Ask the Cat Doc: Mats on Arthritic Cat, Cat Eliminating Outside the Litter Box


Welcome to our regular “Ask the Cat Doc With Dr. Lynn Bahr” segment! Once a month, Dr. Bahr answers as many of your questions as she can, and you can leave new questions for her in a comment.

Dr. Bahr graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Unlike most veterinarians, she did not grow up knowing that she would become a veterinarian. “It was a cat who got me interested in the practice and I am forever grateful to him,” said Dr. Bahr. Over the course of her veterinary career, Dr. Bahr found that the lifestyle of cats has changed dramatically. As the lifestyle of cats has changed, so did Dr. Bahr’s client education. In addition to finding medical solutions, she also encourages owners to enrich their home environments so that their cats can live long, happy, and healthy lives.

This new understanding led Dr. Bahr to combine her passion for strengthening the human-animal bond with her veterinary background and knowledge of what animals need and want to start her own solution-based cat product company, Dezi & Roo, inspired by two cats of the same names.

For more information about Dezi & Roo and their unique and innovative cat toys, please visit Dezi and Roo on Etsy.

Do you have a question for Dr. Bahr?
Leave it in a comment and she’ll answer it in next month’s column!

Pretty Litter

Arthritic senior cat stopped grooming himself

When my senior cat began to get mats I was surprised, but realized the was developing arthritis and simply could not reach everywhere to groom the way he had. During a trip to the vet for a check up, one of the vet techs (vet nurses) took care of the mats with amazing speed. She had a particular comb she said was her tool of choice. I found one, and agree. I have a 16 yr-old cat with arthritis now, and use the comb to take out the mats over her hip areas,*. I know it’s for “shedding,” but this is the best for removing mats I’ve found. I don’t try to get them all in one sitting / evening. I work until Bennie says, “That’s enough!’ In another day or two, another evening, I work some more. – Cheri Collins

Hi Cheri,

Congratulations on finding a good comb for mats and sharing your experience with us.

Arthritic pain does limit a cat’s ability to groom hard to reach parts of their body since it requires a lot of flexibility. It is a very common reason for unkempt hair coats and matting in cats that suffer from it. Fortunately, we now have many beneficial modalities to help cats in pain, especially for those suffering from arthritis. Did your veterinarian prescribe any treatments for Bennie? Hopefully, you were given several therapeutic options to consider and that Bennie is being treated appropriately and feeling much more spry now. If not, I encourage you to find a feline veterinarian that will be proactive in treating his pain.

Your suggestion to work on the mats “a little at a time” is excellent and I am sure Bennie appreciates your patience. Do you end the grooming session with a treat or something positive like playtime? It’s a good way to leave him with a positive feeling that can make the experience much more tolerable.

Your comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks for writing in.

Get Your Free Quote in Minutes - Embrace Pet Insurance

Cat occasionally poops outside the litter box

Hi Dr. Bahr, I have a 15 year old declawed in the front cat who recently has begun defecating behind my TV. I have had her since she was 9 years old and was already declawed and has always used the litter box, never an accident. She pees and poops in her litter box still, but does some pooping behind the tv. I put some small furniture behind the tv so she cannot do her business there and she has not chosen another spot. Why would she do this? Will this always work? – Jo Klein

Hi Jo,

Anytime you notice a difference in your cat’s habits, it is a good time to pay attention to why such a sudden change would happen. Your cat is exhibiting a behavior that is new and different than her norm, and she is certainly letting you know something is amiss.

When was the last time she was at the vet? Has she had recent (within 6 months) bloodwork? What is the consistency of the stool (is it hard, soft, or normal)? Is she showing any other unusual signs that are different than her regular routine? These are all questions I would start with to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical problem causing her to go out of box.

Once medical issues like arthritis, constipation, kidney disease, dental pain, etc. have all been ruled out, I would then consider re-evaluating her litter box situation. Is the box big enough for her, is it located in a convenient and easy to reach location, and is it always clean? Are there times when the litter is too deep, causing her to sink? Does she live with other animals that sabotage her?

Is it possible she is starting to become senile? This is a fairly new topic in veterinary medicine and we are now finding that animals, like people, can succumb to senility as they age. I would recommend you discuss the possibility with your veterinary and if warranted, formulate a plan to help her function easier in her surroundings.
I encourage you to work with your veterinarian to discover the cause of your cat’s sudden departure from using her litter box consistently. She is letting you know something’s up and you are wise to pay attention to it. Good luck!

*FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is a participant in’s affiliate program. 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.

