Q: I adopted a cat from the streets 19 years ago; she was about a year old at the time. She used the litter box for years, but recently stopped. I haven’t changed the brand of litter. At the moment, she uses newspapers placed next to the box. What’s going on? – T.M., Caracas, Venezuela

A: Doing the math, your cat is now quite elderly. Beth Adelman, a New York City-based certified cat behavior consultant, is concerned that the change in behavior might be due to a physical problem, so please see your veterinarian. When you do, “Be sure to explain to your vet what’s going on. Specifically ask to check for arthritis,” Adelman says.

Transitioning your cat to a litter box which would not require her to step over the side might solve the problem. However, if your cat is hurting, pain relief might also be appropriate.

Adelman suggests substituting the kind of box you might store sweaters in under the bed. Cut out a large U-shaped entrance in front which will require little effort for your cat to use. Make sure there are no sharp edges on this “door.” As options, you could try an extra-large cookie sheet or cafeteria tray. Since your cat seems to like newspaper, consider going with shredded newspaper. Or try a litter brand made from newspaper.

Keep in mind that it’s no more unusual to see changes occur in a 20-year-old cat than it would be to see them in a 100-year-old person. Overall, your cat seems to be doing remarkably well.

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