old cat by Laura Dumm of Most people, as they age, make provision for moving about their homes safely and in comfort.  We should consider the needs of our ageing feline companions in the same way.  Older cats often have arthritis and are very adept at hiding their inability to jump up onto chairs and sofas the way they did when they were younger.

I learned – too late – that Garfield was unable to lift his legs over the side of the litter tray to go to the toilet.  I often came downstairs in the mornings to find a poo neatly placed on the newspaper next to the litter tray.  I knew Garfield had done this, because the other six cats all went outside.  His intentions were honourable, but he couldn’t manage to get into the litter tray.  Had I known he had this problem, I could have bought a lower sided tray for him to use.  We learn by our mistakes.

I used to place the litter tray on a couple of sheets of old newspaper on the kitchen floor each evening solely for his use.  When the cats were younger, before they were neutered, I used to have the litter tray under the dining table where it was quiet, and they could pee and poo in peace. 

Billy and Joey both in litter trayI’ve written in other articles (see: Litter Tray Blues) that the positioning of a litter tray is of paramount importance – not to you, but for your cat(s).  And if you have more than one cat, you should always have one tray per cat plus one spare.  Although, again, learning from experience, when I had Billy, Timmy and Joey as rescue kittens, I only had one tray on the go at any one time.

Some people that have basements think it’s ok to put the litter tray(s) down there and the cat will run down the stairs, do their business and run back up again.  But if your elderly cat must keep going down the stairs – with his arthritic legs – he may find an excuse not to bother and this is when he may toilet in inappropriate places.  

This is when common sense should kick in.  If you were having trouble walking, would you want to walk down several flights of stairs to use the bathroom? I don’t think so; you’d find a solution to your problem, wouldn’t you?  This is the time that you bring the litter tray back upstairs, find a quiet spot where other pets or young children can’t disturb your cat, and show your cat where the tray is now.  And don’t keep moving it or you’ll confuse your cat.

Cleaning the tray out every time the cat uses it makes for a better experience for your cat.  Each time a poo is done, hoick it out immediately and flush it down your own toilet.  You can take soiled lumps (where he’s done a wee) and put them in a bag and put them in your own rubbish bins.  And then, once a week, thoroughly wash the litter tray, keeping back a little bit of the used litter, as his scent will be on it and he’ll recognise it when he goes to use it again, and you shouldn’t have any trouble.

If you’ve had a deeper sided litter tray, then replace it with a shallower one.  You may have to improvise and use a baking tray that you’re not intending to use again.  Use good quality litter that your cat is used to and make sure that he knows where the tray is. 

Never scold him for any accidents he might have.  He can’t help it.  It’s not his fault.  Just pick him up, and give him lots of cuddles.  It’s important that he feels he’s still loved and cherished, even though he’s a bit doddery on his legs and has the odd accident.    

With a bit of thoughtful planning, there is no reason why you and your cat shouldn’t enjoy his autumnal years in peace and tranquillity.


A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure