Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I’vve got an old cat who just sleeps all the time. Recently it started peeing and pooping everywhere on the first floor. It’s never done this before; it always used the litterbox on the second floor. What, if anything, can be done about this?
Siouxsie: Well, Cote, this is your lucky day: this is a pretty easy problem to solve.
Thomas: First, you should know that senior cats develop some special needs as they age. Like older humans, senior cats sleep more (as you’ve noticed). Their bodies go through changes, too; their vision and hearing starts to decline, many older cats develop arthritis, and some–such as your cat–have a hard time making it to the bathroom before they have to do their business.
Dahlia: This is particularly true for cats that sleep a lot. Sometimes they don’t wake up until they really have to go! Then they don’t have time to climb all those stairs to get to the litterbox on the second floor.
Siouxsie: The first thing you should try, therefore, is to put another litterbox downstairs near where your cat sleeps. That way, if she wakes up and she has to use the toilet right away, she has easy access to an appropriate place to do her business.
Thomas: Rest assured, your cat doesn’t want to pee and poop on the floor. Even old cats know their manners and have an instinct to do their toilet in a place where they can bury their waste.
Dahlia: Make sure that all your litterboxes have shallow sides so that your cat doesn’t have trouble getting in and out if her hips are bothering her. If the room where your kitty likes to sleep is carpeted, buy a plastic carpet runner cover and put that under the litterbox; that will contain most of the stray granules. Make sure to get a big enough runner cover to extend about two feet from each side your cat can use to get out of the box.
Siouxsie: Clean all the places where your cat has peed and pooped in the past with an enzymatic cleaner such as Anti-Icky-Poo or Nature’s Miracle, or a vinegar and water rinse. This will eliminate the urine and feces odors–even the ones you can’t smell–which will keep your cat from using those places as a toilet again. Nature’s Miracle is easier to find (many pet stores sell it), but readers have told us that Anti-Icky-Poo is more effective.
Thomas: You can find all those places by using a hand-held black light. You can purchase those from the websites above, or you can find them at pet stores. If you use the black light in a darkened room, the spots where your cat has peed or pooped will glow.
Dahlia: It’s possible that your kitty has become senile in her old age. If this is the case, she may have forgotten her toilet habits. If this is the case, it’s very important that you put the litterbox near where she hangs out and make sure she knows where it is. Put some of her litter from the old box in the new box so she recognizes “her” smell there.
Siouxsie: We’d definitely recommend that you take your cat to the vet for a checkup. Changes in toileting habits can be a sign of illness. Older cats are more susceptible to diseases such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or chronic renal (kidney) failure. If your cat’s inappropriate elimination is a behavior problem, your vet may be able to give you some other tips on how you can help her pee and poop where she should.
Thomas: Be patient with your elderly cat and treat her with love and compassion. Make sure you take the time to accommodate her changing needs and keep giving her lots of kindness and companionship. Old age can be a scary time for cats because they don’t necessarily understand what’s happening to them.
Dahlia: Good luck, Cote. Please let us know how things turn out!