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Battling the bathroom woes of aging cats

Updated on October 7, 2015

For twelve years I’d never had any potty mishaps with my two cats, Lady Stinkers, and Mr. Nibbles. They always used their litter box in the basement and I thought we were all in agreement with this arrangement. I would go downstairs to clean it out a few times a week and replace the litter. They never thought outside of the box and therefore, I didn’t have to either.

Then I got pregnant. Early on in my pregnancy one of the baby-bearing commandments my doctor relayed to me was NOT to change the litter box nor even have any contact with it. My spouse was at this appointment and nodded solemnly as my doctor told him that this baton was now being passed on to him. I was all too eager to comply with the doctor’s orders on this one.

Within the next year, somehow the cats got off track with our unwritten contract – I began to find bathroom mishaps outside of the designated location. Piles of poop could be found a few feet from their litter box. While many of these messes were generally close to their litter box in the unfinished part of my basement, others appeared in corners of the finished, carpeted part as well. I never caught our cats in the act, and I can’t even pinpoint when the first incident occurred. It may have been after we had our first baby, or even while I was pregnant. My husband is much more relaxed than I about cleaning. Perhaps our feline friends began to boycott the litter box when he started to put more effort into assembling nursery furniture, than cleaning their commode.

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Trying to Fix the Problem

Even though I didn’t know the exact cause of the problem, I knew I needed to fix it – and quickly. The idea of my increasingly mobile little one discovering a displaced pile of poop from our cats, before I got to it, was beyond disgusting. Therefore, I began to research online to see what I could find about cats straying from the litter box. I took a plethora of notes on all that I found. A large amount of solutions had do to with the cat litter itself. These ideas ranged from the amount of litter boxes placed out for multiple cats, to the location of the litter boxes, to the type of litter used within the boxes.

For the next two years, I put all of these ideas into practice. I incorporated just one at a time so I could see if any of these variables could be the key factor in getting my cats back on track.


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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to discover the single magical solution. Despite incorporating more litter boxes (even four at one point, in case they each wanted a separate one for going number one and two), meticulously cleaning the boxes a couple of times a day, and altering the location to where I found accidents, my cats continued to go in non-designated areas. For the record, they didn’t NOT use their litter box, they just diverged more times than I would have liked; and finding one lump of feline fecal on my carpet is one too many times in my book! So while they did use the litter boxes, I did continue to notice (and probably peed in places I didn’t notice) that they went in the finished part of my downstairs basement.

I did make one discovery though regarding litter. Even though one brand or type never attracted them solely to the litter box, I started to use and now prefer to use corn-based one over ones that are comprised of clay. Litters made from clay seem to result in a lot more dust and debris, whether it is my cats tracking it throughout the house, or me cleaning and changing the litter. Even if my cats seem impartial to which litter I use, I feel my lungs at least appreciate litters that don’t result in a ton of dust!

Picking a Vet's Brain

When none of the suggestions on the web warranted me any success, I finally made an appointment for my main culprit kitty to go see the vet -although, this too was a piece of advice I had read about online. Taking my cat to the vet is no easy task (not that it is a picnic for most owners), but I was desperate and hoped a professional could shed some light on the problem.

The vet inspected my cat, along with the fecal sample I toted along, but couldn’t find anything initially telling. She then asked if I wanted to pay extra to have her take a blood sample and analyze it to see if there were any abnormalities that could be found. I figured that since I had gone through all the trouble to take my cat out of the house, I might as well go all-out with this appointment. I told the vet to run any test she wanted if it could help save my carpet.

Unfortunately, this appointment yielded me nothing more than a departing of $250 from my checking account and quite a few bloody scratches from my Lady Stinkers. The Vet was nice enough to call me and go through the results she obtained from testing my cat’s blood sample. But in the end, she surmised that my kitty’s potty problem was probably a “behavioral issue,” and then proceeded to offer me the suggestions that I had already encountered through my own online investigation.

A trip to the vet always seems to cost more than just a few scratches.
A trip to the vet always seems to cost more than just a few scratches. | Source

Cleaning up the Messes

While I continued to get frustrated over not being able to find anything that solved the problem, I did discover one silver-lining to this cloud that was hanging over my head. I finally found a cleaning solvent that thoroughly cleaned away the mess left behind from the cat’s behind. After trying a myriad of different carpet cleaners – all of which left behind some kind of stain or discoloring of my carpet, having such success with a product was indeed a miracle. While other companies resolve that their cleaning products are fantastic – and name these likewise, this cleaner truly lives up to its name of Nature’s Miracle. Even with cat markings that are old – such as that present the cat left under the bed a few months ago – Nature’s Miracle is able to get it out entirely. Whether the cat mess is a poop stain, a urine marking, or a puke deposit in vibrant orange, I highly recommend using this product when going into combat with it.

As far as cleaning solvents go, it is definitely not the cheapest one out there. However, I have found the price to be worth paying since it does eradicate the mess without leaving a trace. With the potty problem continuing in my house, I have found it to be cost effective to buy the gallon-sized jug of it, while keeping the spray bottle on hand for refilling.

Learning to Deal

Since the problem has started, I continue to keep an eye and an ear open for a possible cure to my feline bathroom issue. Even though I haven’t uncovered any new ideas that have been effective 100 percent, I have gotten some solace whenever I hear of other cat owners battling a similar ordeal with their own aging cats. I know of a few owners that finally got so fed up with the situation that they dropped their feline family member off at a local animal shelter.

While there are times I am tempted to do the same thing with my cats (especially in the midst of cleaning up a massive, liquified output of a horrific episode) I don’t. And after having put up with it year after year, my eldest child, who is now five years old (and has a three year old brother) would surely notice and throw a tantrum if our family pets went suddenly missing. So for the meantime, I‘ll continue to clean up after my cats whenever they stray from the litter box program and try to restrict those areas of my home that seem to serve as their favorite commode. While I wish for a perfect cure, I won’t give my cats the boot – at least not anytime soon.

My kitty companions easily clawed their way into my heart when I got them. And now they’ve gotten the love of the entire family. In fact, the kids seem to get more and more attached to our cats as they grow up; they definitely see them as family members, as do I. My children even have expressed to me on several occasions how much they love having pets in the home, and would love to expand our family by getting a puppy. And as much as it warms my heart to see such affection and earnestness from my children, I always answer with a heartfelt, “No Way!” And this is one battle I’m determined to win.




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    • Karolyn Kokko profile imageAUTHOR

      Karolyn Kokko Lehn 

      3 years ago from Ann Arbor, MI

      That is good to know! The lobbying for a dog definitely continues. IF, IF, IF we get one, I'd probably do some research to find out if there is a more ideal time to get one for better potty training results:) Thanks for the feedback:)

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      3 years ago from India

      I have always kept dogs and they have been well trained. We take them for walk in morning and evening. No littering inside the house!

      By the way, I loved the name of your cats...too cute!

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