26 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: Mats on Arthritic Cat, Cat Eliminating Outside the Litter Box

  1. Maye Wetter
    January 16, 2020 at 11:33 am (3 days ago)

    I purchase wet cat food from a local national pet chain. We live in FL, and I notice that when we open cans we have purchased during summer months, the broth and some of the meat is much darker than what we get during the cooler months. I notice that our cat is not as happy with the food during the summer months. I wrote the manufacturer about the problem, and I never received an acknowledgement or reply. My thinking is that even though canned foods are supposed to maintain taste and appearance, this is not as true as it might have once been due to our much hotter temperatures. The food is not shipped via controlled temperatures, and maybe it is time for manufacturers to do so if they want to offer consumers a quality product for their animals. My concern is about altered taste and altered nutritional value for the animals. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this topic. (Or maybe I’m way out in left field, and this is not a concern or legitimate issue.) I appreciate your thoughtful advice you provide in The Conscious Cat columns.

      January 16, 2020 at 3:15 pm (2 days ago)

      My thinking is that the quality of canned food should not be affected by outside temperatures. Canned food is sterilized and sealed at very high temperatures and is often stored in warehouses that are not climate controlled. As long as the seal remains unbroken the food should stay safe. Perhaps the summer heat is changing the taste and texture of the food in some way. Maybe you should stock up during the cooler months so that you have an adequate supply for the summer. I live in Georgia and I have not noticed a problem with our cats’ canned food.

    January 14, 2020 at 11:07 pm (4 days ago)

    Today one of my Facebook friends posted that her cat was diagnosed as FIV positive and heartworm positive. The vet recommended immediate euthanization because there is no treatment for heartworms in cats. I asked if the cat was acting sick and she said that it was not. I know that FIV+ cats can live a good long life. And I’ve also read that many cats can fight off heartworm disease. Is it necessary to euthanize because of a snap test result?

        January 15, 2020 at 4:24 pm (3 days ago)

        I’ve made the cat owner feel terrible about what she has done. She called the vet office this morning in hopes that the cat had not been euthanized yet, but it was too late. I told her she can use her sad experience to educate others in similar situations. Most of us have made mistakes that we regret. This mistake is truly sad.

        • Cheri Collins
          January 15, 2020 at 4:53 pm (3 days ago)

          Anne, you did not make your friend feel terrible. … I would never have gone away and left my cat. If a cat needs, truly, to be “euthanized,” I have always stayed with him to send him off with love.
          And everyone needs to learn, whether your own health and intervention is in question, or that of your cat, you can say No! You have the right to question: what if? and what might happen? and keep questioning until you are satisfied you understand the answers. And then you can still say, I’m not ready, I’m going to wait awhile.
          Your friend has learned a painful lesson. But everyone can learn from it.

            January 15, 2020 at 9:44 pm (3 days ago)

            I was the only one to reply in the negative. Everyone else was expressing their condolences and saying that she did the right thing. I had to step in because allowing the ignorance to continue was not an option. I also told her that I always stay with my animals at the end even though it is so painful. She said she wished she had done so.

  3. Karinda
    January 14, 2020 at 10:54 pm (4 days ago)

    I’m worried about my morbidly obese cat she weighs about 22 pounds I’ve had her to the vet they say it’s metabolism she’s an inside cat it’s just so hard to get her to lose weight I’ve used a diet cat food but that doesn’t seem to work I’m not sure what to do?

      January 14, 2020 at 11:09 pm (4 days ago)

      I also have an overweight cat. What I have done is feed him more canned food and less dry food. He only gets a few sprinkles of dry food when he comes around meowing in the kitchen. He receives canned food three times a day. He has lost some weight.

      • Karinda
        January 15, 2020 at 11:38 pm (3 days ago)

        She doesn’t like wet cat food

  4. june bullied
    January 14, 2020 at 1:55 pm (4 days ago)

    my 14 year old calico sweet-tart has been having diarrhea with some blood in it and is vomitting foam. she drinks a lot of water. this is not a regular thing just 1-2 time a month. she i be worried?

      January 15, 2020 at 9:46 pm (3 days ago)

      I would be worried and I would get her in to the vet for bloodwork to be run if you haven’t done it recently. At 14 years of age, vet checks should be twice a year.

      • june bullied
        January 16, 2020 at 3:40 pm (2 days ago)

        i’m so scared it might be diabetes and i cd never give needles to her and i never get them myself.

          January 16, 2020 at 5:57 pm (2 days ago)

          That is no reason for not taking her to the vet! It is entirely possible that it is not diabetes. I too am needle phobic, but I know of many people who are who have been able to overcome their fear when necessary. The first step is to find out what is going on with your cat so please be strong and get her in to the vet!

        • Carol
          January 16, 2020 at 8:33 pm (2 days ago)

          Please get your cat into the vet so you can find out what is going on. It may not be diabetes, but if it is you can handle doing the insulin injections if that is what is needed. About 20 years ago one of my cats was diagnosed with diabetes and he needed one shot per day. My first thought was “I can’t”, but then I reminded myself that he needed my help. It really was not a big deal. I would distract him with a treat and then give him the shot. He never paid any attention to what I was doing and his health improved dramatically with the insulin. The needles are small and the injection went into the loose skin in his scruff, not a muscle. Don’t give up hope. You can do it if you have to.

