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It can be frustrating when a blind cat misses the litter box, but we've got some ideas about how to help!

Photo © JaneA Kelley

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Our cat is about 17 now and blind. He still jumps up on pool table where food and water is (a very well-covered pool table). He never sleeps in the same place anymore and eight out of 10  times kind of misses the cat box. The box is a good size with low sides and on a huge crate tray for easy cleanup. We keep it very clean. Many times he will only stick a leg in the box. Do you think it might be better to maybe get a medium dog crate for at night ONLY and put him in there with a small litter box and blanket to sleep on? Maybe he will feel more secure. I’m trying to make his older years more comfy. Thanks for any help you can give us.

~Kathy

Thomas: First of all, thank you so much for everything you’re doing to help your cat’s golden years be as comfortable as possible. We think we’ve got some ideas that can help you help your kitty.

Bella: First of all, a lot of older cats who miss the litter box do so because of pain. Siouxsie used to poop outside the box because she had arthritis in her hips. That made the “poop squat” hard for her, so she propped her back legs on the edge of the box when she pooped.

Tara: So the first thing we’d recommend is that you have your vet check your cat for arthritis. If he does have arthritis, your vet can give you some medicine to help with the pain.

Thomas: While you’re doing that, try making the litter surface completely flat. A cookie sheet with very low sides could help.

Bella: A blind cat does have some special needs when it comes to his surroundings, and it sounds like you’ve met a lot of them. He knows where his litter box and his food are, and he knows how to get everywhere he needs to go. That’s all very important.

Tara: We’re a little concerned that a dog crate might be hard for your cat to get used to, even though it’s pretty small. Does he only “go” outside the box at night, or do you want him there at night because you’re not available to clean up right away? That’s not a bad thing or a judgment of you, by the way!

Thomas: If he goes in other parts of your house, try some of these tips on cleanup. You can also read a great new book on litter box problems called Cat Scene Investigator. This could help you by giving you lots of other ideas about how to help!

Bella: Now, back to the crate idea. We’re worried that it might actually make your blind cat feel less secure if he’s stuck in a crate.

Tara: You see, he knows where his safe places are. If he can’t get to those, it might be harder for him. I know I need my safe places, like under the couch or on Mama’s chest. If I didn’t have those, I’d probably still be peeing outside the litter box, too.

Thomas: If you do want to confine your blind cat at night, we’d recommend putting him in one room rather than a dog crate. You see, he’ll know his way around the room, and that’s really important for cats who can’t see. It will also allow him access to those crucial safe spaces.

Bella: You can try the bathroom. Usually, bathrooms have tile or linoleum flooring, so if he’s peeing, that would make it easier to clean up. Of course, you’ll want to have a litter box in the bathroom.

Tara: But–and this is really important!–don’t move his regular litter box into the bathroom. Get another one or use a low-sided cookie sheet, as we recommended earlier.

Thomas: You’ll naturally want to make sure your blind cat has a comfortable bed in there, as well as a bowl of water. If you leave food out for him, put a little bit in a bowl in the bathroom, too.

Bella: He’ll be able to smell the food, so he’ll find it without any problems.

Tara: Of course, if you don’t usually leave food out at night, don’t start now. You don’t want your kitty to get fat, because that’ll make it even harder for him to use the litter box properly.

Thomas: Once your cat is using the litter box properly when he’s in the small room, you can start letting him out overnight. Hopefully he’ll continue using the litter box or the cookie sheet with litter in it.

Bella: If he doesn’t, then you may have to do your best to accommodate him. Put puppy training pads where he pees and poops. If you wish, put one just outside the litter box to make cleanup even easier.

Tara: So, first things first: Go to the vet and make sure you’re not dealing with a medical issue. Then try some of the tips we’ve given you here.

Thomas: What about you other readers? Do you have a blind cat? Has he or she had problems using the litter box? What did you do to help get him or her back into good litter habits? Please share your tips in the comments!

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