Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My formerly quiet household has a new problem: my 12-year-old Evie is no longer pooping in the litter box. She had formerly been pooping (and peeing) in a corner of the kitchen, but it was rare enough for us to say that she just didn’t make it to the litter box upstairs. Recently, she has started pooping there every day.
We have two other cats, 8-year-old Jack and 4-year-old Kaylee. I worried that they may be keeping her from the box, but why would they start now, after so long? We adopted all of them as kittens, and they have lived together peacefully (mostly) for all that time.
We live in an incredibly small apartment, and there’s only room for one box, but my husband cleans it every night before bed. Once we get a place, we want to have multiple boxes, but right now there is only a bathroom, a kitchen/living room, and two bedrooms with carpet. The box is in the bathroom, which is upstairs.
The only thing that has changed that I can think of is that I became pregnant with our first child this year, but I’m not sure Evie would even notice it (I don’t look pregnant yet, just fat). She doesn’t seem to have any health problems, and we do see her use the litter box most of the time, I’m not sure why she isn’t using it all of the time.
How can we help her (and ourselves) before the baby comes in November?
Siouxsie: The first thing we always recommend when a kitty starts eliminating where they shouldn’t is a trip to the vet. She is 12 years old, which puts her pretty close to the “senior cat” stage of life, and sometimes with age come changes in abilities.
Thomas: Evie may be having pain that makes it hard for her to get into a litter box and assume the position. Also, it may be harder for her to get up the stairs than it used to be.
Bella: Provided Evie gets a clean bill of health, then you can start looking into other issues.
Siouxsie: Is there a door near where Evie poops? If so, she may be doing territorial marking because of an insecurity about something she senses from outdoors.
Thomas: It could also be possible that the other cats are guarding the litter box. Sometimes, kitties’ intimidation efforts can be very subtle by human standards, so you may not notice it.
Bella: I hate it when other kitties guard the litter box. That happened to me when I was at the shelter once, and I had to pee on my bed! I was so mad, I cried and cried!
Thomas: There, there, Bella. We’ve got plenty of litter boxes here, so you don’t need to worry about that any more.
Bella: *purrrrrr* Oh, Thomas, you always know how to make me feel better.
Siouxsie: Jeez, you two! Get a room!
Thomas: You don’t have to be such a grumblepants, Siouxsie. It doesn’t become you.
Thomas: Anyway, here’s the thing, Emily. With three cats, you really need to try and find a way to get a litter box downstairs. We live in a super-tiny studio apartment, and Mama’s found room for three boxes here.
Bella: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a corner litter box, but this could be a huge help if you have limited space in that kitchen corner but there’s enough space for Evie to assume the position and poop! They come in covered and uncovered varieties.
Siouxsie: Whenever you’re dealing with an elder kitty, you need to do your best to ensure that there’s at least one box per floor in order to prevent accidents.
Thomas: If it’s unworkable to put a litter box in that corner of the kitchen, try using puppy training pads. At least that way the floor or carpet underneath won’t absorb urine and feces odors.
Bella: Actually, the bed pads used for humans with incontinence problems are just the same and they usually cost a lot less per unit than puppy pads!
Siouxsie: You’re pretty smart there, girly! At least some of the things I’m teaching you must be getting through your thick skull.
Thomas: You’ll also want to clean the area where Evie has been having her accidents with a product designed to eliminate all traces of urine or fecal odors. You may not smell it anymore, but kitty noses are a lot more sensitive than human noses!
Siouxsie: We recommend enzyme-based cleaners like Anti-Icky-Poo and carbon dioxide-based cleaners such as Fizzion. Mama has had good results with both of these products when they’re used as directed. They can be found at most pet stores as well as at online shops that sell pet products.
Thomas: By the way, I’m sure Evie can tell you’re pregnant, even though you’re not really showing yet. When you get pregnant, your body releases hormones and your subtle scent and energy changes as a result.
Bella: You can help reduce your kitties’ stress by investing in some Feliway diffusers. We’d recommend one per floor, at the least. Feliway is available at pet stores, online retailers and some vet clinics.
Siouxsie: We’d also recommend that you start preparing your feline family now for the arrival of your new baby. Our favorite cat behavior expert, Pam Johnson-Bennett, has written some great tips on getting cats ready for a baby.
Thomas: We hope some of these techniques work for you and that you get Evie and your other cats sorted out. Please let us know how things turn out!