Pissing Puking Furball I Love So Very Much
December 28, 2008 6:00 PM   Subscribe

My cat is being a neurotic asshole, spewing noxious fluids. Please help.

Okay so I get home today from five days out of town and find that my cat (I have two, but I am confident it is just my Stripey Guy, 6 y/o) has pissed on ALL my living room furniture. Two easy chairs and a couch. Also some pretty copious vomit on the floor. No hairballs, just a bellyful of vomit.

This is clearly behavioral, and I need training tips.

He has peed inappropriately before, but usually only if his litter was left too dirty, and then in whatever soft pile of fabric he can find. Once he peed on my friend's feet as they slept in a sleeping bag.

I think presently he's freaking out because we have a housemate now, who, I take it, just took off to stay with his mom rather than clean up after this in our absence. I don't know how much their relationship is an issue, but suffice it to say, he keeps his bedroom door closed because his laundry is, historically, pee target #1, and he doesn't really like cats. I think the neurotic cat knows and is hurt by this. Hey, we all overanalyze our cats.

So, we take off, housemate stays, and Stripey Guy goes on a pissy party. He never freaked out pissing in our absence before, when we didn't have a housemate.

- How can we ensure this doesn't happen again?
- Is the vomiting also behavioral?
- Can/Should we shut him in our bedroom? Is that too little space for a 13 lb cat for several days? We might be able to blockade him in our bedroom suite which includes the laundry room where he usually eats and a small bathroom.
- Do we need to arrange a pet sitter to change his litter and/or give him attention while we're away? (He's very timid.) Would that be helpful for the whole-house scenario, or just for the restricted-range plan?
- Do we need to try to make my housemate and cat friendlier? That sounds embarrassing.
- Are there "fuck off, cat" sprays that work for furniture?
- What DO I DO?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Honestly, the fact that you were out of town for five days was probably a major contributor. That plus the apparently unchanged litter and the unattentive housemate are pretty much more than enough reason right there. And that includes the vomiting. I've seen a very similar situation.
posted by bingo at 6:14 PM on December 28, 2008


I'm not sure about the behavioral questions, and it depends on how big your bedroom is, but I really think you should just arrange for a catsitter if you could. I don't know about you, but we have two litterboxes for three cats, both of which are emptied daily regardless of whether they seem to need it or not.

We use a "fuck off, cat" spray called Boundary, but it really does need to be applied once every other day or so. Eventually the cats will learn. My cats also hate any spray bottle with a pink label now, they wrinkle their noses and run away.

I would say yes about making your cat and roommate friendly, but if he doesn't like cats don't force it on him.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:18 PM on December 28, 2008


I meant to add that lots of people think that cats are solitary animals who can be left alone and they'll thrive. They are not. While not as social as dogs, domestic cats need affection and attention, leaving them alone for long periods of time even with a housemate (if he's inattentive) is very stressful for cats.

A petsitter is a must for your next trip!
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:21 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Feliaway!
posted by k8t at 6:29 PM on December 28, 2008


The first couple times we left for overnight trips one (or both) of our cats vomited a little.
I am not sure how you are positive this is behavioral, but the peeing combined with the vomiting would indicate a quick vet check up with me.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 6:38 PM on December 28, 2008


This is clearly behavioral, and I need training tips.

Why is this clearly behavioral? While it's possible it is behavioral, it's also possibly medical--he's been alone, with only another cat watching out for him, for five days. My first thought would be what did my cat eat that made him so sick? not how can I punish my naughty cat? Seriously, while some pissing or puking from cats is considered normal, "copious vomit" warrants a call to the vet, at least.

- Can/Should we shut him in our bedroom? Is that too little space for a 13 lb cat for several days? We might be able to blockade him in our bedroom suite which includes the laundry room where he usually eats and a small bathroom.
- Do we need to arrange a pet sitter to change his litter and/or give him attention while we're away? (He's very timid.) Would that be helpful for the whole-house scenario, or just for the restricted-range plan?


