Dr. Marty Becker
Q: I have a 13-year-old cat named Sadie who, for the most part, is in very good health. She’s got a few extra pounds on her, but other than that she’s energetic, playful, and very loving. Recently, she’s picked up an odd (and frustrating!) habit: For the last two months or so she’s been making bowel movements on the floor right next to her litter box. I know it’s not an issue of mobility, as she has no problem getting in there to urinate. I tried changing the brand of litter, cleaning the litter box more often, and moving the box to a different room, but still no luck. She’s never had any serious behavioral problems before, so I’m very confused. Please help!
A: I wouldn’t be so sure it’s not a mobility problem. Arthritis linked to her age and excess weight may be making it more difficult for her to get into the box. Whenever you have a behavior change—especially in an older pet—you have to assume there’s a medical issue behind it. That’s why you need to get your pet to her veterinarian for a complete examination, possibly with diagnostics. If your veterinarian discovers health issues, those will need to be resolved before you can have a chance of fixing this problem.
If there are no medical issues, I’d go back to the litter she liked most (studies show most cats prefer clumping litters), but switch to a large box with one side cut down low for easier entry. I’d also consider two boxes: The rule for cats is generally one box per cat, plus one extra. While you haven’t mentioned that you have more than one cat, some cats do prefer using two boxes: One for liquid waste and one for solid.
If she is still having problems after getting a clean bill of health (or getting any issues resolved) and going to two large new boxes with the sides cut down for easy entry, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist for help.
ABOUT the Vet
Dr. Marty Becker is the author of the book, Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual: Hundreds of Secrets, Surprises, and Solutions for Raising a Happy, Healthy Cat (Grand Central Life & Style). For 16 years, Dr. Becker has been the popular veterinary contributor to ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. Currently he is a member of Core Team Oz on The Dr. Oz Show and is the veterinary spokesman for Vetstreet.com. His latest book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, is now available in paperback.