The old Cat and his Box
August 24, 2012 9:46 AM   Subscribe

I need some suggestions on how to deal with problems with my geriatric cat and his litter box.

My 19-year old cat is generally in good health, but clearly not as spry as he used to be and he has arthritis in his back legs. Lately, we've been having problems with him using his litter box correctly. He has a covered litter box, the largest one I could find, and for various reasons that I won't go into here a covered litter box is not optional. The problem is that recently, while he still uses the box, he hasn't been turning around before he pees so sometimes it shoots out the opening onto the floor instead of inside the box. I don't know if this is because he is getting senile or if it because turning around inside the box is too difficult for him now. I've placed a boot mat in front of the box to catch any accidents. It does the trick in keeping the cat pee off the floor, but my wife has made it clear that this is not a long-term option, even though I rinse it out right away. Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm considering cutting a hole in the other side of the box so it is walk-through, but I'm not sure if that will just double my problems of solve them. Does anyone have any similar experiences or advice?
posted by fimbulvetr to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've read on here that some people use puppy pads for this. You just throw them right out as soon as they're soiled. I empathize on the need for a closed box. My cat throws litter ~everywhere~ if it's not a closed box. Amazing how far they can throw it, too.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 9:50 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Puppy training mats.

We recently had a geriatric cat go though this. She never was very careful where she went, but she missed the box a lot more as she got progressively more infirm. Eventually we bought the largest size of puppy house training absorbent mats and used those as cat pan mats. We replaced them daily (or more frequently, as required).

They're absorbent and water-proof, so there's no pools of liquid and nothing touches the floor. They're about fifty cents each if you buy the big box. They're not a perfect solution for sure, but they make the messes an old cat can make much more manageable.
posted by bonehead at 9:52 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will third the suggestion for puppy pads. We went through the same thing as you.
posted by adamrice at 10:00 AM on August 24, 2012

Yeah, nthing puppy pads. We had to do this for my former roommate's geriatric cat for the exact same reason. She'd stick her front half into the litter box, touch litter with her front paws and go, "Oh! I must be inside!" and pee straight onto the floor. Puppy pads saved my floors, seriously.
posted by bedhead at 10:03 AM on August 24, 2012

also, consider talking to your vet about pain meds and joint supplements like glucosamine. no reason kitty should spend his last days in pain from arthritis.
posted by virginia_clemm at 10:05 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Helper monkey for a geriatric cat here, and nthing puppy pads. My cat is too old to learn new tricks, and I can't bring myself to try to make her. So, puppy pads.
posted by rtha at 10:07 AM on August 24, 2012

In addition to the puppy pads, you might also consider making a custom litterbox out of a plastic storage bin. My big now-21yo boy has always been uncomfortable in a standard litterbox and now that he's ancient and creaky he really needs the extra turning room since he doesn't bend very well - plus the high sides mean that his inability to squat is a non-issue. I cut the entry hole extra wide and low so its easy for him to get in and out.

The really big plastic bins are cheaper than a regular litter box too. I make new ones at least annually.
posted by the_shrike at 11:03 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

posted by anaelith at 11:14 AM on August 24, 2012

We used those big plastic storage bins from Target as a litterbox. Cut a hole nearer to the corner on the long side of the box. That way, elder cat would naturally turn himself when he got in the box.

As a bonus, you can put the top lids of those bins to use by inverting them and putting them underneath the box as a spill cat-cher.
posted by quarterframer at 11:18 AM on August 24, 2012

Nthing the puppy pads. You can also get the ones for humans, which may be easier to find in bulk.
posted by luckynerd at 12:04 PM on August 24, 2012

I also wonder if using the flap/door most litter boxes come with will work. Maybe it'll be a reminder to him that's he's not all the way in. Unless you're worried he's not strong enough to push the flap open.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 1:55 PM on August 24, 2012

I can here to say I just asked this question, but someone already linked to my previous ask. The puppy pads work pretty well.
posted by cgg at 2:14 PM on August 24, 2012

Response by poster: I'll give the puppy pads a try. I think I will also try cutting a second hole in the box and make it walk-through . . . I'm hoping that that he'll just walk through to stick his head out the other side, and so pee in the box by default.
posted by fimbulvetr at 2:52 PM on August 24, 2012

Acupuncture worked wonders for my ancient Siamese. I would never have believed that She would allow it, but it gave a lot of relief to the last few years.
posted by cyndigo at 3:50 PM on August 24, 2012

In addition to the puppy pads, we also purchased a washing machine tray pan to go under the litter box and pads. This contains any leakage from the pads and protects our flooring.

Quarterframer, great idea on cutting the hole near the corner on the large storage bin. I'm going to try that out!
posted by platinum at 5:19 PM on August 24, 2012

I also use the washing machine pan for my 19 year-old cat. Does the job.
posted by bolognius maximus at 10:10 PM on August 24, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice everyone! Ends up that cutting a second hole in the old box did make things worse . . . there ware now two ends for him to miss out of, so that was a failed experiment. The solution I have settled on is a custom cat box that I made out of a largish plastic storage bin. I cut a hole in one end with a ramp on the inside that I made of plastic that the cat has to walk down to get into the box. That way, he isn't standing on litter until he is well inside the box and the ramp is at an angle so that he has to walk all the way in to do his business. So far, so good!
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:10 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

This ramp intrigues me! Could you post a pic?
posted by platinum at 2:08 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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