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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question

Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 27433
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
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My female cat keeps spraying different areas has been doctored

Customer Question

My female cat keeps spraying different areas has been doctored is about 8 years old . Only cat in house. Only eats all,in one biscuits and water won't eat cat food.

Gets loads of love, has a cat flap to go in and outside any time.

Desperate, constant cleaning in progress haven used get off spray no good...

Can't afford huge vet bills sadly...is there anything I can try at home? Love her dearer... But struggling with this constant problem which has gone on most f her life to br honest.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
I'm sorry to hear of this. I have advanced training in feline behavior and am pleased to discuss Sophie's behavior with you. The length of time it has persisted, however, is going to make correction of an already very difficult behavior to correct a difficult challenge to manage.

Sophieis clearly exhibiting marking behavior. She is not likely to be eliminating inappropriately due to litterbox aversion or a medical disorder. Marking on a horizontal surfaces is marking behavior (a communicative function) caused by the same stimuli that causes spraying. We’re not sure what cats are trying to communicate to us but we do know that wild cats will mark to announce their presence. It’s reasonable to assume then, that Sophie is doing so as well. The most common cause is increased cat density - in the home or nearby. Emotional problems, such as a stressful relationship with a family member, separation anxiety, anxiety over her status in the existing hierarchy, fear, owner absence, moving, new furniture, inappropriate punishment, teasing, household changes and remodeling in the home are examples of stimuli that can induce anxiety in our cats. The etiology can be difficult to diagnose, especially if the behavior is only manifested intermittently and because the stimuli for her inappropriate eliminative behavior may be imperceptible to you but readily so to her - another cat roaming outside, e.g. If emotional factors are influencing the housesoiling you might notice other changes such as avoidance, aggression or an alteration in her general temperament.

Treatment involves two major considerations: 1) remove the cause - easier said than done. You might have to be quite the detective to discern the stimuli for her inappropriate eliminative behavior 2) prevent Sophie from returning to previously soiled areas. To re-establish a consistent habit of using the litterbox, she should be temporarily contained to a small area with the box and only allowed out when she can be supervised 100% of the time. When confined to a relatively small area, most cats seem to prefer to eliminate in the box rather than soiling the floor. It is then a matter of confining her long enough for a consistent habit to become established. As a rule of thumb, one week of confinement is usually recommended for every month of soiling. From the history you provided, however, it would seem that Sophie would need to be confined for far too long to be reasonable. A two week stretch of confinement is a reasonable compromise. She should be removed from the confinement area as much as possible for socialization and play, but never allowed out of sight. Food rewards may help when given immediately after she finishes eliminating in the box. If she refuses to use the litterbox when confined to a small area, the confinement area should be changed to a large cage. The floor should be covered with litter, forcing her to use it for elimination. The litter is gradually removed and replaced with a litterbox. Once she has used the litterbox in a confined area for an appropriate amount of time, she can be allowed to have more freedom in the home. Previously soiled areas can be safeguarded by changing the behavioral function of the area by placing food bowls, cat bedding or toys in the area. The area can also be made unacceptable for her by placing a motion-activated alarm or lemon-scented room deodorant in the area. Plastic carpet runners can be placed upside down with the "feet" facing up. Plastic, foil, or double-stick carpet tape can be used to protect specific areas. Removing urine and stool odor is important. Products such as Nature's Miracle which are specifically formulated to work on these types of odors are recommended.

Some cats are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. They may mark in response to the most minor of alterations. You must strive to keep the home environment as constant as possible. When situations exist that are likely to upset Sophie, you might want to consider confinement, closer supervision and the use of anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medication such as paroxetine (Paxil) and fluoxetine (Prozac). In fact, most behaviorists feel that without the use of psychotherapeutic drugs our chance of correcting inappropriate marking behavior is near nil. (Personal note: My two cats began marking as kittens. After 6 months of fruitless treatment they became outdoor cats - for 12 years.)

Nobody wants to confine their pet as I've described but her behavior requires desperate measures. My male urinated on my pillow while I slept - an obvious behavior designed to make sure that his sister and I knew who's bed it really was. He apparently was anxious about his status in the hierarchy of my home.

Success in management with psychotherapeutic drugs is measured by a 70% reduction in adverse events. In other words, if my cat urinated on my pillow 10 times monthly prior to drug administration but only 3 times monthly after drug administration, success in treatment is acknowledged. Needless to say, that didn't please me and I certainly hope that you have better "success" than I. Perhaps you will not having another cat in the house.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you for your reply.

Yes I can see what you are saying... I didn't think it was for a medical reason, due to the layout of the house it would be difficult to confine Sophie. There is a male cat that comes up to the front of the house that does appear I think to upset her, but as its open plan to the front this would be difficult to block this actually impossible to be honest.

Can't help thinking she is a very hormonal cat, loving and gets loads of attention. Cat flaps are in place of access in and out, just wish there was more I could do to eliminate this problem it's not daily occurrence but seems to be at night or during the day when at work.

I am constantly cleaning the areas to hope she doesn't carry on. Not really sure what else I can do , confined isn't really an option due to lay out of house.

Any other suggestions,

I have placed a number of dried biscuits in areas where she has done this, that has helped in them areas but like the front door is one of her main target areas biscuits there would be difficult. And of course how many bowls of biscuits can you poses put down. I have three now!

Any other suggestions before we close this issue would be helpful.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 years ago.
I've mentioned all of the resources that I recommend when lecturing about this misbehavior. I can tell you, however, that you're likely to read about the use of feline facial pheromone (Feliway, FeliFriend) and want you to know that I've not found it reliably effective to warrant its recommendation. If you still want to give it a try, you can find it through your vet or on Amazon.
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 27433
Experience: University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
Dr. Michael Salkin and other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 years ago.
Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it.

I'm going to check back with you in a month for an update. Feel free to return to our conversation - even after rating - prior to my contacting you if you wish.

Please disregard the info request.

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