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Our cat is about 12 years old and she's recently started pooping right near my pillow. Always the exact same spot -- never near my partner's pillow (thanks for that, kitty). She still uses the litter box (which we clean daily); there have been no major changes to our house.

We do keep the bedroom door closed at night while we sleep, so maybe she doesn't like being shut out? But that's nothing new.

We live on the third floor of an apartment so it's unlikely there are any cats outside disturbing her. We are both out of the house for a good chunk of the day so she's left alone (also nothing new). We've tried buying her toys and things to entertain her, but she rarely shows any interest in them.

She has a clean bill of health from the vet.

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    Has she been declawed? – Zaralynda Apr 2 '14 at 16:45
  • Front claws only, but been like that for most of her life. Why? – thumbtackthief Apr 2 '14 at 16:58
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There is a chance she is trying to get attention. Try moving her litter box, changing her litter, changing the type of litterbox (going from short to tall, covered to uncovered). If she had a clean bill of health from the vet, that's good because she is not sick. But it means that it is likely something behavioral. I really suggest changing the litter or the litter-box first. From Jackson Galaxy (of my cat from hell fame)

When you see your cat going not inside the box… but getting the perimeters around it, it indicates sort of a dance around litter that is indicating discomfort. Not just physical discomfort, but spacial discomfort, that “I don’t fit here” feeling.

This was a post about a cat peeing outside the box, but if it is behavioral, I feel it may be a similar thing.

Another interesting possibility is suggested by CatFancy

The Litterbox Other reasons a cat may fail to use its litterbox have to do with the litterbox itself. The litterbox might be too small, not stocked with a litter your cat likes, or not clean enough. It might also be in a bad location, such as a busy hallway, hidden behind a rumbling clothes drier, next to the cat's food (who wants to urinate next to their food?), too far away, in a difficult place to reach, or past a scary dog.

"And let's not forget about the dark," said Sharon Crowell-Davis, DVM, director of the Animal Behavior Service of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine Behavior Service in Athens, Ga. "I have seen cats who used their litterbox in the day, but eliminated in other places at night. With one of these cats, it turned out the litterbox was in a closet in the basement and the cat had to negotiate stairs and make it clear through the basement in pitch dark to get to the litterbox. Yes, cats can see well in dim light, but they can't see in total darkness. Adding a night-light solved that problem."

That is one reason that your pillow may seem like a good idea to her. So the first thing I would suggest you try is to change the location of the litterbox (if you dare perhaps even in your bedroom) and put up a night light. Older cats have a hard time seeing and moving and these few changes may make a world of difference for you and your cat.

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  • Well, she uses the litterbox frequently. However, we are inconsistent with whether or not the light is on in the hallway where it is, so maybe that's a factor. I'll try leaving it on and see if it helps. However, she usually gets to my pillow during the day; at night she's either using the litter box or waiting until morning. – thumbtackthief Apr 1 '14 at 19:05
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    I feel like it may be attention-seeking. When the first one of us gets home from the day, she's all over us until we give her some love (no complaints there!). I don't know what to do to keep her happy during the day when we're gone. – thumbtackthief Apr 1 '14 at 19:06
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    I know in my house we always have cats in pairs. This is so they keep each other occupied during the day. But that is very hard to chose well, especially if you have an older cat. I hope the light solves your problem though... – akinmytua Apr 2 '14 at 3:30
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For most cats, poop requires more digging than pee (on the extreme end, one of my girls will spend 15 minutes in the box after poop to make sure it's covered up REALLY WELL, but hops right out after pee).

In a cat who has been declawed, your cat may be feeling pain in her paws when she digs and so be looking for a soft location (your bed) which does not cause pain. The pain can come from two different sources:

In declawed (and tendonectomizedized) cats, the tendons that control the toe joints retract after the surgery because they are no longer anchored to the bones, and over time these joints become essentially "frozen." The toes can no longer be extended, but remain fully contracted for the lifetime of the cat. The toes become like hammer toes.

And

Researchers have shown that in the immediate post-operative period, newly declawed cats shift their body weight backward onto the large central pad (the three-lobed pad on the palm) of the front feet and off the toes. This effect was significant even when strong pain medication was given, and remained apparent for the duration of the study (up to 40 hours after surgery). This altered gait may persist over time, and can cause stress on the leg joints and spine, and could lead to damage and arthritic changes in multiple joints. X ray images of declawed cats confirm this theory.

These are effects that take time to develop, and may be why the problem has just started. Generally when a vet examines a cat for inappropriate elimination, they only look at the parts of the cat directly related to pee/poop (whichever the cat is misbehaving with). If your vet did not consider the effects of painful joints, I would encourage you to take your cat back. There are pain medicines that can help if she's experiencing pain!

Other than that, the general advice for inappropriate elimination is to add litter boxes, different types of litter, and put litter boxes in new locations in your house until you find something that your cat likes. I wrote a bit about it for an earlier question (that was about pee, but the same principles apply)

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  • Even though she was declawed years ago? (by previous owners--I've had her for seven years) – thumbtackthief Apr 2 '14 at 18:39
  • Plus, she only occasionally does this--she still uses the litter box. – thumbtackthief Apr 2 '14 at 18:39
  • @thumbtackthief It's probable that it hurts more on some days than on others, and the days when it's most painful are the days she doesn't use the litterbox. – Spidercat Apr 2 '14 at 19:38
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    @thumbtackthief yes, some of the joint pain issues can take years to develop. Yes, the amount of pain can vary from day to day like any chronic condition. Again, when a cat is presented to a vet with inappropriate elimination, they tend to not look for these issues so I think you should return to your vet and make sure your cat isn't in pain. – Zaralynda Apr 2 '14 at 19:40
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If the poop is unusually large it could be that your cat has trouble pooping. I have a cat who sometimes cannot poop and when she rectifies the problem (if she doesn't require assistance) it is often outside the litter box. Probably this is not the case with your cat but it is worth considering. Another possibility is that it is marking territory. Using poop to mark territory is common in the wild though most house cats do not do that.

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