If she keeps this up she will only have 8 lives.
April 6, 2012 7:33 PM   Subscribe

Please help me littertrain this kitten.

Me: frustrated beyond belief.

Cat: 6 months old, female, spay appointment is in two weeks. Peeing and pooping under the table in our living room. Unfortunately it's in a spot where a litterbox will not fit. I have placed a litterbox as close to that spot as I can, but she ignores it. If you try and put her in a litterbox, she stretches her legs out and grabs onto the edge of the box so she never even sets foot in the box.

I have tried litterboxes in various spots. I have tried covered boxes, and plain open boxes. I have tried shallow boxes. I have tried paper litter, I have tried clay litter. When she poops, I put the poop in the litterbox, but she doesn't get the message.

Currently she is locked in the bathroom (where there is a litterbox) because she kept starting to pee under the table and I would yell at her and she'd run away, but come back and try again a few minutes later. So I KNOW she has to pee. But she's in there clawing at the door and crying and I guarantee you she has not peed in that damn box. And I bet that even if I lock her in there overnight, she will hold it and then head for that spot under the table as soon as I let her out.

I'm afraid if this keeps up, she will just wait until I'm not in the room and then go under the table, rather than the desired GOING IN THE LITTERBOX YOU DAMN CAT.

As you can see, I'm a little frustrated. Taking her back is a possibility, but the spouse and kid like her and we need a cat to scare away the mice, so we would just have to get another one.

posted by rabbitrabbit to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Take the table away entirely, put the litterbox in its place. If she goes in it there then start moving it inch by inch towards the bathroom. Do not put the table back until she's regularly going in the box in the bathroom.

Not sure it'll work but it seems like a permutation you haven't tried.
posted by marylynn at 7:52 PM on April 6, 2012

A multistep approach:

1) Treat the spot where she's been going with an enzymatic urine remover. Cats like to go where they went before (as you've unfortunately discovered) so it's important that you break down the source of the previous waste smells, not just mask them with cleaning supplies. I like Anti-Icky Poo. Nature's Miracle works too. Follow the usage instructions on the bottle to the letter.

2) Can you remove the table from the living room temporarily? You'll have to move it out of the way to adequately treat underneath it anyway. Store the table and put her litter box nearby. Hopefully you won't have to put the litter box where the table was but you might. I'll bet she won't pee in that spot once she loses the protection of the table.

3) Mix a few scoops of garden dirt from outside on top of the litter. Over time, you'll decrease the amount of dirt you add but the goal here is to get her to try the box. Once she starts going in the box, you can incrementally move the box somewhere else.

4) Don't yell at her or otherwise startle her when she's anywhere near a litterbox. You want her to associate the litterbox as somewhere she feels safe.

5) Put a Feliway atomiser in the same room as the litterbox. To my great surprise, Feliway solved a formerly intractable inappropriate peeing problem I had with one cat. The moment the Feliway bottle runs dry, she goes on a peeing spree, so it's worth a try.
posted by jamaro at 7:59 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

The advice above is good, but - how long have you had her? Is this new behaviour or has it been happening all along? If it's new behaviour, I would get her to a vet asap as it's quite possible she is ill. If she's in pain while peeing or pooping she will avoid her little box because she associates it with pain.
posted by deborah at 8:21 PM on April 6, 2012

We have had her for a week, it's been like this since we got her.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:26 PM on April 6, 2012

Seconding Deborah. Cats grasp the litterbox concept really, really fast; if your cat is deliberately refusing to use the box, there is either a) something wrong with the litter or b) something wrong with the cat (e.g., a UTI). A six-month old cat should already be litter-trained, so I would zip over to the vet and check out b).
posted by thomas j wise at 8:28 PM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

Good job so far!
Has the cat ever been in the litter box? Did you gently show her where it is and try to lure her in (by moving a toy in the box or such)? By moving the box frequently some cats get confused and go to the original spot.
What is different about the living room vs. the room where her box originally was? Some cats like privacy and if the box is in a busy spot they might find it hard to go.
You tried different litter- excellent! Only in the box or also on the floor (put some bigger garbage bag underneath for cleaning convenience)? She might be scared of the box itself (clinging to the edges). If the litter is just "on the floor" she might find it easier to get used to it, and maybe eventually will discover the joy of pawing her business.
Definitely use some urine remover and look into repellents (but this depends on your house, does the cat have to walk through the living room to go to other parts of the house etc.). Cats dislike citrus fruits and overall strong odors. After using the urine remover, spray/rub the repellent on the table legs. Not too much please, cats smell way more powerful than we do. All of this can still lead to her seeking out some other place that is not the litter box - so make sure she likes the box as well.

