Senior Cat Stopped Using Litterbox. Help, Please!
August 13, 2020 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Eddie, our elder cat, is in rapidly declining health. According to the vet (who we're getting to know very well), he's mostly deaf, mostly blind, and can't really smell, but he's not in pain. Unfortunately, he's also decided that being unable to really tell where he is, is a great excuse to do his business wherever he happens to be. This is a big stressor for my wife and I. Help.

At first, it was just cat poop, and while that's unpleasant, about half our floors are hard so that's just paper towel + bleach solution + time, and the other half is carpet, and we've got a spot cleaner for that.

Last night, though, he peed on our bed. We immediately used the spot cleaner wand to vacuum most of it up, but a cat-pee-smelling-mattress is not my idea of a good night. Overnight, he peed on the living room floor, so I spent my morning bleaching and rinsing that.

The most recent vet suggestion was a low-walled litterbox, so I made an 18"x24"x2" tall litterbox out of a shipping box + a litterbox liner, and set that up last night. He pooped.. half in it, but peed all over the floor anyway.

I love this cat. He's super sweet when he's not peeing all over our stuff. I know he's probably not long for this world but I want to make him as comfortable as I can, but also not lose my mind or my security deposit. Help, please?

Cat tax.
posted by Alterscape to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is a cat diaper an option?
posted by greta simone at 7:56 AM on August 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

Our 21-year-old cat stopped using the litterbox a couple years ago, with the same effect on our floors. We eventually figured out to put puppy training pads all around, plus confine her to the uncarpeted half of the house. She still misses the pads about 30% of the time, but overall, it's a lot easier to clean up.
posted by spacewrench at 8:04 AM on August 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's so tough when they reach that stage... We tried to limit the range of our elderly cat when she became blind and all, but it was difficult since she still wanted attention. If you've got a room that you can dedicate, that might be an option or get a corral set up, assuming he isn't jumping much. You could see if there is a waterproof pad you can use on your bed if he insists on staying close at night that would make it easier to clean and protect the mattress.

The puppy training pads are definitely helpful, you can put them down under towels if he doesn't like the texture.
posted by rambling wanderlust at 8:25 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Price puppypads against the human versions
I find that in general it sells cheaper for the human versions.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:38 AM on August 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I had this problem. Nthing the puppy training pads. I basically covered my downstairs with them.
posted by FencingGal at 8:39 AM on August 13, 2020

When my so-very-much-beloved Kilo hit this stage, it was the puppy pads and generally keeping her in easy-to-clean areas that made all the difference. It helped she at least tried to pee near the box (in fact she'd try for anything that even resembled a box, regardless of what was in it...). With that in mind - extra litter boxes in all Eddie's frequent hang out spots could also help. It's not forever (RIP Kilo) and if they dont need to go far they're more likely to be successful.
posted by cgg at 8:41 AM on August 13, 2020

So sorry you're going through this. We have too, at various stages with cats either very old or very sick. Puppy wee-wee pads are, in fact, an answer, along with confining the cat to areas of the house where you can move furniture, add litter boxes, put down lots of pads, etc.

But another answer is that this may be the time to euthanize your pet, because you don't want the end of their life to be both something you must endure rather than enjoy as their beloved companion, and because they won't get much joy out of spending their final days/weeks/months excluded from the areas they like best -- like your bed. We saw this play out with a beloved cat who was very sick (though not old). Though we ceded half of our house to her, it meant she couldn't be where she wanted to be most: with us. :(
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:23 AM on August 13, 2020 [16 favorites]

Your kitty is beautiful :)

My senior girl has recently had issues with peeing outside her box, due to a stubborn UTI we've been working with the vet to get cleared up. She has had many accidents of the "peeing wherever she happens to be" variety lately, including once on our bed. Here are some recommendations:

Get some waterproof rubber baby pads and lay them down on any favorite furniture spots, covered with a towel. The towel absorbs the liquid and the pad keeps it from soaking through to the furniture. We've got them on both ends of the sofa back, on the back of the recliner, favorite sofa cushion, favorite chair.

Get a washable waterproof mattress cover. Get two, in fact, so if you have to take it off to wash it due to an accident, you can remake the bed right away. Obviously, it would be good to keep the cat out of the bedroom as much as possible, but if the bed is a special place for him that can be hard. If he has a favorite spot on the bed, put down a rubber pad and towel where he likes to lay.

