How to Train Older Cats to Use a Litter Box?
Just about everyone in the world has heard of the phrase saying that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. The truth is that you can absolutely teach older animals a different way of life, whether it is entertainment or for the sake of its own betterment. You will just have to keep in mind that older animals tend to be more set in their ways and stubborn about how they progress in training, so it can take a lot more dedication and work to ensure that the older animal gets the job done, but it is absolutely possible.
This is a situation you may come across if you foster older cats or if you are planning on adopting a senior cat. You may come home with your older cat from the shelter, only to realize that the older cat is not entirely litter trained. This leaves it completely up to you on how you are going to try and direct the older cat into using the litter box, especially when it is old and stubborn enough to resist your prompts. Thankfully, while the situation may be annoying for both you and your elderly companion, there are certainly ways that you can teach your older cat how to use a litter box.
Training the Cat
In a sense, training your older cat to use the litter box again is a lot like training a younger cat. All of the fundamental steps will remain the same. You will want to encourage the cat to use its litter box, even putting some of its own droppings in it as a way to encourage it. You will want to praise your cat for any use of the litter box, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Cats may not be as hungry for praise as dogs can be, but they still enjoy making their people happy. If they come to associate using the litter box with making its people happy, then there’s a good chance that the cat will continue using that box. Likewise, you are going to want to gently yet firmly make sure that you discourage the cat from urinating anywhere else in the house. You should never yell or use physical punishment on the cat for doing so, but you may withhold treats or attention until you see that your cat is beginning to use the litter box as it should.
In these aspects, teaching and training an older cat how to use a litter box isn’t extremely hard. The problems come into play when you realize that older cats tend to have their own variety of issues that will have their own shortcomings and problems to face. When all is said and done, it is absolutely possible to train your older cat how to use the litter box, you will just need some time, some patience, and some knowledge on how you can make the process of using the litter box a bit easier on your cat’s aging body.
Make it Easier
When cats become old, much like people, they can run into some physical problems. Considering that litter boxes can come in all different shapes and sizes, including ones that are fairly tall, this could mean that your older cat is going to need a new and specialized litter box for it. Training your older cat how to use a litter box is going to be considerably easier when you make the task less pain-inducing for your cat. When purchasing litter boxes for older cats, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, you are going to want to search for a box that is low to the ground and easy for an old cat to just walk into without having to jump or stretch itself out to get in. It may mean that you have to purchase a mat to make cleaning up kicked litter easier, but by making it easier for your older cat to use the litter box, it will be more inclined to do so, especially if other litter boxes in the house are not made with this in mind.
Older cats also tend to be more sensitive to environmental stressors than their younger counterparts. While you should be keeping litter boxes in a low-traffic area where the cats do not feel that their privacy is being invaded, this is going to go doubly for older cats. A good way to work around this is to consider that you may want to have a dedicated room for your older cat to feel at home in, where you can place an easy-to-access litter box in where it cannot be disrupted by other animals or people.
By ultimately making it easier for your older cat to get itself to the litter box, it will be more inclined to continue using it, now that it does not associate the litter box with discomfort, pain, or stress. When your cat comes to associate the pain and discomfort of getting inside the litter box with what it does in the box, there is a chance that it may come to associate the litter box with its own pains, causing trouble for the whole family. When you create an easier litter box for your cat to enter, you will make things much easier on those around you.
Keep an Eye on Medical Issues
Older cats are also going to be more prone to problems than younger cats are. Some of these problems, particularly with the digestive system and urinary tract, can make it harder for an older cat to get to the litter box in time. You should get your cat checked out by a vet any time that you see that there is something wrong, but if you notice that it is your older cat that is repeatedly giving you issues, you will not want to address it with anger or scolding. In the cat’s old age, it physically cannot help itself. You will want to try and ease its life as much as you possibly can in this stage, whether this includes feline diapers or more litter boxes around the house.