Home & Leisure

My Pet World: Cranky cat’ won’t use the litter box, and owner may know why

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

Our old and somewhat cranky cat has decided to not use her litter box. She uses whatever is around it but won’t use the box. I changed the cat litter and am wondering if that is the problem. Any suggestions?

–Fran, Tucson, Arizona

Dear Fran,

If you changed the cat litter recently and her decision not to use the box occurred around the same time, then yes, changing the cat litter was probably the problem. You either need to change it back to the old litter or use a cat litter attractant to coax her back to the box. If changing litter, it’s helpful to go slow. Start with ¼ new litter with ¾ old litter for a week, then ½ new litter and ½ old litter for a week, then ¾ new litter and ¼ old litter for a week, until you reach 100 percent new litter. Cats can accept change, but they need more time to do it.

Another thing that could be contributing to her litter box issues is your “somewhat cranky cat” could be experiencing age-related joint pain, making it difficult for her to get in and out of her litter box. If you think that might be the case, please take her to the vet for an exam. (See the letter below for a reader tip on elderly cats and litter boxes.)


Dear Cathy,

I was a pet sitter for 16 years and would like to pass on a few tips I learned from my clients. Cats seem to prefer to drink water when it is off the ground. Many of my clients left a glass or bowl of water for their cats in their sink or on the kitchen counter, instead of on the floor. I had a small dog who had a stand for her food and water, and the cats loved drinking from her bowl, so I got them their own stand.

Another tip is, if you have an elderly cat who has trouble getting into a litter box, you can use a low storage container that goes under a bed as a litter box. They aren't as high, and cats don't have trouble getting in and out of them.

–Melissa, Attleboro, Massachusetts


swipe to next page



Phil Hands Bizarro Macanudo Signe Wilkinson Momma Christopher Weyant