Okay I just read you have had her for a week - this is rebellion, she does not feel well yet (emotionally or physically). Does she eat well? Is she active? Playful? How did she do w/r/t the litter box at her former home?

Please understand that she does this out of discomfort, not to annoy you.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:38 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Our first cat Simon was weird about the litter box and would pee around it, near it, across the room from it, etc and we ended up using Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract Litter and eventually we were able to convert to the Dr's regular litter. Simon will still sometimes pee in the wrong place but it's usually a statement of anger or stress now, rather than random peeing/pooping for the sake of it.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:45 PM on April 6, 2012

Nthing the need to treat the HELL out of the favorite spot with enzymatic cleaner. Sounds like the little girl has a bit of teh dumb at this stage and is just making a beeline for instinct.

When you let her out of the bathroom, can you sequester her with babygates in a part of the house that does not include the dining room?

Also, vet, yes. Cats reveal physical problems in ways that seem for all the world like behavioral problems.
posted by desuetude at 10:09 PM on April 6, 2012

All right, I will call the vet on Monday and see about getting her looked at. The litterbox was originally in the quiet bathroom and she chose the loud, high-traffic living room, go figure.

Baby gates: nope, she climbs up and over them. I tried luring her into the box with the laser toy just now and she did not fall for it-- she really avoids the box at all costs.

I will move the table ( and the ten million electronics and books, ugh) and clean with Natures Miracle tomorrow.

I hope she learns soon -- she really is a sweet cat. And I have a major cat allergy so cat pee in my carpet cannot stand.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:53 PM on April 6, 2012

My kitten, when I first got him (he came off the street), had a really confusing habit of using the bathroom sink -- perplexing but convenient as far as cleaning up went. I tried putting the box near the sink and on the toilet, to no avail. I tried putting him in the box and moving his paws to dig, but he didn't care. Finally I put it in the sink -- at an angle, but he had no choice but to use it if he was going into the sink. He got it immediately and then was fine using it even after I took it down from the sink.

I think cats get really attached to the first place they use. The trick is to put the box/litter exactly over the spot they've gotten used to. At least, this seemed to flip a switch in my kitten's brain.

(Agreeing with others that a refusal beyond this could signify infection or illness.)

She'll get it eventually. Don't give up!
posted by aintthattheway at 11:42 PM on April 6, 2012

Try putting some slightly crumpled aluminum foil over the spot where she wants to go and put the litterbox nearby. Cats generally hate to step on foil.
posted by SillyShepherd at 3:37 AM on April 7, 2012

So just an update... took her to the vet, she has a bacterial infection, so let's hope the antibiotics help.

In the meantime, I have treated the area with like a half gallon of Nature's Miracle, and taken away the table. She is still going on the floor in that area. I have now put FOUR litterboxes in that area which she has not used, she just goes next to them. (Square covered, round covered, open high sides, open low sides just in case she has a preference.) So I finally gave up and put litter over the ENTIRE area in the hope that that would at least get her used to going on/in litter. (I also tried the aluminum foil, she would just go next to it.) She has gone on the littered floor area a few times now so maybe it will eventually work? I've also had to get a HEPA filter for that room because the smell of cat pee was giving me an instant headache when I came into that room. We are eventually going to rip the carpet out of that room and I cannot wait.

And I realized I didn't include a link to a picture. Here is a picture of my damn cat. Her name is Lyra and she is a very sweet cat, I would just like her about 1000% better if she would start using a litterbox.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:47 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

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