Making life easier with an elderly cat

Mayo510February 5, 2013

I've had him since he was a kitten; DSH; he's our only pet. He has chronic kidney disease, and really bad arthritis, esp. in his rear legs and hips. He can still walk, albeit slowly, but has a lot of trouble squatting. So, peeing, which he now does multiple times a day (that's the kidney failure; he drinks a ton of water), is a real challenge for him. Pooping is too, but he doesn't poop that often. It's a tough combination. He ends up with litter or poop, or both, stuck all over his rear, legs, and tail, and it's our job to get it off. On good days, we catch him before he gets it all over the house.

I'm considering stopping litter and seeing if he'll just go on a puppy pad. I've seen reference to that, but not details. Has anyone ever done that and can make recommendations for how to manage? Esp. how to trial it or transition. Other suggestions? FWIW, his litter box is in a little nook/no-door closet that has room for the box only; there's no way to offer the box and a pad side by side - well, I could, but one it would mean one was in the middle of our bathroom. I don't think he's ever in his life peed outside the litterbox, so I'm more than a little worried about changing things up on him now, esp. given the number of times a day he does pee - really don't want that to start happening outside the box!

Any tips appreciated!

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I would have doubts that he'd transition to a pee pad since cats, by nature, like to bury their business.

Since he's also been such a good cat and never peed outside the box, I'd be hesitant to make any changes at this stage of his life. You could try the paper-type litter products or the pellet looking litter, but again, he may not be happy with any major changes.

If he were my cat, I would take him to a groomer and have them trim the excess hair in the areas that get soiled. I wouldn't leave him there, just make a one-on-one appt. so you can take him home afterward. Otherwise, if you're comfortable with it, do the trimming yourself with a good pair of scissors.

With his arthritis, etc., is his litter box easily the entrance low enough for him?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 6:44PM
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Thanks for your thoughts. I've thought about non-clumping litter. He's never been picky about his litter, and we've changed clumping clay brands without any issues. We used to have non-clumping, back when he was indoor-outdoor and did most of his business outside, and switched to the clumping when he became indoor-only a couple of years ago. I think non-clumping or pellets wouldn't stick to him as much, but I'm not at all sure it could handle the volume of peeing this box has to handle. Really, with the kidney disease, it's crazy.

He is a short hair, but I'll give the trim idea some thoughts. He really just drags his tail through the box, almost sits when he's peeing, I think I'd have to trim *a lot*. But if it could help some, it would be worth a try, even if he still ended up littered on some parts.

He doesn't seem to have any difficulty getting into the box; it's right on the floor, and very low profile - it's designed to work with a lid, but we haven't used the lid in a while, to give him more room to maneuver.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 7:21PM
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When my old kidney girl was getting older and weaker in the hind end, we ended up switching her from a regular litter box to a large, shallow, under the bed box, and non-clumping litter. That way she would just sort of step in, crouch down, do her business, and walk away. Since she peed in the same spot of the pan, I'd scoop out the wet litter for a day or two and then clean completely when it started to smell a bit. Our issues were also based on odor and the need for frequent box cleaning. Being big and that you wouldn't have to fill it much, it might work a little like a pee pad, but still seem like a litter box to him. Just a thought, hope you find something that works soon.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 11:48AM
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spedigrees z4VT

With my old CRF cats I've found that there is no substitute for a large litter box filled with non-clumping litter, and changed at least once daily. Clumping litter is like cement, and I never use it. I think that is likely the root of your problem because it sticks to fur like glue. Also changing the box completely everyday, ie dumping out the wet mud-like litter and replacing it with dry litter should keep things under control.

The suggestion for keeping kitty's fur trimmed or shaved should help a great deal too.

I hope this helps. Getting old is tough, for us and for our elderly pets.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 1:36PM
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I'm considering your cat's problem from another perspective. Hind end weakness is a fairly common symptom of CRF and can have several causes. In addition to your boy's arthritis, the following conditions can occur in CRF cats (some much more commonly than others) and can account for hind leg weakness and his inability to hold himself above his eliminations: low potassium levels, anemia, high phosphorus levels, metabolic acidosis, diabetic neuropathy, constipation, and stroke (usually caused by hypertension). It would be a good idea for you to discuss all of these possibilities with your vet. If you don't have current bloodwork on your boy, it'd be a good idea to have that run so that you'll know his current status relative to some of the conditions I listed. It's possible that some simple supplements or medications may increase his hind leg strength enough to take care of his litterbox problems.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 6:25PM
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Yes--what Laurie said! My cat struggled for years after CRF diagnosis with hindquarters weakness, arthritis, etc...I wish I had known then what I know now! It turned out the weakness was caused both by low potassium and high blood pressure. Medication has almost completely restored his hindquarters to normal. I also figured out that I could give him his meds by mixing them in Science diet A/D and syringe-feeding it to him. This has enabled me to give him cosequin for his arthritis and his mobility has improved immensely! (Wouldn't eat it before) Do get the bloodwork done and you can learn so much about his condition, and how to improve it. My cat has had CRF for seven years now and is still going, so it is amazing how well they can do with treatment.

As for the mechanics--we use a concrete mixing tray for a litter box because he pees so much. He poops on the floor outside the litter box (started when he got constipated) and still does it now with laxative, so I just clean it up every day when I see it. I'm just happy that he still uses a litter box for pee! (Used to be a pee-outside only cat). It is a lot more work than a younger cat, but I don't mind, he deserves it.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 7:31PM
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I had the same situation as sarabera with my 15yr.old cat. High blood pressure med has turned him around greatly. He's def. not a kitten anymore but he has energy, transitioned to a litter box last year (is an outside/inside, always went out to do his business but needs the litter box overnight). He jumps, he plays with toys, he runs through the house. Sometimes I tell him, "Slow down! You'll hurt yourself!". lol

He never used a litter box in his life but when he started to pee on the bathroom rugs I just put the rug in the litter box and kept cutting it in smaller and smaller pieces until I removed the rug altogether. I use The Worlds' Best Cat Litter. No odor, clumps amazingly, but does track some. I scoop out the box as soon as I notice it having been used. But unless I keep the box pretty much full of the litter, he will use the cotton rug it sits on. (box sits on a small cotton rug, which in turn sits on a half folded vinyl tablecloth). I think it's because he doesn't like to step up and then down into the litter box. Not sure if it's preference or maybe the action cause some discomfort. Also the vinyl tablecloth will catch any litter thrown out that the rug doesn't catch and also if he (or the other cat) sits too close to the edge of the box and poop drops to the floor. I take everything up in the morning and only put the box back out in the evening or when I know I'll be gone several or more hours.

He does pee often but much less since the BP med. Perhaps I'll only have a couple more years with him but like the OP says I try to make his life as easy as possible.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 12:39PM
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