I suppose i could electrify all upright surfaces...
June 2, 2011 2:07 AM   Subscribe

2 months after moving into a new house, our cats have started peeing on everything. Please help me stop them before I lose my temper with them...

Several years back, we got two little rescue cats who we were told were toilet trained. And, they were. They knew what litter trays were and they knew what the outside world was for, but both would respond to being scared by peeing at a pinch point near their favourite hidey hole. We dealt with it.

Two months ago, we moved.

The cats went away to a cattery for 3 weeks while we moved and returned to a 4 bedroom place with 4 feliway defusers, two litter trays and an easily defendable garden (although no catflap at the moment). We also started giving them Zyklene in their breakfast.

All was good until about a week ago. My battery drill got attacked. Then the washing machine. Then the sideboard. Then the front door. Finally, last night sometime, one of them showered two boxes of CDs, two shelves and my PS3. None of these places are pinch points. None of them are by places where they hide for safety.

In the last 2 months, the only thing that has changed is that my wife's depression has got a little worse (and, in honesty, I have probably had similar).

Right now, I'm worried because I really don't want to get rid of them, but this morning I got dangerously close to losing my temper with them. CDs and electronics can be replaced, but if they destroyed something sentimental I'm worried I might lose it.

So, I'm looking for any and all suggestions on how to change this behaviour. And preferably quickly.

And, before anyone says it, yes we both have doctor's appointments booked...
posted by sodium lights the horizon to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Moving is stressful for kitties. One of my female cats started spraying after we moved. We had to isolate her for a couple of months in an extra room. We also added a low dose of Prozac on dr's recommendation (she has a heart murmur, and it was the safest anti-anxiety med for her). It took time and patience, but she's re-integrated to the house now. Your vet will definitely be the place to look for help.

I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is that anything that increases kitty anxiety will increase the spraying. (I'm assuming you have adequate clean litter boxes--you'd need 3 for two cats....) You can't fuss at cats, or put their nose in it, or stress them out about it at all. Behavior modification in cats is an entirely different beast. If you can get two empty rooms, I'd clear them out and start with the isolation. (it broke my heart to coop her up in there, but I probably spent more one-on-one time with her then, than I do now. And stopping that behavior was the best thing in the world.)

Good luck, me-mail me if you have any questions. I know how frustrating this can feel.
posted by Kronur at 3:43 AM on June 2, 2011

It is hard once they start, but try the Feliway diffuser and some enzyme cleaner where they've peed.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 3:59 AM on June 2, 2011

Finally, last night sometime, one of them showered two boxes of CDs, two shelves and my PS3.

At least temporarily, protect things that absolutely must not ever be pissed on if the cats want to see tomorrow. Survey the entire place for things at cat height or lower. If you have boxes of old photos or rows of nice books, get them up out of the way so none of them can become the last straw. Lift rugs you don't want to have to clean. Reduce the problem area by closing off rooms while you're out. (Unless crowding is the problem...)

Compare your old place to your new place and try to think of anything they might have liked about the old place that the new place isn't giving them, or anything in the new place that might make a cat uncomfortable. Is it just so small that they are crowding each other now?

Increase the number of cat boxes, at least temporarily, and scoop them out more frequently than usual -- at least once a day, or after every time you notice them using it. You might find they prefer a different spot for their boxes or they've just become more picky about how clean they are.

Take the cats to the vet, just in case. Diabetes, for example, will make a cat piss everywhere. It would be really weird for both of them to suddenly have diabetes, of course, but maybe something contagious would do the same thing. Even if they're healthy, the vet might have good ideas about this.
posted by pracowity at 4:56 AM on June 2, 2011

Oh, I feel so bad for you -- I know how frustrating this can be. When one of our kitties went through a period of peeing outside the box, we switched to Cat Attract litter. It did the trick for us.
posted by amarynth at 5:32 AM on June 2, 2011

as Kronur said, you have to isolate them for a while with their own box. Be happy you live in a place that's large enough to do that, it's much rougher to do this in an apartment.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:11 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just checking... when you say "And, before anyone says it, yes we both have doctor's appointments booked..." does this include vet appointments for your cats? They could have easily picked up a UTI from the boarding facility, or been bullied by another cat there, or just went stir-crazy cooped up in a small space for three weeks.

