Just like people, animals get arthritis. Middle-aged and senior cat are no exception, as cartilage deteriorates over the years and joints become less flexible. A common condition, arthritis can also be caused by injury and made worse if your cat is overweight.
Cats hide pain and discomfort, so spotting arthritis in your aging cat isn’t as easy as watching out for an obvious limp. Sometimes your first indication of a problem is that your cat will start having accidents outside the litter box (often for the first time in her life). More often, though, you’ll see subtler signals that it hurts to move, the first usually being a reluctance — or inability — to jump. This includes difficulty using the litter tray, especially if you have a high sided box.
How to Help Your Arthritic Cat
Your veterinarian can prescribe both dietary supplements and medications for pain and inflammation. You can help by changing or adding some things at home. These include:
- Use soft cat beds that are easily accessible.
- Use steps so your cat can reach your bed or a favorite windowsill.
- If your cat is having trouble with stairs, relocate food and litter boxes, so they’re on the same floor.
- Brush your cat more often.
- Replace litter boxes with shallow litter boxes for senior cats.
Easy Access Litter Boxes
Cat owners know all too well that cats are creatures of habit. Swapping your existing litter boxes for low-sided trays may actually involve more than one attempt.
Before diving into a new litter box (so to speak), you may wish to look at a ramp so that your cat can continue to use the boxes you’ve already got. There’s one at Amazon made from corrugated cardboard for cats up to 20 lbs. It can be used with three different box heights: 3 inches, 5 inches and 6-7 inches.
If you’ve got a fairly standard set-up (a couple of high-sided litter boxes — with sides measuring between 7”-11”), then a regular box with a cut-out entry would be acceptable to you in terms of how it looks. There’s one 24”x20”x5” easy access litter box at Amazon with a 12” wide entry that is 3” from the floor.
So the sides are certainly lower, by as much as 7”, with the entry cut down by between 4”-7”. Those lower sides likely mean you’ll have to use less litter in the box and top it up more often than you’re used to.
There are two issues with this box: there’s no cover; and it’s easy for the litter to go everywhere because of the low entry. If you’ve got issues with your cat urinating onto or over the side of the box, try placing puppy-pads on the floor. If scattered litter is the problem, using a litter mat at the entry should catch most of it.
If your cat is quite tiny, consider a ferret litter pan. It’s only 14”x12”x7”, so is considerably smaller than the box described above. Most cats are too big for these (ferrets measure 16 inches long from nose to tail and weigh 2.5 pounds). However, it has a very low 2” front lip and that back corners at 7” high. Of all the adult cats I’ve fostered and rescues over the years, just one would be small enough to make use of this size litter box.
Don’t Forget Your Old Cat Carrier
If you’ve got an extra cat carrier around, the plastic kind with a swing door, take it apart. The bottom half has a great low entryway and the sides are high. I actually got a bit desperate when looking for an shallow litter box for our litter-trained geriatric rabbit when I came up with this solution.
Rabbits are just as suspicious of change as cats, and I still keep the extra-large litterbox (with its 5 inch sides) out, but he’s starting to use the carrier box more often. He’s always made a mess of the litter — bunnies love to dig and burrow — so it’s not much more of a mess than before.
If you don’t have one to convert, you can source a used cat carrier at a garage sale or thrift shop. Don’t worry if it’s seen better days. As long as the bottom half is intact, it’ll serve the purpose. That way you can try out one easy access litter box before you commit to buying any more.