Kittys no longer using litter boxes
June 20, 2009 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Help, Our cats are ruining our new house

We have three cats one 16yrs old, One 10 yrs.and one 2 yrs.old.After moving into our new condo last year one, two,or all three have been peeing and pooping everywhere.we have had some small problems in our last house but nothing like this.We have three litter boxes in one room and one in another room.Does anyone know how we can tell which one is doing this? and what we can do about it.
posted by bmoster to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
When we had a problem with one of the cats peeing in inappropriate places, we isolated her in a bathroom with a litter box, food and water, for about two weeks to acclimate her to using the box again...then we left the box in that bathroom (yes, we spent a lot of time in there petting her and interacting).

Somehow you'll need to determine which cat(s) are doing this, or you'll need to isolate all three...
posted by HuronBob at 6:36 PM on June 20, 2009

Did the previous occupants of the condo have pets that peed in the place? If so, your cats may be smelling it and have started trying to cover the smell of the previous pets with their own smell. Have you used a black light to find all the pee locations to neuralize them with Nature's Miracle or another similar cleaner?
posted by onhazier at 6:45 PM on June 20, 2009

Seconding isolation, and also trying to get a sample to take to your vet. I suggest starting with the oldest one. Dry out the tub after your morning shower, lock him/her in there for a while, and see if you have some pee in the tub. (You can get a syringe to slurp it up with from your vet or from a drugstore, then throw the syringe in a baggie.)

My completely non-professional guess is that one of them started it (health issue? just general cat-orneriness?), and the others are just following suit.

My sympathies...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:56 PM on June 20, 2009

How to tell who it is? Serially, feed one cat with a small helping of wet cat food that has some glitter in it. This will do the cat no harm.

When you clean up a festive catscat from the "wrong" spot, you'll know you've got the culprit.
posted by reflecked at 7:00 PM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

wow... the glitter idea from "reflecked" (irony applause here!) is a great idea...thanks!
posted by HuronBob at 7:47 PM on June 20, 2009

Recommending the somewhat obvious "get 'em to a vet" to check for UTIs and whatnot. Also, Feliway, a plug-in cat pheromone, can also help some stressed out felines. It didn't do much for my guys but some people swear by it.
posted by ShadePlant at 8:08 PM on June 20, 2009

Serially, feed one cat with a small helping of wet cat food that has some glitter in it. This will do the cat no harm.

I would be very careful about this. I know that the edges of Christmas tinsel, for example, are sharp enough to perforate a cat's intestine. I guess if you used a very powdery glitter you would be OK (and hell, my own cats eat worse than glitter on a weekly basis), but I'd try the divide and conquer approach before feeding them foreign objects -- especially since there may already be a GI problem happening.

One of our cats in particular had frequent urinary issues and would begin peeing inappropriately at any sign of stress. We got him on a prescription urinary diet, which has solved the problem entirely.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:22 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

If this is due to the stress from the move, then Rescue Remedy might really help. It was recommended to me by other MeFites when my 14 year old was peeing in the wrong places b'c of stress and... wow... it works.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 11:35 PM on June 20, 2009

Sounds as if something has seriously upset all of your cats - get them to a vet for a check up.

Try an evaluate your home for feline friendlyness. Do they all have plenty of good resting places, can they all get away from each other as they need to? Are they being bothered by frequent noise, small children wanting to pet them? rowdy or cat hating visitors? Have you been upset lately yourself? All this stuff can cause big problems for cats.

Don't add glitter to the cat food. Glitter could easily perforate the bowel (yeah I know it's tiny stuff but it's hard and sharp, even the powder) - In theory it sounds like a good idea, but not one I'd risk (ever) Better some poo on the carpet than a cat dying in agony from a slow gut perforation or a huge bill for bowel surgery. If you want to pursue this speak to your vet FIRST!

Get more litter boxes (one in every room - private too) and plenty of Feliway up and running. If the vet finds no physical problem, get down on your hands and knees and have a look at your home from cat eye height. Add a large water bowl to each room too. Watch your cats at feeding time, does one cat hold back. Is there swatting, hissing going on? Is one cat really hungry? One cat could well be so frightened they are too scared to use the litter tray. There's a lot of cat interaction owners never see. Watch how the cats move about your home - does one sit in or near a doorway and others show reticence to walk through?

It could be that one cat has had a fright and the fear has transmitted to the others - events that humans don't see as a big deal are frequently absolute trauma to a feline.

Vet first - for all three.

Best of luck.
posted by Arqa at 2:59 AM on June 21, 2009

Sorry for the delay getting back.Onhazier the condo we moved into is brand new.We are going to make an appointment at the vet tomorrow for the two oldest cats.( I suspect it's one of these two).If that doesn't work we will try the isolation thing.. I will keep posted
posted by bmoster at 7:45 AM on June 21, 2009

To save time, try to bring pee samples with you to the vet. The vet will probably ask for them anyway, since you are going to see him/her about a pee issue. Might as well come prepared if you can.

Good luck!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:36 AM on June 21, 2009

Rock Steady... There's no doubt that tinsel can harm a cat (mostly because it's long); there are signs all over my vet's office during the winter holidays. A few years ago, when a neighbour's cat licked the tasty fresh glue and glitter off a poster on the floor, I called the vet because the neighbour was panicking. The vet said "it won't cause any problems at all.".

I'd never suggest anything that could cause harm.
posted by reflecked at 10:26 AM on June 21, 2009

The absolute first thing than any owner should do when facing this issue is to take their cat(s) to the vet for a medical exam. They will want a urine sample (you can try to collect by quarantining the cat in a bathroom and using packing peanuts in a litter box). If you can't collect a sample yourself the vet can use a syringe to extract the urine from the bladder itself.

While cats are notorious for marking with urine, it is relatively uncommon for them to mark with feces. Typically when a cat defecates outside of the litter box it is due to some sort of aversion to the box (litter type, box itself, location).
What set off the alarm for me was your admission that a recent move triggered a marked increase in this behavior. This leads me to several questions:

1-Did you "quarantine" your cats in one room for a few days/week after you moved them? (Cats are extremely territorial and an abrupt move to a new location is traumatic for them.)
2-Are they urinating on the carpet etc. or are the marking? (Urination is done on horizontal surfaces. Marking is done on vertical surfaces such as walls, doors, etc.)
3-Are your cats "getting along" with each other or are they fighting a lot? (Increased hostility can lead to marking tendencies.)
4- What type of cat litter are you using? If you are using scented litter-STOP IMMEDIATELY. (Cats HATE scented litter. Their sense of smell is many times greater than ours and scented litter is a bit overpowering for them.)
5- How often do you scoop the litter box? (Left to their own devices cats are fastidiously clean. If the litter box is dirty that makes them want to seek out a cleaner, less smelly location to do their business, IE your pillow. Some cats are so picky that they want their litter boxes scooped every time someone uses it. If you can't be that diligent (who can?) they make mechanical litter boxes that scoop for you. In the case of a situation where there are already problems, I recommend scooping twice a day when possible, but at least once a day.)

These are the types of questions that a vet should ask you, among others. Inappropriate elimination in felines is an extremely aggravating situation to live with. There is a great product available for purchase on the internet called Zero Odor. I highly recommend you give it a try. I have found that it works much better than other enzymatic cleaners on the market. I learned of it through a newsletter called Catnip published by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
posted by gammer at 11:55 AM on June 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Crayon shavings. They are soft. Give each cat a different color. You just need to make sure they aren't samplers. My cats like to rotate at meal time and they always end up eating out of all the bowls.
posted by mokeydraws at 10:09 AM on June 22, 2009

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