Is your cat in the top 4%?

Why do people abandon their cat? If your cat, like mine, has problems with Feline Inappropriate Elimination, your cat is part of the 4% with this problem. It’s the number one reason people abandon their cat. In this third in a series of blogs where I declare war on my cat’s FIE, I talk about cat litter boxes and litter. It’s tongue in cheek, but I’m serious about solving this problem.

This is Butterfly. We share a problem. My cat pees outside the box. I have to deal with it. Feline Inappropriate Elimination (FIE) is the number one reason cat owners abandon, relinquish, or euthanize their pet. If you share the problem, check with your veterinarian to be sure there isn’t an underlying medical issue. Our first problem with Butterfly was related to a bladder infection. Once treated, she returned to using the litter box. But given the all-clear from the vet last week, we’re pretty sure this round of FIE is a cat with anxiety issues.

One writer’s war on FIE goes on. Who knew this was part of a writer’s life? Concurrently with scrubbing the floor, using an enzyme destroyer, and getting some plants cats don’t like, I do a litter preference test. What kind of litter is best for cats? We’ve been using cat litter made from recycle newspaper since Butterfly was a kitten. I love it because it doesn’t leave a cloud of dust. And yes, there are pellets that sometimes get tracked out of the box, but I prefer sweeping those up to the choking clouds of dust raised by clay litters and those 99% dust free litters. Amazing how much dust 1% turns out to be.

Phase II of My War on FIE: From the Trenches “Are you keeping the litter box clean?” It’s one of the first questions asked when you address the problem of FIE–right after the, “Is there a medical problem.” Seems like one of those, “Well, duh!” questions. Apparently it isn’t. To kitty a box that isn’t routinely scooped is probably akin to a toilet that hasn’t been flushed. Just saying. 

So it’s time to do a cat litter preference test. Most sources I’ve consulted support a sandy material that may appeal to something deep and primal, since cats evolved from the African wild cat. It doesn’t appeal to me because of my deep and primal need to walk on sand at the beach, not in the house. But, given the limited choice between finding pools on the floor and sandy tracks, it’s a no brainer.

Another thing, harsh smells may drive a cat away. (Okay, they drive me away, too, especially the smell of cat urine on my carpets.) So how to clean the box? A weekly hot water and detergent scrub is sufficient for cleaning the litter box. Don’t use bleach. And, even though I think the boxes are clean, over time, plastic collects odors that I can’t smell.

New boxes, new litter trial. I’m on it. At the pet store, I pick up four new litter boxes. I study the litter options, finding a sandy litter that says, “no tracking, no clouding” on the packaging. Looks like it might fill the bill for cats and me. Have I found the best cat litter?

At check out, I wait behind a woman who is whining because there aren’t any birthday cakes left in the pet birthday section and it is her dog’s birthday. She’s going to have to face him with shallow explanations as to why he doesn’t have a cake. She thinks they ought to stock a better supply of party hats and streamers, too.  

Once I’m home, it’s time to set up the test. I figure it is like the old blind test of Pepsi vs Coke, except Butterfly isn’t going to consent to wearing a blindfold. In tray number 1: pee-pee pad, tray number 2:  the familiar recycled newspaper cat litter, and next in line, tray number 3: no tracking, clumping cat litter. The tension mounts. Which litter does my cat prefer?

The moment of truth. Butterfly sniffes all three boxes, climbs in to check the newspaper litter, uses it. Yay! Maybe it does matter that it’s in a new box. One victory doesn’t win the war, though. 

Getting your cat’s litter right is an important part of getting rid of cat pee outside the box–I keep reminding myself.

Butterfly may be the target cat, but the other two figure they are part of the experiment. Luna doesn’t seem to be all that particular and leaves a spot in all three—who knew she was that interested in equity? Alistair thinks anything as important as rating the litter box should belong to the Lion King. He gives five stars to the sand. I don’t actually see him in his personal moment, but I know it’s him because I follow the tracks he left. So much for trackless litter. He returns to the sand litter box both upstairs and downstairs, leaving tracks in both places. 

After a few days of making note, it comes down to keeping the familiar litter and disappointing Alistair, who really does love the sandy clumping litter. I hope he doesn’t express his disappointment by Feline Inappropriate Elimination!  

****** Important disclaimers. I’m muddling through this, hoping to solve the problem of cat pee outside the litter box without having to take Butterfly for cat behavioral therapy. I’ve been gratified to find some very helpful online resources. Check out these if you need more than tongue in cheek musings. 

Inappropriate feline elimination? Aka: “My house is becoming one giant litter box!”

I love my cat, but not when she pees outside the box. I’m on a challenging journey to change the behavior.

Did you know that “feline inappropriate elimination” is the number one reasons cats get relinquished (i.e. turned in to a shelter)? And you thought it was just you and your beloved Moggy’s unpleasant little secret.

I’ve taken Butterfly to the vet, soaked everything but the ceiling with enzyme spray, threatened to hurl her into the streets to make her own way in the world, had the carpets cleaned and cleaned again, moved one of the litter boxes into her preferred location, almost cleaned up the problem when: enter Luna, the aging British Shorthair with attitude. With the death of her beloved owner, we adopted her. Who else was going to take an old cat of uncertain age? More stress, more fisticuffs, more “feline inappropriate elimination” as Butterfly totters on the edge of a nervous breakdown.—make that as I totter

I have this nightmare of all our furniture sitting in 4 inches of cat litter because we can’t solve the problem. One vet said, “Get rid of the carpets.” Are you kidding? I bought most of them from local artisans in Afghanistan and Pakistan. No. Okay, so we put away the main targeted carpet. Butterfly pees on the floor.

Another vet said, “Just use this enzyme spray and you could try one of those pheromone plug ins.”Right. Butterfly pees on the spot soaked by enzyme spray. And sitting next to the pheromone plug in singing “Kumbaya” hasn’t solved the problem either.”

Then yesterday happened. Another lake on the floor and I’m screaming, “I’VE HAD IT! THIS IS WAR!”* 

Strategizing:  Several hours of online research looking at good, solid advice from vets and cat behavior experts—most of which I’ve tried and lots of stupid stuff and quick cures. And NO, I’m not putting pots of Coleus canina around on places where Butterfly has peed. For one thing, the house would like the forest primeval and the plant that may be an aromatic member of the mint family happens to smell like skunk. I’m not the one peeing on the floor. 

Military Spending: I headed to the local pet store and spend more money than I want to talk about, returning with new litter boxes, two kinds of litter for a trial—I have to find out what Butterfly will use. Right now the only thing I can count on (most of the time) is doggie pee-pee pads. But Luna has decided she likes them better than litter. So I have to put one in the box and out of the box because Butterfly won’t get in the same box. (Alistair uses the downstairs facility–such a guy.) Not to mention the negative ecological impact, about like disposable diapers.

So I’m tracking this war. And no, I’m not selling anything. While the battle rages, my blog is dedicated to moaning. [This is what some writers do while they wait for inspiration for the next big story.] If you are bored out of your mind by working from home and living with your dear ones, or your Moggy has similar problems, you are welcome to follow as I wage the war. If it doesn’t work out? I will turn myself in to the nearest animal shelter.