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Why Do Cats Run from the Litter Box After Pooping?

Reviewed by Dr. Sarah Tasse, DVM on Thursday, October 8, 2015
Posted May 11, 2015 in Cat Behavior

Boy, we cat lovers love our cats! Sometimes, to the point of an obsession! We watch their every move and want to understand just what they are doing and why. One of the things cat guardians seem perhaps overly curious about is why cats, after a bowel movement, sometimes leap from their litter box and dart away as if they are being chased. I have observed my own cat running from the litter box so quickly that he hadn’t quite finished “his business.”

Cat looking into cameraInternet speculation: why do cats poop and run?
I’ve recently come across an article by Amanda Bernocco, on HNGN, that speculates on this very issue. The posting says that “expert speculation” has finally revealed “a very scientific reason” why some cats might bolt out of their litter boxes after defecation (very exciting indeed). Bernocco goes on to say that cats are running because, in the wild, the smell of poop will attract predators.

Unfortunately, while the blog does name an “experienced pet writer (Lori Soard),” it’s unclear how the information was scientifically tested. No specific experts in veterinary medicine or animal behavior are mentioned, nor does it provide any references to scientific research on the matter. Therefore, while I find the speculation very interesting, I’d need to see more support before agreeing with this article's conclusion.

Medical reasons for a cat to poop and run
Bernocco’s article touches on the fact that some cats may run from their litter box after eliminating either urine or feces if they experience discomfort from the process. This important point I can confirm, and want to give special attention. Such discomfort could be caused by infections or inflammatory processes involving the urinary tract, colon or rectum. It could even be caused by constipation issues. However, once such medical conditions are ruled out (and they most certainly should be), any other ‘psychological’ reason for running away, after eliminating, seems not yet to be science, but rather pure conjecture (which can still be fun).

Click here for more about the diagnostic value of the litter box.

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.