Overthinking this plate of kitten - can I untrain it?
January 22, 2017 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Short story: Abandoned kitten was not properly litter trained and imprinted on carpet. Has anyone successfully retrained a cat to NOT pee on carpet?

Last summer, we adopted a six week old tortie that had been abandoned by her mother at two weeks old. Sorry, no pictures. Just imagine the best cat in the world - except for one little problem.

The cat was litter box trained to a point. Despite having four litter boxes for two cats with mixed media, turns out she was also using the carpet. Internet makes it sound like cats imprint on a texture around 3-4 weeks of age – and in her case, she imprinted on both carpet and litter boxes before she came to live with us. It appears to be behavioral rather than medical.

We’re now looking at replacing the carpet in three rooms, after having already replaced one room. Subfloor might have to go, too. A leather reading chair has been ruined. The entire basement is currently unusable by humans. Kitty likes quiet corners, and there are a lot of quiet corners here.

Kitty has been at a friend’s carpet-less house since Christmas and is not peeing anywhere inappropriate. We would like to bring her back.

I’m willing to buy a cat crate to keep her penned in the living room (where the people are visible, as alone-in-a-bathroom freaks her out) for a month to try to retrain her to the box with cat-attract litter. But since the problem isn't that she doesn't know what a litter box is, the problem is that she ALSO thinks the carpet is a good litter box, I don't know that this is going to work. And what happens when I let her out? Will she magically learn the location of the litter box, or decide the corner where the crate was is the corner to pee in? I’ve got small kids round the house, so leaving a litter box in the middle of the floor as we move it inch by inch to an appropriate space isn’t going to work. (worst… sensory bin… EVER)

Has anyone tried this crating solution, can anyone recommend it? Or is it a “once the cat has imprinted on carpet, cat has always imprinted on carpet” problem? Has anyone un-imprinted a cat?

I’ve worked through this thread: http://ask.metafilter.com/283863/Discouraging-cat-from-pissing-on-sofa - imagine what happened to that couch, but on the floors in four of the rooms of my house. Kitty doesn’t have crystals or pain, she just got abandoned too young before she was taught properly. The fact that she’s peeing in ALL corners means aluminum foil and feliway isn’t going to cut it. We tried putting a litter box right on a pee corner when we found it and she just started peeing in the “new” corner that was formed between the box and the wall. Kitty really wants to pee on carpet. Removing all the carpet permanently is not an option for many reasons.

If kitty can’t be retrained, we have two options lined up to rehome her. I’m wondering if everybody (including the cat) would be happier if we just skipped the retraining and rehomed. We like the cat, and that includes not wanting to make her unnecessarily miserable if she’s just not the kind of cat that can ever live on carpet. But we’re also willing to invest a little bit of time if it’s a fixable problem.
posted by arabelladragon to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
To train our abandoned kitten, we placed in litter box once every two hours. After a few days he was fine. If you see the kitten getting ready take to the litter box.

There are cat enzyme cleaners that can work wonders, do try before you replace the entire carpeting.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:01 PM on January 22, 2017

I recently had to bite the bullet and tear up carpet and padding and then paint the subfloor with Kilz before covering it all with wood laminate. The wooden subflooring was saturated with wee.

Then I bought Cat Attract litter, bought 4 new boxes and haven't had a single problem since.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:15 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, I didn't realise your cat was more 6 months old than a baby.
I don't have experience with a cat that old.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:24 PM on January 22, 2017

Investigate Feliway.
posted by spitbull at 7:13 PM on January 22, 2017

A positive story: we were insistent on getting our kittens (aged 1 yr, but we had them from about 6 weeks) to use new amaze-balls chemical litter (since he has Asthma and we wanted to avoid dust). We tried and tried, and finally gave up when the boy cat kept pooping in our sink (well, to be exact, my wife's sink).

Sat down finally and said "what is BoyCat trying to tell us" and we listened. We went back to clay litter and the four of us have been happy ever since.

Our household has a new saying as result: "Always listen to the kittens" - it's rare that they are acting out for no reason. First, try to understand the reasons.

Second advice: carpeting is terrible and once saturated with urine, it's done. If you can remove all of it, that may be the best bet.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:16 PM on January 22, 2017

My cat, who didn't use litter boxes when I found him, had great success with Cat Attract litter. Last year if you sent in the upc plus your receipt, they would send you a check for how much you spent on it the first time, plus a coupon for another free box. I would be surprised if that was still not going on.
posted by tweedle at 8:08 PM on January 22, 2017

My sister's boyfriend adopted an adult cat that had no concept of using a litter box. Box training was eventually achieved with a combo of closing her in a bathroom with a box when he was not home, and finding a treat (Pounce or something) she really liked, and giving her much praise and 6 of those treats after using the box. She doesn't get those special treats at any other time.

Of course, she's no dummy so she now makes sure he's in sight line of the bathroom when she runs in and do her business, and scratches really loudly in the litter, to make sure she gets her rewards.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:54 AM on January 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

For hard to train cats, one of the vets at the rescue swears by using a litter of Oil-Dri mixed with Cat Attract. Oil-Dri is clay litter before they add any smell at all. It's made for garages to soak up fluid spills so that they can be swept and bagged. You can get it at any automotive place like PepBoys, and at Smart and Final. It comes in large (25 lb?) bags which cost about 5 bucks. (The Amazon price seems high.)

Oil-Dri is what got my older stray to use the litter box (and got her out of the garage and into the house).
posted by 26.2 at 9:25 AM on January 23, 2017

You could try putting small dishes of delicious, highly-scented cat food (canned food with a little tuna, sardine, or meat baby food mixed in?) anywhere she has ever excreted incorrectly, to teach her that those areas are not toilets.
posted by spraypaint at 1:30 PM on January 23, 2017

« Older Why is long ziti?   |   Breakfast at Tiffany's - for the older set Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.