My senior cat is 20.5 years old and has cancer. She's getting depo shots every 2 weeks to slow the cancer growth and on a prescription diet to help her gain weight. She's become unsteady on her feet and has arthritis.

In addition, she's never been willing to get in the litterbox to do her business: she's always perched on the edge.

Lately, she's started defecating just beside the box (she's still using the box to urinate, thankfully). I think it's because she's no longer able to balance on the edge of the box for defecation.

Are there any litterbox styles she's more likely to use? I'm willing to clean up after the defecation (although it gets nasty when she's due for the next shot, because she's likely to have a bout of diarrhea then), but I'd really prefer not to have to clean up if her balance/strength deteriorates to where she's urinating beside the box as well.

My husband and I want to keep her comfortable and happy for as long as we can, so we're looking for options that will allow her to use a litterbox comfortably.

UPDATE (per Monica Cellio's request): When she's perched on the edge of the box, she has front paws between the back paws, tail up. When she's defecating, she usually takes a while and has to strain a bit even when she has diarrhea) where when she's urinating it's a quick, no-strain thing.

She usually has to rebalance herself a few times when she's defecating and her front and back paws are further apart.

  • Perhaps a litter tray with short sides would help?
    – mhwombat
    Jan 13, 2015 at 20:21
  • Have you tried Rubber Mats and Diapers. These may not be Litter pans, but they may help.
    – Pobrecita
    Jan 14, 2015 at 2:14
  • 1
    Can you describe her posture when she perched, and what she's doing differently now for solids and liquids (since she's only having trouble with one of these)? Jan 14, 2015 at 3:20
  • How about putting puppy pads around the litter box? It's not perfect, but it'll lessen the amount of cleaning at least.
    – Kaworu
    Jan 14, 2015 at 9:29
  • We're reluctant to use puppy pads because we have two other cats and we don't want them getting the idea that it's okay to go outside the box. We'd much rather find a solution that entices the elderly cat back to the box.
    – Kate Paulk
    Jan 15, 2015 at 12:21

2 Answers 2


With rabbits when they can't get into the litter box we generally cut out one side (round the edges) so they can get in and out without trying to climb over the edge. We have had good results even with paraplegic (broken back) rabbits.

BUT, I don't think that option will work with your cat. It sounds like she has a 'need' to not get her feet in the litter.

Rather than make her try and balance on the thin edge of the litter box, build her a shelf to stand on when using the litter box. If you want to post a picture in chat of your litter box I can help with a specific solution. The basic approach would be to put a board across one end of the box and fasten it with screws so it can't move. Add non-slip stair treads if needed. There is a picture on this answer about digging boxes that shows one approach.

If you have standard litter box that looks like a dishpan; cut a board a bit longer then the box is wide, turn the box upside down with the board near the end of the box, use screws through the lip of the box to attach it. Turn the box back over (make sure the screws don't come through the wood!), fill it with litter, and she can balance on the big shelf to do her business.

  • 1
    Thanks, James. Giving her a shelf has worked perfectly - there have been no unwanted cleanups since we set it up on the weekend.
    – Kate Paulk
    Jan 22, 2015 at 12:01

She may not be willing to get in the litterbox if she feels that the box is not large enough for her to avoid getting poo (or the results of a previous litter box usage) on her paws, and this causes her to perch on the edge.

You could try getting a larger box (an underbed plastic storage box should be a cheap way to get a large shallow box) and see if that helps.

While you troubleshoot, I'd recommend using puppy pads around the edges of the litter box to make cleanup of diarrhea easier.

  • This would be an excellent suggestion if we didn't already have the largest box size available! She's been perching on the box since she was a kitten small enough to sit on the palm of my hand.
    – Kate Paulk
    Jan 15, 2015 at 12:23
  • @KatePaulk then I would suggest trying JamesJenkins suggestion.
    – Zaralynda
    Jan 15, 2015 at 15:58
  • we're going to - we'll be adding the shelf to the litter box this weekend (it can't happen before that because we both work)
    – Kate Paulk
    Jan 15, 2015 at 16:41
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    You can get very large containers if you think outside the box. I know of a family with 13 cats that uses a kiddy pool full of sand.
    – Oldcat
    Jan 16, 2015 at 1:39

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