          • june bullied
            January 17, 2020 at 3:59 pm (1 day ago)

            i had a 15 year old cat named desi who was diagnosed with diabetes and had to have aggressive treatment. i cd not see putting him through needles and curves all the time as i wouldnt want that for myself. after conferring with my vet he understood and i stayed with desi while i let him go to the rainbow bridge. damn near killed me but i wouldnt do to my cat what i wouldnt want done to me.

          • Carol
            January 17, 2020 at 4:19 pm (1 day ago)

            Every one has to make their own decisions. I will never regret choosing to treat my cat’s diabetes. One shot per day was not a big deal, and as I said previously he never even noticed when I have him the shots. It extended his life and gave him back the quality he had lost. I am glad I was able to help him and I think he was glad for the help.

  5. Suzanne Doin
    January 14, 2020 at 10:54 am (5 days ago)

    My husband thinks that giving our cats a small amount of butter when he eats his breakfast helps with furballs. I am concerned that butter is just adding fat to their system and feel that they don’t need this. (Our two cats are 11 year old Maine Coon/Siberian mix, one has very long fur, the other long medium long)

    Wondering what your thoughts are regarding the butter issue?

    • Cheri Collins
      January 14, 2020 at 4:28 pm (4 days ago)

      Suzanne, Cats burn fat for energy. Protein and fat. Their GI systems are not just like ours. Carbohydrates are of very little use to them. I read labels and look for high protein and high fat and nothing they don’t need. It was popular for awhile to put blueberries in cat food — good for humans so the humans shopping for cat food thought they must be good for cats, too? Not. Berries are of no use to cats. If yours enjoy the butter, it’s a nice little treat for them.

  6. Sierra M Koester
    January 14, 2020 at 10:13 am (5 days ago)

    I have that comb for Carmine. He matted a few months back, which is when I realize his arthritis pain was getting worse (he’s had it since he was 6) and that we needed to find additional options to treat the pain as the supplement we were using wasn’t doing the job by itself anymore.

    I try to brush Carmine every few days so he doesn’t mat in the first place. I gather they are painful for kitties. I always get a lot of fur off of him (he’s a fluffy boy!).

  7. Carol
    January 14, 2020 at 8:00 am (5 days ago)

    After losing a cat to injection site sarcoma last year I am now reluctant to allow my surviving cat to receive vaccinations. She is strictly indoors, won’t go near an open window or door, no other animals are allowed in my house and she has already received them each of the last eight years. I now feel like the odds of her developing this cancer are greater than her being exposed to the diseases the vaccines are intended to prevent. Wouldn’t she already have immunity from the previous vaccines? Is it really necessary to give them over and over? To say that I am terrified of losing another cat because of a vaccine would be an understatement. Any guidance is appreciated.

      January 15, 2020 at 9:49 pm (3 days ago)

      Carol, I’m the same way. Fortunately my vet understands. I told him that I will not get more vaccinations unless he insists on it. I prefer to spend the money on bloodwork, dentals and x-rays, etc. when needed. My cats are indoor only.

  8. Rosalie Smith
    January 14, 2020 at 3:42 am (5 days ago)

    Check with “Pet Essences” online, they have one for pain, elder comfort and a lot more! If you call and ask Polly she can recommend the best ones. Can be added to drinking water( distilled or purified) and canned food. Dropper by mouth if able. I dilute mine, few drops each in glass dropper bottle, which they sell. filled with distilled water. I’ve had my 13 year old cat on these for 3 years to help relieve stress, anxiety, cystitis, improved kidney function, etc. Please check it out!

  9. Cheri Collins
    January 14, 2020 at 2:06 am (5 days ago)

    Bennie has hyperthyroidism, and her kidneys are compromised secondary to it, the NSAID for cats which could give her some relief would probably exacerbate her kidney disease. So no medication. She has a heated pad in the “cradle” of her Molly & Friends ‘tree.’ She spends a lot of time there, so I think the heat is comfortable.

    I looked at the Assisi loop — awfully expensive! I don’t know that she’ll live long enough to make it worth the $$$. I’ve offered 1TDC and everything else I’ve found which might help — she won’t take anything by mouth. I’m grateful she’ll accept the med she needs for her thyroid, compounded into a liquid I put on her canned food. If there were something I could get compounded for her, I’d love to know about it…..
    She never got any dental care until she came to live with me at 12 years old and lost a lot of teeth when I got her a “dental.” The treats she likes now are a wee bit of milk and the Nulo soft treats in a tube. I do give her one of those after I do something she doesn’t like so well.
    I’m very open to any suggestions for pain relief for her.

    • Rosalie Smith
      January 15, 2020 at 1:45 am (4 days ago)

      My reply was left for Cheri Collins on January 14 concerning her cat Bennie, hope she saw it and it helps. My very best – Rosalie


Leave a comment

First time visitors: please read our Comment Guidelines.