kitteh help needed!

I’m having something of a cat behavior problem, and I would love any advice!

Here is the culprit, looking properly guilty of course.  Sarah Jane is a house cat who escaped her owners (or was abandoned) for an unknown period of time before we took her in.  She’s the sweetest cat I’ve ever had, and we love her to death, especially my husband.

When we first got her she was using the litter box, but would have occasional accidents.  We took her to the vet, he diagnosed diabetes and put her on medicine, and her sugar levels are now under control.  We started (after a few weeks) trying to introduce her slowly to my other two cats, Leon and Dionne.   They didn’t like each other, but it seemed like they were learning, so eventually we let her come and go freely.  Then she started having a lot of accidents in the kitchen, very near the litter box in there, but not near enough to be an accidental miss. (we have 3 boxes in different rooms.)  I took the cover off, and she used it for awhile, but finally started up again.  We finally had to lock her in the bedroom again and consider how we could introduce them again.  Lately she has been occasionally peeing around the baseboards near her litterbox.  I moved her box to that spot and she hasn’t had another accident yet, but I am sure it is coming.

I should mention that she is very fearful of my other cats.  She seems to be getting used to Leon, who at this point just ignores her when he sees her, but Dionne hates her.  Dionne will come up to the bedroom door and shove her paws under it, trying to get at Sarah Jane (all our doors are very short, I think there must have been carpet here and someone chopped off the doors.)  I don’t expect love, I just want them to ignore each other.

Sarah Jane has been tested (twice) for any medical issues other than the diabetes, and she is clean (no infections, crystals etc.)  She did have a major problem when we switched her to a wet diet (wellness core) and now we have to mix medimucil into her food (poor kitty!)  She developed some issues with that problem I think, as I know the box was a source of pain then, but she does use it most of the time, so I don’t know what triggers that.  It’s pretty obvious to me that it’s territorial.  She is not a timid cat, and does not back down from Dionne, who usually runs and hides after initiating a confrontation.

We are moving on Saturday, and I’m not sure the best way to introduce the cats to the new house.  I’m hoping that with twice the space they will be able to ignore each other more, or that they can each claim their own territory since it will be new.  Sarah Jane loves to sleep in our bed, but I am just not willing to put a litter box in my bedroom again, and once her box is in a room you had better not move it (trust me on this one.)  We were thinking of startng her in the guest room, since she seems to like having her own space, and letting her out at intervals (at first with the other cats locked in our room until she gets used to things.)

Of course, all this is complicated by the fact that we are moving, and we have been showing the house (traumatic for the cats.)  I haven’t tried to reintroduce them very much because I thought they were under enough stress.  We love Sarah Jane no matter what, but wouldn’t it be nice to not have to clean up disgusting things every other day?  We have tried feliway (did nothing,) taking the lids off the boxes, moving the boxes, getting more boxes, every cleaning product under the sun etc.  We are at a loss.  We are, however, very grateful not to have any carpet in this house, as hard surface floors are easy to clean.

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32 thoughts on “kitteh help needed!

  1. gaile says:

    You have to have feliway in many rooms – preferably any large rooms that any of the cats hang out in. What kind of litter are you using. She obviously has issues with the box, and the other cat problems aren’t helping. You already seem aware of this. Try giving her exclusive access to a few different types of boxes with different types of litter, with a feliway plug-in in the room she’s in. The other cats may have chased her out of the box initially, so the only thing to do is start over, with her having a number of boxes in her own room to choose from. Then you can see what kind of litter she prefers. You also need to consider that your other two cats will never get along with her, and that perhaps she needs to be an only cat in a quieter home. I know that’s hard to think about, but if nothing else works, it might be best for all of them, as she is obviously very stressed at the moment.

  2. I was going to suggest Feliway. Darn.

    We have 2 cats, and after several years together our female started peeing outside the box, but only near the box. This was after she had and was treated for FLUTD, and peed outside the box because of this. But now this wasn’t it, after being checked out, determined it was territorial. Our vet said that once a cat breaks the habit of using the box, even for medical reasons, they are more likely to do it again, for medical or behavioral issues.

    We tried several different things, and are now at a compromise. We put doggy pee pads beside the box and she sometimes goes on these, but not elsewhere in the litter room as she once did. We discovered that the older she gets, the more picky she gets about the type and cleanliness or her litter. We also discovered that if we used a strongly scented cleanser to clean the floor, the more likely and more quickly she would “re-mark” the floor. Now we use Ms. Meyers countertop spray, with a mild scent. This seems to help. So, super clean, scoopable pine litter, low-smell cleanser, and doggy pads are our “solution”. The pads make it super fast and easy to clean up, at least.

