Litter Box Solutions for Senior Cats

cat-litter-box

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Last week, we featured high-sided litter boxes to help you contain the mess inside the box rather than all around the box. Even though all of these boxes have lower entrance areas, they may still be too high for senior cats, especially cats with arthritis.

Arthritis is a common condition that affects as many as 3 in 10 cats. It is often not diagnosed in cats because it is difficult to recognize even for the most dedicated cat guardian. The signs can be subtle, and since cats are such masters at masking pain, it often remains untreated. Only 7% of cats with arthritis receive treatment.

Senior cats and litter box behavior

Litter box avoidance may be a symptom of arthritis (although there are many other reasons for eliminating outside the box.) Getting in and out of the box may be painful for a cat with aching joints. Your senior cat may need a lower box, and you may also want to add additional boxes, especially in a large or multi-level home. If getting to the litter box requires climbing stairs, senior cats may avoid using the litter box.

Litter box alternatives for senior cats

You’d think that pet product manufacturers would have realized that there’s a market for creating a litter box that makes entry easy for senior and arthritic cats, but to date, I have not found one designed specifically for older, arthritic cats. My theory is that it’s because, sadly, litter boxes are usually designed with human sensibilities in mind with not enough thought given to what cats want and need in a litter box. A litter box with lower sides will most likely be messier. As a result, cat guardians often have to get creative.

The following products can be good options in lieu of a “real” litter box:

Dog Litter Pans

dog-litter-pan

Dog litter pans like the one shown above can work well for senior cats. The super low entrance will make entering and exiting easy for senior cats. They won’t contain litter very well, but you can get around that by placing the box on an easily washed litter mat or rug, or by lining the area around the litter box with pee pads. You can find these at pretty much any pet store. Amazon offers a wide selection of puppy litter pans, many with free shipping for Prime members.

Plant Growing Trays

plant-growing-tray-litter-box

Plant growing trays like the ones shown above are usually generously sized, and low enough for even the most arthritic cat to get in and out of the box. Make sure you purchase trays without drain holes. You can find these at your local gardening store. Amazon offers a large variety of sizes and shapes, many with free shipping for Prime members.

Under Bed Storage Boxes

storage-box-litter-box

Under bed storage boxes can be a good solution. Use a utility knife to cut an opening on either the long or short end. This gives you the flexibility to cut the opening as low and wide as your cat needs. The storage box shown above is available from Amazon with free shipping for Prime members.

Litter containment for low litter boxes

None of these boxes will do a very good job of containing litter, or any spillover accidents, so you’re going to want to place them on an easily washable rug (rubber backed bathroom rugs are a great option) or on pee pads.

Have you found a litter box solution for your senior cats? Share it with us in a comment.

*FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on Amazon and affiliated sites. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.  

19 Comments on Litter Box Solutions for Senior Cats

  1. Betty
    September 5, 2017 at 3:41 pm (2 weeks ago)

    About two years I found my dear senior gal stuck on the entrance of her litter box (tote box) she couldn’t get all the way in or out. So after helping her and lots of love and treats I took out a box cutter and whittled away the opening and made it much lower to the floor. It is frustrating that no one has made a litter box for seniors, high sides because they can’t squat and a low entrance. I do like the looks of the dog pan though. I think it would be easy enough to place a low entrance pan into a large tote that could catch the litter and accidents.

    Reply
  2. Surber Elaine Elkins
    July 3, 2017 at 12:52 am (3 months ago)

    What age do you recommend to get another cat for our 3 year old cat He is a Bengal and looking for another one.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 3, 2017 at 5:22 am (3 months ago)

      There is no “right” age to get another cat. Try to match your resident’s cat’s personality as best as you can, and make sure you introduce the newcomer slowly and gradually.

      Reply
  3. Bridget
    July 1, 2017 at 6:17 pm (3 months ago)

    My recently (all too recently) angel kitty had arthritis of the spine. What I did for her was put her box into the closet of the master bedroom, since she decided the master bedroom was going to be her bedroom also. (She always came first as to choices!) Anyway, I put an extra high bread board next to her box, and kept the litter high so that she only had to step up a couple of inches onto the board, and then only a few inches over the side of the box. I kept towels down, so that each morning I was able to scrunch up the towel and all the excess litter went out the door. She always came to tell me when she used the box, so her box was kept immaculate.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 2, 2017 at 5:24 am (3 months ago)

      Great solution, Bridget, thank you for sharing!