My girl has taken to sleeping in the sunny windowsill of my office all day. Twice now, she has stood up after a long day of sleeping in the sun and let loose a stream of piss like a racehorse all over the windowsill (and all I could do is sit there and watch it happen, because it's not like I can pick her up and carry her to the litter box when she's spewing a geyser of pee with the force of a fire hose!) I got wise to the fact that 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep are a bit more than her bladder can handle, so I've taken to waking her up in the early afternoon and dropping her off in the vicinity of the litter box so she can go pee before she settles back down for the rest of her nap. (If I put her IN the box she would hop right back out, because she refuses to ever stay in a place she thinks I want her to be; but if I casually drop her off within sauntering distance of the box, she'll go because she thinks she thought of it herself.)

I have thought about what to do if she were to start foregoing the litter box entirely as she gets older. We have a very large, collapsible pet crate that has mesh sides and some sort of waterproof vinyl canvas on the bottom. It is big enough for a small litter box, food and water, with plenty of room left over to stretch out. I'd line it with puppy pads for easier cleaning of accidents. If it gets to the point where she is just peeing wherever at night, I think we'll probably have her stay in there whenever we can't watch her (and of course have her out to get exercise and hang out with us whenever possible.)

Nature's Miracle is good for accident cleanup. It takes away the stink that sometimes attracts the animal to do its business in the same spot over and over.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:28 AM on August 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

My 20 year old cat started losing control of his bladder only (he'd still poop in the litter box, but sometimes while sleeping he'd pee. So I used cat diapers on him (rather, very small dog diapers) as well as spreading puppy pee pads wherever his preferred sleeping places were. It cut down a LOT on pee everywhere, but dang that sweet old man he could sometimes slip out of the diaper.

He passed just a few months later, and I miss him.
posted by annieb at 10:45 AM on August 13, 2020

Bleachable bed linens and a heavy-duty, waterproof mattress protector were the best solution I could find. Changing the sheets every single day is annoying. But, it's better than most alternatives. (Urine in hardwood floors is a problem we never entirely solved. Buckets of Simple Green was our approach. A couple of years after the death of our cat, there don't seem to be any lasting consequences.) Best wishes to you both.
posted by eotvos at 10:57 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Lovely cat. I notice he's not grooming a lot, and now, severe incontinence, so it's time to maximize comfort. Pick a room with easy-clean floors and remove any upholstered furniture or pee-proof. Somebody always has an old chair cushion or 2 you can have, rig something so Eddie can still have a view. Blankets, towels, cat bed, whatever Eddie will curl up on. Low-wall cat box on newspaper or pads. Spend plenty of time loving Eddie up in Eddie's room. I think Eddie's probably not moving much, and will not be unhappy in a room that has sunshine and an accessible window. Easing a pet's elder days is a loving thing; I'm happy you and Eddie have each other.
posted by theora55 at 11:15 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my 20-year-old babe is having assorted excretory issues these days as well.

Mostly she's peeing in one spot on the bathroom floor (thankfully) and has a preference for fabric surfaces (bathmat, towel, the dirty laundry I left on the floor). She did, however, also do a massive wee right next to my head while I was sleeping one night. sigh.

My current solution is a waterproof mattress cover, with another plain mattress cover, then the fitted sheet, then a towel on her side of the bed. This means I can easily clean up pee dribbles, poops, barfs that reach one or two layers, and only wash the waterproof cover when it's necessary (frequent washing wears them out quickly).

In her preferred pee spot, I put down the lid of one of those big plastic storage containers to expedite cleaning. I put away my floofy bath mat and picked up a stack of $1 tatty thrift store terry cloth ones that have been dubbed "the piss towels". One of those goes on the lid every day, then into the wash when it's soiled (dunked and rinsed in the toilet bowl first, if necessary). Lid goes into the shower for a soap wash, followed by Spray Nine to disinfect, and then enzyme cleaner on everything.

Enzyme cleaners are PURE MAGIC, and I highly recommend them. I use Earth Rated because it's unscented (curse you, Nature's stinky Miracle), and I don't enjoy a piss-perfume cocktail. I can't think that bleach is going to do much for you in these situations.

Love and snugs to sweet Eddie ❤️
posted by bethnull at 11:17 AM on August 13, 2020

When my cat got like this I caged her in one of those multilevel cages with the litterbox at the bottom and puppy pads on the rest of the floor and around the cage. She didn't seem to mind -- the only time she fussed to get out was when I sat down at my desk. That meant lap time to her, and since she never made a mistake in my lap I would take her out and we'd have a nice cuddly hour or two. She pretty much slept the rest of the time.
posted by JanetLand at 12:03 PM on August 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

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