    For us it was a lot of trial and error, and observation. I think in our case it was a combination of things causing her actions. Always tough to figure out.

    Good luck!

  3. We had a similar problem with a cat we rescued of the street and who had to get used to a new companion and the lid of the litter box.
    I suppose she feels like it’s not ‘her’ litterbox, and no matter how many boxes you put up each cat is bound to check each box out. So I eventually gave up, removed the lid, made sure the box is in the same spot and cleaned every day. Eventually that helped.
    My cat got used to the other cat eventually, let them work it out unless they hurt each other or one stops eating. We also put up 2 bowls for them and eventually they ate of each others plates.
    The move might actually be a good thing, as all cats have to start over so to speak and it levels the playingfield. It is always hard to move but after a couple of months (or less often) they are going to feel just as home.
    And catnip helped to join them up. Don’t ask why as I have no idea why…

  4. cats are funny. when i moved in with my boyfriend, his cat would pee on my cat’s food! but it sounds like a move is a good thing. cats are territorial and putting them all in a new environment might help them all start over and be able to live together more harmoniously. i would also just give them a lot of love and treats at the same time so the other cats know she is a part of the family too, as much as they may not like it, they will learn to live with her. hope that helps!!

  5. Oh cats. I think some cats don’t really like litter boxes. It may have to do with the other kitties and it may not. I had a friend whose cat always pooped outside the box. Near it, just not in it. I think it helps to have the box be as clean as possible. I do think the kitties will learn to ignore each other and be fine, especially in the new and beautiful place. You might not want to separate them because they will become territorial about places in the new house when they have the chance to be on neutral ground… When we got one of our cats she peed outside the box, we determined that it was the type of litter — we like a natural pine litter and I think she didn’t like the smell. So we switched it and no problems since (she and our other cat hate each other but deal with a minor fight once a day or so). Good luck! Maybe the move will be a good thing for them!

  6. riaknits says:

    I, too have had a similar bout of litterbox troubles. We had 2 cats that did not get along, and our first cat – after a few years of clashing with the new kid – started going outside the box.

    We fixed the problem by doing 2 things; to stop her from turning my carpet into her own personal litterbox, I sprayed my perfume in the places where she was making a mess. The second thing was to clean the litterbox very thoroughly & keeping it spotlessly clean, minimizing the opportunity for offending odors [olfactory reminders that there's an 'unfriendly' cat around] to drive her in search of a less offensive place to go. As soon as the little one would go, we’d scoop it out. It meant lots more work, but it worked.

    Also, I wouldn’t separate them. We tried that too, it just delays the fighting. So long as they don’t he to deal with anyone else, it gives them all the false sensation of being the alpha cat. We finally found that if they feel like they have no choice but to get along, they actually will. They never loved eachother – but they did finally become very civil towards one another.

    Best of luck!

  7. i agree with others who’ve suggested trying out different kinds of litter. our kitteh maeve refuses to use certain brands/types – resulting in horrible messes just outside the litterbox. she also HATES wet food, so she’s kind of weird in general, but it’s worth a try!

  8. coming out of lurkerdom to offer some advice!

    the first thing i thought of was, are the other cats using the same litter box as she is?

    also instead of letting her out her room, if possible, put one of the other cats in a cat box, and put them in her room. this will allow her to scope them out and they cant walk off, or attack her. she would also feel happier being on her own territory.

    hopefully the problems will ease when each cat is moved to a new territory

  9. We have two cats who don’t get along. They would fight constantly at our old house. We moved 3 months ago, and did nothing to separate them. They haven’t fought nearly as much since. They still aren’t friendly, but we do catch them both sleeping on the same piece of furniture, which never happened before.

    I think their main issue was that our grumpy cat thought she owned the place (having been there first) and when we moved, neither one had seniority here.

    We also have more space in the new house, so it’s easier for them to just avoid each other.

  10. I second the Cat Attract litter. It’s expensive, but once she stops having accidents, you can switch back to something cheaper. Also, you probably should have more than one litter box (I couldn’t tell from your post how many you have). For three cats, I would suggest 2-3 litter boxes and with the territorial issue, I would put one in a different room, so the bully cat can’t guard it. Good luck!