      Reply
  4. Louise Ayers
    June 29, 2017 at 5:10 pm (3 months ago)

    I have used the plastic storage containers for multiple cats for years. They say a cat has to be comfortable in their space and see outside of them for multiple cat households. My Tabbies have been larger cats so the storage containers worked well. My now 20 yr old 8 lb cat will no matter what box I use always go to her favorite one. Though I thought maybe it was hard for her she will walk through the shallower one to get to her favorite one…..Us humans though thoughtful know they get what they want!

    Reply
  5. Sara
    June 28, 2017 at 7:08 pm (3 months ago)

    I’ve used the Petmate’s Booda Dome Cleanstep litter box with my sixteen year olds. It has steps are the entrance/exit, so that helps contain, and it’s covered, to avoid spillage. I’ve also gotten the large Rubbermaid ribs and cut lower holes, it just depends on what I think their needing

    Reply
  6. B. Dixon
    June 28, 2017 at 4:02 pm (3 months ago)

    I have found the So Phresh x-large litter box at Petco to be a favorite with my senior arthritic cats. It is x-large and low to the ground for them. This is without the rim or hood. What litter comes out is according to how much is in the box and how much they use to cover their deposit. I don’t know if I was not supposed to mention the brand, but it works.

    Reply
  7. Brandy
    June 28, 2017 at 1:27 pm (3 months ago)

    I cut a low hole in one end of a large Rubbermaid tote. She gets low entry, I get high sides!!

    Reply
  8. tehila
    June 28, 2017 at 8:50 am (3 months ago)

    Both of my cats are “kick and scatter” pro’s. I took some shipping / packing cartons, cut off two sides, and put them under and around three sides of the litter boxes to raise the sides. They can still see over the top, and jump over the top, but a large amount of scatter is caught. The outside boxes do not need to sit flush to the litter box.

    Reply
  9. Laurie
    June 28, 2017 at 8:32 am (3 months ago)

    Our older cat was already a senior when we adopted him, so we were aware from the beginning that a lower sided box would be helpful.

    We were using an extra large concrete mixer pan from our local hardware store. While unattractive, it is gigantic, low sides and extremely heavy duty plastic. There was some litter kick out, but not as much as one would think. We kept litter pads underneath to avoid litter getting tracked into the house.

    The one we had lasted nearly 3 years. We’ve moved onto another type which isn’t as large but does have a lower cut out in the front. The only reason we didn’t go back to the construction pan was it really was too large for our bathroom but I’d consider it again.

    Reply
  10. Janine
    June 28, 2017 at 7:52 am (3 months ago)

    These are some great ideas. Right now my senior guy is still able to get in the box with no problem, but I have just regular size boxes. i ill definitely keep these ideas in mind when he starts showing problems getting in the box.

    Reply
  11. Sue Brandes
    June 28, 2017 at 6:44 am (3 months ago)

    Thank you for the post.

    Reply
  12. Suellen
    June 28, 2017 at 5:38 am (3 months ago)

    I use a boot tray for my “wobbler kitty”. They have little nubs on the bottom where water would drain from boots and such but these nubs give my kitty a little traction to help her keep her balance. I think it would work for older kitties just as well.

    Reply
    • Alice
      June 28, 2017 at 9:44 am (3 months ago)

      I used a boot tray underneath the box to collect litter and any other spillage. They’re great. Mine doesn’t have holes.

      Reply
  13. Gail
    June 28, 2017 at 4:10 am (3 months ago)

    You’re a genius w your “outside the box” ideas

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 28, 2017 at 5:35 am (3 months ago)

      🙂

      Reply
  14. Jewel Reese, DVM
    June 28, 2017 at 3:57 am (3 months ago)

    Thank-you for providing such good, useful feline information to your readers. I have referred several clients to your site. One tip I give my clients (who have senior kitties) is to use baking pans or cookie sheets. Something their senior can literally walk onto. Seniors don’t need a lot of litter – usually they have a hard time digging anyway – so the pan does not need to be covered wall-to-wall with litter. But lining it with newspaper & then just putting a couple cups of litter will help stimulate their natural scratching ability & help with absorbtion, cleaning & odor control.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 28, 2017 at 5:35 am (3 months ago)

      What a great idea, Jewel!

      Reply

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