No, don't blockade him in the bedroom. Definitely get a petsitter. They can at least clean the litter box and give the cat a little bit of attention and watch out for any medical problems. And a paid petsitter is obligated to watch out for your pet, unlike your roommate.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:54 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would think the puking is behavioral if it's undigested food (like from if he eats too fast out of stress, and then barfs up what he literally just ate). Digested food vomit is a different thing and if it continues, it's also a vet thing.

For the furniture: Soak it with Nature's Miracle. I've also put down baking soda on carpet to draw up cat pee before, and it's worked. I left it for kind of a while, though, maybe longer than you want to not sit on your furniture.

Can you ensure this does not happen again - no, not really. My friend's mom's cat poops on the same couch every time he has a problem of any sort (too many ppl in the house, you were gone too long, I want a cookie, etc) and the solution is to cover the couch in plastic when they're going to be out of town, as the cat does this regardless of whether there is a cat sitter or not. Generally, Feliway is a good thing for stress of any sort, so if you have a new housemate, and you also are going out of town (and now that you're back, and he probably knows you are pissed about something, but with his bad short-term-cat-memory, doesn't know what), Feliway is the ticket. Possibly. Along those lines, don't shut him in your room, since he will be stressed by THAT as well (or at least, mine would be).

Re: your roommate - if he left when your cats peed on stuff and didn't call you to let you know (at least) this sounds like less of a "not a cat person" and more of a "he might be a jerk" problem. There are two things to address here, I think: 1- is he actually antagonistic to your cats? If so, full stop, he's got to figure out how to be at least neutral. 2- dude has got to make a more adult effort if/when this happens. I mean, I don't know, maybe I'm wrong here, but if you live with me? You are obligated to be cool to my pets and you are also obligated to TELL ME when something like this happens again. Buggering off and not even calling is shitty, immature behavior. Petsitter would fix this, yes, but even if you had a pet sitter, your roommate should at least be able to dial the phone. It's called "courtesy."

Re: sprays for furniture - if you've let the cats on the furniture before then it will be hard to keep them off it. And, honestly, if they "nest" on the couch they are slightly less likely to pee there. However, if they miss you and want to mix their smell with your smell, they are also pretty likely to pee there (hence why they pee in your bed when they miss you! Thanks!), so, crap shoot, so to speak, there.

What do you do? Nature's Miracle and sunlight for the furniture. Soak the hell out of it. Feliway for the stressed cats. And what you do about your roommate is up to you. Good luck. Cleaning up cat pee sucks.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:27 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not a vet, but I am a very experienced cat owner- previously with roommates who did not particularly like cats- and here are my feelings on your questions:

I think that confining a healthy, active cat to a small space in his own house for more than a few hours is kind of unfair, since you can't explain what's going on to the cat and it's gonna make him feel all panicky. Not so bad if you're home to hang out with him- not cool if he's alone for five days. Sometimes it's necessary- say if you just painted the kitchen or something- but if you're going on vacation, I think you should make more effort to attend to the cat's comfort than locking him up unhappily.

To me, leaving a pair of cats alone for one day is fine. Two days is OK. But three is pushing it. When I have to be gone for three days I deputize a friend to come in and hang out with the cats for at least an hour or so around the midpoint of my absence- make sure food and water is fresh, litter is clean, and most of all give them some attention. Also I'd leave a light and a radio or TV on for the cats, hide treats around the house for them, and put a birdfeeder outside the window if possible. They get bored and lonely, and to them, it's like you're never coming home.

If you're gonna be gone for more than three days, I'd try to get a live-in catsitter who actually likes cats (so your roommate doesn't count). The catsitter needn't be there every single day that you're gone, but it would be good if they could at least break up the loneliness- like if you're gonna be gone for 5 days maybe the catsitter could come on Day 2 and 3, then you're back on Day 5, or something like that.

And you need to make sure the roommate is totally comfortable with the catsitter you choose, the dates s/he will be there, how the catsitter announces his/her presence in the house (ie, calling an hour before they arrive), how the roommate will know when they're staying in the house (a scarf on the bedroom door?), and boundary issues for the catsitter (whose food s/he can eat, which rooms s/he is welcome in, etc etc).

