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Published September 17, 2010, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Older cat won’t use litter box

Dear Dr. Fox: We have an 11-year-old, spayed, female, indoor cat. For 10 years, she used the litter box without fail, but in the past year, she has started to defecate all over the house, including on furniture and beds. How can we stop this behavior?

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: We have an 11-year-old, spayed, female, indoor cat. For 10 years, she used the litter box without fail, but in the past year, she has started to defecate all over the house, including on furniture and beds.

How can we stop this behavior? We tried yelling and keeping her in the bedroom where she normally sleeps, but nothing works. – L.S., Cape Coral, Fla.

Dear L.S.: Yelling at her is pointless and basically cruel. Giving your cat a few drops of fish oil in her food (working up to a teaspoon daily) may help because of its anti-inflammatory properties. This would be especially beneficial if your cat has arthritis in the back, which is a common reason for otherwise healthy older cats to become impossible to housebreak. A veterinary checkup is called for, as she most likely has an age-related physical problem.

Putting the litter in a large (2-by-3-foot), low-sided (2 inches high) tray might make it easier for your cat to maneuver around while evacuating. Massage therapy will also benefit her.

Another thing: Check if her stools are stiff. She could simply be constipated and needs a stool softener like Laxatone (from the vet); some pumpkin or mashed lima beans, olive oil and some raw meat and liver might also help.


Dear Dr. Fox: We have a 1-year-old cockapoo who appears to be suffering from severe allergies. We’ve been treating him with antihistamines, with minimal success. After reading up on dog allergies, I was surprised to find that they are not only common but several types of allergies can be tested for.

Our dog constantly scratches and itches, to the point of turning his skin raw and scratching off clumps of hair. This condition is bad even during the winter, when I assume there are no molds or grasses that would contribute to an outdoor environmental condition. We don’t think food is causing the problem, either.

We’re trying to find a vet who specializes in allergies to learn more about what may be making our dog’s life miserable. What are your thoughts on this issue? – R.A.M., Springfield, Va.

Dear R.A.M.: For various reasons, your dog’s immune system has become impaired, so giving antihistamines (or steroids) won’t help and could make things worse.

A holistic approach is called for – a homemade, whole-food diet of known ingredients (deleting some, adding others to retest for hypersensitivity) would be beneficial. Cover all areas where your dog likes to lie and sleep with old cotton sheets that you wash weekly in hot water and a little white vinegar; bathe him every two weeks with mild baby shampoo; and boost his immune system and improve skin condition with nutraceutical supplements such as flaxseed oil (½ teaspoon for a 15-pound dog) and one pediatric (child’s) multimineral and multivitamin tablet (or similar supplement) that your veterinarian can prescribe. A few drops of primrose oil can be used as an alternative to flaxseed oil.


Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.

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