  11. Mandy says:

    When my partner and I introduced our cats, my partner did a rather lengthy and involved introduction process (I participated in the evenings when I was home from work) that really seemed to do the trick although there was some initial litter issues. First, we put them in separate rooms and let them smell each other through the door (which clearly you have already done). Then we took things from the rooms that they were in that would smell like them and put them in the other cat’s room. Next we switched their rooms so that the two cats who were together were put into the other cat’s room and vice versa. Finally, we started to introduce them in small increments of time. Now, I know that you introduced the cats and I certainly don’t think that you need to reinvent the wheel, but I do think that you have a brand new opportunity to start fresh with the move. When we blended our cats into one cat family, we were only in that apartment for a month before we moved. This process actually seemed to help them with the move, as well. I wish you the best of luck and feel free to e-mail if you have further questions!

  12. When I introduced my new cat to my older cat Hannah, she started with the same symptoms. I purchased a new cat box with a wider top opening and a liter that is guaranteed to attract cats. It’s called “Cat Attract” by Dr. Elsey. Give it a try.

  13. I have no advice, but it seems like you have received some great comments already. I only offer my best wishes…nothing like “pet harmony” to make life more peaceful.

  14. My cat had the same problem when we got a new cat. Turns out all it was was that she wanted her own litter box. She refused to use the one we had originally because the new cat used it and so we had to get two; one for her, and one for the new cat.

  15. Cat attract litter and feliway helped Byron have a major litter box breakthrough. You may also want to try a puppy litter box (or shallow rubbermade tub). It sounds like it’s submissiveness + former medical condition related aversion. If you use a larger box she may be able to find a spot that is far-enough away from the other cats’ pee without actually having to go outside. I wonder if one of those auto clean boxes might help if the above do not.

  16. thursday says:

    Wow. I hope you can figure this one out! I don’t have experience with the diabetes – but she could still be associating bad feelings with the litter or litter boxes. My sister’s cats both started peeing in corners of her house when she got two new kittens. After months of trying to fix the problem, the cats were sent back to live with our parents. But, they seem to have kept up the habit – and it does seem territorial (they currently mark the entrance to the garage where another cat used to live).

    I noticed several comments saying that moving might help – I did notice a difference when we moved with our first three cats. Things seemed to mellow out a bit, perhaps because nobody was “first” anymore. One of those cats was going outside the box – but I suspect she just likes it super clean, and I wasn’t diligent enough back then.

    I hope you can find a solution! She looks like such a sweet cat.

  17. Spencer says:

    It does sound like a drag. Having just introduced a kitten to one adult cat who already loves him and another who’s starting to tolerate him, I have more suggestions about helping them get along than about the litter box situation.

    So that they associate positive things with each other, we feed our cats the canned food they love in dishes that are close together and when they’re willing, we pet them or play with them at the same time. We make a point of prioritizing our older female (the cranky one) to reinforce her seniority. And since she lost some bedroom territory to the kitten, we created a new ritual in another room so that she knows she’ll get attention just before bed no matter what. One of the things that seems to keep every cat I’ve had most happy is their knowing that for 5 or 10 minutes each day they’ll have one-on-one attention at a predictable time & place.

    My favorite cat behavior book is “Outwitting Cats” by Wendy Christensen. Best of luck with the move & the cats!

  18. Amanda says:

    I agree with the comments about the new house helping the relationship between the cats. I have 2 cats — one dominant and one timid. When I lived in an apartment the dominant cat had limited the timid cat to basically the bedroom — he was allowed to come out and get food and use the litter box but if her tried to come into the living room she attacked him. Now that I have moved to a much larger house they co-exist very nicely — sometimes even both on my lap on the same time. They never had litter box use problems but I do feel I should say how much I love my LitterRobot. If you decide to do an automatic litter box I think it is worth the extra price. Hope everything works out! P.S. My timid cat (Charlie) looks just like your Leon.

  19. LibrarySpice says:

    I have no idea if this actually works but I’ve heard of a kitty litter called Cat Attract that is supposed to help this very problem. Good luck!

  20. Interesting read. I don’t have these problems, but it’s always good to be prepared for future ones. Could someone explain to me what Feliway is? I’ve never heard of it.
    I have a cat blog…if you can explain Feliway on my blog, my readers could benefit from it also.
    Thanks,
    Rahma

  21. Pets have a very hard time with any change. I think you just need to keep trying new litter and keep her in one area until she gets the idea. Good luck with the move!

