Retraining cat that pees inappropriately
September 16, 2007 5:21 PM   Subscribe

My cat has started urinating in inappropriate spots in my house (and also my friend's house who was taking care of her and my other cat while I went through a move). I've read the threads here on dealing with urine smell, etc. But need more detailed advice about the process of RETRAINING.

I've had her taken to the vet and she checked out fine. And yes there are all the classic situations happening that cause behavior problems: i.e. I've had to move residence, with the upheaval of packing and boxes lying around all over (which she would pee in), not to mention my own stressed out state of mind during the chaos. As I got crazier she seemed to freak out more and start peeing in spots outside of her box.

I'm wanting to know from other MetaFilter folk how they retrained their peeing cat.

I'm thinking of confining her, in the new house that I'll be taking her to soon, in the laundry room (which has a decent amount of space) with her bed and food and water. There is a cat door in this room that leads to a small enclosed spot in the garage that will have her litter box. If I keep her in there for about five days or so does that seem long enough for her to relearn using her box.

Should I also put my other cat in there with her, who is acting fine, for company? And make her go through the five day process? Or should it be longer than that?

I'm at the end of my rope and would hate to get rid of her. She's been a great cat for the last three years, but, well, we all know what cat piss smells like.
posted by zenpop to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What worked well for one of my cats who had taken to peeing in a chair was to put the litter box in the chair for a few days. Then I moved it to the floor next to the chair (while treating the chair for odor, of course), and then a foot a week or so, the litter box was back in the bathroom where it belonged, and the problem was solved.

This technique didn't work with another cat that had a persistent peeing-in-the-wrong-place problem. It worked with a cat that seemed to be reacting to a specific disruption, in that case an interstate move.
posted by not that girl at 5:38 PM on September 16, 2007

I'd add, that if the cat is peeing in lots of inappropriate places, your confinement plan is a good one, getting the cat into a small enough place that they'll use the litter box and then gradually opening up into larger spaces has also worked with some cats I've had (I've had many).
posted by not that girl at 5:39 PM on September 16, 2007

I had the same problem and tried the same approach (laundry room confinement) and it only aggravated things. The cat would still pee all over that room, as well as in the litter box. After a lot of research, I decided to try something that seemed successful for others with the same problem: the "number of cats + 1" approach to litter boxes. That is, if you have two cats, put out three litter boxes. It worked like a charm. It helps if one is situated in a very private place, but two of ours are close (right next to each other). We haven't had a problem since (that was about 7 months ago). There were three other things I did in conjunction. I constructed the three litter boxes as high-sided litter boxes (basically storage boxes like this with a large "U" shape cut out of the long side to allow the cat to step in). I think the high sides help the cat feel protected. I cleaned the litter boxes more frequently than usual to begin with (scooped with a slotted shovel once a day for about 2 weeks). And I gave the peeing cat a treat every time I caught him using the litter box. As I said, no problems since I made those changes (and I no longer have to clean each night or give treats).
posted by cocoagirl at 6:00 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

When my mental basket-case cat needed to relearn the rules after peeing EVERYWHERE when he had a bladder infection, I couldn't confine him anywhere due to my apartment setup, so I tried a combination of Cat Attract litter, a month of anti-anxiety meds, and a Feliway plug-in. He came through like a champ, and if a crybaby-weirdo-cat like him can be cured -- there's hope for any cat. Good luck!
posted by kittyb at 6:08 PM on September 16, 2007

Your confinement idea is a good one, but five days is too short a time. For dogs the suggested time of confinement is about three weeks to retrain when they fail their house manners. Make sure that when you're home you take the cat out when you are able to supervise her.
posted by winna at 6:23 PM on September 16, 2007

Cat Attract is good stuff. It helped us help our kids when they were little, and very confused.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:44 PM on September 16, 2007

1) Trip to the vet to rule out infections (you did that, good).
2) Crating in a Great Dane crate for a month in a public part of the house-- so kitty sees people and action. Make sure to pet her and talk to her. This is better than the laundry because she can see you and the other kitty.
3) Feliway and a scrupulously clean litter box in the crate.

