What to do about a senile cat?

Because what I’m doing now clearly isn’t working.

Four or five years ago I adopted Bobby from a shelter. His previous owners had died of old age, but before them he was a stray. More likely feral. They were cat people and took him in, and their daughter gave him to the shelter when they passed. He seemed sweet and fairly relaxed, and the unusual face was a draw. So I took him home. The vet said he was probably about 6, but on reflection he must have been older, maybe even as old as 10.

That’s the backstory. Fast forward to now. In the past year or so, Bobby has become…well, disgusting. Most cats are pretty fastidious; I know the two others currently occupying the house spend half their day cleaning up after themselves. Where the other two will cover their leavings in the litter box, Bobby drops a stinker and walks away. By the time it’s noticed, the house is drowning in the smell of shit. There’s a 50/50 chance that he’ll pee in the litter box or somewhere on the floor, preferably in a quiet corner that’s hard to get to for us big people. We noticed he was preferring to pee on stuff on the floor, like papers or empty cardboard boxes left in a corner, so we cleaned up. He merely started peeing on the carpet itself. He will go outside to do his business, but that’s not always a guarantee.

Since he grew up more or less feral, he has a bad habit of scarfing his food, especially if he’s been outside for any length of time. He eats like a demon since (presumably) he’s afraid there won’t be any more, and spends 20 minutes at the water dish. He eats way, way more than he can cope with, so he throws it right back up wherever he may be. He’s not so prone to this if he stays inside, but if he does then he’s likely to piss up the place.

The carpet’s ruined. I’ve long ago accepted that fact. I plan to move out of this house sometime in the next couple of years, and the carpet will simply have to be replaced before the place can be sold. Unfortunately, he also throws up on the sofa and my bed from time to time. In fact, the (already newly-washed) sheets are going through another cycle right now, which is what prompted this thread.

I’ve tried to bond with him, but he was already too old for that, and it’s clear he doesn’t fully trust humans. The best we’ve been able to do is coexist peacefully in the same house. I have a certain fondness for him, but it’s rapidly being overwhelmed by my utter lack of patience in dealing with his current state. He generates more filth than the other two cats combined. He is singlehandedly turning this place into one of those disgusting crazy-cat-lady houses faster than I can clean up after him.

I’ve thought hard about returning him to the shelter I adopted him from, but I worry about the stress that acclimating to a new household would mean, as he’s definitely a tired old man at this point. I’ve tried to come to terms with the idea of just waiting in this house and giving him as comfortable a life as possible until he passes of old age, because I cannot take him with me to a new house. I refuse to let him destroy it as he’s done this one. But I don’t know how much longer he plans to live, and while I do care about him, I don’t care enough about him to want to base my life plans on him to that extent.

I admit I haven’t done regular vet checkups, as my default position regarding doctors is to not go near one unless the situation is urgent, and it hasn’t been for quite some time. It doesn’t seem like his behavior is medical anyway, although I could be wrong; it seems more like that of a cranky old semi-feral cat who doesn’t really give a damn any more. It’s absolutely impossible to teach him anything any more; although the other cats will learn if you make it clear they’re to stay off the desk or what have you, he’s simply impervious to any kind of positive or negative reinforcement.

Add all this up, and he’s begun inspiring red-vision rage in me, to the point where it takes a great effort to not get physical with him. There is no animal or person I have ever met who generates such anger in me so consistently. It goes without saying that I’m utterly ashamed of my reaction to him, and although I know some posters here will think less of me for it, I still needed to write this post.

At this point, I really don’t know what to do. It’s a miserable situation, but the solutions I can think of aren’t really any better.

I’m not a cat expert but I’ve heard that not burying turds in the litter box is a dominance thing, sort of saying he’s the top cat in the house. Does that fit with the way he interacts with the others?
The peeing outside the box can be related to urinary infections. It hurts when they pee and they associate the hurt with the box. Or could be a dominance thing too maybe.
My cat can drive me to distraction at times but so far not the problems you are experiencing.
Take him to the vet for a check-up and discuss the issues. That way whatever you decide you’ll know you made the effort to see if there was a medical issue involved.
Good luck.

