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Cat Training and Behavior (Domestic and Feral)/Cat uses outside earth as litter


My cat has changed his behavior with his litter box all of a sudden. We have had him for six months, and he's always been on a healthy diet with frequent and healthy bowel movements and urination. This summer we have started to allow him to be in the backyard whenever we are home (except at nights), but still put him on a leash, as he has great wanderlust and would try to get away and go hunting for baby rabits. He loves the back yard even on a leash, but he started to use the earth under one of the trees to urinate and defecate, and we thought it was ok. This habit has grown now. He would ONLY use the earth under the outside tree specially for defecation. Whenever he is not allowed to go outside, he would incessantly make noises and demand that he be let out. He would even hold himself for a couple of days until he can get outside. He would still urinate in his litter box inside.
Nothing has changed with his litter inside.
How can we re-orient him to start using his litter box inside again?
We have a couple of theories as to what might have exacerbated his preference for his outside poop place. We suspect that being on a leash, he hasnt been able to easily come back inside to use his inside litter box, and has thus gradually gotten used to making do with what he has outside.
This is very concerning to us as we plan to take a couple of weeks and go away, and wouldn't want him to distress over not being able to use his favorite tree spot.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Hi, Essi. I had a cat that did this same thing, however the one difference is he would still his litter box when inside. If it's as severe as it sounds, I would not allow him outside even if that means enclosing him in a room with his food and litter box and ignore all the renting you're going to hear. A lot of cats prefer being outside, it's the cat's wild instinct kicking in. And when they are all in with that phase, it can be difficult to get them out of it. One option you could try is place his litter box in the spot outside where he is already using. Let me know how things go.

Cat Training and Behavior (Domestic and Feral)

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Melissa Burg, RVT/Behavior Consultant


I have experience dealing with different cat behavior signs, including separation anxiety, possible aggression and the difference between fear aggression and actual aggression, this would include possible feral cats. I also am familiar with the several different approaches to introducing a new cat to the environment as well as how each cat or cat and dog and live comfortable and dealing with litter box issues and help you decide if the problem is medical or behavioral.


My experience began with my own cats and escalated while working with area animal shelters for the past 10 years. I was able to watch and learn how the cats would react to different stimulus and each other. My experience grew during college and became able to distinguish between medical and behavior issues.

"Pawfect Pets," a weekly column in my local newspaper with pet health and behavior and training tips.

I graduated with an Associate's in Veterinary Technology in 2009 and became RVT in the state of Iowa in 2012 with a focus on Behavior.

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