How to keep my friend's cat from acting out?
June 10, 2007 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm catsitting for a friend of mine. The cat has started peeing on furniture for the first time. How can I make this stop? Should I be worried enough to take him to the vet?

Here's the thing: I've read a whole bunch of previous cat-pee questions, and figure that the most likely reason for this is the cat's anger that his owner has left him for a month. (The three places he's peed on so far have been on the owner's futon and his bed).

The cat is primarily an outdoor cat (let's not argue about this, please; it's obviously not my call), but has a litterbox inside the house. When I first came over, the box was extremely dirty; I've since been cleaning it out daily but found that the cat's barely using it. At first, I thought that simply getting to the house earlier in the day and letting him out would prevent the urination, but that hasn't worked--today, I got there earlier than ever, and still found a "present."

I was warned that he had numerous "indiscretions" around the house before taking over his care, so I don't think that it's a health problem. I've also been spending more time at his house, figuring that more attention will keep him from acting out. Is there anything else I can do to prevent him from continuing this behavior for the next few weeks that I'm taking care of him?
posted by thecaddy to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
if he's acting normally (and not licking himself a lot beyond normal cleaning--a sign that something itches down south) then he's probably just cranky. the reason he may not be using the cat box as much may be because it's actually too clean--he may be used to a strong-smelling place. also, if you used different litter or something, he might have smelled that. and, he might just miss his mommy/daddy. i wouldn't panic. if you see blood or a serious behavior change, he's fine.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:31 PM on June 10, 2007

Close the door to the bedroom and take the cushion off the futon, if that's possible. He'll find somewhere else to pee, though. Our cats detest it when we go away. We were gone for 5 days, and that caused the one cat to use the dining room for his litter box for about 4 months. It's not necessarily anger or revenge - it's fear and frustration, abandonment issues. Our cat has stopped doing that - but only with a huge amount of patience, a new litter box and Dr. Elsey's cat attract litter.
posted by clarkstonian at 3:32 PM on June 10, 2007

Best answer: It's likely sadness/anger with his owner's absence, though the fact that he pees around the house even when the owner is there may indicate some general health problem.

There may be some things you might want to do in the short term. Nature Miracle or similar products to clean up where he has peed.

You may want to leave a little of his previous litter box's contents around in the box when you change the little, esp if the previous owner is bad about cleaning. The new box may be "too clean" and he doesn't know that's he is suppossed to go there.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 3:35 PM on June 10, 2007

I'm still having cat pee problems despite even using Dr Esley's Cat Attract litter. I'm not sure there's much you can do since this is not your cat, but it's likely behavioral given the background.

Attention will help if the cat likes attention. Copious cleaning of the litter and/or washing of the litterbox may also be necessary. Beyond that, there's other options that just aren't practical since this is not your cat (Feliway, constant watching/positive reinforcement, etc etc)...

That said, if the cat seems sluggish at all, please do take him/her to the vet right away.
posted by twiggy at 3:35 PM on June 10, 2007

Yeah. He's expressing. One thing that can often help is a second cat box. I like the move/close the targets suggestion but have often found with new or anxious cats, a second cat box was helpful.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:38 PM on June 10, 2007

Cats pee to claim territory, and there is a new contender for his territory that he now has to deal with.


He is probably marking the areas he has spent time in and wants the most, such as where he sleeps and hangs out, and near where he eats. You could let him have those as much as possible, and become the source of Good Things, like treats, pets, play and brushings; and he may decide he has made his point sufficiently.
posted by jamjam at 3:50 PM on June 10, 2007

One caveat to all of this generally good advice. I don't know if you actually catch him in the act, but if you do and he seems to be in pain or straining, or if he tries to pee in the litterbox and fails and then goes somewhere else - at that point, you could be looking at a urinary crystal problem, which is life-threatening and needs to be taken care of in a matter of days rather than weeks, so it can't wait for his owner to get back.

If he seems to be comfortable, and it's just what he does, then you probably are looking at a behavioral thing. It may be that all you can do is figure out what sorts of things he pees on and try to keep them out of his way - cushions, plastic bags, whatever.
posted by Stacey at 4:44 PM on June 10, 2007

Any change in litterbox behaviour warrants a trip to the vet - cats sometimes do this because of stress (or because of issues with their litterbox), but they also often do it because they have a urinary tract infection, are developing Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or for other medical reasons. It's pointless to try and treat a medical issue as if it were a behavioural issue, and medical issues should always be ruled out first.
posted by biscotti at 4:53 PM on June 10, 2007

God, I had a cat that loved to pee on my pillow. And on my bed. And on my favorite chair.

