Ever wondered how to teach a senior cat to use a litter box? When you have a senior cat, it will be much harder to teach a cat to use a litter box, compared to a young cat. A senior or aging cat will have health problems which contribute to his difficulty doing his business, coupled with the fact that he will act out and feel isolated due to his old age.
In other words, training your feline friend, who is already at his later stages of his life, will be a challenging task which will not be accomplished very easily.
Cats normally rely on old routines and sensory memories to live their daily lives and navigate in their own surroundings. But their age hinders them from going out and about. Here are some of the most common health problems that come with their age:
- Joint problems: Older cats that have joint problems such as arthritis will have some trouble using the litter box due to the effort it takes to get in and out. Some litter boxes are too high or have a high or narrow entryway, which will add more to his discomfort when he’s using it.
- UTI, kidney problems and bladder-related health problems and diabetes make it hard for the cat to control his urge to pee. A cat that has these health problems will suffer from frequent urination through out the day. So if he only has one litter box, he might not make it in time whenever he’s about to urinate.
- Vision loss: Some cats suffer from vision loss due to old age. Cats rely on old sensory memories to get around, so if he has poor eyesight or is getting blind, it is now more important than ever to keep his litter box where it is so he would not have much problems locating it.
- Mental and cognitive health problems: Cats can suffer from memory loss and decline from cognitive capacity. If this happens, your cat may not be able to find his litter box properly so it’s important that you use other means to make it easier for him to find it.
Senior cats will need more time and attention from you now that they’re getting older. Young cats normally have the energy and the vigor to move around, be playful and have more fun, but older felines may feel left out. Their health problems might cause them to be more withdrawn and isolated especially if you have other cats. Which is why, showering your older cats with lots of love is important.
How To Teach A Senior Cat To Use A Litter Box
- Take your senior cat to a veterinarian. Since your cat is now getting older, expect some health problems to creep in. Bringing your cat for a medical check-up will determine any health problems your cat might have which could be the cause behind his difficulty to use his litter box.
- Make changes with your cat’ litter box – one at a time, or upgrade to a senior car-friendly litter box. As mentioned, cats heavily rely on old sensory perceptions to get to the litter box. If, one day, your cat finds that his old litter box has changed or disappeared, it will make sense for him to get stressed and poop elsewhere.
Senior cats have particular needs which are different from those of younger cats. Because their bodies are now getting older, their litter box must also be easy for them to get in and out of. You can change his litter box if it’s not of any use to him, but change it gradually to prevent him from being shocked and stressed.
The first thing you have to change is your cat’s litter. Your cat’s litter is the most important thing you should change first because it affects how your cat eliminates. Make sure the type of litter you’ll choose is safe and poses no health problems. Biodegradable ones are okay, such as pine and corn, because they offer little to no dusts, and cause no health risks. Likewise, make sure it has no scent. While there are different types of litter out there, not every one of them is safe enough for your feline friend. For example, litter made of crystals is harmful for your cat especially when she licks her paws.
To introduce your cat to his new litter, simply fill the litter box with two inches of the new litter and cover it with old litter of about half an inch. Your cat will gradually get used to the new litter as he moves and shuffles it with his feet.
Next thing to change is the size and entryway of the litter box. Make the entrance of the litter box much bigger by cutting it down so he would have more space getting in and out. You can also add a ramp for your aging cats with mobility issues. There are ramps available which you can just attach to the litter box so you don’t have to buy a brand new one. But if you find this absolutely inconvenient, you can buy a different litter box with all the features you need for your senior cat. A litter box suited for a senior cat must not be too tall, is spacious for his body so he could easily move around, and has a wide entrance or a ramp so he could get in and out easily. Litter Robot is one such litter box that has all the things you need to make your aging cat’s life must easier.
- Put your litter box in a much safer area of your home. Normally, you shouldn’t be changing the litter box’s location because your cat relies on his senses to find it. But if the area is too noisy, too crowded or is a busy place, it’s wise to move it somewhere else. If you have other cats, your older cat might feel intimidated by the young ones for their playfulness and vigor. They might even use his litter box, even his food and water. It would be much better if your separate his things in a different area that’s safer so he could have more comfort and privacy.
When re-locating your older cat’s litter box, place it where it’s safe from the crowds of people and animals, away from the noises and not too far away from his food and water. Don’t put it near the kitchen, the playpen (if your have kids) or the living room where the tv is. Put it behind a potted plant.
- When redirecting your cat to his new litter box, a little help will be needed. Some older cats may have lost them when finding their litter box, that’s why it’s so important that you be there when re-introducing to his brand new litter box. Even though his sight or memory has declined, the good news is, cats are known to have a sensitive nose. You can direct your cat by smell by putting some of his old poop in his litter box. Guide him there and give them the “cue” that it’s where he has to poop. Remember to remove it right away so the bacteria won’t proliferate.
Another way to direct your aging cat to his litter box is by taking him there. Bring your cat to his litter box and observe his reaction. If he gets curious and sniffs on the litter, it means it piques his interest. The signs are good. But if he has no reaction, you can take him there later in an hour or two. Make sure you let some of his old poop there, though, to get the message.
Roughly 15 minutes after his meal, bring your aging cat to the litter box so he could do his business. You can also do this whenever he’s looking to eliminate.
Whenever he is done pooping and urinating, praise him gently, pet him or give him treats. Be sure not to startle him or he will stop using his litter box.
- Have more than enough litter boxes. If you have multiple cats at home, have litter boxes for each and every one of your pet and add another one in case of emergency. For a multi-story home, have a litter box for every floor so your cat can eliminate regardless of where they are.
- Be patient. Training your senior cat to use the litter box will surely take some time. Senior cats will really test your patience because they are getting meticulous with cleanliness, some others are getting withdrawn, and some just can’t seem to do the things they used to. This is why lots of patience and love are important. I’m sure you will be frustrated, but don’t take your anger and frustrations out on your feline friend, because he will never understand and it will only get worse. As a responsible cat parent, shower him with lots of love and remind yourself why you decided to be his friend to begin with.
- Clean the litter box properly. As mentioned, cats become more meticulous with age. This is why you should make sure to clean his litter box regularly so your feline friend is encouraged to use it. He won’t like it if traces of his urine is still there, or even if his litter box is near his food and water bowl.
Having a cat definitely has its moments of frustration especially when things don’t seem to go your way. But nothing compares to the joy of having a faithful friend who has stayed with you over the years.