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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My cat is 18 years old and on medication for blood pressure and kidney trouble and her back legs seem stiff when coming down stairs. The problem I have is with her peeing and pooing. She has access to the garden and has always gone outside through the cat flap to do her business. She can still use the cat flap and still goes out occasionally. Recently though, she has taken to pooing and peeing on a rug in my living room. This has been going on for almost a year now. In desperation I have given her a litter tray which she does always use as long as it in the same place on the rug, in the living room in front of the TV! I tried moving it a little at a time to a more convenient (for me) place. For a while this worked; we got the tray into an area by the back door. But then she stopped using the litter tray and went right back to the (expensive) woolen rug. Sometimes she goes outside for a while then comes back into the house and poos on the rug. I have tried spraying the rug both sides and the wooden floor beneath with various sprays from a pet shop “guaranteed” to remove odours. I have had the rug steamed cleaned by two different companies, all to no avail. I am now back to sitting in my living room  watching TV in the evening with a litter tray on the rug right under my nose! I am so fed up! What can I do? Please help!

~ Kay

Siouxsie: Well,  Kay — first of all, thank you for being willing to try so hard to help your elderkitty. We give you lots of credit for that. But we do have some other ideas that might help.

Thomas: First, considering that you’re already taking such good care of her by giving her medications to treat her illnesses, we’re sure she’s getting regular veterinary care. But for the benefit of our other readers, we recommend that any time a cat (of any age) starts peeing and pooping outside the box, the first step you should take is a visit to the vet to make sure there’s nothing physically wrong with your kitty.

Bella: Back to you and your cat, Kay: We think there are a couple of things that are causing your cat’s inappropriate elimination problems.

Siouxsie: First of all, you said that your kitty is acting like her back legs are stiff when she goes down stairs. It’s not unusual for elderkitties to develop painful arthritis in the hips and knees, and this can make climbing in and out of the litterbox, or holding the appropriate positions to pee and poo, quite painful.

Thomas: With that in mind, we’d recommend that if you’re not doing so already, you give her glucosamine and chondroitin treats and/or MSM supplements. They won’t reverse her arthritis, but they may prevent further damage. Of course, do consult with your vet first to make sure that these supplements won’t interact harmfully with the medications she’s already on.

Bella: A heated bed is also wonderful for an old cat with stiff joints.

Siouxsie: I’m 17 and I get pretty sore sometimes, too. I love my heated bed and it really helps me feel less creaky on those cold winter days. … and who are you calling old, young lady?

Bella: Well, you are old! I hope I get to be 17 someday, too, so maybe I’ll be as wise as you.

Siouxsie: Well, okay then. *purrrrrr*

Thomas: We’d also recommend you get a low-sided litter tray — maybe one with a low-cut entrance. or even a cookie sheet with a small lip. Fill it with cat litter designed to attract cats. We’ve never used Cat Attract litter before, but we have heard good things about it.

Bella: Leave her current litterbox where it is and put the other litter tray in a location that’s more convenient.

Siouxsie: Keep in mind that older cats do start to lose their vision as they age, so if you put the new litter tray in a place with the same light level as her current one, she might be more likely to use it.

Thomas: Also remember that older cats can get forgetul. because of that, they may return to their litterbox location of choice because that’s the place they remember. The lingering scent of your cat’s waste can draw her to that location as well.

Bella: Not all cleansers “guaranteed” to remove odor actually do the job. In fact, some cleaning techniques like steam cleaning can actually set the odors in even more deeply.

Siouxsie: But don’t despair; there are products that really will get rid of odors. We personally recommend Anti-Icky-Poo, and some of our other cat blogging colleagues (and celebrity animal behaviorist Jackson Galaxy) swear by a product called Fizzion.

Thomas: You may need to have several litter trays around your home, too. Keep them in rooms where your cat likes to hang out so that she can get to a box quickly when she needs to do her business.

Bella: One more thing: because pee and poop are territorial marking tools, your cat may be responding to the presence of other cats in your yard. As an old cat, she may not feel as confident about doing her business outdoors, especially if she smells that other cats have marked her territory as theirs.

Siouxsie: If her favorite peeing and pooping spot is near the door, she may be trying to defend her territory. Consider providing her with an enclosed outdoor area where she never needs to fear invasion by other cats and installing cat deterrents like ultrasonic noisemakers to keep other neighborhood kitties away.

Thomas: And finally, be gentle with her. She is an old lady and we’re sure she’s doing the best she can. We think if you try one or more of these ideas, you may be able to get her peeing and pooping in the right place again — and you might even be able to watch TV without a litterbox under your nose.

Bella: Good luck, Kay. Please let us know how things turn out!

Siouxsie: If you other readers have experience with the products we mentioned, or if you have other ideas for helping Kay to