How (if i should) do I find my cat(s) a new home?
March 19, 2012 4:32 PM   Subscribe

How (if i should) do I find my cat(s) a new home? Or Litter training 3: This time it's purrsonal.

As I have asked multiple times on here I seem to always be having litter problems with one of my cats (not entirely sure which one, but I have my suspicions). It seemed to improve for a small point in time, but now it's gotten to the point where anything and everything seems to be fair game and it's not really okay. My girlfriend is fed up, and, though I am also kind of grossed out by the situation, consider it part of pet ownership, clean it up and hope things get better.

Though things don't seem to be improving. I am starting to think that the issues is space. We have two people and 3 cats in a about 750sqft studio style apartment. I don't want to get rid of any of them. It seems like failure and i worry about them. They each take their turns coming to me for attention everyday (my girlfriend hates all three of them at this point). Two of them are litter mates (Buster and GM, yes all my cats are named after Arrested development characters). They are a year older than the third (Gob) and they don't always seem to get a long. GM, the one we got first (we got Buster a day later) is a bully at times and my actual worry is that he is preventing buster from using the litter boxes in a territorial thing. If you project human emotion on to buster he always seem depressed and at least once a week there seems to be a massive screaming and scratching fight between him and GM, with GM backing him into a corner while he growls and hisses (though he seems fine for the 15 minutes that he really wants attention from me).

The only option I seem to have is to give one or both of them to my girlfriends family. They have a house in a country like situation and the cats would be more or less full outdoor cats at this point (right now they are full indoor and have been their whole lives). I don't feel great about this, but i don't know what else to do. I feel like a horrible failure as a "pet parent". I try not to personify them too much, but I worry that I am letting them down and that they will despise me if I put them in this new situation, not to mention cars and wild animals and the other cats that already have a strong bond there, the super hot summers and the inhospitable winters. Long story short, I don't want to do this. But what other option do i have?

Gob has been given a golden ticket because he's litter trained.

I'm going nuts, and my apartment, though luckily not carpted, feels like it has become an anything goes minefield for cat urine.
posted by djduckie to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Perhaps a short trial of the country living situation is in order? You could see how it goes for a month or so, I doubt your girlfriend's parents would hold the cat(s) hostage.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:50 PM on March 19, 2012

As a general rule, you need 1 more litter box than the number of cats you have (so you should have 4). How many do you have? With your square footage, this may be something you just can't provide. Don't feel bad!! Part of pet ownership is a learning and growing process, and making the best choices on the information you have at the time, and further educating yourself as needed. In this case, it might be best to re-home 2 of the cats since you could probably provide a good home for one of them in your apartment.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:52 PM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

Can you report back with any of the suggestions from the previous thread that you tried?
posted by crankylex at 4:54 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had a pee problem with an otherwise happy, healthy, littertrained cat once. I had tried everything, but I could not stop him getting it in his little bonnet that he had to reclaim anywhere a male slept in the house and other 'bonus' spots (potplants, corner of room etc) When I had friends over, he would reclaim the couch etc. It was sporadic, he'd be fine for a while, then back to it for weeks. I felt awful, frustrated and like a bad pet parent too.

It escalated when I went to housesit and my cat decided he had to pee on the owner's bed and anything he put down for five minutes. I was mortified and decided to try the Last Resort as suggested by my vet. He now takes Clomicalm at night (tablet form) and is still happy, healthy and NO LONGER PLAYS PEE GAMES EVER.

My understanding is that clomicalm for cats is an off-label application, and your vet should be be able to give you suitable information. I didn't make the decision lightly, but I am happy with the outcome. Good luck, it is frustrating, distressing and not something you can stop by asking them nicely.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 4:59 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it were me, I would think seriously of getting rid of any partner that hated my cats. I am not being snarky, but suggesting you think very seriously how you would feel about a continued relationship with this person if you did get rid of your cats, especially if something bad happened to them. It does sound like an overcrowded situation for both cats and humans, and nobody is happy, but making indoor cats into full time outdoor cats is pretty much a recipe for disaster for those poor kitties. I hope you do find a solution everyone can live with, but really, your girlfriend is not being helpful.
posted by mermayd at 5:01 PM on March 19, 2012 [11 favorites]

I haven't looked at your previous questions, but what helped my lady baby with her litter problems was...