  22. to be sure you’ve completely removed the urine, shine a blacklight on it in the dark. It looks like a forensics show of a murder scene but helpful for getting it all. Also good for finding the stain when you can smell it but not see it.
    A girlfriend of mine took her kitty with this problem to a kitty psychologist. Sounds wack-a-doo but she had some success.

  23. Diane D. says:

    You are not going to believe this, but we have had luck with Prozac. We were at our wit’s end with our cat, and he has responded beautifully to it. The vet prescribed it. I think you only use it for a month, and then wean them back off of it.

    We were at a picnic on the 4th, and it turns out they had luck with it, too!

    We aren’t arguing with success….good luck, I know how difficult this can be.

  24. I’ll second Diane D. If the litter switch-up and move (forcing the kittehs to bond against the change) don’t work, you should ask your vet about treating Sarah Jane for anxiety. One of my cats (neutered at the normal age) sprays pretty regularly because of his anxiety. Prozac helped for awhile, although the stress of getting daily medications eventually got worse than what the prozac helped. He’s going back to the vet to see if there’s anything else we can try.

    Tranquilizers also work, but most vets won’t prescribe them as a long-term solution.

    Also, there is a great product out there called “Mr. Max” or “Anti-Icky-Poo”. Seriously ;) It breaks down urine/poo stains and smells. It saved our mattress when Loki went on a mattress-spraying binge a few years back! And the drapes, and my nice bathrobe…

    Good luck!

  25. tracey says:

    I have to second the Prozac. We had a cat with MAJOR issues and the Prozac helped. A bigger house will help mellow them, especially if they have enough area to make somewhere their own.

  26. homespunheretic says:

    For stranger’s cats I would recommend most of the things above as well as many of the steps you have already taken.

    For my own cats, or for people who had a very open mind, I have different advice, and it’s a fairly no-nonsense approach gained through working with thousands of shelter cats.

    Switch all cats to a balanced species appropriate diet (raw, whole prey or similar) to eliminate as many medications, supplements and bowel issues as possible. Diabetes in particular is caused by carbohydrate consumption, which cats are not designed to process.

    Get rid of all covered litter boxes and switch to large, deep rubbermaid containers with at least 6 inches of a scoopable litter. Cats like enough room to dig around, and they like being able to see in all directions. Privacy is not as important as being able to hightail it out of there if another cat comes along. Cats who *want* to use the litter box but are afraid or associate it with bad things are the ones who will go nearby. Territorial cats will usually go IN the litter box and will make it a point to not cover their urine or feces as a sign to the other cats.

    Lastly, cats *must* establish a hierarchy, or there is a lot of stress, and they can do it in tiny spaces. Think of all those 300+ cat colonies out there in shelters. The fights are minor squabbles, at worst. The top cat is responsible for checking out noises and overseeing the other cats. The other cats can relax. If more than one cat feels responsible for this position, all the cats can be stressed out until the two cats work it out. With lower positioned cats fighting, the top cat will usually intervene if the peace is truly disturbed. It sounds like there is some top cat fighting going on, especially since both females are getting so upset.

    We had two cats that were really good friends (snuggling together, mutual grooming, the works), and the little girl was the alpha. When she was sick or stressed, our big male would get upset and challenge her place because he didn’t feel like she was doing her job, even though he was very happy being the under cat. Confining them to a single room for a month while we moved completely resolved these issues, and they almost never fought afterwards, even though the little cat had increasingly failing health.

    With moving to a new place, I would spray all the cats with vanilla extract and house all the cats together in one room (with easily cleanable floors, lot of litter boxes, hiding spaces, and many different vertical levels) and let them duke it out. Unless there are relentless, bloody fights that continue on and on, I would let them go at it until they get it sorted. Female cats can be worse than male cats, and they can hold a grudge. Giving them all separate spaces, trading smells, etc etc can be very good when introducing new cats, but it’s demonstrated that these cats are already having some tensions, and they won’t easily forget that.

    If it does turn truly bloody (not as in scratches or missing fur, that’s trivial. I’m talking puncture wounds from extended throat grabbing) hose them down with water and separate them. Total separation with no door interaction. If another try when both cats settle down, results in the same, you can try the swap-rooms-smell-trade business, and if that doesn’t work either, then you’ll need to separate them permanently. Period. Consider rehoming for the sake of the cat, or permanent confinement for one cat, if you cannot bear to part.

    There’s also homeopathy, chiropractic care, and acupuncture to consider, although I suspect the territoriality is the main culprit for stress.

