20 answers

10 Year Old Cat Suddenly Stopped Using the Litter Box

We got this 5 month old cat 10 years ago and she has never had an accident until now. At the beginning of the summer we went out of town for a week and came back to poop and pee all over the house. I thought she was stressed about us gone, but it's been months and she still does it. We had her checked by a vet and after $80 in tests, he says she doesn't have a urinary tract infection and there's nothing wrong with her medically. I asked the vet if she could be going senile because of her age and the vet said that isn't likely because she is only 10 and could live another 6-7 years. We didn't change her litter brand, the box location, the cleaning method, her food, etc. She will walk right past the litter box and pee somewhere else - even the doorway of the room the box is in. I have tried cleaning the area she peed and closing it off to her, but she just picks several new ones. I know that there are sprays out there, but we have a big house and I can't cover the entire house with spray. She can't move outdoors because she has been declawed. If I lock her in a room she howls all night and keeps us awake. We have four children who know we signed a contract with the animal shelter to keep her to the end of her life and so I can't give her away on principle. My oldest daughter has already asked if we will have her put down if she doesn't stop. I am absolutely resenting having this cat. Any recommendations?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks, Jenna, for the suggestion. I am going to try and retrain her. The irony is I just finished potty training our youngest child in May, had the carpets cleaned, and was congratulating myself on never having to deal with others' poop and pee again. Boy, was I wrong! I think this cat has had more accidents this summer than all four of my children put together.

Featured Answers

Just thought I'd add that I had some bad litter box problems with my cats, and I called the ARL to talk to a cat behaviorlist. She gave me some really good ideas. She also said that vets are often not trained to deal with behavior issues and that almost all litter box issues can be resolved with some work by the caretaker.

I was at wits end, and now we have very few accidents (after months of pee/poop outside the boxes).

Feel free to message me if you want more info., but it's definately worth a call to the ARL:)

I had a similar problem a couple of times. The first I retrained my cat to use the box and that means putting the cat in the litter box every 45 min for almost two weeks. I had help from everyone in the house so it was probably more often at times. The second time different cat. She had areas that she repeatably hit and so a temp litter box went in each area. She got a treat when she did right and slowly removed each litter box and showed her each time where the permanent one was. She was good for awhile then it started all over.Next I cut her off from most of the house. She was limited to people contact because of this and after a couple of weeks it seemed to work. I did eventually have to put her down for the same reason by she was 18 yrs by then.

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Something happened when you were gone, that's for sure. Not having that litter changed the entire time did a number on your kitty. I don't have any idea, other than don't use vinegar to clean the spots, it smells just like cat pee to them (and me). Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Just a thought here, do you clean the litter box with a cleaner? Maybe the cat doesn't like the smell of the cleaner, if used it and then went to go lick it's paws, she probably wouldn't like it and that would keep her from using it again.

I wish I could give you advice but I have had the same problem with my cat. I will keep reading the responses to your post. good luck

Sadly I have no suggestions for you but I wanted to let you know that my vet said once a cat starts peeing everywhere he or she will not stop so you either have to put up with it or put the cat down. He also said that the lifespan of cats is 12 to 15 years so it may just be that your cat is reaching old age and her brain just isn't the same. We have a male cat who pees in random places supposedly due to having "possible reoccurring urinary tract infections" (read: the vet had no idea why he pees) and there is nothing to be done to prevent it. Good luck! I hope you find a solution.

I strongly agree with Joanna, and I have done this with success in the past. She probably hated the dirty litter box and assumed a new habit during your absence. We did the small room, litter box, closed door procedure, too. We added another litter box in the old place, and moved the first one slightly farther away from the bathroom one - a little bit each day. It ended up being in the old spot when we were done and she was again potty trained. Good luck! We recently had our 20-yr-old cat put to sleep. By then she really WAS incontinent!

Our cat does the same thing. He is a big cat and I wonder if he doesn't fit in the litter box. It is very fustrating. We were able to put him outside most of the time. This at least cuts down on the mess. I will be interested in others suggestions.

I had a similar problem a couple of times. The first I retrained my cat to use the box and that means putting the cat in the litter box every 45 min for almost two weeks. I had help from everyone in the house so it was probably more often at times. The second time different cat. She had areas that she repeatably hit and so a temp litter box went in each area. She got a treat when she did right and slowly removed each litter box and showed her each time where the permanent one was. She was good for awhile then it started all over.Next I cut her off from most of the house. She was limited to people contact because of this and after a couple of weeks it seemed to work. I did eventually have to put her down for the same reason by she was 18 yrs by then.

sorry to say-you will not break her of this bad habit she has developed-if you piss off a cat-your doomed...i went thru this twice...finally had to put them both down...i tried everything...or take it back to the pound-tell them your issues...in cat yrs.shes 70 yrs old. now if i have to leave-i make sure someone comes an sits with them for a while..i have 6 rescues..2 birds-2 cats-2 dogs....yea they limit my life...but thats the price you pay...good luck...

My family has had many cats through the years and many that have issues with peeing around the house. Although 10 isnt that old for a cat it can be that she is forgetting things becoming senile. Another can be that there is another cat around (outside) and she is starting to mark her territory. I saw a really interesting thing on TV about that. What they suggested you do is take a clean rag, rub the cat down so that the cats smell is on it and then rub it in the areas that she is peeing. In the beginning you might have to do that every day but hopefully they will understand after awhile. Another can be that there has been some sort of change in routines or some sort of change at home and she is acting out and after awhile she will get over it, but you say it's been months, maybe give it awhile. Get whatever spray to clean the areas that she has peed in so that smell is gone. I have also heard the suggestion that you can crate the cat when you cannot be around to watch it and let it out only in your presence to watch her and correct her when she does pee.