I think you & your roommate need to be more clear about expectations and boundaries. If someone's cat peed on my stuff, I'd be really angry. And if my cat was possibly sick, peeing all over the house, and my roommate didn't call me to come take him to the vet, I'd also be angry. Some people upthread are mad at the housemate, and I totally understand that, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's pretty mad at you, too.

It sounds like you and your housemate are not on the same page about responsibilities with the animal. Did housemate realize he was the designated catsitter, and as such he should call you if the cats had a problem? Was it ok for him to just leave without letting you know so you could make sure a friend was available to look in on the cats for the rest of the five days? Did you pay to get his pissy laundry dry-cleaned, and replace whatever your cat destroyed? On a regular basis, are you taking care of the extra mess your cats cause in the house?

Since you're the cat lady, it should primarily be your job to do the bulk of the fur-vacuuming, vomit-wiping, gravel-sweeping, buying lint rollers for the household, cleaning the cat-food area and especially keeping the litterbox stink-free. They're your cats, not his, so it's your job.

Whenever I ever had any problems at all with roomates in the past, at some point it would come out that the root of the problem was that they were resentful of the mess my cat made. Even though they knew I had a cat before they moved in. Even though they said they were fine with cats before they moved in. At first I was all indignant, "they knew before they moved in blah blah blah". But eventually I understood. You know how all parents think their precious baby isn't being annoying when she's loud or disruptive? Pet owners tend to do the same thing. My roommates thought the litterbox was VILE. They HATED having fur on their clothing. They thought hairballs were HORRIBLE. To me, those are no big deal at all! Totally outweighed by the joy of having adowwable witto kittee kats! But to my former housemates, those things were major inconveniences. And I realize now that it was selfish and unfair of me to ever expect them to deal with any of it. As the pet owner, you have to assume extra responsibliity and compensate your housemates when your pet inconveniences them. That means buying a beer for every roommate who ever steps into a hairball, just like you'd make them cookies if you somehow barfed on their socks yourself.

Whatever's going on between the humans isn't good here, and if that's making an environment where one of the humans in the house is so resentful of the peeing cat that he'd rather walk out and let the whole house get pee'd on than make a simple phonecall to see if the animal needs medical attention- well it's not a very cat-friendly situation, either.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:26 PM on December 28, 2008 [12 favorites]


Pseudostrabismus nailed it. Absolute slam dunk.

I have very inadvertently become a cat sitter of some renown in my small circle of friends and associates. Many people don't realize how emotionally difficult it is for their cat when there is a sudden change in their everyday routine. There's no way to train your cats to not be upset when they're left alone for 5 days. The peeing on furniture is the only way a cat knows to express its extreme displeasure - the puke was likely from anxiety over the situation. It's also very likely that the cat has anxiety over your new roommate - any new person or cat living in the house can cause serious upset - and then, you get the peeing.

I really recommend that you get a cat sitter to look after your cats while your gone. Once every two days is fine for most cats - but if yours has a lot of anxiety - then every other day might be best. If you can get a friend to stay over every other night with the cats, that would be ideal.

Otherwise, you might want to get the problem cat boarded while you are gone - I'm sure your roommate will love you for it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:05 PM on December 28, 2008


Why is this clearly behavioral?

Peeing on three pieces of furniture and nowhere else, and puking an enormous pile of undigested food are pretty behavioral-seeming symptoms, and the cat has a history of pee behaviors.

I'm confused about this petsitter plan. This cat won't come out from under the bed if there are strangers in the house. The bed is in my room, where he seemingly would like to be most of his time. I don't think confining him to a studio-apartment sized, house-mate free space would necessarily panic him, though I am not sure if this is the best solution.

Whatever's going on between the humans isn't good here

Actually, it's peachy. My housemate is well-informed about how our cats are and what expectations are, having lived with us also five years ago when we first got them. There is plenty of give and take in this household, we're a longterm family, but my Stripey Guy, who, as I said, is timid, seems very nervous around him, so I think that plus the fact that this behavior never happened when the cats were alone before means the housemate smell, or housemate being the only person here, is part of what's freaking him out. I'm not trying to punish my cat, just keep him from being spooked and peeing.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:17 PM on December 28, 2008


I'm confused about this petsitter plan. This cat won't come out from under the bed if there are strangers in the house.