We have two cats – one will be 19 in April and the other is 15 or 16 (I forget). One of them started using the dining room carpet for a bathroom. I laid aluminum foil down and whoever was doing it stopped. I suppose they didn’t like the crinkly feel of the foil. One of them still occasionally poops just outside the box but it’s in the basement on a concrete floor, so I can live with that – easy cleanup.

Can you crate the cat and let him out only when you can watch him? Or restrict him to a room where he can’t do much damage, like a bathroom? Cats spend so much time sleeping, he probably wouldn’t notice the change, or care.

To be fair to the poor old guy, why not give him a vet visit? There are things the vet can give you as far as incontinence goes, and if there is something medically wrong with him, the vet can tell you that, too. When my old cat started peeing outside the box, it was bladder cancer. :frowning:

It sort of does. There’s times he doesn’t care, and there’s times he’s clearly established himself as the top cat in the house. Both the others are younger than him and came to the house after he did. At times it does seem like he expects someone else to clean up after him.

The problem is he moves around all over the house. Mark one spot off-limits, he just finds another. And then there’s the puking, which just happens wherever. The best that can be hoped for is that he won’t throw up in the spot he currently sleeps (next to my head on the bed), but he’s even done that once, and then laid in the half-chewed food after it dried.

It’s a thought, and one I’ll have to look into. I do know his current habits would cause him to go off on a howling fit for a while from not being able to go where he wanted, and the shakeup would screw with his behavior in ways I can’t predict.

It could be the peeing issue is medical, but he does still use the litter box frequently. Just, every so often, he decides to pee somewhere scenic. I know he’s skittish about the litter box because before the other cats got settled into the house, one would constantly assault him whenever he was using it. Not necessarily attack, but threaten, and I can only surmise it scarred him, even though he goes unmolested now.

Still, I’m starting to think a vet visit is the next best step, if only to rule out actual problems.

The hell of it all is, he’s actually pretty happy. He doesn’t act like he’s in pain. He’s friendly and looks for attention often, and even though he bolts when I do get mad, 10 minutes later he’s back to purring on my bed again.

Not to make light of your problems, but I have a cat who does all the things Bobby does except pee everywhere in the house, and I just chalk it up to her being a cat. She doesn’t bury anything in the litter box, she pees and craps right over the side if she feels like it, one of them (or both) are vomiting up fresh food semi-regularly - none of these makes me even a little bit angry because I expect it from cats. I can sympathize with you not tolerating it, though - I re-homed my first cat because he did the peeing and crapping everywhere in my house thing, and I just couldn’t live like that (“Dammit, I left the lid off the laundry and he took a shit in it again!” kind of thing).

I do have some suggestions for you, though - first, take him to a vet because boy cats often have urinary problems, and second, make sure they have lots of clean litter boxes. We have three boxes and two cats, and clean the boxes about twice a week. If you can, spot treat anywhere you catch him peeing so it doesn’t smell like pee, or he’ll be back at that spot again. You can also keep cats out of your bedroom - one less room for him to puke and pee in.

I’d agree, except like I said, the other two are a lot cleaner, so he’s the odd man out. Although one of them does occasionally throw up her food in the same way, admittedly.

I do try to keep the litter clean, but I suspect that may be part of it. We’ve got two boxes with three cats, one upstairs and one downstairs, and since most of the living happens upstairs, that one gets used way more often. And since it’s a small house, the only good place for the litter box has been in my room. So the uncovered poops are doubly infuriating, especially when you’re trying to sleep and suddenly you wake up at 3 am like you’ve been punched in the face with sheer stink. :frowning: I’m planning to rearrange things in the bathroom to make it fit in there, though.

Well the Vet is the answer.

You can buy urinary tract formula cat food and mix it in with his food and see if that helps with the peeing. All in all you’ve given the little furry bastard a good home for several years, if worse comes to worse, no jury would convict you if you had the vet give him the needle.

