Solve Older Cat Litter Box Problems

Cat litter box
  Jennifer McCallum / Getty Images

Litter box issues with older cats develop no matter what. Whether your cat failed to learn faithful toilet etiquette as a kitten, or simply developed hit-or-miss potty problems as it got older, it's common with age. Although some senior citizen felines never have any toilet problems, it's good to be proactive for when any future issues may arise. Thankfully, pet owners can be aware of the warning signs that lead to potential toilet challenges with elderly adult and senior cats.

Older Cat Litter Box Problems

Cats are meticulous by nature and appreciate privacy. Senior felines, like some elderly people, become less patient and more particular as they age. Thus, cats who tolerated less-than-stellar potties as youngsters may snub the box if it's not pristine, or look for other places to "do their duty" when disturbed during the process. To avoid this, you can keep the litter box immaculately clean, easily accessible, and placed in a private space. In fact, a low-traffic area (away from the cat's bed and food bowls) is ideal.

A variety of cat box fillers is always available. With older cats, routine and maintenance become even more important. Once you've found a litter that your senior cat accepts, don't switch it up. Additionally, older cats can lose bladder tone as they age, and may not have the physical capacity to "hold it" long enough to run across the house or down the stairs without an accident; provide a litter box on each end of the house to make sure your cat can make it.

Aging Cats With Arthritis

A regular commercial box may be too large for arthritic cats to climb in and out of. With more than 70 percent of aging cats having arthritis, it's important to have a good-sized litter box. Because it hurts to get into the box, cats may "blame" the discomfort on the toilet and avoid the box entirely, or simply find a more comfortable place to eliminate waste. Look for a plastic shirt (box-size) storage container, use the lid of the container itself, or cut down the sides of a regular box. Aluminum disposable bakeware that's about the size of roasting turkey may work as well, and the sides can easily be cut down.

Arthritis also makes it painful or impossible for cats to navigate stairs in order for them to reach facilities. Add a box on each floor to give older cats as much opportunity to "do the right thing" as possible. It can be tempting to simply move existing cat boxes around, but it's best to maintain original placement so "old faithful" can easily find it. Plus, you can still add litter boxes to other areas as needed.

Elderly Cats With Cognitive Problems

A small number of older cats develop cognitive problems that make them forget where to find the litter box and what to do when they get there. Simply schedule potty breaks within 15 minutes after meals or play, and escort your cat to the litter box. Use clean litter, as cats who don't feel the urge to eliminate may be inspired to do so with a new batch.

Many old cats' senses become dim. Blind cats memorize the locations of important property, like a favorite nap spot, their food bowl, or where the potty is. You may not realize that your cat has lost its vision until you rearrange furniture or move the litter box. Leave one recent deposit in the box to help your blind cat find it through scent.