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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 21419
Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
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Six weeks ago I brought home two female bengals from a rescue

Customer Question

Six weeks ago I brought home two female bengals from a rescue centre - they had always been indoor cats and used to using a litter box but for the past three weeks neither will use the tray. I keep the tray very clean, I haven't changed its position or brand of wood pellets used. Last night was the worst situation ever, Paloma the 9 year old who usually won't come near me jumped on my bed and urinated right next to me. What am I doing wrong?

Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee ones today.

Can you tell me if all their inappropriate elimination has been on sites like the bed?

Where else have they gone?

How many litter boxes do you have?

Where are the located in the house (ie out of the main thoroughfare, in quiet spots, etc)?

Do the feces and urine otherwise look normal (ie volume, color, consistency)?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks for your prompt reply. Both cats used the litter tray for about the first three weeks. Opalina has been urinating and defecating on the kitchen work surface. For the last two days she has been in a bedroom cupboard and defecating on top of a chest of drawers. Paloma urinates anywhere and everywhere. Very early this morning she urinated next to me on my bed. She normally won't come closer to me than approx. two feet. She does defecate in the litter box. There is only one closed litter box in a corner in the kitchen. The rescue centre recommended a closed litter box as one of them sprays. I live on my own so there is not a lot of noise or traffic in the kitchen. The faeces and urine look and smell normal as far as I can tell. I'm getting quite desperate now and unless the problem can be solved I shall reluctantly have to return them to the rescue centre and, I think, a very uncertain future.

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.

Thank you,

Now when cats inappropriately eliminate outside the litter box, it is a message to us that something is amiss for them (since cats cannot email). Because as I am sure you know, cats are instinctively hard wired to bury their waste; so it takes a serious disturbance to cause them to deviate from that natural behavior. With that in mind, there can be a range of reasons that can be behind this action. Generally speaking these causes can be divided into stress based behavior issues (especially in those dealing with changes in their environment/territory and lives) and health issues (ie urinary tract infections, metabolic diseases that would alter urine production, arthritis, etc). In regards ***** ***** situation, I have to say that it sounds very suspicious of stress/anxiety from all the recent changes leading to a territorial type elimination pattern (especially as beds and kitchen work surfaces are frequently territorial targets of cats).

In regards ***** ***** here, I would first note that it may be worth having more then one litter box and perhaps trying an open one as well as the closed one. That way you are ensuring that there is no rejection of the box (either due to disliking the location, box style, or issues where one cat corners the other in the box --a concern again with Opalina's passing waste in open/defendable sites like the kitchen countertop). And generally speaking, we tend to want to have "n+1" litter boxes in a house; where "n" is the number of cats. That way, we make sure to avoid a situation where one cat perhaps dominates/bullies the other when in a single box. In regards ***** ***** to place an extra box or two, you may want to put them near where they are currently going and/or in quiet areas where they can have privacy (ie out of the main thorough fare, in a defendable corner, away from windows/doors -- since sensing cats outside can also make them reluctant to use a box).

Further to this, we'd want to consider short term use of a de-stressing agent to just help them settle from this marking stimulation. Often in these cases we will use Feliway (also known as Comfort Zone (LINK) in the pet stores), which is a synthetic cat pheromone that helps to relieve stress, promote relaxation, and remove the anxiety associated with the behavior. Otherwise, you could instead consider a nutritional supplement that can be mixed into food like Kalmaid (LINK) or Zylkene. Both of these are very good at soothing anxious cats that are marking. As well, there are treats like Composure (LINK) and even a Bach Flower Remedy (LINK) for cats (though not as well tolerated as the other agents and isn’t as feline specific as the other de-stress agents are). And as these are not drugs per say, they can be used in combination as need be.

In regards ***** ***** bed and other sites, we want to make sure that you thoroughly clean these areas. When it comes to cleaning cat waste, I would advise using an enzymatic odor neutralizing cleaner (LINK1 LINK 2) because while normal cleaners will eliminate the smell to us, but they may still be able to smell their own scent and thus choose to go there again (and we want to avoid any habits forming). And this is highly advisable with Paloma's urine only behavior, as it is quite characteristic of a cat that is fine with the box but is trying to "claim territory" with urine (which is the cat equivalent of the human explorer use of flags to claim somewhere).

Overall, the girls are both showing stress based inappropriate elimination. That said, they are showing two different patterns. Opalina is showing possible litter box rejection, as she chooses to go in an open, elevated, and thus defendable site. This raises concerns that perhaps she feels too trapped in the closed box in a house settling. So, an open one may be a good first step for her. And since Paloma's behavior is more suggestive of a territorial marking anxiety cat, we'd want to make sure we are removing her scent and take steps to lower her stress levels here. If we can do so, we hopefully can get her to settle. But if she is the one with a history of spraying, we may have a cat that is going to need drug therapy (either short or long term) from her vet to reduce her anxious drive to mark and help her settle in your household.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.

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Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you so much for your advice. Although the girls have lived together all their lives there has been a lot of aggression between them in the last few weeks - growling, screaming and vicious fights. What you say makes perfect sense! I'll try two open litter trays right away plus the anxiety medication and give it a fair trial. I'm hopeful it will work as otherwise I'm afraid one of them will have to go and, despite everything, I really don't want to part with either of them. Once again thank you.

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
You are very welcome,

If there have been fights, then that does explain what is motivating each's behavior (Opalina being on the defensive and Paloma trying to take over with her claiming). Hopefully, if we can just reduce tensions, remove the risk of being trapped in the litter box when most vulnerable for Opalina, and help them coping with all the recent life change; we can get the girls settled and end their need for their inappropriate behaviors.

Take care & the best to you all,
Dr. B.