How to Litter Train an Older Cat Top Tricks for Success

How to Litter Train an Older Cat: Top Tricks for Success

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Owning a cat can be one of the greatest joys in life, and many owners decide to take in an older cat that needs a new home. These older cats have just as much love to give as a kitten or young cat, but they can have some quirks that you’ll have to work on.

From basic training to food portion control, not all older cats have had the level of training you would hope for. In particular, figuring out how to litter train an older cat can be a frustrating task.

Simply put, mature cats have already learned to go where they want, and reteaching them that the litter box is the proper potty spot can be a big task. Still, it is possible.

Litter Training an Older Cat Successfully

#1: If You Have an Untrained Cat

The fastest way to train a senior cat to learn about the litter box is to set up a single room for them to use for the time being.

In this room, there should be:

  • Food
  • Water
  • A litter box (keep away from the food and water)
  • Toys
  • Bed
Litter Training an Older Cat Successfully

Cats do not like to go to the bathroom near their food, so it's a great idea to set up the food and water on the side of the room opposite the litter box. Also, after your cat eats, sit them on the litter box; after they wake up, sit them on the litter box. At all times when they might need to go to the bathroom, sit them on the litter box.

You are trying to set up an association in their mind, and doing this repeated action will let the cat know that there is something that you want them to do. During the whole process, be sure to keep the litter box clean. A clean litter box will attract your cat better than one that is dirty!

#2: If You Are Taking In a Stray

One of the most successful tips on how to litter train an older cat, especially one that was a previous stray is to find out where they used to go to the bathroom. While this might be very difficult to do, it will be the most helpful thing for you.

From soil to sand to the newspaper, stray cats still prefer a specific area to go poop and urinate. If you can find out what your cat preferred, you can use this to help your cat learn about litter boxes.

Once you find out, follow these steps:

  1. Put that material mixed with a little bit of litter into a litter box.
  2. Sit your cat on the box after they eat, when they wake up, and when they start to go to the bathroom in the wrong spot.
  3. Continue this process regularly.
  4. Once they start to use the litter box, you can gradually adjust the amount of litter-to-old-material ratio until they are only using the litter.

Throughout any litter training process, it is very important that you keep the litter box free of solids as well as keep it very dry. Cats are clean animals, so they will avoid using a litter box that is dirty.

#3: If You Are Retraining

In some cases, a senior cat has had previous experience with a litter box. Find out if this is the case by setting up a litter box with litter in it in a secluded area away from your cat’s food. Show them the box regularly and gauge your cat’s reaction.

If they seem to be familiar with what they should do in the litter, simply cleaning it frequently and rewarding litter box usage will be enough to retrain your cat. Otherwise, you’ll have to try step #1 above.

#4: All Types of Old Cats

Your cat is sure to make mistakes during this process. They might go to the bathroom on your rug, in the corner, or even on your clothes! While it can be tempting to yell when this happens, the best thing that you can do is simple. Clean it up!

Clean up any places where your cat goes to poop and urinate using any of the following:

  • An enzyme-based cleaner that will get rid of both stain and odor
  • Mix seltzer and white vinegar for an at-home enzyme alternative
  • Products without ammonia or its derivatives since it attracts cats

One tip is that if one area has been used or saturated too many times, you may need to change out any foam-backed padding. Also, the goal is to reward your cat for successes and simply clean up their failures. Getting angry with your cat will do nothing but scare them!

Reward your cat

Expect Mistakes Before Progress

While it may be frustrating, you should expect your mature cat to have some mistakes before you see much progress. While you can figure out how to litter train an older cat, it will take time for them to re-adjust to their new routine. The change won’t be immediate.

Want to build your perfect litter box? Check this out: Building A Litter Box Enclosure


Eventually, though, you will find that your cat can learn how to go to the bathroom in the litter box. Not only will this make your life easier, but it will also make your cat happier and healthier.

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