Is your senior cat having litterbox issues? Physical attributes that usually come to mind when thinking about our cats are grace, skill, strength, and the agility of an acrobat. But just like humans, as cats get older they lose some of their physical skills, which can sometimes lead to problems with the litter box. Here are a few tips to help identify the problem and find solutions when your senior cat is having litter box issues.
First of all, realize that your cat is a “senior” and needs increased care. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), your cat is considered a “senior” between 11-14 years of age. After that, he is considered “geriatric.” Having the proper mindset can go a long way towards helping our feline friends enjoy their golden years.
Have your vet give your cat a complete exam
Improper elimination can be either behavioral or medical so schedule a visit with your vet to rule out a medical issue, or begin treatment if there is one. There are a variety of medical issues that can cause a cat of any age to start peeing where he shouldn’t. Most experts recommend that senior cats see the vet twice a year to head off any major diseases or problems.
Try a low-sided litterbox
If your senior cat is having joint or muscle problems, litterbox entry may be very difficult, to the point where he just might give up. Make it easy on your cat and find an alternative to the standard litterbox. Underbed storage containers can have lower sides or you can even use a box cutter to cut down one side of the litterbox to make getting in and out of it easier for your cat. If you do this, be sure to sand the edges or cover in duct tape to make sure your kitty doesn’t cut himself on the sharp edges!
Provide multiple litterboxes, including at least one on each floor. As cats get older, they can get confused just like we do so having multiple options can help. Some senior cats may not have the bladder control they used to. As a result, they don’t have much time to get to the litterbox when they have to go. Having boxes in convenient places can help him. Finally, in the case of a multi-level home, having at least one box on each floor of the house can help eliminate the physical barrier of a staircase if your senior cat’s not feeling up to the stairs.
Keep the boxes clean
Scoop your litterboxes multiple times each day, change out the litter once a week, and clean the boxes with a mild dish soap at least once a month. Dirty litterboxes often lead to non-use and this is the easiest factor to control.
“De-Stress” your home
Senior cats can be more sensitive to changes and less tolerant of unfamiliarity, says Elizabeth Arguelles, DVM, in an article on Petcha. Effectively manage your cat’s environment (e.g. always feed in the same spot, refrain from moving litterboxes around, etc.), offer more attention, try to keep to a predictable feeding routine, and consider using stress relieving pheromones like Feliway or Flower Essences.
Try a softer litter
Or one specially formulated for seniors. The way a cat feels about the texture of litter may change over time. He may become less tolerant of heavy, hard litter and softer and lighter litter may make digging and covering easier for him.
Above all, have patience! Your loyal pet isn’t trying to upset you or make you angry. Understand that his age may have something to do with problems he might be experiencing and practice patience and love as you work towards determining what the underlying issue might be.