Bad kitty, Part 3: A tale of two litter boxes
Cody and Stewie are great cats, with one major behavioral problem: spraying. This is the story of one cat lover's quest to eliminate this smelly, embarrassing problem once and for all.
After my (mildly successful) experiment with Four Paws Keep Off! Indoor & Outdoor Cat & Kitten Repellent, I hoped to get some sound advice from Unleashed readers.
As it turned out, I heard from someone who knows my oldest boy, Stewie, quite well. Susan described Stewie's predilection for spraying as a "boy thing" based in an impulse to assert his territorial claims. Reader David's suggestion to cover the floor where the cats often spray with aluminum foil -- "They'll hate walking on it," he explained -- sounded like a good kitty deterrent to Susan.
Still, she was quick to warn me, "You may find that you are just forcing them ... to pee elsewhere. Soon your entire apartment could be covered in foil." Instead, she suggested "persistence on your part and a vet visit for moral support if nothing else. ..."
I couldn't embrace the idea of an aluminum foil-covered floor, anyway, no matter how many times I reread David's suggestion. I don’t want my house looking like a giant cookie sheet -- not cute.
But I did have an ingenious idea. Each time I see the rug soiled, it's bunched up, so I took duct tape and taped the bottom of the rug down to the floor. It worked; no more spraying there. But I forgot one thing: My cats are much smarter than I, and to get back at me they soiled my kitchen curtains instead. Curtains that had always been there, unharmed I might add -- and right next to the litter box. Not even five inches away!
Susan could be on to something. After all, she has three cats, including one very dominant boy who terrorized me (and Cody) for a summer. Her advice inspired to try another method.
That said, I'm not quite ready to take another reader's advice and get kitty Prozac. Reader Patrick said medicating his cat took "the edge off his anxiety so that he didn't feel the need to pee on carpets, rugs, beds, etc., but otherwise had no noticeable effect on his personality," so I haven't ruled it out yet -- especially if it works like a charm.
But again, I'm not quite ready to put the boys on meds, especially a med that I can find in my medicine cabinet. Patrick and a few readers from Part I of my feline-spraying saga suggested multiple litter boxes. I had always been against this only because the boys are like night and day. I know exactly when they will be using the potty, so I never considered it essential to have two litter boxes. Plus, I'd tried the two-litter-box method at a previous home and found that it only caused chaos and confusion for both cats. (Stewie was much younger at the time, and he thought it would be a great idea to poop next to one litter box and pee inside the other one. What was that all about?) After spending more time than I cared to cleaning litter boxes, I decided to go back to using only one -- until this past weekend.
I ventured over to West Hollywood to my favorite Target, grabbed a jumbo litter box and a fresh container of kitty sand (as the stores so demurely refer to it) and decided to give the two-litter-box method another try. I removed the old litter box and cleaned the entire kitchen floor with some Nature's Miracle. Both boxes got fresh sand, and I placed them back in the same location. Within seconds Stewie was there, sniffing around and digging in both boxes. I thought this was a good first step and rewarded him with some treats.
That was a rookie mistake. After coming home from a night out, I smell that stench. The stench of failure and shame.
"Oh, come on!" I yelled before I even got into the kitchen. I looked around: no urine, no slick surfaces.
Maybe I'd been imagining it. And then the disbelief set in. There was urine seeping from the bottom of the new litter box. Had there been a slit I didn't see? I lifted the still-dripping box gingerly and began the process of cleaning and cursing my cats – not that they cared; they were pretending to sleep. A thorough investigation showed that the litter box was intact -- no slit, nothing -- so there went that explanation.
Maybe it's a boy thing? Is it too late to get that Prozac, for the boys and me?
Now what do I do? As always, I'm open to hearing from you. Feel free to share your tips and personal experiences by leaving a comment or shooting me a tweet.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
(Follow me on Twitter @GerrickKennedy)
Photo: Stewie up to no good. Credit: Gerrick D. Kennedy / Los Angeles Times