Litter Boxes for Older Cats

The use of litter boxes sometimes becomes a problem for older cats, but many owners don't realize something is wrong until their pet begins eliminating in out-of-the-way places. Let's look at some possible litter box issues for older cats so you can help solve problems before they exist for your cat.

Rule Out Medical Issues

If your cat begins eliminating outside her litter box, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your cat may have a bladder stone, a urinary tract infection, diabetes or some other underlying medical problem that is causing her behavior to change.

Evaluate Your Cat's Stress Level

After medical issues have been eliminated as a cause of your cat's litter box problems, consider her stress level. Has something changed in your home (moving, people moving in or out of the home, or an upcoming celebration) that would cause your pet to become distressed? While these changes may all seem positive to you, they are stressful to your cat. Take steps to reduce your cat's stress level to see if her litter box usage returns to normal.

More Box Locations May Be Needed

When you brought your cat home 10 years ago, the downstairs bathroom seemed like an ideal location for her litter box. She was young and frisky, and running up and down the stairs wasn't a problem. Now, however, she's older and a bit slower, and sometimes she doesn't quite make it to the box in time. Consider setting up a litter box on the second floor of your home if your older cat now spends most of her time upstairs. If her days are spent with you in your basement office, set up a box down there for her along with her original box.

Make Sure You Have More Boxes Than Cats

If your older cat is part of a multi-cat home, make sure you have enough litter boxes for all feline members in your house. Try to have a litter box for every cat, plus one extra.

Consider a New Box Design

In her younger days, your cat may have been an enthusiastic box digger, throwing litter in all directions as she covered her waste. To control litter scatter, you purchased a high-sided box, which now may be difficult for her to step over and into. Look at the design of your cat's current litter box. Are the sides too high for her now? You may need to cut down the box sides or purchase a new, lower tray for your older pet. The covered box that once worked well to contain odors and litter scatter may now need to be uncovered because your cat's sense of smell may have changed as she's matured, and now she finds the covered box too smelly to use regularly.

Keep the Box Clean

You may need to clean your cat's litter box more frequently to reduce odors and waste so that she will be more willing to use it. Don't change litter brands unnecessarily on your older cat, because a sudden brand change may cause her to stop using the box.