Wednesday, 19 December 2018
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Ask Dr Bruce Chard: Is there an alternative option to using a litter tray?

All cats will use a litter tray if they have easy access to it.


All cats will use a litter tray if they have easy access to it.

Tigger, our 12-year-old cat, has been diagnosed with kidney failure. He is doing well on a special kidney diet but is also drinking a lot of water. I recently caught him passing urine inside but I would prefer to not use a litter tray. Is there an alternative?

Many cat owners are reluctant to go back to a litter tray when their cat gets older, preferring the cat to always go outdoors. Even with a cat door older cats will often secretly pass urine inside. Owners become aware of the urine smell after a few days even though it will be difficult to find the spot. Because of this you do need to go back to a litter tray. All cats will use a litter tray if they have easy access to it. Make a comfortable room for Tigger with his food, water and bed there. Regularly empty his litter tray and you will find this gives much better control of the problem.

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My Pekinese dog called Oscar is 14 years old. Recently he suddenly had problems standing, with his head tilted to one side and falling over. Also I noticed both his eyes were rolling to one side and then flicking back. He is a little better now and eating some food but do you think he has had a stroke?

It is always alarming when your older pet suddenly has a problem that seems to be related to their brain. The signs you describe point to a balance problem [vestibular disease] rather than damage from a stroke. The change is from an effect on the inner ear which maintains normal balance. With vestibular disease dogs still have their normal strength and react normally towards their owner. Your vet will be able to confirm the diagnosis on examination. Recovery takes place without treatment and most dogs will be back to normal after three weeks. Some dogs are left with a mild head tilt but will manage with this. 

Dr Bruce Chard owns North Harbour Veterinary Clinic in Auckland. He has been a vet for more than 40 years and has a pekingese dog and two burmese cats. Visit or email



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