1. changing to limited ingredient food
2. going to a crystal litter (way reduced pee smell)
3. getting a litter box with a filter on it to eliminate the smell of their waste.

I wouldn't put an indoor-only cat into the country -- my cat would flip the fuck out. I would, however, put the word out to friends that I was looking to rehome an indoor only cat, like on Facebook.

Another solution would be to plan to move -- 2 ppl in a studio sucks ass, let alone with three cats.
posted by spunweb at 5:27 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

It would be helpful to know what you've tried - I scanned the other threads and it doesn't look like you've gone into that. Two things that have worked for my friends both had to do with the litterboxes themselves. How many do you currently have? Is there room for the 4 recommended? Can you do at least 3? Also, try getting a box with a larger footprint. My old roommate got a large flat plastic tupperware (like for storage) and we used that; it turned out her cat just really wanted more room (for its seriously fat ass). Another friend got one of those deep green plastic storage bins with a lid. He cut half the lid off and gave his cat a top-entry, very private litter box. She apparently needed more privacy (prissy little brat).

Have you tried all kinds of different litter? Are you cleaning boxes every day? Have you talked to your vet?

These are the kinds of things you need to do to be a responsible pet owner. If you have done everything you can to exhaust every possible option, then I think ThePinkSuperhero's idea of a test run in the country is a good one. If I had to choose, I would choose the toughest most aggressive one (to give the remaining 2 a better shot at getting along nicely). That's a very hard choice to make, but if you do absolutely everything you can, within reason and within your means, then I think it's okay to make that choice.

this thread is useless without pictures!
posted by juliplease at 5:28 PM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

i have a wonderful, loving, sweet, yet needy and somewhat emotionally fragile cat. he started peeing on things: shoes on the floor, clean laundry on top of the washing machine, my boyfriend's lovely wool coat, and eventually, pretty much anything i left on the floor. finally my vet suggested Prozac. he's been on it for a couple years and the peeing has completely stopped. you might check into that. i imagine it'd cool a lot of the territorial tensions, too.
posted by hollisimo at 5:31 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Although I am not a fan of outdoor cats, in my experience most of them work out better going that way than the reverse. Unless there are roads or something else involved. If you are in a small space, having a cat that doesn't use a litterbox is pretty intolerable. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but it will be a problem even without your girlfriend being grossed out. No one is going to want to even pop their head inside cat pee central, even if they like cats.

That said, trying a variety of different litters does help. My sister's cat hated the extremely expensive litter she used when she was moving it to being an indoor cat, after it was an outdoor/indoor cat for years. She cycled through a number of litter substances. Plus it may be that your space is simply too small for this number of cats, especially if one is aggressive.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:35 PM on March 19, 2012
posted by AugustWest at 5:42 PM on March 19, 2012

I know you say litterboxes, plural, but might one be the most favoured awesome litterbox that they all want to use? Maybe you can make another litterbox zone that is appealing, or add another litterbox, although possibly you are simply running out of room. You sound like you are very crowded, is moving possible? Maybe medication of some kind, as has been suggested, or those plug in cat hormone things will be helpful in calming things down.

If all else fails, it is PERFECTLY FINE to re-home a cat or two. Is it possible for your girlfriend's family to allow him/them to be a mostly indoor cat to ease the transition from inside all the time, to mostly outside? Can he/they have a cat-door, to allow inside and outside as required? The cats are not people, and they will not "resent" you, or cry little kitty tears if they move, especially if they like the people or other animals in the place they are moving to, you are not required to live in a miasma of cat pee in order to be a good pet owner. You are obliged to do your best to provide them a safe home, and a peaceful existence, but not to be miserable yourselves for their sake.
posted by thylacinthine at 5:43 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Which of the suggestions from the previous question have you tried?

