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. 

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.