I tried all the answers provided by the internet, talked to vets about the issue, etc... and nothing worked. I finally moved the chair into the bedroom, closed the door, and tried to get the cat to forget about it. It got to the point where the cat was scratching the bottom of the door, she wanted at that pillow so bad.

Some cats just pee on stuff, and that's all there is to it. There was nothing I could do to stop her from causing my chair and bed to stink. Finally, after a year of putting up with it, I shot her.
posted by bradth27 at 4:56 PM on June 10, 2007

"I shot her." I hope that wasn't a literal expression!

Our cat started doing this recently, then one night I was up late and I heard a noise in the kitchen. thinking it was our cat eating I ignored it for a bit, but it went on for a while so I went to check, and it was some other random cat eating his food. I shouted at it and it just slinked off through the house and out the cat door like it owned the place. I got my cat and tried to run after it but ours just shit himself (figuratively speaking) and refused to have any part in it. A few days later i chased off the other cat with a broom and ours has stopped pissing. So I figure it was just a territory thing.

If he's in a new environment, or has a new person (yourself) in the environment, then perhaps he's just being defensive and marking out whats his.
posted by chrisbucks at 6:13 PM on June 10, 2007

Best answer: What arrangement have you with the cat's owner regarding what to do if the cat gets sick?

If this hasn't been discussed between you and the owner, can you contact the owner at all?

The first step in sorting out problems of this type is to eliminate the possibility of a physical cause. Stress can be a cause of feline cystitis (UTI) and if at all possible, the cat should be examined by a vet to establish if the cat's health is all it should be. As others have said, stress can come in many forms for a cat, a recent move, a change in the household dynamic, a new dominant cat in the area, a change of food/routine, you turning up to look after the cat - all these can be factors.

The fact that the cat has been urinating inappropriately before you took over as sitter does not mean that the cat does not have something physically wrong. Feline UTIs can establish as chronic low grade infections that don't always present the acute symptoms of cystitis or the presence of urinary crystals.

If you can, watch the cat peeing - does it strain, repeatedly pee a little/alot, over clean itself after peeing, vocalise before/during peeing? Is their any reddish colour in the pee? How often do you see the cat drinking water? Answers to these questions will help a vet establish a cause.

If a vet eliminates the possibility of a UTI, can you find out what the owners have done to curtail the behaviour? The vet may be able to offer some solutions to the unwanted behaviour even if a physical cause is not established.

Good luck!
posted by Arqa at 12:15 AM on June 11, 2007

Listen to biscotti. One of my cats suddenly started peeing on piles of clothes, but with none of the usual UTI symptoms (straining, crying, blood etc) and it still turns out she had cystitis.
posted by corvine at 4:24 AM on June 11, 2007

My mom's cats do this when she is away -- they are territorial with her bed ordinarily and when she is gone for awhile they will pee. She covers her bed with a large tarp but then puts one blanket that is "theirs" on the end of the bed. Sometimes they pee on the tarp, sometimes on the blanket. They revolted against the tarp once and started peeing under this little built-in desk area she has -- she put a bunch of mothballs under there and the smell kept them away. now she keeps mothballs under all her furniture, in her corners, and under her bed when she's gone. And puts a litter box in the bedroom in addition to its normal location in the basement. I think it's mostly helped though sometimes they still act out when she's home and they don't like someone (like my brother visiting with his dog). Once Inky even peed ON her. While she was sleeping. Ick.
posted by Soulbee at 10:28 AM on June 11, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers here.

I wound up buying a product similar to Nature's Miracle (it was some stuff called Stink-Free, and was the only similar product available at the only grocery within biking distance), and using that on the futon and the bed. Then I replaced about two-thirds of the litter, and it seems that that has done the trick--he used the litterbox instead of the futon or the bed for the first time since I've been taking care of him.

I'm keeping a close eye on him, but it doesn't look like we need to go to the vet just yet--there's no real blockage, but everything seems to have worked out okay.
posted by thecaddy at 2:35 PM on June 15, 2007

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