Have you tried a “sensitive systems” cat food? We switched to Authority (Petsmart store brand) Sensitive systems and the near-daily vomiting has been reduced to only the very occasional hairball. Cats, as they get older especially, cannot always tolerate wheat or corn products. This could also make the poops less smelly, if he’s not digesting the current food well.

We had tried the Purina ONE “sensitive systems” with not-so good results, but Authority did the trick.

If he is already doing business elsewhere, try putting up more litterboxes in those other places.

And if nothing works, don’t feel bad if you decide to rehome the cat. Maybe going to a home where he’s the only cat would cure his bad behavior.

As much as I love my cats, after years of hairballs and poop accidents and cleaning litter boxes, I think I’ll survive being cat-less. I’m almost looking forward to it.

If I was in your position, I would first take him to the vet ASAP and fully explore what is going on here. Urinary problems are common in older male cats but they are often treatable! And the vomiting isn’t normal either. My cats bolt their food too, but they never vomit. A diet change may be in order.

If his problems are not treatable, I would put him to sleep. No one is going to want this cat if you are honest about his problems, so rehoming is probably not a reasonable solution.

I’m sure people will think I’m heartless… I have two dogs and two cats and love them dearly, but I wouldn’t let them ruin my life in this fashion. Once they’re totally out of it and pissing on my stuff, it’s curtains. I will hold them while the vet injects them and they won’t even know what’s going on.

Agh - if Feather was crapping in our bedroom and not covering it, that wouldn’t work for me, either! Their litter boxes are in the utility room in the basement - the only time I smell her uncovered nuggets is when I go to do laundry (and then I clean the boxes).

I’ve considered it, but I can’t in good conscience do that to an otherwise healthy cat. Putting him down to make my life easier goes beyond what I consider personally acceptable.

Now, if it does turn out he has health issues that are going to cost significant money, it may be the best option. I refuse to blow a lot of cash just to prolong a painful life, and that’s assuming I had the cash to blow anyway. But I won’t know that until I see the vet. So I guess that’s my next step if I don’t want to go straight down the negligence path.

I had a cat about 17 yrs old, she was going blind and other issues and had trouble finding the litterbox, along with everything else. I tried to make her as comfortable as I could, but finally decided to get her put down. In the vets office as she was getting the needle she licked my hand, and I felt a ‘thank you’ feeling from her.

Cats like to be clean, if they can’t I would consider putting them down. I wish I would have done that sooner.

Have you done this yet ?

Cause it aint that easy.

This sounds like a thyroid problem—any weight changes lately?

Just a word of warning on the carpet - you might need to replace the subfloor as well. Cat urine is a horrible smell to get rid of - my uncle is a contractor and has ripped concrete floors out of basements to get rid of the smell of a house of incontinent cats (but it was a long term multi cat household - a crazy cat lady house and not in a good way), and a friend had to replace the subfloor before she sold her house (she only had two cats, but one chose one bedroom as its litterbox for years.)

My partner’s mom’s cat became quite senile in her later years. The vet was actually excited because she’d never seen a cat with actual dementia before. She would sit facing a corner and meow at the wall day, but she was actually a happy and healthy cat otherwise. My MIL, who was retired, used to carry her around the house. The rest of the time that cat was confined to a small room. Despite the dementia, she tried to be clean, but often was still messy. She would do things like go into the litter box, but her butt we be hanging out of it when she peed.

No much could be done really. A tarp was put down so most of the small room was covered and all furniture except the cat’s favourite chair were removed from it. Eventually she completely stopped caring for herself and didn’t groom at all and seemed to forget to eat. Then she was put down.

He has gotten pretty thin in the past year despite his voracious appetite. My roommate, who has significantly more experience with cats than I, chalked it up to simple old age. He doesn’t seem to be in any pain, although I know sometimes cats are good at hiding it.

Yep, he does this quite a lot. The sad thing is, given his history of being attacked in the litterbox, and probably just by virtue of being self-conscious, I can’t reposition him better, no matter how gentle I am about it. He freaks out and no matter how much I try to keep him calm, he’ll run and hide. Seeing as he was just about to have a BM, that’s a problem, so I have to catch him and put him outside for my sanity and his.