New Kitty Won't Clean Himself. Help?
May 6, 2013 9:55 AM   Subscribe

My gf and I picked up a second cat last Friday from a no-kill rescue shelter. He looked perfectly healthy, had a clean record and tests from the shelter and acted very friendly and energetic. This new kitty has been diaretic for three days, and he doesn't clean up after himself. That factor has us a little freaked.

He's a mostly black kitty with an obvious bit of Siamese in his family tree. He's 2 years old, and again, he seems healthy. As he's our second cat, we've followed advice and kept him in our big bathroom so he & our current cat have time to get used to one another's smells and such. We go in to hang out with him several times a day, and he's always very affectionate and curious.

The worrisome thing is that we've had to clean poop off the walls, floor and his paws once each day since we brought him home. A little diarrhea doesn't seem odd--new home, kitty on the other side of the door, etc, is bound to lead to some stress--and he does use the catbox, but again, he's not showing any sign of cleaning himself. He isn't eating much, either, be it dry or wet food.

We're concerned that he's got some serious behavior issue that we won't be able to handle. Both my gf and I have had cats in the past, and neither of us have seen a cat act like this. FWIW, we got our first cat from that same rescue, and he's a complete doll. No problems at all.

I'll call the shelter this morning as soon as they open up, but I wanted to ask the collective, too. Anyone seen this before? Any advice?
posted by scaryblackdeath to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
If he's not eating on top of the cleanliness problem, I'd speak to a vet ASAP.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:00 AM on May 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

What does he have to do while he's in there? Does he at least have a window to look out? If he seems otherwise healthy and affectionate, it may be a combination of new environment stress and possibly boredom? Call the vet if it would make you feel better, or if he stops eating entirely, but I would see how he does when he's allowed out of the bathroom.
posted by Glinn at 10:28 AM on May 6, 2013

If you're having to clean poop up all over the place, that doesn't sound healthy to me. Take him to the vet.
posted by something something at 10:30 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lack of consumption + diarrhea = vet visit.
posted by batmonkey at 10:32 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

He could be super stressed. How long was he at the shelter? Moving is very stressful for an animal. Did you bring with you any reminders of the shelter? (Towels, a toy etc.) Anyways, vet for sure, and try to keep him as calm, understimulated and feeling as safe as possible.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:38 AM on May 6, 2013

I might take him in with me in my room (with a towel I don't care about). Poor thing is probably freaked out and scared and being alone in a bathroom can't be any fun for him.

Do take him to the vet, just to make sure he's okay, and maybe fix him up a nice box with a towel and a mini litter pan (a shoe box lid will work). But in your space with you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:19 AM on May 6, 2013

An "unkempt" coat is a fairly common symptom of illness in cats. It could be a number of things (ranging from the severe to the mild), but a cat not cleaning itself is a pretty good reason for a checkup.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:23 AM on May 6, 2013

I'd take him to the vet just in case (the shelter should have something here for you), but also assume that this is sort of standard cats doing weird stuff when they're moved to a new environment plus perhaps illness and not that your cat will forever be marking everything with poop because he's an asshole.
posted by jeather at 11:25 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

N-thing likely stress. I've had similar issues with one of my young, healthy cats during a time when I changed her food brand too quickly. Cats don't seem to deal well with poop that isn't super-solid, so if that's part of the issue I wouldn't be too worried that this is indicative of a larger behavior problem.

I'm with others too on the 'vet just in case' part. If he's having digestive issues for more than a couple days, you want to make sure it's not part of any larger health issue.
posted by augustimagination at 11:43 AM on May 6, 2013

Are you feeding him food different from what he had at the shelter? That may also be creating a problem.
posted by jaguar at 12:02 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

When you take kitty to the vet, make sure he is checked for Giardia and Tritrichomonas, protozoal parasites that cause diarrhea and don't always show up on standard fecal examinations.
posted by Seppaku at 12:39 PM on May 6, 2013

Anorexia is extremely serious in cats, much more so than with people. That and the diarrhea mean vet visit, yesterday.

That being said, when we adopted our youngest cat (then a two month old kitten, now a healthy and clean adult) from the shelter, he had bad diarrhea caused by an infection (I think Giardia, but can't remember). He was also very bad at cleaning himself, I suspect because he just felt too awful to get back there and fix the mess, so we would simply clean him up. Ditto for his more recent illness (abdominal surgery, lengthy recovery) - even when we took his cone off, he was not overly interested in contorting himself to get the feces off, especially if they had dried.

TL;DR: I wouldn't worry about a behavioural issue, but I would worry about the symptoms.
posted by Nyx at 1:10 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is conjecture, but my experience is that every shelter pet that I've met seemed like they were on Xanax for the first couple days. I don't know if shelters generally give the animals downers to keep everyone happy, but it seems like they might. So it's possible the cat was on something and is coming off of it.

I would echo the advice to get the kitty to a doctor, and to also request the medical records from the shelter.
posted by gjc at 4:57 PM on May 6, 2013

Our new kitty had giardia when we brought her home, which we only discovered on a routine every-animal-that-joins-the-house-gets-introduced-to-the-vet visit...she was also not cleaning herself. We didn't really realize it, but the vet told us it was a common symptom of giardia. I had thought she was particularly smelly compared to our old cat, and once we treated her for it, she smelled MUCH better and look less 'frizzy'.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:29 PM on May 6, 2013

Yeah, the shelter might not have caught something like Giardia, which is shed as cysts in the feces intermittently. They may have to do a zinc sulfate float performed multiple times, do a direct fecal smear to look for trophozoites, or do an antigen test (IDEXX makes a point-of care SNAP test for Giardia.)

Just in case it is, you should try to keep kitty and his area very clean, because Giardia is immediately infective if the feces are ingested. And you can catch it too! Huzzah! Wear gloves! Use bleach! Keep kitty away from your healthy animals!
posted by Seppaku at 8:42 PM on May 6, 2013

FYI: took him back to the shelter for a vet visit (on their dime, 'cause they volunteered it) within about fifteen minutes of posting this. I mostly intended to do that, anyway, but I wanted to feel out the collective anyway. Thanks!
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:21 PM on May 6, 2013

We would love to know what their findings were. Partly so we can cheer him on, and partly so we can collect information for the next person who asks :)

Yay for being able to take him back in on their dime! What a great org he came from.
posted by batmonkey at 9:57 AM on May 7, 2013

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