How To Set Up A Litter Box For Senior Cats That They Will Love

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One of the unfortunate realities of being a cat parent is that they will age faster than we will. Because they don’t live as long, eventually that bouncy kitten will become a wise senior cat. As cats age, they have different behavioral and environmental needs. While you may want to keep the litter box set up you’ve always had, setting up a litter box for senior cats should be done thoughtfully.

If your senior cat isn’t using the litter box, the first stop should be your veterinarian. Senior cats can have a variety of medical illnesses or painful conditions that lead to them not using the litter box, especially if the cat is declawed. You want to rule these out first as addressing the underlying problem is the ultimate solution.

Make It Easy To Choose To Use The Box

You don’t want to add extra barriers to your cat using the litter box in general, but this is especially true for senior cats. An ideal location for a senior cat litter box is one that doesn’t require going up or down stairs or through any small doors. While it’s not a great idea to keep all your litter boxes in the basement anyway, it’s extra not a good idea for senior cats. If your cat does spend time in the basement, keep at least one litter box there, but there should be litter boxes on every floor they have access to.

Keep your litter box in the same location and avoid moving them around once you find places your cat will use the box. This is especially important if your veterinarian has diagnosed your cat with any sensory deficits or cognitive changes due to age. This prevents your cat from having trouble finding the litter box.

While not a perfect solution, you can consider adding a litter box attractant to the litter or getting a litter with an attractant mixed in. This won’t be strong enough to draw them to a terrible location or get into a box that hurts to get in and out of, but it may help them find a box that is nearby.

Easy In, Easy Out

A senior cat litter box should be easy for your cat to get in and out of. Top entry boxes can be tough for any cat to get in and out of, but they’re especially bad for senior cats. A better choice is an ultra low entry litter box. Be cautious as many commercially available boxes claim to be low entry, but are actually not that much lower entry than a standard litter box. Making your own litter box is often a better choice in many cases.

If your cat is a high peer or tends to create a mess, you can make a litter box out of a storage tub or get a pee shield to put around the litter box. It should go around the outside of the box on the sides that do not have the entrance. If you prefer one that attaches to the inside of the box, those are available as well. While this may not seem like an ideal solution, it’s better than having to clean up pee off your wall.

If you can’t find an acceptable low entry box, consider finding a ramp for your cat to get in and out of the box. The ramp should be washable and easy for your cat to walk up. Sometimes ramps for self cleaning litter boxes can work (though self cleaning boxes tend to not be super accessible for senior cats and I don’t recommend them for other reasons regardless).

Comfortable Litters

While litters that are uncomfortable to walk on aren’t a good idea for any age of cat, it’s extra important you select a soft litter for senior cats. If they have any mobility problems or medical conditions that may cause pain, they may not want to use a litter that exacerbates the pain. Litters with small particles are better. You can also get a litter designed for senior cats like Tidy Cats Comfort or even use reptile or sandbox sand. If you go the sand route, get a soft sand sand that won’t hurt their paws.

A brown and white cat with green eyes looking up at the camera. They are sitting on sand.
Sitting in a giant litter box. Photo by Balogun Wareez.

Speaking of litter, don’t make your litter box into a quicksand pit that will swallow your cat when they step in. It can be uncomfortable to walk on litter that is too deep and senior cats may prefer shallower litter so it’s more stable. Around 2 inches is usually a good amount of litter.

The Perfect Litter Box For Senior Cats

At the end of the day, a perfect litter box for senior cats is one they will consistently use and enjoy using. While many people set up litter boxes with their preferences in mind, your cat is the one who uses it. Making some changes to make the box easier to get in and out of, more comfortable to use, and easier to find will ensure your sweet old cat uses their box for the rest of their golden years.

Need help getting your senior cat to use the litter box?

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Joey Lusvardi

Joey Lusvardi CCBC is an IAABC Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and professional cat trainer based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He runs a behavior consultation and cat training service, Class Act Cats, where he helps cat parents address a variety of unwanted behaviors. Joey is available for in home sessions locally or virtual sessions wherever you are located!