Older cat not using the litter box

What do you do when your elderly cats stop using the litter box?

I’ve thought about putting her outside but not sure she would be happy with that. I’ve thought about buying a big cage to put her in, and I have also considered euthanasia.

My cat is 16 next month. I took her to the vet but they didn’t find anything wrong and her bloodwork was normal. She has lost some weight, has had sporadic vomiting, and her appetite is inconsistent. I think she may have cancer started, but I started her on prednisolone and she has gained some weight back. She seems to be eating okay this week.

She does not use the box consistently and will go on the floor right in front of the box. I tried different litter but it hasn’t helped. Also switched to a lower box so she could enter it easier and that didn’t help either.

double check her paws to make sure she is not having issues with ingrown nails or nail bed issues. Some elderly cats dont do a good job of breaking down their nails and they will grow thick and sometimes even curl into the pads.

is she urinating and defecating or only defecating outside. If so she might be having issues with kingons and a little fanny trim might help

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What all did the vet do? Bloodwork, urine?

If the big veterinary issues–kidney disease, cystitis, arthritis–have been ruled out (how has that been determined?) then work on the behavioral elements. Feliway might help. A antidepressant might help. Given her age, discuss dementia with your vet. And even if the urine cultured clean, a round of antibiotics can still be worth a try. Swap out the box, try different types of litter, scoop more often, offer multiple boxes.

Please don’t dump a 16 year old cat outside :frowning: Euthanasia is a much kinder end.


Get a washing machine tray and put litter box in it - scatter litter all over the washing machine tray - easy in & easy out

Washing machine tray is a plastic, low lipped tray that goes under a washing machine to prevent any leakage on the floor. Purchase at Lowe’s Home Depot or Wal-fart…. Not expensive…

Put the tray where litter box was / litter box ( with same litter including pee spots ) in the tray back by one corner - use some of the litter box litter to scatter in tray - This will be a huge, appropriate place ( easy in & out) for the cat to pee and poop with not as tight boundaries.
If there is an accident outside near this tray - put a pee pad down over it - when cat pees on pad then put used pee pad in the tray. This tells the cat where to go !

Use some old (out of the original litter box) litter in the tray - it’s the old pee scent that tells the cat where to go …. Don’t clean the new big litter tray until the cat uses it a few times and then leave one pee spot in there as a traffic arrow directing where you want her to pee.


If she is consistently going in the same place(s), you can put down pee pads. They are mostly used for dogs and puppy housebreaking but they worked for me when my older cat started peeing in the bathroom.


Facing the same issue with my older cat --did all the appropriate vet work --he’s good --then put him on glucosamine for cats as the vet thought he might have arthritis that made elimination painful. A cat specialist instituted Fel-i-way plug in as she thought he might be reacting to a feral cat prowling outside. Started both at the same time. So far, good (but not perfect) results. Kitty is getting to the litter box now, but sometimes has a slight miss beside it. I’ve put pee pads under and around it.

And I’ve spoken with the kitty. (yeah, I know, lame). We chatted and I pointed out that when I acquired him, I asked for the oldest cat at the Humane Society --and I promised him a good life in his remaining years. But, he would have to use the box since he is an indoor cat. This was a mutual decision. Should he become unable to use the box, I will arrange for his passing. I will never “turn him out,” but neither will I live in a house that smells of cat pee. Herb is nearly 20 now and has had 5 years of cat-bliss with me. I hope there are 5 more.


She might be losing her sense of smell. If she can’t find the litter box and is hit-or-miss with food, you could try stinkier stuff. Think fragranced litter and smelly wet food (or topper). That might help her find her way.


I have a kitty that, after a bout with severe constipation, quit pooping in the litter box. She does go directly in front of the box so I keep a pee pad there - she always goes on the pee pad - problem solved.

One of my seniors behaved like this. I gave him a lower tray, set on puppy pads, which he peed on occasionally. The possible issue was either his arthritis, or perhaps the litter sticking to his privates. I switched to a senior litter made by Dr. Elsey and he returned to using the box.

R.I.P. Norman

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A bigger litter box in addition to being lower sided? Could be her aim is off if she is having issues getting comfortable while trying to go?

I’m reasonably certain she has multiple issues. I know she has arthritis which is why I switched to a lower box. She has trouble climbing anything. It’s not her claws. I try not to let them get bad.

I’m going to try a tray in front of the litter box. See if that helps. Maybe the small step up into the box is just too much for her right now.

If she has accidents elsewhere, I may buy a large indoor cage for her. I was thinking of fostering kittens when she’s gone and I can reuse the cage for that. She sleeps almost all day and climbs on our lap during tv hour. So I can still let her out without letting her destroy the house.

I got a boot tray and put towels in it for one of my old cats (and yes, washed them or replaced them from the 2nd hand store constantly). Have also used the puppy pads. Check the paws, the thing about the claws is real and reminded me to check one of my old cats. It sounds like your kitty is trying to be in the right spot; something easy to meet her where she’s at might work well. I hung in there with two elderly cats now and at the time it was frustrating but that time was short and I still miss them. No regrets on all the cat pee towels. I also considered a large indoor cage when one of them insisted on going behind the toilet… ugh! I managed to avoid that scenario but I totally get it.

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