litter box problems in older cats

How to Solve Litter Box Problems in Older Cats


As your beloved feline friend ages, you may notice changes in their behavior, including their bathroom habits. This post is all about senior cat litter box challenges and what you can do to help your aging kitty cat.

A common issue is a sudden reluctance to use their litter box, which can lead to frustration for both you and your pet. This could be due to a variety of reasons, including pain or discomfort when using the litter box or a change in their physical abilities.

Many pet owners assume that cats slide back to their primal instincts when they grow older. But that is not true, and such misconceptions could lead to wrong decisions. 

We want to help you understand why older cats experience litter box problems and how to solve them. This post is all about litter box problems in older cats; and the solutions.

litter box problems in older cats

Photo by Litter Robot on Unsplash

Why Do Older Cats Develop Litter Box Problems?

Aging could be graceful, but it also has its fair share of challenges. 

As a cat gets older, she may experience many physiological, cognitive, and health issues. These issues often lead to behavior changes and litter box problems. But some litter box problems are of our own making. 

Your cat could be avoiding the litter box because: 

  • You are not managing the litter box very well. 
  • She has challenges with its location. It could be in an uncomfortable place (like in a high-traffic area or where there is noise). Or it is at a hard-to-access spot. 
  • Using it is not as comfortable as it was before. Perhaps it’s too small, or the cat developed a physical limitation. 
  • She may have experienced an upsetting event that occurred while she was at the litter box. 
  • In a multi-cat household, there could be a conflict with other (probably younger) cats. 
  • She could be struggling with a medical condition such as arthritis, Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), Feline Interstitial Cystitis or Kidney Stones, or Blockage. 

Your cat exhibits litter box problems not because she is sliding back to her wild nature. She is going through a lot, and you need to be patient, understanding, and resourceful. 

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Don’t punish or yell at a kitty when she poops or pees outside the litter box. Look for a loving way to solve the problem. As you can tell, solutions address the cause of the litter box problem – not the cat. Try using a litter box specifically designed for senior cats.

Try something with a low step in area so she doesn’t get hurt entering and exiting her box. Cats do not want the smell of their urine or feces on them or any center litter smells, so making it easy for her to get in and out without being soiled will be awesome!

Kitty may have developed litter box problems due to one or a combination of the above reasons. You can identify a solution by eliminating different probable causes. 

For more content on litter box challenges and solutions you might also like these articles from our blog:

The Right Way To Keep A Cat’s Litter Box Clean

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Why Does My Cat’s Litter Box Smell So Bad?

A cat’s litter box can get very smelly fast due to lack of cleaning, using no cleaning products or the using wrong ones. The type of litter you are using could add to the smell or not control the odor. Your cat may be having problems covering up or she may be ill. Having an open litter box that is in high traffic areas can also be managed to eliminate excessive odor.

Checking yourself is an excellent and cost-free place to start.

Did you slip off-course with the routines such as cleaning and grooming?

Read about Kritter Kommunity’s favorite top pick for cat and dog stain and odor remover here.

Cats love it when the litter box is clean and odor-free. A slight adjustment in the way we manage the litter box could fix the litter box problem. 

Just look back and see if you stopped cleaning and grooming as often as you did when she was a kitty. If yes, get back on the saddle and clean the litter box regularly. 

If a clean litter box does not fix the problem, make plans to visit the vet or look for a mobile vet

Your older cat could be struggling with one or many age-related medical conditions. A vet can help you to identify and deal with the ailment. 

Issues such as UTIs or an inflamed bladder are treatable. Your cat would be back using the litter box after a few weeks. But conditions such as arthritis or feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD) could require some adjustments in lifestyle, equipment, and layout of the home.

But the problem could be due to multiple issues. Here’s more on what you can do. 

Furniture Design For Litter Box Problems With Older Cats

Cats that suffer from arthritis have trouble using high entry litter boxes. Make the first adjustment, and switch it with a suitable senior cat litter box with a low entry. 

If the cat has to go up the stairs or make strenuous movements, shift the litter box closer. Shift it to where kitty can easily access without putting too much strain on her aching joints. 

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Moving the litter box closer can also help to deal with the issue if it stems from FCD. But make sure you escort the kitty to the litter box a couple of times. If the condition degenerates to blindness or she loses her senses, you may have to escort the kitty as a norm.

Do not forget to adjust the furniture as you make your home more comfortable for her. We have a range of cat furniture suitable for older cats.  Check out our blog post for ideas on furniture that can help with your decor.

6 Litter Box Ideas You Do Not Have To Hide

Photo by Pedro Candeias on Unsplash

How To Make Your Older Cat Feel Better About Using Her Litter Box

Use an enzyme cleaner or baking powder to get rid of all the scents from the litter box as you clean. Cats love their spaces clean and odor-free.

Alternatively, you could purchase a self-cleaning litter box. But it could take a while before kitty masters it. 

You can also relocate the litter box to a quiet area. Kitty wants to enjoy her solo time. 

Change the litter box if:

  • It has a box liner or lid
  • It has a litter bed deeper than two inches 
  • The litter box is tiny, and the cat has a hard time getting in

Final thoughts

If you have more than one cat, provide one for each. You may go out on a limb and get an extra litter box for the older one. Keep checking it since other cats may want to invade her territory. 

To conclude, show your older cat love and affection as she struggles with litter box issues.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Adopting An Older Cat

if you have noticed a change in your senior cat’s bathroom habits, it is important to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues. Switching to a senior cat litter box may also help encourage your cat to use their litter box and make them more comfortable while doing so. With the right litter box and litter, your senior cat can continue to enjoy a happy and healthy life.