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How to Litter Train an Older Cat (10 Effective Steps )

Posted on July 1, 2023 @

Last Updated on May 7, 2024 by Ian Dossary

Litter training an older cat may seem like a daunting task, but with patience and effective steps, it can be done successfully. Cats are naturally drawn to using litter boxes, so by following a few key strategies, you can litter train an older cat

Choose the Right Litter and Equipment 

Before you begin litter training your older cat, it’s important to have the right tools and supplies on hand. This will ensure that the training process goes smoothly and your cat has everything they need to successfully use the litter box. Here are some essential items to consider:

  1. Litter Boxes: Choose large litter boxes that are the appropriate size for your cat. Older cats may benefit from low-walled litter boxes for easy accessibility.
  2. Litter: Select a litter that is suitable for your cat’s preferences. Start with unscented, clumping litter, and monitor which box is used most frequently to determine your cat’s preference.
  3. Scoop: Invest in a sturdy scoop for cleaning the litter boxes. Regular scooping and cleaning will help maintain a clean and hygienic environment for your cat.
  4. Additional Supplies: Consider other supplies such as litter mats to catch any litter tracking, liners for easy cleanup, and odor-control products to keep the area fresh.

By having these essential tools and supplies ready, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on the litter training journey with your older cat.

Find a Quiet & Secluded Spot, With All Her Stuff

When is It Too Late to Litter Train a Cat
  • Location: Choose a quiet and secluded area for privacy, like near an exit door or in a spot far from loud noises and foot traffic.
  • Space: Initially place the litter box in a small, enclosed space such as a bathroom or a sectioned-off area of a room.

Creating Comfort with Familiar Items:

  • Belongings: Keep the cat’s toys, food, and water bowls within easy reach to foster a sense of security.
  • Association: This setup helps the cat associate this area with safety and her needs, making the litter box training process smoother.

Ensuring a Peaceful Environment:

  • Oasis: By keeping the cat’s belongings close and choosing a tranquil location, you create a peaceful oasis for your cat.
  • Security: This reduces stress and anxiety, which can be barriers to successful litter training.

Patience and Habituation:

  • Adjustment Time: Allow your cat time to get used to the new setup as they are creatures of habit.
  • Consistency: Maintain a calm atmosphere consistently to help your older cat adapt to the litter box.
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Remember, patience is key. Your cat may require some time to adjust to these changes, but with a consistent and calm environment, you can encourage her to use the litter box effectively.

Introduce Your Cat to the Litter Box

  • Placement: Start by placing the litter boxes in a quiet and secluded area.
  • Familiarization: Let your cat discover the litter boxes on her own terms without forcing her.

Encouraging Use:

  • Positive Reinforcement: Use treats or praise to encourage your cat to enter and use the litter box.
  • Gradual Introduction: Allow your cat to explore and get comfortable with the litter box gradually.

Understanding Pace To Litter Train an Older Cat:

  • Patience: Some cats may need more time to get used to using a litter box, especially if they’re used to going outdoors.
  • Consistency: Regularly show your cat the location of the litter boxes to establish a routine.

Accommodating Multiple Cats:

  • Sufficient Number: Ensure there is at least one litter box per cat, plus one extra to avoid competition.
  • Separate Boxes: Place litter boxes in different locations for each cat if possible.

Adaptability and Persistence:

  • Individual Needs: Recognize that each cat is different; what works for one may not work for another.
  • Continuous Encouragement: Don’t get discouraged by initial rejections; keep using positive reinforcement.

Experiment with Different Litter Types & Amounts

Litter TypeDescription
Clumping LitterUnscented litter that forms clumps when wet, making it easy to clean
Scented LitterLitter infused with artificial scents to mask odors
Pine Pellet LitterLitter made from compressed pine pellets, providing natural odor control
Recycled Paper LitterLitter made from recycled paper products, offering a dust-free and eco-friendly option

Experimenting with Litter Types:

  • Variety Trial: Test different litter types such as unscented clumping, scented, pine pellets, or recycled paper.
  • Observation: Take note of your cat’s reaction to each type to determine their preferences.

Finding the Right Amount:

  • Depth Variation: Experiment with different amounts of litter, ranging from shallow to deeper layers.
  • Usage Tracking: Observe which litter box your cat uses most to gauge the preferred depth.

Monitoring and Adjusting:

  • Preference Indicators: Watch your cat’s behavior closely to see which textures and scents they are drawn to.
  • Adaptability: Be prepared to switch types or amounts based on your cat’s comfort and usage patterns.

Comfort and Acceptance:

  • Older Cat Considerations: Remember that older cats may have more specific needs or preferences compared to kittens.
  • Patience in Transition: Allow time for your cat to get accustomed to each new type or amount of litter.
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Keep It Clean, But Not Right Away

Every few days or as neededRemove waste and clumps
Every 3 to 4 weeksThoroughly clean the litter box

Balancing Cleanliness and Familiar Scents:

  • Scent Preservation: Allow some of your cat’s scent to remain in the litter box to help them recognize it.
  • Regular Changes: Change the litter every few days, avoiding immediate cleaning after each use.

Routine Litter Box Maintenance:

  • Thorough Cleaning: Perform a deep clean every 3 to 4 weeks by emptying and washing the box with mild soap and water.
  • Drying: Ensure the litter box is completely dry before adding fresh litter.

Hygiene and Sensitivity:

  • Odor and Bacteria Control: Regular maintenance prevents odors and bacteria to maintain a pleasant environment.
  • Older Cat Preferences: Keep in mind that older cats may require a cleaner litter box to feel comfortable using it.

