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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question

Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 23846
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
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One of my cats Mishmish, less than one year old is a very healthy

Customer Question

One of my cats Mishmish, less than one year old is a very healthy happy and loving male cat, living with us together with 3 other cats , he is the stronger and he and Rumi, another male cat don't get along, so we keep them away from eachothers they live in different parts of the house and they alternate when they go out in the compound gardens, never go out together to make sure they won't fight outside . Both are friendly with the other two cats we have.
Mishmish had the tendency to pee on clothes and plastic bags of his choosing in places of his choosing, once every month, but now it is getting worse he is doing it almost everyday, even when we make sure to clean the litter box more frequently
What could be his problem?
Thank you
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. I have advanced training in feline behavior and am pleased to discuss Mishmish's inappropriate urination with you. I must admit that retraining him is going to be a challenge but perhaps after reviewing my notes that I use when lecturing about his behavior you'll have a better idea about how to address it.

Mishmish is clearly exhibiting marking behavior. He is not likely to be eliminating inappropriately due to litterbox aversion or a medical disorder. Marking on a horizontal surface (the clothes and plastic bags, e.g.) 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 Mishmish is doing so as well. The most common cause is increased cat density - in the home or nearby - and you have 3 other cats. Emotional problems, such as a stressful relationship with a family member, separation anxiety, anxiety over his 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 his inappropriate eliminative behavior may be imperceptible to you but readily so to him - 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 his 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 his inappropriate eliminative behavior but I can't overlook that he lives in a multicat household. 2) Prevent Mishmish from returning to previously soiled areas. To re-establish a consistent habit of using the litterbox, he should be temporarily contained to a small area with the box and only allowed out when he 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’s then a matter of confining him 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. He 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 he finishes eliminating in the box. If he 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 him to use it for elimination. The litter is gradually removed and replaced with a litterbox. Once he has used the litterbox in a confined area for an appropriate amount of time, he 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 Mishmish, 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 his 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.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Dear Dr

Thank you for your very important and fruitful reply, sorry I could not answer you back before because I was busy. we took him to the vet the day you did not reply to me she could not extract urine to check if there was a medical issue behind his behavior, she said the same other things you had mentioned very well in a much better and comprehensive manner her answer was in less details and less information thus she does not know what could be the exact problem.

I just need to know what could be bothering him most:

1- 2 months back we took him from our friend living in a confined 1 bedroom space were he was feeling very frustrated and lonely and always waiting at the door wanting to go out, now living with us in the compound he is an indoor and outdoor cat and happy

2- however he is sharing our house with 3 other cats 2 of them are sharing with his food and cat litter

a) one is a 4 months old male kitten friendly and playful he is always interacting and wrestling with in a friendly manner but the kitten always is chasing him around and is looking for his attention despite Mishmish being fed up sometimes and pushes him away, the kitten never give up chasing and wrestling playfully with Mishmish. when he is out in the compound he is more alone.

b) he is separated from the second male cat Rumi because they dont like each others and got into a nasty fight so now when rumi is out Mishmish is in and vice versa and when both are in they are in seperate rooms they never encounter each other since a month now and it is working well....

c) the third female cat there is no much interaction with her

All cats are spayed/neutered today we neutered the kitten too.

Awaiting your reply ... many thanks

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
I don't believe that there's a "most". It's a preponderance of factors that results in his behavior. The more cats threatening his territory the more likely that this behavior arises. Multicat households are greatly overrepresented by marking behavior. Rumi is likely to be most responsible but perhaps not enough to result in his marking until the kitten arrived. Although there isn't much interaction with the third female, he's aware of her just as he would be aware of a cat roaming outside your home. I don't know of any manner in which to single out the most important factor in these cases.

Please continue our conversation if you wish. It's very late here and I have to leave my computer but I promise to reply in the morning if need be.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you Dr for your well thought through answers... this is my last email- queries
1- do you think we should separate the cats permanently or an interim solution in confining him as you suggested can help ? Will he go back to normal with the other cats around ?
2- Was he better off relatively with our friend ? Or his frustration in a one bedroom there had some contribution to his situation?
3- any other suggestion
Best regards
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
The most pressing problem in my mind is his marking behavior. I would address that first by adhering to the instructions in paragraph 3 of my initial response to you. Once you retrain him to consider only his litterbox for elimination, he can be reintroduced to your others. It's then wait and see if he retains his retraining. If not, pyschotherapeutic drugs may need to be considered. Remember, success in retraining most often requires these drugs.

Retraining failure would prompt my giving him back to your friend if that's possible. He's obviously anxious in his current environment; perhaps a change in venue would be the best option. I'm going to check back with you in a few weeks for an update. Feel free to return to our conversation - even after rating - prior to my contacting you if you wish.
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 23846
Experience: University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
Dr. Michael Salkin and 3 other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Let's suppose it works when confined and he starts doing it in one litter box , in the future problem is the two or three litter boxes will be shared by all the cats I cannot confine one for him in the future
When I let him out in the compound for few hours he has less urgency to pee at home when he comes back
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

You'll need to provide at least one more box than cats and the boxes should be strategically placed so that privacy is afforded and a variety of boxes and litters can be chosen; for example, a covered vs. open box, regular litter vs. shavings or another substrate. This doesn't make for the best home decorating, Hani, but is often necessary in a multiple cat houshold.

Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it.

I can't set a follow-up in this venue and so would appreciate your returning to our conversation with an update - even after rating - at a time of your choosing.

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