Did you let the cats out free to the whole new house when they came home? If so, that may be the culprit. You can go back, but it's harder. Confine them to one room, and increase by one room every 3-4 days. Block off rooms with gates, boxes, coardboard.
posted by juniperesque at 6:20 AM on June 2, 2011

One of my cats started doing this (after we moved to a new house and after 8 years of behaving pretty well). We trick a bunch of the cat head-shrinker tricks and they didn't accomplish anything. Cat Attract cat littler didn't do the trick. We then put him on kitty prozac and he's been fine.

I'm sort of glad we tried everything else before we put him on drugs, but I'm glad we eventually tried the drugs - because nothing else was working.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 7:52 AM on June 2, 2011

Cats do this because you have just turned their lives upside down, and it is their way of showing their frustration. At least they haven't pooed in your bed yet.

As others have suggested, isolate them in one room filled with non-essential items, get a Feliway vaporizer and some cat attract litter (or one of the similar add-ins that make the litter smell nice and welcoming). Also put their familiar bedding, toys, baskets, etc in there: anything that smells familiar. That way, they will be able to chill out, get more comfortable, etc. Keep them in that room for a few days until they calm down, and them let them out into the rest of the house.

I would do all that before looking into the drugs and whatnot. Those should be a last resort.
posted by baggers at 8:06 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I get what you guys are saying about letting them out and about too early (they stayed in our bedroom for about 2 hours before the cabin fever got too much) but is it really going to surface 2 months after the move? The next day I could understand, but 2 months?

You may have guessed, the idea of locking them away now isn't overly appealing... :(
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 8:19 AM on June 2, 2011

Well, it was two months for you, but for them it was a move to a new place (cattery) where they probably smelled lots of other cats, then a move to a new place which possibly also smells of other cats, along with you moving around opening boxes, new stuff to smell, new places to poo, etc, etc. So it is one thing on top of another, and it is stressing them out.

Basically, cats are weird and show stress in weird ways.

Yes, restricting them in one room may sound harsh. But no harsher than making them wash the cat pee from your PS3. And it is cheaper than kitty prozac.
posted by baggers at 10:29 AM on June 2, 2011

It's been about a month since you moved them in... is it possible the diffusers just hit empty?
posted by moira at 3:29 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sodium's wife here.

The diffusers did hit empty a week ago, but we replaced them. The kitties haven't been showing any obvious signs of upset or stress until the past few days when the showering began. When they first came into the new home from the cattery they were shut into our bedroom along with us for about two hours - after which they started trying to get out of the room and we took this as a sign they wanted to be let out to explore. They spent one week confined indoors, after which we gave into their begging to let them out into the garden. During the first week or so, they spent a couple of hours a day in hidey holes, but did not appear unduly distressed. They abandoned hiding spots in favour of sunny windowsills pretty quickly.

As of yesterday evening, the kitties have been shut in a spare bedroom with three litter trays, their food bowls, an assortment of bedding, a scratching post and their favourite toys. We moved one of the diffusers into the room with them. We are going in there as frequently as possible to cuddle them and reassure them they aren't in trouble. There was some crying at the door begging to be let out this morning, but otherwise they seem happy to chill out together on a blanket on the floor under a side table. They have a vet appointment booked for Monday. Depending on what the vet says, we'll probably keep them in there for two weeks and then see how they cope with being let out again.

If it helps them feel reassured and secure, then fantastic. Even if it makes no difference to their long-term behaviour in the end, it gives all of us a break from getting stressed about stuff getting destroyed.
posted by talitha_kumi at 5:05 AM on June 3, 2011

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