Successful Litter Training:

  • Clean Yet Familiar: Maintain cleanliness while allowing the box to carry the cat’s scent for a successful litter training experience.
  • Standard Maintenance: Stick to a consistent cleaning schedule to satisfy your older cat’s need for cleanliness.

Make Sure Food and water are Far Enough Away

  • Separation Principle: Place food and water bowls away from the litter box to align with your cat’s natural instincts.
  • Comfort and Hygiene: Ensure bowls are placed at a sufficient distance to prevent discomfort and maintain hygiene.

Ideal Locations for Eating and Eliminating:

  • Different Rooms: Ideally, place the food and water bowls in a different room from the litter box.
  • Distance Matters: If not possible, keep the bowls at least a few feet away from the litter box area.

Encouraging Consistent Litter Box Use:

  • Hygienic Environment: Promote cleanliness by clearly distinguishing between eating and elimination spaces.
  • Privacy for Your Cat: Provide a private and comfortable space for your cat to encourage proper litter box use.

Try Pheromone Spray

If your older cat is having difficulty adjusting to using the litter box, you may want to consider using a pheromone spray specifically designed to calm cats.

Pheromones are natural chemical signals that cats use to communicate with each other, and certain sprays mimic these calming signals to help reduce stress and anxiety.

To use the pheromone spray, simply spritz it around the area of the litter box at least five minutes before your cat needs to use it.

The calming effect of the pheromones can help your cat feel more comfortable and relaxed, making it easier for them to associate the litter box with positive experiences.

Related  How to Train an Orphaned Kitten to Use the Litter Box

It’s important to note that pheromone sprays are not a magical solution and should be used in combination with other litter training techniques.

Be patient and consistent, providing positive reinforcement whenever your cat successfully uses the litter box.

Over time, with the help of the pheromone spray and your loving guidance, your older cat will become more comfortable with using the litter box.

Benefits of Using Pheromone Spray

Reduces stress and anxietyThe pheromones in the spray mimic natural calming signals, helping your cat feel more relaxed.
Promotes positive associationBy spraying the area around the litter box, your cat will start to associate the scent with a safe and familiar environment.
Enhances litter box acceptanceThe calming effect of the pheromones can encourage your cat to use the litter box more frequently and consistently.
Supports litter training effortsThe spray can be a valuable tool in conjunction with other training techniques to help your older cat adjust to using the litter box.

Handling Accidents Quickly During Litter Training

  • Immediate Response: Clean up any accidents as soon as they occur to prevent habit formation.
  • Odor Removal: Use a cleaner that specifically targets pet messes to eliminate both odor and bacteria.

Choosing the Right Pet Mess Cleaner:

Pet CleanQuickly eliminates stains and odors$9.99
Fresh PawsNatural formula safe for pets$12.99
Purify & CleanEnzyme-based formula for deep cleaning$14.99
  • Safety First: Select a cleaner that is safe for use around pets.
  • Effectiveness: Ensure the cleaner can remove both stains and odors to discourage repeat marking.

Best Practices for Clean-Up:

  • Follow Directions: Adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for the pet mess cleaner to ensure effective use.
  • Maintain Hygiene: Prompt cleaning helps maintain a sanitary environment for you and your cat.

Preventing Future Accidents:

  • Deterrence: An effective cleaner can help deter your cat from using the same spot for future eliminations.
  • Consistent Cleanliness: Regular cleaning contributes to a hygienic space, encouraging litter box use.

Patience is important

Remember, patience is key when it comes to litter train an older cat. By remaining patient and understanding, you can create a positive and comfortable environment for your older cat to successfully use the litter box.

Pros of PatienceCons of Impatience
Allows your cat to adjust at their own paceCan cause stress and anxiety in your cat
Encourages positive association with the litter boxMay lead to avoidance of the litter box
Reduces the likelihood of accidents due to anxietyCan disrupt the training process and prolong the adjustment period

No Luck? Talk to a Vet

  • Ongoing Issues: Seek veterinary advice if litter box problems persist after several weeks of training.
  • Health Assessment: A vet can determine if there are underlying health issues affecting litter box use.

Possible Medical Issues Affecting Litter Box Habits:

Common Medical Issues Affecting Litter Box UsageSymptoms
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)Straining to urinate, frequent urination, blood in urine
Bladder StonesUrinating outside of the litter box, frequent licking of genital area, straining to urinate
ArthritisDifficulty accessing the litter box, reluctance to climb in and out of the box
Cognitive DeclineConfusion, disorientation, forgetting litter box location

Veterinary Examination and Treatment:

  • Diagnostic Tests: The vet may run tests to diagnose any health problems.
  • Treatment Plans: Medication or other treatments can alleviate health issues, improving litter box use.
  • Personalized Advice: Vets can provide tailored guidance to support your cat’s litter training.

Importance of Professional Guidance:

  • Expertise: Veterinarians have the expertise to identify and treat medical issues that hinder training.
  • Support: They offer valuable advice and support to ensure successful litter box habits for your cat.


Litter training an older cat takes time and patience. By introducing your cat to the litter boxes, experimenting with different litter types and amounts, and maintaining cleanliness in a strategic way, you can help your older cat successfully adapt to using a litter box.

Remember to provide positive reinforcement, such as praise and treats, throughout the training process. With a little patience and praise, you can create a comfortable and convenient environment for your older cat.