Your Senior Cat and the Litter Box

It’s tough to grow old. You’re not as spry or flexible as you used to be. You certainly don’t have the energy you used to have, and there are all kinds of creaks and aches and pains in your bones that were never there before.

Your aging cat feels the same way!

So if you notice that your senior cat has been having some litter box problems, don’t assume she’s being naughty. It may be she’s just getting older and things aren’t as easy for her anymore. There are definitely steps you can take to make her litter box experience more comfortable. Here are some ideas on how to help you with your senior cat litter box problems!

First of all, AS ALWAYS, if you notice your older cat is suddenly having some issues, take her to the vet. There could be any number of physical ailments that are causing the accidents.

Once your kitty is cleared by the vet, there are some things you should consider that may be contributing to the problem.

Your cat may be senior and you don’t even know it. A lot of pet parents are in denial about their cat’s age. I personally freaked out when my vet told me Romeo was considered “senior” at age seven! The age at which your cat is considered senior depends on a variety of factors, including breed and your vet’s own definition. My point is, a cat does not have to be 18 years old to be having these types of senior moments. They could come a lot sooner than you think.

Tracie Hotchner, author of The Cat Bible, points out the following possibilities your older cat may be having litter box issues:

Your cat may be confused. This can lead to her literally forgetting where the litter box is located. Having multiple litter boxes in your house can help alleviate this problem.

Your cat may not be as strong as she was. Getting all the way to the basement, for example, might be hard for her. Again, this is a great reason to have multiple litter boxes in different locations.

Your cat may have arthritis. Imagine if your joints ached and you had to go a great distance to get to the bathroom and then climb INTO a box to do your business? Chances are, you might tinkle somewhere more easily accessible, like a rug or a bed. Once again, this can be helped with having a few boxes in convenient locations.

Another issue with arthritic cats is getting into the box. Many cat parents have found success when they get a box with lower sides or cut an entry way into one end of the box to help their cat get into it more easily.

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine there are a couple of other possibilities to consider:

Your cat may be soiling the box more quickly than you think. There are some diseases common to older cats, like kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, or hyperthyroidism, that increase your cat’s urine production and send her to the box more often. If you don’t keep it clean, your cat may choose another location that’s more desirable. (And can you blame her?)

Your cat may be ultra sensitive to environmental changes. Older cats, set in their ways, may be more sensitive to changes in the home environment. Things that may not seem like a big deal to you could be throwing your crotchety old kitty into a tail spin. Any unusual activity in your house, like house guests, moving furniture around, adding furniture, going out of town, or any number of other things, could get your cat out of whack. In this case, you just may need to be patient with her until she settles down.

Hopefully some slight adjustments can make your cat more comfortable when using the litter box. Talk with your vet and then take steps to make your sweet baby’s life a little easier as she gets on in years.

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2 Comments

  1. You make my advice sound better than ever! Thank you SOO much for helping all the cats in America feel comfortable in their powder rooms (so they will use only those places to relieve themselves!)

  2. Precious 20 year old Eloise used doggie litter boxes her last 2 years. With her arthritis, it was easy for her to just walk into the box. She preferred piddle pads to litter and she didn’t try to cover anymore. (She used one box for pee and the other for poops!) This was great because it allowed me to really keep a eye on her urine since she was in kidney failure and getting sub-cutaneous fluids everyday.

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