Bad Kitty Potty Problem
March 5, 2006 2:49 PM   Subscribe

He will defecate normally in his box, solid and behave regular. He will urinate in the litter box as well. But then he reverts to acting strange, pawing around territorially, and leaving diarrhea on the floor Desperate kitty question from the son of a friend Booger has put us in a bad situation.

"Hey dad, I was emailing you to ask you if you know anyone who can help with a problem Rachael and I are having with our black cat, Booger. Within the last month he has begun to start defecating on the floor, diarrhea. He will defecate normally in his box, solid and behave regular. He will urinate in the litter box as well. But then he reverts to acting strange, pawing around territorially, and leaving diarrhea on the floor. He does this right in front of us, as if it were normal. We haven taken measures to try and alter or prevent this. We taken him to the vet and spent $200 on him (and the total since last summer is nearer to $500-600). The vets are telling us we need to spend more money for more tests ($750-1000). We cannot afford this.

We took other measures too. We used repellent oders and cleaning. We added another litter box. We scoop the boxes as much as humanly possible. We changed him to a healthier, high protein lamb diet. We gave him his own feeding area. We gave him a nutritional enzyme. We have given him anti-stress formulas and other herbal remedies. Nothing is working, however. We are at a point where putting him to sleep is becoming our only option. We think that he is sick and unhappy, despite seeming ok sometimes. We have no other explanation. His behaviors have been odd for some time now since we moved here.

Do you know anyone who can help with this? I was just hoping you might know someone who has more cat expertise than we do. We have a special needs cat who is an emergency case. It is tough but we cannot spend our days any more cleaning up his mess, sometimes 3 times a day. We think that maybe we are just missing something that we don't know. We have tried all the online forums and every veteranarian and none of them can help us. Booger has put us in a bad situation.

If you know anyone who knows about special needs cats, who can help in any way, or who will take him as part of a special needs shelter or something please say. If not I don't know what else we can. Just hoping you can help.

posted by Shane to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
My sister is about a month away from graduating from Vet school. I'll pass this on to her for her opinion and get back with an answer, hopefully soon.
posted by Atreides at 3:06 PM on March 5, 2006

I'm not sure if this is more of a medical rather than behavioral problem, but the people at the Anticruelty Society's animal behavior hotline have been very helpful for me in sorting out some pet problems.
posted by lalalana at 3:13 PM on March 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

We went through exactly this with one of our male cats - and, after 2 years, have eliminated most (not quite all) of his problems. Didn't cost us a lot of money, just a lot of patience.

1: Make sure he has 2 litter boxes. It's a nuisance, but made a HUGE difference. Really. Trust me. Cats prefer one to urinate & one to defecate - and make sure they're cleaned once in the morning & once at night. We say they're dirty, but the truth is, cats are incredibly clean and won't tolerate a dirty box.

2. The diarrhea is caused by something. Has he been on a course of antibiotics for parasites? Because ours is a shelter cat, that's the first thing the vet thought of. It worked. Took 3 rounds of antibiotics to get rid of it, but it worked very well. He didn't run a lot of expensive tests; he just did it.

3. The other cause could be IBS. Cats do get it, and, unfortunately, it's as difficult to treat in them as it is in us.

Good luck! We love our pets, but sometimes, they drive us to distraction.
posted by clarkstonian at 3:55 PM on March 5, 2006

Oh, I forgot to mention litter - one of our cats will only use clay litter. One will only use clumping. Neither will use scented.

But you have to clear up the diarrhea first.
posted by clarkstonian at 3:56 PM on March 5, 2006

Hi Shane, I'm sorry your friend's son is having this problem with his cat Booger. If the vets haven't managed to isolate a physical cause for Booger's behaviour then it could be time to start looking at psychological reasons for his behaviour.

Often when a cat starts to defecate erratically around his home (especially with the pawing/scratching & sometimes yeowing too) it indicates a stress problem caused by an interruption in his belief in the boundaries of his own territory. Diarrhea is often symptomatic of this 'middening' behaviour. If it is a territorial stress problem then Booger is probably middening to enforce his boundaries.

Are their other cats in the household or perhaps a dog, new baby or young child? Sometimes a change in the household dynamics can cause one member of the household to feel so stressed that they just don't feel secure anymore. Could a neighbourhood cat be gaining access to his home? This once caused my alpha male cat to midden.

I'm glad another litter box has been provided for Booger, try to ensure that it's in a very private place and well away from his own feeding area that's been provided.

I know how distressing a middening cat can be. Any stress your friend's son is feeling will be reflected in his behaviour and will be picked up on by Booger. Don't forget, animals have a different way of viewing the world to us and can pick up the most minute changes in our behaviour, expression and smell.

I'd suggest ensuring that Booger has some quiet places where he can just relax and feel safe. Don't change his bedding too often, allow it to build up his own smell. Try and be relaxed around him (easier than it sounds when you are on tenterhooks anticipating yet another foul pile to clear up). When he leaves a heap, try hard not to react strongly to his behaviour.