I hope you can find a solution, but with my parents it has always come down to that they put the cats down because it had become unbearable (we had a cat continuously pee on the stove!!)

I'm having the same problem with a cat. She started doing this after being left alone for a long weekend. I have scrubbed the smell out of everything she has pee'd on - but everytime we leave her alone for a few days, she does it again. People say cats aren't vindictive, but I disagree. Since we have a permanent campsite, we leave her alone a lot.

If you decide to put her down, good luck finding a vet to do it. I am so tired of it and refuse to give her away to someone, knowing she does this...but I can't find a vet that will put her to sleep for a behavior issue.

I think a whole week is a long time to leave anyone alone at home with no contact from others. Either your cat is still making you pay for it, or she has something seriously wrong physically and the original vet missed it. Have you tried a new litter box, filled with sand? Some cats prefer sand. You could also find a foster family for your cat, which would not be breaking the contract you have with the animal shelter. I would start by contacting the animal shelter and asking if they could refer you to a foster family for your cat. Maybe some time apart would be healing for you and your cat.

I have 2 suggestions that haven't been mentioned yet. I agree that something happened while you were gone and your cat is still upset by it. Not using the litterbox has become a habit now too. It also could be incontinence or dementia issues too.

First, get some Feliway, the cat pheromone that helps ease stress. This will help ease the stress that your cat experienced when you were gone.

Second, I think you should take a very intensive approach to re-training her. Keep her shut in a small room with her litter box (like a bathroom) for a weekend. Of course, spend time with her, its not an exile or punishment. Give her almost no choice but to use the litter box. Then start letting her out, bringing her to the litter box after a nap, after playing, after she eats... just like you would a kitten. Praise her when she uses it, treats etc... And put her back in the small room when you won't be with her, like when you're gone during the day and at night. Keep the litter box sparkling clean too (you know how we don't like to use an unflushed toilet).

Its hard work, but if the alternatives are pee all around the house or not having your cat anymore, I think its worth it. Good luck!!

Once they start peeing- you're doomed. Just so you know, declawed cats can live outside! (Unless you live in a neighborhood which lets dogs roam free.) Build her a "cat-house," put a heating pad in it in the winter, and get used to an outdoor cat. I had one cat who lived to be 23 years old- he was moved outside at age 10 for the same reason. And he was declawed. Same thing with male cat #2. Age 10 he started peeing in the house and out he went. Had to put him down at age 18 for old age issues. He was declawed too.

Don't let an unspayed cat live outside, though, or the problem will "multiply." :)

Could you ask your vet if it could be related to an emotional or more mental type of illness? I don't know much about cats, but we have an elderly dog who started doing this kind of thing and it turned out to be caused in part by age-related dementia. He is actually on medication for it and it's helped. I know it sounds crazy, but I also know several people who have their dogs on medication for anxiety. Good luck.

Over the last year my 7 year old cat started doing the same thing. If I left my bedroom door open his preferred place to pee became my bed. After closing that off to him it stopped for awhile then started again on a matching chair and ottoman - both pieces. My vet gave me a list of things I could try to see if I could re-train him but nothing worked. I finally had to put him to sleep because my vet said that once issues become behavioral it is very difficult to retrain. It was sad to have to put him to sleep but I also could not have him in my house peeing on everything and I could not give him to someone else while he still had this problem.
You may have to come to this conclusion also.
J.

Just thought I'd add that I had some bad litter box problems with my cats, and I called the ARL to talk to a cat behaviorlist. She gave me some really good ideas. She also said that vets are often not trained to deal with behavior issues and that almost all litter box issues can be resolved with some work by the caretaker.

I was at wits end, and now we have very few accidents (after months of pee/poop outside the boxes).

Feel free to message me if you want more info., but it's definately worth a call to the ARL:)

I feel for you. I've had several cats, and I did have one with this problem. It was caused by a male cat that was hanging around outside our house. But it can be caused by leaving them alone for too long, also. And by aging. In my case, the other cat stopped coming around, and the problem was reduced, then we moved to a new house and our cat was fine from then on.

I agree with Jenna R and the bathroom method (limiting her space so that she might use the box). While thoroughly cleaning all the spots she has used.

I'm afraid that if this doesn't work, you will need to get rid of the cat. I would not bring her back to the shelter and let someone else take on this problem, I would take her to your vet. Sorry.

How frustrating!! Have you tried the kennel meathod? You put the cat in the kennel all day with her food, water and litter box, no rug or other comforts. Leave her there for a few days and see if she will use the litterbox. When she begins to use the litterbox on a regular basis let het her out to roam her house. If she leaves little presents for you all over, kennel her again until she get the idea. Of course no promises that this will do the trick cats are very stubborn.
Remember thousands of years ago cats were worshiped as gods, cats have not forgotten this.

Hi S.
My cat is about 12 years old. I suggest observing her to see if you can figure out what the trouble is. Our cat has trouble squatting and would stand in her litter box but her pee would shoot out. Since then we've purchased one of those big tubs and made that into a litter box. We have a boot tray underneath for more protection. It definitely helps her. We rarely have messes and when we do, they are easier to clean due to the boot tray.
I hope you figure out something.

S.,
My parents had a cat for 16 years, and recently had to put it down for similar reasons. At a certain point, we all have incontinance issues, so maybe this is what your cat is going through?? When they took their cat in, the vet said her kidneys were shot. Just a thought!
A. K

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