Stuff I've heard work in this situation:
- Litterboxes with bigger footprint. I have two cats and one litterbox, but it is one of those gigantic Rubbermaid storage tubs. Used a heated knife to cut a hole into the side so they could get in. Acts as a nice covered litterbox without making them claustrophobic.
- More litterboxes. We had normal-sized litterboxes growing up, and had a rule of one litterbox per cat. You probably want to go with the # of cats + 1 rule given the problems you're having.
- Cat Attract in ALL the litterboxes.

Outdoor living is actually pretty dangerous for cats--I think the statistic is outdoor cats tend to live half as long as indoor ones. Especially if the cats have been indoor all their lives, you may not be putting them into a happy situation. If you go with it try to see if they can have an indoor/outdoor dual option, and make sure they're vaccinated up the wazoo for everything.
posted by schroedinger at 7:11 PM on March 19, 2012

I should mention that one of my cats used to go outside the litterbox, even as a tiny kitten, until I got the gigantic one that could fit four of her (eight if stacked).
posted by schroedinger at 7:13 PM on March 19, 2012

So there are several problems in play here:

1. Girlfriend not a cat fan
2. Cats may be bullying/bullied
3. Whichever cat is pissing around now has an entrenched habit you'll have to break
4. You are all on top of each other in a tiny space w/ apparently not enough litterboxes to boot.

So, assuming you're not going to pick the cats over the girl, you have the choice of moving to a larger space/getting more boxes or re-homing one or more cats.

Be aware; if you do rehome some of them, it's no guarantee that the remaining one won't keep marking, though of course this time you'll know who did it and can work on retraining. But don't assume that rehoming two cats will make the remaining cat peachy keen.

If you do rehome cats, I would say do not just give them to the girlfriends' family. For one thing, what if you break up...will they just get rid of them because you are the Evil Ex?

For another, kitties who have been indoor their whole lives are not going to adjust well to outdoor kittyhood.

For a third, outdoor kittyhood in the country is pretty rough. Because of coyotes, wild dogs, hidden barbed wire, other cats, etc. Outdoor kitties don't live as long. Outdoor kitties who used to be indoor kitties are even more likely to get hurt. What do they know about cars, other animals, what to do when it rains? Not a damn thing.

So if you're going to rehome, then find indoor homes for the cats. If you care about them at all.

If you can't be bothered to do that much, then please give them to a no-kill shelter, because at least they'd be fed and sheltered.
posted by emjaybee at 7:28 PM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

I can't answer the litterbox part of your question, but I can speak to the rehoming part.

When I lived on a farm, I adopted a cat who had been an indoor-only cat all her life. She became indoor/outdoor by my choice, but within a couple of years she chose to spend almost all her time outdoors (in the barn in winter; roaming around in summer). I assume she wouldn't have chosen it if she were unhappy out there. She did freak out the first couple of times I took her outside, but I sat with her on the grass on my lap for a while, and eventually she started tentative explorations, and after a few days she was very at home outside.

My only concerns for your rehoming plan would be whether someone would be willing to take the time to help the cat transition, or whether they would just dump it outside and hope for the best. Also the winter you mention. My cat would snuggle up in hay in the barn in winter (which included snow, but no temperatures below -10 C (14 F). I would worry if your cat would not have the opportunity to go somewhere warm and indoors-ish in the winter.
posted by lollusc at 8:26 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't really speak to the litterbox issues, since all my cats have been outdoor cats. But I agree with lullusc that some cats will probably do okay transitioning to outdoor living if they are helped along and introduced gradually. I would definitely not want to just throw them out the door and let them fend for themselves straight off. They need to develop outdoor confidence and some "street smarts," which will probably be hit-or-miss, depending on the personality of the cat. And yes, the winter weather issue would be a pretty big concern... I live in the southwest, so it's less of a problem here, but my family still sets out a cardboard box stuffed with hay or old blankets on the patio for the kitties to curl up in on chilly nights. I would feel terrible for a cat left outside without shelter in a northern climate.