Obviously hygiene is important for both the cat and the humans, but try to avoid using repellents. Booger most likely will just find another area to reinforce his territory. Go easy on the strong smelling detergents too. These will enforce Booger's anxiety that his home isn't his, because it won't smell like his.

I've recommended a product named Feliway more than once on AskMefi. I don't work for the company (honest) but I've seen such amazing results with the use of this product in cases where cats have been very stressed that I believe it's a very good start in helping a cat overcome insecurity. Despite the UK link it is available in the US. It is a synthesised, generic facial pheromone, the pheromone that a cat leaves behind when they rub their face over furniture, door ways and humans. The product comes in a plug in diffuser form and also spray form, you spray it at cat head height on all the places he rubs his face in your home. This smell makes him feel more secure by making his home smell more of him. Put the diffusers all around the home and use the spray liberally wherever Booger rubs.

I suggest your friend also tries to keep Booger on a simple diet. Even reverting to his original diet may help him regain some of his confidence. If none of the herbal and stress remedies have worked then perhaps it's time to stop using them.

If your friend's son can spend relaxed, quality time with Booger, stroking him and playing then perhaps with some time and patience this problem can be resolved.

It might be worth seeking a consultation with a qualified animal behaviourist who uses motivational techniques.

If there's no physical cause to Booger's behaviour then with some thought and time, most behavioural issues in our companion animals can be sorted out.

I hope this give's your friends son some hope, he sounds like a caring pet owner

Good luck :)
posted by Arqa at 4:21 PM on March 5, 2006

Okay, no joke: Ask your vet about prozac for cats. It worked to help an old feller cat of mine from peeing everywhere the other cat laid its head. It took a lot of pee to get me past my scruples about giving a cat prozac, but once he was on it and confining his micturations to his litter box, I found I could weather the ridicule tolerably.
posted by Sara Anne at 5:36 PM on March 5, 2006

I will second Arqa's suggestion of Feliway. We have a four cat household now, with two of the kitties being tken in off the street. We have had every manner of behavior as well, and all that can be done is assist the cat in feeling comfortable. Feliway does this, as well as some of the other things Arqa noted-- maybe go back to the old food. Have those safe spots for kitty, and please, please do not euthanize him.
posted by oflinkey at 7:21 PM on March 5, 2006

I'll third the recommendation for Feliway. I use the plug-in infuser and it helped my cat's elimination habits quite a bit along w/ a second litterbox.
posted by tastybrains at 7:32 PM on March 5, 2006

We had a bout of this kind of behaviour with our little guy shortly after we brought him home from the shelter, ie diarrhea and spraying and general nervousness. We put it down to stress, but early one morning we surprised a feral tom. The tom had been sneaking into our house in the night via the catflap (which had been previously shut until we got our own cat).

The tom met with an unfortunate accident (sadly after I chased him out of the house he bolted in front of a car.) Our guy was fine from that day forth. So do check whether any other cats can get access inside the place. Maybe your cat is insecure, but maybe there really is another cat encroaching on his turf.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:09 PM on March 5, 2006

If you begin to think it's IBS, here is my experience with an unconfirmed case of IBS in our cat.

-Water. Out of desperation, we switched to the PetMate pet fountain because 1) it has a filter, and we thought our highly cholorinated/treated water might be troubling his stomach; and 2) running water is supposed to help your cat drink more water, which is good for the cat.

-Cat Tofu. Our vet put the cat on Prescription Diet and then we tapered him down off of it into a food that is similar to the Rx food. No, it's not the "best" food out there, but it helps our cat stay normal, and he's perfectly healthy now.

-Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract Litter, and then when the problems got better, the Dr. Elsey's that comes in a blue bag ( I think it's multiple cat clumping or something).

-Feliway is excellent for the cat anxiety.

-If there is any suspicion of inflammation of any sort, treat the inflammation. Our vet did this with prednisone.

This is seriously frustrating stuff. Our cat did not present in exactly the way described here, but he did have the loose stools and the strange yowling behavior. He also threw up, a lot, and it was really horrifying. If this is IBS, it will take a lot of money to definitively diagnose. Our vet just went with the idea that it was IBS b/c the cat was responding to the treatments; this may be where you end up as well, if you and your vet really decide it's IBS.

Of course, the reality is that there are probably a few things going on here -- IBS or parasites, and then couple that with the cat being able to tell that his "staff" are upset, plus whatever anxiety he has over not feeling well, his territory being invaded, or whatever else is going on . . . so you're going to have to whittle things down issue-by-issue until you hit upon a solution. Good luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:21 PM on March 5, 2006

I'm not a Vet, just a cat-lover. Here's my take for what it's worth:

If the cat normally goes in the litterbox and then keeps leaving diarrhea on the floor, I would think that the diarrhea has to be caused by something.

Take a look at the cats diet. What are you feeding him? You may want to look into a higher grade food, as there could be something in the food that is causing an allergy for the cat.

Other reponses above have already mentioned Cat Anxiety, so I will stay away from that topic.

Honest, check out the food.
posted by punkrockrat at 7:22 AM on March 6, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the responses!
posted by Shane at 9:24 AM on March 6, 2006

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