My 12 year old cat doesn’t use the litter box properly

My 12 year old cat doesn’t use the litter box properly

by Marilyn
(Brooklyn N Y)

I have two cats. The first one that I adopted is a female domestic shorthair about 12 years ago.

I am aware that she is very old but I just cannot understand why for sometime now she does not go in the litter box to crap.

In 2005 I adopted the second cat, a domestic shorthair male kitten and everything was fine until now (Sept 2010).

I clean the litter box once a week. I scoop twice a day trying to keep it clean for her but she still does it in front of the litter box, on my bathroom rug and on top of my laundry pile.

I am at my wits end and the only thing that is saving her from my returning her to the shelter is my niece who loves them both. Please help.


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My 12 year old cat doesn’t use the litter box properly

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Sep 13, 2010
Great Outcome
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

Hi Marilyn, It’s wonderful to hear that your senior lady is beginning to show positive signs. I got my Sadie a very soft baby brush, the kind you’d use on a newborn, to stroke her fur. She just regales in the luxuriousness of it all!

Perhaps your male needs more interactive-type toys, even something like a cat kong toy where he has to work at getting the treats out of the ball. Those seem to help with excess energy. Another type may be the ‘prey’ type, where a hidden ‘mouse’ bounces to/fro…it’ll drive him crazy and he’ll (hopefully) expend more energy.

Sep 11, 2010
Hi Marilyn
by: Michael

Pleased that you found the comments helpful. And I hope things progress well from here. Thanks for responding by the way. It is nice to hear back.

I think that you can repair the emotional damage (if there is any). Plenty of gentle love and attention including gentle grooming, stroking, talking, playing etc. will do the trick. Nothing forced. The cat is in charge, I feel.

Good luck.

Michael Avatar

Sep 10, 2010
Update and Thanks
by: Marilyn

Michael, Gail, Ruth and Leah

Thank You all so much for your advice, I was so amazed as it was all on point. I have to admit that I was too angry with what now seems so unimportant.

Can I now repair the emotional damage? Jingles (12 year old) hides and only comes out to eat or poop, before I was not concerned but after reading your comments and suggestions especially the fact that she is 64 in human years I am so ashamed of myself.

I will be trying the Cedarific (cedar chip litter) first and also taking off the top and leaving the box uncovered as I really do not have the space for two litter boxes.

I am now trying every chance I get to connecting with Jingles and I have to say Gail (Boston), you were on point.

Usually she leaves the room when I walk in, I made eye contact and we blinked and I spoke is a very gentle and loving voice like I would to a child. It took more than one attempt but she finally came over to me to stroke her and I brushed her and even rubbed her belly.

I will also try getting some toys so that the other cat will leave her alone as he can be very playful and that too adds to her stress level.

Once that is done she will be left alone and with my giving her more attention she will not need to hide from either of us.

Again, THANK YOU,THANK YOU, your advise and suggestions was on point and appreciated.

Sep 08, 2010
Please not a shelter
by: Leah

I would be very interested to see how you fare with the advice but please don’t send her to a shelter.

Sep 08, 2010
Litter Box Snafu
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

Hi Marilyn, I’d like to put my two-cents in regarding this topic, as I have a 17/year female tortie who doesn’t want to use her box to pee. Granted, she is presently taking antibiotics; however, this started long before that.

She decided she hated clay, sand and granule type litters, so I came upon something called “Cedarific” which is a mildly scented, fine, cedar chip litter that only needs changing once per week, providing it’s continually scooped. Because it’s cedar chips, it absorbs the urine/smell and can be scooped along with the feces. I have two boxes for one cat and it’s worked out well (she’s a Diva).

Lately, she’s struggled getting into the box to pee (old age). It’s a large, open box but still she sometimes hangs her butt too far over the edge and gets the wood floor. Not having a urinary infection, I decided to indulge her and started putting down puppy training pads and it works! No more mess – it’s worth the extra expense since she does poo in the box.

Because she gets loads of encouragement, love, kisses and fussing up, she has no qualms about running to me to let me know she’s done something wrong, like missing the mark or getting sick (far and few in between).

Perhaps your 12-year female just needs a bit more attention than the younger male. If she’s been checked out and has nothing wrong with her physically, then I concur with Michael and Ruth that she’s just feeling lonely and wants more of your time. When you speak to her, look her in the eyes, speak softly and slowly blink at her. That is a reassuring way of telling her you love her. It’s amazing how felines react. Let us know how you make out.

Sep 08, 2010
Thanks Ruth
by: Michael

Thanks, Ruth for your useful advice..always welcome.

Michael Avatar

Sep 08, 2010
by: Ruth

Hello Marilyn,Michael is right in everything he says.
You really do need to get another litter box, in fact a new one for each cat would be better still. Place each one in private places away from each other and show each cat which is his/hers.
Your female cat is around 64 years old in our years and your male cat is around 36.
With the best will in the world you can’t change the litter every time it’s used, but to a cat following another cat to use unchanged litter, it’s like us going to the toilet after someone who hasn’t flushed it.
I don’t think any 64 year old female would like to use an unclean toilet a 36 year old male has just used.She will also feel more vulnerable with being so much older than your other cat.
As Michael also said,it sounds as if your female is stressed.Sometimes as cats get older they sleep more so maybe she doesn’t get as much attention from you as the male. Make sure both cats have an equal share of you.
Wash anywhere out of the box where she has messed with biological washing liquid in hot water, that removes every trace of smell.
Cats can smell the slightest trace of their scent and have to keep renewing their own or covering other cats scents with their own.
I think if you do all this your problem will be solved.
Please don’t send her to the Shelter, at her age she will be unrehomeable so will be either killed or caged for the rest of her life.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Sep 07, 2010
by: Michael

Hi Marilyn. Sorry for taking a little while to publish your post.

Could you please tell me if you have one litter box for both cats?

Litter box failure is generally put down to one of these:

1. Developing a dislike of the litter box; either the litter itself or the position of the box.

2. Emotional problems.

This is not a complete list.

Your lady cat is 12 years old. She fails to use the litter box for the elimination of feces. This is part-time use.

Although emotional reasons for litter box aversion is the least likely, I think this may be the reason.

She may have had a borderline aversion before. It may have got worse due to age. Although, 12 is not that old.

She may have had a bit of a problem with the male, which has developed in older age into litter box aversion.

The fact that she is deposits feces on things that are yours indicates an emotional insecurity to me. This thought does not come out of a book, by the way, but from personal experience.

Are you away from the home a lot? If so it might be a form a separation anxiety. She may have got on with the male without being very friendly but getting older and a bit more frail and you being away (if that is the case) may have tipped her over into an anxious state. If she was already a bit averse to the litter she is now more so and so acts as she does.

I may be off the mark. But if not I would find ways to reassure her. More grooming and more attention generally.

If there is only one litter get another one and see if that helps. A change in litter or the position of the litter may help but I don’t think it is about the litter type. However, the advice given is to use a non-deodorized fine-grained clay based litter in an uncovered large tray. She should have uninterrupted use of the litter (i.e. no interference from the male).

You keep the litter clean so it can’t be that. If the box is covered you may try uncovering it. This will release odor. If the box is shared this may help.

I feel this is more about emotional insecurity as mentioned. Although this is somewhat of a stab in the dark.

I would love it if you would try various things and report back. We would all learn.

I made a post about this on a sub-domain blogger site: Litter box aversion (opens in new window) that expands on this comment.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Michael Avatar

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