    If the litter box situation has not resolved itself by the time the hierarchy is sorted, or if you have to confine the single cat away from the others, then you can confidently say that you have eliminated (or confirmed) a major source of stress for your cat, and conventional medication may be appropriate.

    In any event, good luck.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I had a cat who would have “accidents” right next to her litter box. She only did it when I wasn’t home with her, so the vet thought she had seperation anxiety. Hmph. She was put on Elavil, which made her even lazier and triple in size, but she still had the “accidents.” In my case, I just couldn’t deal with it any more; I had to get rid of the cat for fear of smelling like old-lady-who-has-9-cats-in-her-tiny-apartment-with-all-the-windows-shut.
    I wish you luck.

  28. I”m sorry you’re having this problem. I have no advice, but I have a similar problem with my cats. Over the weekend they peed on the felt covering of our game/card table (which was actually a pretty expensive piece of furniture). Jim had to shampoo the felt with a rug shampooer (luckily we don’t have too many carpets either) and dry it with floor fans. The jury’s still out on whether the smell will really be gone or if the table’s ruined. I agree with one of the other commenters about “once they’ve done it outside the box” they continue to have issues with that. My cats are old (both are 15) so I am chalking it up to that, and trying to confine them in the basement when we’re not around to watch them. I hope you figure out a solution.

  29. Bev says:

    I had the same problem for a while. 2 female cats, one small one that had been in the house for a year before the second one. The smaller one was the more dominant cat and she despised the new cat. She would go out of her way to try and intimidate her from using the litter box and eating. (Which was very funny to watch because the big cat is more than twice her size) Constantly ambushing her and getting into scratching and biting fights. She would get so jealous she would even kick the big one out of my lap when I was watching tv. I used Feliway for about 6 months and it did help a little. Every advice I read told me to continue to do the introduction thing over and over. We had a very tiny house at that time and it didn’t seem to help much, but then VOILA! We moved to a big house (as you are doing) and the experience completely changed them overnight. Now they sleep together and lick each other. I would advise the introduction process at your new house, and I hope you have the same luck.

  30. Oh, I feel for you. My oldest cat, Kalypso, developed litter box issues when I brought in another cat a few years ago. I ended up finding a home for that other cat (he was Siamese, and way too alpha), but she kept having issues. Of course, I didn’t know she also had diabetes. I now have another little guy, but he’s not very alpha. Still, Kalypso won’t poop in her litter box, even when it’s fresh. Doesn’t matter the kind of litter. And it’s a big box! The box was in the bathroom, and she would go in the bathtub. so….since I have a separate shower stall…I just moved the litter box IN the bathtub. She pees in the bathtub too, but it’s a lot easier to clean!

    Good luck.

  31. Cora says:

    Delurking to add a thing or two that hasn’t been mentioned already. I have two neutered males that have grown up together, however we have always had dominance issues with them, as both seem to want to be dominant. We moved into a new house about 6 mos ago and things are just now settling down. The previous owners had dogs and this has prolonged the adjustment period. No litter box issues, but we have two boxes. My advice is more on the getting along side of things. I found this great stuff called Calm Down at our pet store. It’s basically like a shot of alcohol for cats. I only use about half the dosage it calls for, add just a bit to their water dish, and only use it for a few days. I have used it with great success in re-introducing them to each other after massive blow outs. It allows them to be in the same room together without animosity, allowing them to interact without aggression. I praise them for each non-violent interaction, giving both cats scratches and pets in sight of the other cat. I call it cat whispering. :-) It’s really time consuming following them around for the first few days, but it works. It only takes 3 days or so, then I stop giving them the Calm stuff while they interact. I also really like the Feliway spray more than the plug in things. I spray any area where they’ve had a run in and it seems to diffuse things faster. Try spraying it around the litter boxes and in the litter boxes.
    White vinegar is the best scent diffuser for animal mishaps, that includes to the animal. I clean any spot (I have a puker) with diluted vinegar. If it’s carpet, I make a paste with vinegar and a bit of baking soda, let it dry, then vacuum it up. I wash their litter boxes once a month and then wipe them down with vinegar. As long as I do this regularly, the run-ins are few and far between.
    As a side note, 2 parts water and 1 part white vinegar is hands down the best wood, laminate, and tile flower cleaner ever! It’s all I ever use, it won’t hurt the finish, it diffuses any animal and/or food scent, and it’s really economical. No, it does not leave your house smelling like vinegar.

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