litter box training senior cat
Behavioral Problems

How To Litter Train An Older Cat

Toilet training is something that many cat owners take for granted. Even rescue cats seem to instinctively know how to use a litter tray, having copied their mothers. Some felines may not have experienced this essential socialization, though. So, older cats may need to be toilet trained from scratch or they will defecate outside of their litter trays.

Don’t use a covered litter box as this may intimidate a cat that’s unfamiliar with the process. Use an unscented litter, similar to the outdoor surfaces the cat is familiar with. Leave the litter tray somewhere the cat can enjoy some privacy, such as behind a plant.

An old cat can learn how to use its litter tray properly following training. There may be some hiccups along the way, such as sleeping in the litter tray. Eventually, your cat will begin to understand what is expected of it.

Why Won’t My Old Cat Use The Litter Box?

Some cats are stray or feral. This means they never received the socialization required to become a pet. Sometimes, a kitten is born in a family home but was rejected by its mother.

This means that it was never taught the basic functions. Some cats are also bullied by other pets. This could have left them afraid to use a litter box because of the scent. Another animal may even have ‘stood guard’ over the tray, refusing to let your cat in.

Training an Old Cat To Use a Litter Tray

Cats are intelligent animals. This means that even the most curmudgeonly senior cat can be taught to defecate in a litter tray. You need to make the experience appealing for the feline.

  • Do not use a closed litter box. A closed box with a cat flap will hide the sight and scent of cat waste. Cats feel vulnerable while eliminating, though. If they are inside a solid box without an easy escape route, they may become stressed.
  • Do not use scented litter. If you have a male cat that is not neutered, his urine will smell quite strong. Resist the temptation to mask this with scented litter. Cats are led by their noses. If they find the smell of their litter tray intimidating, they will stay away.
  • Have multiple litter trays. You may think that it will be beneficial if your cat has just one litter tray. However, they will learn faster if they have more spots to eliminate.
  • Make the trays identical in size and shape. They should have low edges, so an older cat can easily get in and out. You can experiment with different brands of litter, though.

With these basic steps in place, you will be ready to start toilet training. Once you have the relevant equipment, all you’ll need is patience. It’s a different kind of problem compared to when your cat has suddenly stopped covering up its leavings.

How to Litter Train an Older Cat

Litter training a senior cat is similar to coaching a kitten. The only difference is that it will take longer. Young cats have sponge-like brains that take in plenty of information. They also imitate other cats. An older cat will have learned different habits, and thus may appear more stubborn.

Think carefully about where to place your litter tray. As cats grow older, they have less control over their bladders. This means they will appreciate litter trays in several locations.

If you live in a multi-story home, it’s critical that you have at least one tray on each floor. Place the trays somewhere that your cat can find, but not too exposed. Make sure that you keep the tray a reasonable distance from your cat’s bed and food.

If the cat looks set to eliminate, calmly scoop it up and pop the cat in its tray. Once it has finished, make a big fuss. Tell your cat how good it is, and give it a treat. It’ll soon start to see using the litter tray as a source of pleasure.

can an old cat learn to use a litter box?

How to Litter Train a Cat in a New Home

Moving house can be unsettling for your feline, especially if it is older. It will know the old territory like the back of its paw, and suddenly it’s in a new place. You will have to bear with your cat during this time.

Use a familiar litter tray if you can, and the same litter as in the old home. Keep the trays in locations that your cat will easily locate them.

If it looks like having an accident, quickly and calmly place the cat in its tray. Your cat will soon learn the lay of the land.

My Older Cat Has Stopped Pooping and Peeing in Its Litter Tray

There are many reasons why an older cat may stop using its litter tray. These could be medical or psychological. Some of the concerns that may cause incontinence in a senior cat could include:

  • Stress. The most common cause for cats to stop using their litter tray is stress and anxiety. If something has changed in your home, your cat may be struggling to adapt.
  • Diarrhea. If your cat has an upset stomach, it may have intended to use the litter tray, but didn’t make it in time.
  • Urinary Infections or bladder stones. A cat with a UTI may make regular, fruitless trips to the litter tray. As this will be painful, it may believe it’s the litter that causes the problem. If your cat cries while eliminating, it may have a UTI and require antibiotics.
  • Senility. As cats grow older, they can start to develop feline dementia (cognitive dysfunction.) Loss of bladder and bowel control is one of the first symptoms.
how to litter train a senior cat in a new home

However, there may be another reason why an older cat is not using its litter tray. Ensure that none of the following are a problem:

  • Mobility. An older cat with stiff and wobbly legs may struggle to get in and out of a tray.
  • Not enough privacy. Cats want to go to the toilet in peace. If a litter tray is too close to humans or their food bowl, cats feel uncomfortable.
  • Negative associations, Has your cat recently recovered from a health problem? It may think that using the litter tray made it sick.
  • Change in routine. Have you moved your cat’s litter tray, or changed the litter within? Senior felines are easily perturbed by the change.
  • Too much litter. Cats like a shallow bed of litter. If you apply too much, it may avoid its tray. 2-3 inches is a good rule of thumb.
  • Soiled litter. Are you changing the litter in the tray enough? If your cat’s litter is soiled, it may not want to get too close. Ensure the tray is being cleared at least once a day.
  • Territorial issues with another cat. If another cat dominates your older pet, it may see the litter box as their territory.

There is also a chance that your cat has a preference for eliminating elsewhere. You may be able to rectify this by changing their litter.