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Unread 11-12-2006   #1 (permalink)
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Default Part Two: How to Solve Housesoiling Problems

Cats urinating on beds, couches, carpeting, and even their owners--why do some cats enjoy scratching around in their litterboxes to the point of absurdity while others will use the litterbox only sporadically or will avoid it entirely as though it were a cat-eating monster? One desperate cat owner who called Cats International's Behavior Hotline recently confessed that her cat, Mitzi, had not defecated in the litterbox for 11 years! Another cat owner hadn't cleaned the litterbox for three months because her cat, Jed, wouldn't go near it. She did, however, have to clean her bed linens on a daily basis because Jed reliably chose the bed for his bathroom, even when she was in it.

Cats are very intelligent and sensitive little creatures that are highly reactive to their environment (some more so than others) and the stress target in cats is their bladders. Most people recognize the obvious stressors: a new baby, a new pet, remodeling or moving to a new home but the more subtle stressors may be overlooked: less attention from the cat's favorite person due to a revised work schedule, infrequent or inadequate feedings, the scent of another cat on a visitor's clothing, the sight of a stray cat from the window. We may not be aware of Kitty's anxiety until we actually step in it. (This is a good time to remember that punishment never corrects inappropriate elimination problems, but it can make them worse by increasing the cat's stress.)

One product that is effective in reducing or eliminating the incidence of territorial spraying is Feliway (Abbot Laboratories, Chicago, IL). This analogue of facial pheromones can be sprayed on prominent objects in the cat's environment. When the cat sniffs the pheromone, the chemical message reads something like this, "All is well. This spot has been marked facially--no need for urine marking". Feliway and directions for its use can be obtained through your veterinarian or from the Revival Animal Health Catalog (800-786-4751).

Ten Steps to Solving Housesoiling Problems:

Have the cat checked by a veterinarian to rule out the possibility that health problems are causing the litterbox avoidance.
Make sure that the litterbox situation is ideal--clean, natural, and convenient.
Identify possible stressors for the cat.
Eliminate the stressor, if possible. Otherwise, systematically desensitize the cat to the anxiety-producing stimulus. Drug therapy may be considered.
Thoroughly clean soiled areas with a strong enzymatic cleaner to remove any lingering odor.
Place deterrents in the problem areas for at least a month to break the cat's habit of revisiting these spots.
If possible place a new litterbox in a location that is near the target area and where it can remain indefinitely.
Give the problem cat extra attention on a regular basis by practicing play therapy (interactive play with a fishing pole-type toy).
Don't give up! There is always a humane solution for every behavior problem.
Call Cats International's Behavior Hotline for help if necessary (262-375-8852).
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