Litter Box Training the Elderly Cat
January 24, 2017 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Charles the shaggy and elderly (12 Yrs++) cat cannot go outside any more. The tick population in our central New England location is growing. Charles brings them into the house. He will not wear tick collars and other tick fighting methods do not work.

We have both white-footed mice and deer on our land. I can remove only ticks that can be seen.
Charles needs to learn how a litter box works. Cat litter baffles him. A tray of fresh soil and duff from our back yard pine grove does not interest.
Charles needs to come inside permanently. No more dancing in the moonlight for him and his cat buddies anymore.
Can you help both of us through this?
posted by Raybun to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you find some of his feces and put it in the litterbox? Cat Attract litter is also widely recommended, although I myself haven't tried it. (See here about litterbox training a kitten who doesn't get it.)
posted by mchorn at 7:33 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

My old cat really liked the Breeze litterbox because there wasn't a lot of soil, and it had some kind of attractant on it. It also meant she didn't have to squat as much, which was harder as she got older. I've also used the cat attract litter and the litter additive to great success.
posted by answergrape at 7:38 AM on January 24, 2017

Can we see Charles? :)

Step one, stop letting him out. Nature will call and he'll have to find somewhere. That "somewhere" is step two: get a couple of boxes and a couple kinds of litter (Cat Attract I've heard works miracles, classic clay, pine, Breeze pellets, whatever you can swing) and put them in different locations. Then he can pick what he prefers. Yes to putting some of his waste in the box. Yes to showing him his boxes. No to putting him in the box, as that will trigger his kitty instinct to do the opposite of what you want. Yes to giving him praise and a treat whenever he approaches a box.

Also get some enzymatic cleaner in case he "thinks outside the box" and you have to clean it up, so that he won't smell it later and decide it's his new spot.
posted by kapers at 7:54 AM on January 24, 2017

If you're not able to get Charles pottying inside, you could get him groomed. My kitty gets a buzz cut once a month and it would be all but impossible for a tick to hide out on her. My groomer comes to my house so I don't have to cram her into a cat carrier and wrangle her in the car.
posted by kate blank at 8:04 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: Not a cat owner.

However I do have 2 dogs who are often taken for runs in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, which is deer tick territory. We treat them with Frontline or Advantix* once a month and when we do find ticks on them, the ticks are dead (and not attached). They also get a supplemental Lyme vaccination each year, you know, for belt + suspender. Granted, it's not inexpensive to do these things, but if Charles has only known outside for his 12+ years, maybe this is a solution?

*Frontline/Advantix is a topical oil, that is applied monthly between the shoulder blades of the animal. I know not from kitty-wrangling, but it may be worth a try.
posted by sarajane at 8:17 AM on January 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Updating to add: Advantix is for canines only, but Advantage is safe for felines.
posted by sarajane at 8:23 AM on January 24, 2017

A proximity approach is probably a good idea:

Start off with Charles, some food dishes, and a litter box in a tiny tiny room, probably a bathroom. Use the Cat Attract litter if you can. Keep them together for a couple of uses with lots of visits and company from you and a softly-playing radio.

Play with him a lot, before his bathroom sabbatical and during. Pet him a lot, so he doesn't feel punished.

If he's a lap kitty, or he otherwise likes hanging out with you in a way that keeps him in physical contact with you, you could, for example, hold him while watching TV or reading -- but don't let him out of your sight, and don't let him sit near you while you watch TV - he could wander off to a corner so silently and quickly you won't know until it's too late. Stay in physical contact with him so you'll know the instant he starts to move.

If you want to have the tiny room be a bedroom, there are a couple of things you could do to make that work better. First, block off access to hidden corners and areas under the bed and dressers. Second, cover porous/fabric/carpet areas with something like a plastic tarp; cats peeing on beds is a thing -- they dig through the blankets and sheets, then use them to bury the evidence. You don't want that, because once Charles discovers how well that works it could be difficult to dissuade him.

Clean the box religiously every single time it gets used. Maybe sprinkle some fresh litter and/or leaves on top.

After he uses the litter box a couple of times, let him out on excursions that are fully supervised. Then you can gradually extend the territory he roams at will until he's back covering the whole house.

Good luck! I'm picturing a gray fluffy cat with a funny face in my mind. He's a sweetie.
posted by amtho at 9:50 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, also: you could try sprinkling a thin layer of dry stuff-from-the-ground on top of the litter, with some dry leaves on top, just to invite him.

Also: beware of putting the litter box in the bathtub. Some cats end up using the bathtub as a litter box, I have no idea why.
posted by amtho at 10:50 AM on January 24, 2017

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