The 20 Year Old Senior Cat and His Litter Box Woes



Let me start by shouting a bit HAPPY 20th BIRTHDAY TO NILES! even though he won’t hear it. The old boy has officially made it to 20 years of life and is still trucking along. He’s slower, needs more frequent oil changes, his radio doesn’t work, and he has a little rust, but he’s still a totally drivable little truck.

On that note, I wanted to talk about his litter issues. For the last year, I’ve been noticing him choosing new and exciting places to pee – the front hall rug, in front of the TV, adjacent to the litter box, in the doggie’s bed. I thought perhaps he’d just given up caring, but I knew that as a fastidious gentleman, there was clearly something else going on, so I looked a little deeper. While I was looking, I surreptitiously slipped some Pee Pads under the rugs and in his favorite spots so as not to embarrass him.

First, I noticed he had a limp. I thought we were going to have to go to the vet until I checked his paws and realized he had a bunch of clumping litter stuck between his toes making it too difficult and painful to walk. After a brief foot bath in a small dish and a lot of screaming and yelling from both of us, his toes were clean and he could walk again. This necessitated a switch of litters to a gentler formula and we went with Shwheat Scoop. It works great for him, though I’m not too happy with the fact that my house frequently smells like litter box – there’s nothing in it, so there’s no smell control. Natural, yes. Fragrant, yes. Pleasant, not so much, but we’ll deal with it for Niles.

Next, I watched him use the box. He turned and spun and squatted, then bumped the sides. He tried again, and turned, and got his head all covered in dust. Then he tried another box and another box, then went back to the first box, then gave up and went back to bed. I realized that the arthritis in his hips was making it difficult to squat. It’s hard to find a large enough litter pan for a cat with these issues, so I went upstairs into my storage and pulled everything out of the under the bed storage container, filled it with Shwheat Scoop, and he was back in business, or doing his business, as it were.

As of late, there have been no new whizzing adventures and he’s faithfully using his storage box. My attic needs a cleaning now, but I’d prefer that instead of the surprise whiz puddles I’ve been stumbling into.

So, for those only scanning, my TIPS FOR A SENIOR CAT’S LITTER BOX ISSUES are:

Side by side photos of letterboxes
  • Mind your litter type. Clay litters can get caught in between their toes, especially if they’re accidentally peeing on their own feet, and that can be painful and upsetting. Use something gentle.
  • Have a large enough box that squatting wide isn’t an issue. Use an under bed storage tote or look for one of those dog litter boxes (yup, that’s a thing) with the large surface area and low entry way
  • Keep the box in a place that’s easily accessible. Don’t make him go upstairs, downstairs, or too far away.
  • Pee Pads will become your new friend

And with that, I wish my fabulous senior kitty Niles Chesterfield a happy, happy 20th birthday. He’s been around just about half my life now, and I look forward to having him here for as long as he wishes to stay.

I had to put a towel there just to see Stealth Niles.



**FTC DISCLOSURE: This post was not paid for nor is it an ad. All products mentioned here are things I purchased on my own and all opinions are my own. No reviews were requested from any of the products mentioned. **


  • Happy Birthday, Niles! We hope you had a wonderful time celebrating your big day. The tips are just wonderful about litter for senior cats. Thanks for the share. Have a wonderful rest of your day.

  • Happy birthday, Niles! What awesome suggestions from your human on how to help senior kitties like you and our Gracie with the litter box stuff. Hugs!

  • Happy Birthday, Niles! Have you tried using Carefresh Bedding as litter? When one of my cats had surgery, the vet told me to use this so that litter would not stick to his incision. It does not clump and it seemed to handle odors reasonably well if you changed it out regularly…you don’t need to use a lot of it at once and can just dump it and rinse the box. I tried sWheat Scoop once and my long-haired black cat looked ridiculous after she climbed out of the litter box…she had a fine dusting of it all over her…orange highlights! LOL I did not want her to groom herself and had to wipe her down and give her a bath. That was the last time I used that! I generally use clumping litter unless someone has to go under the knife and then that particular cat has separate accommodations until it has healed.

  • Happy Birthday Niles! If my boys were still with us they would both tell you that even when you are still in your prime, being well, um, big boned, can still make it difficult to maneuver in your average litter box. Early on I saw both of them struggling to, as you say, color inside the lines, and went out and bought 3 of those large totes. The only issue I ever saw after that was Beans liked to do his #1 business in box # 1, shake off his feet, stroll over to box #2 and complete his #2 business there. When I asked the vet if this was normal (!) cat behavior, (is that a thing?) she paused for a moment and then said, “Oh. You have one of THOSE.” P-mail, indeed.

  • These are awesome suggestions, and so helpful! One thought – have you considered adding some baking soda to the Swheat Scoop? It absorbs odor pretty effectively in a lot of different ways, and shouldn’t impede Niles’ ability to use the box.

    • Thank you! And no, I haven’t! I was using bakingsoda regularly before but never thought to add it to the SS. I’ll give it a try! – A.

  • Happy Birthday, Niles! And we hope for many more. 🙂

    Finding a litter box with a low entry was a big challenge for me when Lita could no longer get into the standard litter box. I searched high and low. I finally found something on Amazon that was a litter box for ferrets and other small animals. It’s not as large as I’d like, but Lita could actually get in and out of it, so that was good.

  • Happy birthday Niles! ????Twenty is amazing. Mom has been using those huge, low-sided storage containers as our litter boxes for years and years. So happy your mom found a solution that works for the both of you. Wishing you many more happy birthdays.

  • Happy Purrthday Niles – and as many more as you can manage. Cheers to your huMom for helping you get straightened out.

  • Happy Birthday, Niles! It’s tough getting old. But we’re glad you human is taking good care of you.

  • Happy Birthday to a sweet boy. I can tell you really love him. Thanks for making it easier for him in his senior years.
    Sue B

    • Couldn’t imagine any other way. He’s been a friend for so long – He deserves it. – A.

  • Cats speak in pee, even centenarians (just about). Congratulations on membership in this exclusive club! It’s a good thing Niles has you to read his peemail. My Stanley used to wake up almost too late and couldn’t make it to the basement in time, so I put a box just around the corner in the kitchen, not my favorite place, but it saved Stanley a lot of embarrassment and me a lot of cleanup. Moses couldn’t balance on any litter, so I had an box with just a pee pad in it for her.

    • Peemail! You are so right – they’re messages. I love the idea of not using litter at all for those that can’t – a pee pad in the bottom would likely suffice, or even just a sprinkling of Dr. Elsey’s or something to let them know it’s ok to go? – A.

  • You are so loving to Niles. No surprise of course but so precious to see. Yes, as time passes I will have to get a large pan for Katie too. And since she pees standing up she too can’t well color in the lines. …I always have to use a hooded litter box. Hope that when and of the time comes, I can keep her going with pee pads \on the walls because it sure will be a necessity.

    Katie Isabella at BlogSpot bloggies

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