The thing about a pet sitter is that they show up at regular intervals and attend to the cat. They don't put on tunes, or invite people over, or other things that might freak a cat out. They just come and hang with the cat. My friend's cat was always one of those "hide under the bed" cats - and she really loosened up after a couple of days of my just hanging about, talking to her.

The bed is in my room, where he seemingly would like to be most of his time. I don't think confining him to a studio-apartment sized, house-mate free space would necessarily panic him, though I am not sure if this is the best solution.


It probably wouldn't be a big deal to confine the cat to your room for a few days - but 5 seems a bit excessive.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:27 PM on December 28, 2008


I'm confused about this petsitter plan. This cat won't come out from under the bed if there are strangers in the house. The bed is in my room, where he seemingly would like to be most of his time. I don't think confining him to a studio-apartment sized, house-mate free space would necessarily panic him, though I am not sure if this is the best solution.

All the cat is able to recognize is an interruption to his routine, not that you're trying to isolate him from certain areas. Cats are really territorial and confining him to a smaller space--when the reasons for doing so will be unclear to him--will just shake up his routine even more. And even if he hid under the bed when the petsitter was there, it doesn't mean that he hides under the bed the entire time--and cats get upset when they can't sit by their favorite window, on their favorite chair, etc.

Also, kitty may hide when the petsitter's there, but that's okay. The petsitter's job should be primarily to check up on them, to ensure that their litter box is clean (which I still think might have to do with the spewing/peeing, especially since he has a history of doing that), and to be a calming reminder to the cats that they haven't been abandoned by people. My cat is also generally hidey with friends, but after about three days with a pet sitter he tends to dash out, totally starved for human attention.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:17 AM on December 29, 2008


Seconding the Feliway. When we moved we were worried that our ornery, cantankerous male cat with a history of vindictive peeing would pee everywhere, but Feliway really does seem to calm them down and reduce the stress of big changes. We use the diffuser.

You didn't ask, but I can't say enough about Dumb Cat spray for cleaning up after cats. Our cats have consistently stopped peeing in any location that we've cleaned with it. We also use Cat Attract litter, which seems to get them highly motivated to use the box. They actually hang out IN the catbox now. It's kind of weird, but beats the hell out of having them pee on the table. Even though your cat's problem in behavioral, the cat attract litter might give him more motivation to use the box.
posted by smartyboots at 2:37 PM on December 29, 2008


It sounds like everyone else has the behavioral stuff covered (and I'm so sorry - when kitty is miserable, everybody is miserable), so I'll just STRONGLY second smartyboots: CAT ATTRACT LITTER IS GOD.

I am not even kidding. My guy had a behavioral peeing issue and the minute we opened the bag, he ran over from across the room to pee *while I was pouring it into the box*.

Seriously good stuff.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:01 AM on December 30, 2008


I should also add he hasn't peed anywhere but his box since we bought it. Good luck! Poor little Stripey guy.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:04 AM on December 30, 2008


Late to this but here goes.....

The golden rule is this: Estabish if there is a physical problem first, treat it, then look for behavioural and environmental problems and address them if the problem persists.

Cats are massively affected by stressful events. You may not think that what you have described is stressful to you, but it's a world of stress for your cat. Stress can and does cause serious physical problems for them. Those problems need identifying and treating and if there is the smallest hint that they have been caused by environmental changes, then you must address those at the same time.

Cats peeing inappropriately (and a lot) can very quickly become a urinary tract infection - within 24 hours sometimes. If these go untreated then they can become very serious and life threatening.

Gastro-intestinal issues (yes sometimes caused by stress) if unidentified and treated can progress to issues such as blockages, chronic recurrent inflamation and horrible stuff like pancreatitis.

Feliway diffusers, a good pet sitter with references, plenty of litter boxes cleaned out every single day properly, plenty of fresh water around the place and following the excellent answers from pseudostrabismus, Medieval Maven and PhoBWanKenobi should help you create an environment where your cat is not subjected to stressful events.

Best of luck!
posted by Arqa at 12:36 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


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