anxiety

Cats are creatures of habit and can be easily stressed by changes to their environment. If your cat has recently started pooping outside the litter box, it could be a sign they are feeling anxious or insecure. Some common triggers for litter box avoidance due to stress include:

  • Changes to their normal routine such as a new work schedule that has you gone more often
  • Moving homes or rearranging furniture
  • Introduction of new pets or family members
  • Loud noises like construction or parties
  • Negative associations with the litter box location – perhaps it’s too exposed or in a high traffic area

Stressed cats may begin to perceive the litter box as an unsafe place to eliminate. They may hold their bowel movements until they become urgent, and then poop where they are lying down because they feel too anxious to make it to the box. Any changes that disrupt a cat’s perceived security in their environment could result in inappropriate pooping.

To ease anxiety, stick to your cat’s normal routine as much as possible after changes in the household. Give them safe spaces to hide like boxes, cat trees, and covered beds. Using calming pheromone diffusers can also help reduce stress. If the litter box itself is causing anxiety, try placing it in a quiet, low-traffic area and using a lower-sided box so your cat can see their surroundings while using it.

Old Age and Declining Mobility

As cats get older, their mobility often declines due to arthritis and other age-related issues. This can make it difficult for them to squat properly in the litter box.

Arthritis causes stiffness, pain, and reduced range of motion in a cat’s joints. With arthritis in the hips or knees, squatting to defecate in the litter box can become increasingly uncomfortable or even impossible for an elderly cat.

Older cats may also have muscle weakness or balance issues that prevent them from properly squatting over the litter box. They end up pooping right outside or beside the box instead.

In addition, conditions like feline cognitive dysfunction can cause disorientation that leads to litter box accidents. An older cat may forget where the litter box is located or no longer recognize it.

Faced with mobility challenges, elderly cats often start pooping right on the floor, unable to get in and out of the litter box with ease. Providing a lower-sided, senior-friendly litter box can help accommodate limited mobility in aging cats.


Excess weight can make it difficult for cats to properly squat in the litter box to defecate. The extra weight puts more pressure on a cat’s abdomen, which can force feces out while lying down (Source). Obesity makes it hard for cats to comfortably get in and out of the litter box. They may opt to poop right outside of the box because of mobility issues. Additionally, obese cats often lack proper muscle tone in the rectum which makes it harder to hold in feces.

Helping an overweight cat lose excess pounds through diet, exercise, and veterinary supervision can greatly improve mobility and bowel control. Getting weight down to a healthy level reduces pressure on the abdomen so the cat can properly squat to poop in the litter box again. Weight loss also helps improve muscle tone. Consult with your vet on safe and effective weight loss techniques for an obese cat exhibiting pooping issues.

Other Behavioral Causes

Sometimes a cat may start pooping while lying down due to behavioral issues like marking territory or seeking attention. Here are some of the possible behavioral causes:

Marking Territory: Cats have scent glands around their anus and poop contains pheromones. A cat may start pooping in strange places, while lying down, as a way to mark territory and feel more secure in their environment. This occurs more frequently in intact cats. Spaying/neutering your cat can help reduce this behavior.

Attention Seeking: Some cats learn that pooping outside the litter box gets them attention from their owners. The cat may start exhibiting pooping while lying down in visible areas when the owner is present as a way to get noticed. Ignoring the behavior and rewarding appropriate litter box use is recommended.

In either situation, making sure the cat’s core needs like nutrition, litter box hygiene, etc. are met can help alleviate anxiety and the need to mark territory or act out. Additionally, spending more interactive playtime with your cat and rewarding them for using their litter box can help reinforce good pooping habits.

When to See the Vet

There are certain signs that indicate your cat may need a medical exam from the vet. According to research, cats pooping while lying down can sometimes be a sign of medical issues like a urinary tract infection causing discomfort (see source). Other signs to watch out for that may warrant a vet visit include:

  • Straining or crying out while trying to urinate or defecate
  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Excessive licking or grooming of genital area
  • Leakage of urine or feces
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

If you notice any of these signs in your cat when they try to poop or pee, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. They can examine your cat and determine if there is an underlying medical issue causing discomfort or difficulty with elimination that needs treatment.

Managing the Behavior

If your cat is pooping while lying down due to medical issues, treat the underlying condition based on your veterinarian’s recommendations. However, there are several steps you can take to manage the behavior and keep your home clean.

First, adjust the litter box setup. Make sure you have enough litter boxes for the number of cats in your home and that they are spread out across multiple locations. Scoop daily and completely replace the litter at least once a week. Try different litter types like unscented clumping litter. Place the boxes in quiet, low-traffic areas (1).

Next, focus on reducing stress. Increase playtime, cat trees, and enrichment toys. Use synthetic feline pheromones to promote relaxation. Try an anxiety vest or calming treats. Keep litter boxes very clean. Ensure your cat feels safe with hiding spots and high perches (2).

Confine your cat to an easy to clean room lined with pee pads if necessary. Only allow access to other areas once their symptoms improve. Patience and vet care can help get to the cause and resolve inappropriate pooping over time.


Throughout this article, we explored some of the common reasons why cats may poop while lying down. Medical issues like arthritis, mobility problems, and injuries can make it difficult for a cat to squat in the litter box. Inadequate litter box hygiene, location, size, or type can also deter cats from properly using their box. Stress, anxiety, cognitive decline, and obesity may additionally lead to inappropriate elimination. While the habit can be frustrating for cat owners, there are ways to manage it through vet care, litter box solutions, anxiety reduction techniques, and more. If the behavior persists or occurs alongside other symptoms, veterinary attention is recommended. Though lying down to poop is not normal for cats, addressing the underlying cause and adjusting the cat’s routine can often resolve it. With some patience and trial and error, both cats and owners can adapt for improved comfort and life quality.

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