Retreat, Regroup, and Go On: My Ongoing Battle to Eliminate Feline Inappropriate Elimination

What happens when there are setbacks as you try to deal with feline inappropriate elimination? How long will it take to get my cat to quit peeing out of the box? In this blog I talk about my ongoing war to deal with the issue and dealing with my first setback.

If we were in family therapy, Butterfly would be our identified patient who is exhibiting the symptoms of dysfunctional relationships through feline inappropriate elimination. I’ve had my first major retreat in the Me vs Cat Pee battle. And yes, it was me retreating. Last time I reported from the battle front, I was able to note steady, if modest success. The area most vulnerable near the shoe cubby had been scrubbed and treated, test boxes of litter set out for kitty choices, initial information about preferences noted, and a gradual movement of the boxes toward a destination out of traffic.  

My research has told me that cat boxes need to be located so there are at least two, preferably three escape routes. That way, if Butterfly is ambushed during an awkward moment by a non-identified family member (translation: Alistair or Luna), she has more than one way to run. Unfortunately, she is sometimes ambushed during an awkward moment.  

From Butterfly’s point of view this has to be not only grossly unfair–after all, we should all have our privacy respected–but she was here first. Here she is as the adorable little bit of gray fluff all huddled up next to a toy in her own warm bed. She was right at the center of attention where every cat belongs, right?

Now to the first retreat. I have just settled myself in my wingback chair for a quiet moment and cup of tea when I notice a spill on the edge of the carpet. Have I spilled my tea? Dang! It isn’t tea. I get the corner of the carpet blotted and sprayed with a deodorizing enzyme spray (the one that says “money back if”), reminding myself that most wars have some unsuccessful skirmishes. I’ve been lucky so far. Can’t expect luck to hold forever.

 In thinking back thorough where I’ve been, I realize that I have moved the litter boxes too quickly in hopes of having a new location established before leaving for a few days away. The goal is to have one box with preferred litter on each floor.  At the moment I have five boxes with that many combinations of litter. Lots of choice. My house isn’t that big. It feels like I’m stepping over a litter box at every turn. But it’s going to be worth it, it’s going to be worth it.  I tell myself, remembering that if you hear something often enough, you’re likely to think it’s true.

SO, retreat and regroup. One box goes back in traffic where it was. The other stays in the new location. I have to keep the cats calm (yeah, right, I’m telling myself, keep me calm, more like it). In three days, I’m going away for a long weekend, my first post-Covid vaccination visit with family. I don’t want to come back to wet carpets and a yellow swimming pool near the shoe cubby. 

Once the carpet spot is dry, I place a nice little lavender bouquet over the target spot. I figure it can sit there while I am away. But I want to introduce it before I leave so my three mischiefs are used to it. I also spray the floor by the shoe cubby with a mixture of rosemary and lavender and refresh the rosemary bouquets that were sitting there.  Now I’m stepping around cat boxes and rosemary and lavender bouquets.  But it’s going to be worth it. It’s going to be worth it.

All is quiet in the days leading up to my departure—a euphemism, of course, with three cats who don’t really like each other.  I step around the cat box in my path from the front door to the kitchen and the bouquets consoling myself with the thought that there is one good thing to being unable to have people over due to Covid restrictions.  

Meanwhile, I added a couple of new toys to keep everybody entertained while I’m away. One has an arial mouse that whirls around if its batted and holes where one can stick a paw (if one has paws) and bat at plastic balls. It looks like a sure winner.  

Butterfly takes a look and goes to her tissue box with the puff ball, plastic ball, yarn, sock, and ball with a bell inside, happily fishing them out. Kind of like kids choosing a wastebasket and hanger after you’ve just bought them a climbing toy.  Alistair gives the flying mouse a whack when he goes past.

Do I make the visit to family? You bet. It is wonderful to be able to hug my niece and nephew-in-law. I spend five days and return to discover there are no new targets. YAY! Maybe that enzyme “money back if it doesn’t work” spray really works.

But that hasn’t ended the war. More about that in another blog.

In a War With Your Cat, Who Will Win?

Love my cat, but I’ve declared war on her frustrating, inappropriate elimination, aka peeing outside the box. In this phase I do the scrub work.

So Monday I declared war on “feline inappropriate elimination,” hoping to bring an end to Butterfly’s peeing outside the box. Okay, I admit it. Thoughts of “appropriate elimination of feline” have passed through my head. Right after I moved Butterfly’s box to in front of the shoe cubby, the spot she persists in using, a workman came to check on something in my house. I was embarrassed and apologetic that he had to step past the cat box. “Well, if it were me, this is when I’d be getting rid of the cat.” 

OKAY. I’d thought of that. It would take care of the problem. On the other hand, when we adopted her from the shelter, we didn’t say, “Until pee do us part.” We promised to take care of our darling kitten and provide a safe environment. I’m not sure what she promised, not being clever enough to speak cat. I think there may have been an escape clause in her contract. Or maybe she had her toes crossed when she signed on. I just remember my granddaughter’s delight, her open arms, and her instant naming of the little gray kitten, “Butterfly! Her name’s Butterfly.” So no, getting rid of the mostly darling adult Butterfly isn’t an option.

But back to the war zone.  After mobilizing for the assault:

Phase I of the Battle: Digging the Trenches

Armed with a whole bunch of recommended products, I scrub an entire section of hardwood floor that seems to be the predominant target zone. First, I use detergent and Borax. I put a bunch of chairs over the spot so it won’t be worth the bother. But then, I’m not a cat. It’s all I can think to do, though. I don’t have any of those mega fans they used in our basement after the water heater broke.

When it’s thoroughly dry, I scrub again with an enzyme product that has an orange smell and comes with a “Guaranteed to Work or Your Money Back” notice across the front.  An asterisk below reads, “For terms of guarantee, see back.” On the back it reads, “If you are not fully satisfied with this product, return it on the third Tuesday after a full moon along with the original receipt. Receipts that have been retrieved from the trash are not accepted.”—No, actually it looks straightforward enough. Besides, the young woman in the pet store who sold it to me looked me straight in the eye without flinching.  She didn’t have her fingers crossed either. I looked. 

Chairs go back over the spot while it dries. I don’t think I really needed that step. The enzyme scrub repells me anyway!  When that is dry, I replace the chairs with a scattering of rosemary and lavender and two small lavender plants. Lavender likes full sun, so after the month of recommended military operations, I’ll move them outside. I need a rosemary plant, too, but there weren’t in at my local nursery. I have to rely on my neighbor’s rosemary for a few sprigs.  

Reconnisance: One of the websites recommended installing surveillance cameras. Seriously? This isn’t a threat to national security. It’s me at war with my cat. You gotta wonder.

The enzyme scrub smells very orangish. Cats don’t like citrus, do they. Do they? Butterfly is observed checking out and reclining on the steps where I have a small bag of oranges stashed. This isn’t going to plan.  
Luna walks through the lavender and rosemary. Instead of skirting it like she’s supposed to, she sniffs both, picks up a branch of lavender and walks away with it in her mouth. WHAT? Next time I see her she’s meditating on the meaning of life. And Alistair in all this? He’s the Lion King. He says, “Let me eat cake.”

I think I’ll just go sit by the Pheromone Diffuser.

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.