If you decide you really can't keep the cats, try to find indoor homes first, then see if the gf's family would be helpful in "transitioning" them as mentioned above. A trial run doesn't sound bad either.

Good luck.
posted by celtalitha at 9:17 PM on March 19, 2012

Response by poster: Well, I tried different litter, Feline pine and World's best, with mixed results. For a while we weren't having issues.

I added another litter box at the new apartment, which put us up to three, but they are all in the same spot.

\The weird thing was there was a four day period where they were staying at a one room house that was pretty much just for them and they had one litter box for the three of them and there were no issues the entire four days. Actually now that i think about it that box was stocked with only non-scoopable clay litter. Maybe i'll get a bag of that and see if that helps.

I hadn't tried the larger litter box, may be worth trying. I already have some pretty big ones. I know they have ones where there's a whole in the top and it's already like a large rubbermaid tub.

I guess i thought I had tried a lot of the suggestions and that was why i hadn't said exactly what i had tried.

Make no mistake, I don't want to put them in a dangerous position.
posted by djduckie at 9:37 PM on March 19, 2012

I added another litter box at the new apartment, which put us up to three, but they are all in the same spot.

This is the most obvious problem. You need four, and you need them all over the place. OK, not all over the place, but know? Like, one by the front door, one by the back door, one upstairs, one downstairs...that kind of thing. Cats are...weird...and like to have choices. If they feel like they don't have choices, they'll...well...pretty much do what they've been doing and poop randomly around your house.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:17 PM on March 19, 2012

I know a family that had two brother cats who were fine with each other until a move, and then they fought and marked. The bigger cat bullied his brother and the brother would mark. Nothing worked and eventually they found a new home for the bullied cat -- he is much happier there and the marking stopped completely.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:25 PM on March 19, 2012

You really need to have the boxes in different places. That way, even if the bully cat is scoping out one of the boxes, the other guys still have a safe place to go.
posted by freshwater at 6:14 AM on March 20, 2012

Yeah, the litter boxes shouldn't be all up next to each other. And good idea on trying the clay litter! A change of litter can cause quite the protest.

For the indoor vs. outdoor argument: I am generally pro-letting your cats outside (not all the time, but some of the time). I grew up in an area that's pretty ideal for it, and the biggest worry is neighborhood cats. However, my cats were allowed out from youth, so they had street skills. In fact, my second was a stray I adopted from a shelter, and he won a fight with the screen on my bedroom window in a very defiant "you better not be thinking of keeping me inside all the time" move. But I would be very worried about transitioning indoor cats to full outdoordom. If they are combo indoor/outdoor they should be okay, especially if the transition is done gradually and is an area that's fairly safe for cats to go outdoors.

If you decide to re-home any of your cats, go with asking around at work, with friends, etc. You really just need to say that you don't have the space for all of them in your studio and you're looking for a place that they will have the space they need. People will understand this and you never know who might be interested in a new kitty!
posted by DoubleLune at 6:15 AM on March 20, 2012

You need one litterbox per cat plus one, and they need to be in different places. Also try "Cat Attract" litter, it works amazingly well. You also need Feliway diffusers adequate to cover the entire apartment (so you may need more than one). You also likely need to do more to reduce your cats' stress and improve their quality of life, there is some great information here. You could also speak to your vet about this, and if s/he can't help, ask for a referral to a behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist. While there are certainly some cats who are "uncurable", in most cases, this behavior can be fixed.
posted by biscotti at 6:38 AM on March 20, 2012

1) Move litterboxes to different places, at least two places
2) Seriously give Cat Attract a shot, it isn't a gimmick.

I based my homemade Rubbermaid tube litter box off the Clever Cat design you're talking about. I originally ordered it and sent it back when it arrived because I realized it was silly to spend $40 on something I could make for $6. Originally I cut a hole in the top of the tub, but my cats didn't like the top-entry which is why I cut the hole in the side. Your cats might go for it, though. It definitely cuts down on smells and litter-kicking.
posted by schroedinger at 6:41 AM on March 20, 2012

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