I had a kitty who was eliminating in inappropriate places and we crated her for 2 months. It seems cruel, but part of her problem was that the other cats were getting in her grill, so to speak, and the crate offered her a safe spot to interact with them on her terms. Crating is also how my feral rescue friends "turn" kitties from ferocious feral scratchballs to purring lapkitties. They learn (and in your kitty's case relearn) human voices and touch as well as using the litter pan.
Just provide a pan, a place for food which is the opposite side of the pan, a blanket and a shell or small cat igloo for her to hide in. A log is often nice too, for scratching.
To get out the pee stains forget the Nature's Miracle and go with Anti Icky Poo. Expensive but worth its weight in gold. Use sparingly.
posted by oflinkey at 6:44 PM on September 16, 2007

We recently moved, and my dumb-as-a-rock orange tabby decided that using his litter box was optional. I took him to the vet to eliminate any possible medical causes. They found none, and instead had me talk with their on-staff animal behaviorisly.

She suggested confining him to a small area for a couple of weeks and making that area as comfortable and non-scary as possible. We have a small room in our basement that fit the bill. I left the light on all of the time and furnished it with comfy cat beds and a scratching post.

She also suggested that we give him a choice of litter box styles and litter box fillers. So, we had a uncovered box with clay litter, an uncovered box with pellets made from recycled newspaper, a covered box with Feline Pine sawdust litter, and a covered box with clay litter.

He chose the covered box with sawdust litter. We've had him for 8 years, and he had never had this kind of litter before, but now it's the only kind he'll use.

I left him confined for about a week until I couldn't stand the yowling anymore, then I gave him access to the rest of the basement. When he seemed to be using the litterbox consistently, we expanded his range to the rest of the house.

And no, we didn't put our non-problem cat in with him. Instead, we gave her litterboxes just outside the small room where he was confined. We didn't think it was fair to isolate her when she wasn't the one causing the problem.

I would set up 3-4 litter boxes of different styles and different kinds of litter, and keep her confined to the small room for at least a week. If she seems to be doing okay, slowly let her expand her range.

I still have to leave the light on in the small basement room all of the time - my cat appears to be scared of the dark. I also have to have the covered litterbox filled with Feline Pine. If I do all of these things, he's perfect.

Good luck. There are few things worse than having to clean up after a cat that doesn't want to use the litterbox. If my male cat, the living brain donor, can figure it out I think that your cat probably will too.
posted by Ostara at 6:55 PM on September 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

You may want to add a nightlight by the catbox if it needs it. (via some column: "Dear vet, my cat seems to be reluctant to use the catbox I put in the back of the dark, cold, basement. What should I do?")

If you do crate or confine the cat, I'd enrich the fuck out of its environment: cat tree, dangly toys, etc, etc.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:20 PM on September 16, 2007

Nth the Feliaway Plug-In. It DID WONDERS!
posted by k8t at 2:21 AM on September 17, 2007

Seconding the crating, a la oflinkey. We retrained our oldest kitty and actually still crate her at night. It just works better for everyone involved that way (the four cats sleep in the basement, one of the others thinks it's great fun to ambush the other when she comes out of the litterbox, so then she pees in the corner...crating every night saves her sanity and mine).

Also, for daytime, there is constant access to four litterboxes.
posted by cooker girl at 6:33 AM on September 17, 2007

Nthing the crating idea. We actually bought a kitty condo for my guy with a couple of levels to it, and kept him locked up, letting him out for playtime when we could watch him. He actually seemed to like the condo, too, and after a few weeks, when we gave him free roam during the day, he'd still hang out and nap in there. (We still locked him up at night to keep him away from the asthmatic child and her bedroom, though.)

To prevent relapses, we, too, had to have 2 litter boxes, one for each substance to be eliminated. And we had to clean them every day, without fail.
posted by Andrhia at 12:49 PM on September 18, 2007

It's been said upthread, but I want to highlight it: Add another litterbox in another room.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:20 PM on September 18, 2007

« Older "Where do you get your pants?"   |   Tips/Tricks for dealing with the side-effects of a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.