Changes in the home can mean changes in be­hav­ior

The Morning Call - - LIFE -

Dear Cathy: I have three cats. Two of them, a male and fe­male, are 18 months old. The other is a 6month-old male. They are all fixed. The older male cat started poop­ing in an up­stairs un­fin­ished room in my house about two months ago. There were some changes at the time. The male cat couldn’t go out­side be­cause his flea treat­ment was on back­o­rder and we had just got­ten the male kit­ten.

The male cat is now able to go out­side. All the cats get along fine, but the two males don’t play with each other.

I have tried to put the older male cat in time-out when he poops up­stairs and keep him in a room with the lit­ter box all night. I have sprayed cat re­pel­lent in the room, but he con­tin­ues to do this. It hap­pens in the morn­ing mainly. There are two lit­ter boxes that get cleaned ev­ery morn­ing and night. I’m not sure what to do to get this be­hav­ior to stop. — Stacey, Belle­vue, Ohio

Dear Stacey: When­ever there is a change in the home, there can be a change in be­hav­ior. In fact, change is what drives most lit­ter box prob­lems. Most likely the new kit­ten is the mo­ti­va­tion for your male cat’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate elim­i­na­tion.

Plug in pheromones around the home for the next 60 days. This will help calm all the cats and re­duce any stress the male cat may be feel­ing over the new kit­ten.

Close the un­fin­ished bed­room to keep your male cat from en­ter­ing. Be sure when you do that you also add one more lit­ter box some­place else in the home. Ideally, the rule is one more lit­ter box than num­ber of cats, but at least one more box should help. Cats are ter­ri­to­rial, even if they are fixed, and don’t like to share.

Nix the timeout for the cat. He doesn’t un­der­stand this at all, and it won’t im­prove his be­hav­ior.

Keep sift­ing the lit­ter boxes, twice daily, and add a lit­ter box ad­di­tive to each box to help at­tract the male cat back to one of them.

It may take an­other month for ev­ery­thing to re­turn to nor­mal. Given time, the two male cats may even­tu­ally be­come good friends too.

Dear Cathy: Please don’t think that be­cause a dog has changed be­hav­ior in your pres­ence, he isn’t preda­tory any­more. I have cried for the last three days. I feel so guilty. My foster dog and my own large pit bull/lab mix that I have had for two years killed my beau­ti­ful 10-year-old cat. My Shih Tzu was ter­ri­fied and hid­ing un­der the bed. My 12-yearold daugh­ter is dev­as­tated.

I had sep­a­rated the foster dog and she didn’t seem preda­tory in my pres­ence any­more, but she broke out of the crate. The foster dog and my own dog had scratches on their faces. I re­homed the foster dog. I loved my pit bull mix. We went to the park and beach daily. But he is headed to the shel­ter. My Shih Tzu is still trau­ma­tized and no longer plays like he used to.

Please tell your read­ers to be care­ful with preda­tory dogs. — Dolores, Tampa, Florida

Dear Dolores: What a heart­break­ing story. I can’t imag­ine any­thing more dev­as­tat­ing than to have one an­i­mal in the house kill an­other an­i­mal in the house.

Some prey drives are mild and in­volve the puppy or dog chas­ing the cat and giv­ing up when the cat is out of reach. That be­hav­ior can be ad­dressed through train­ing and man­age­ment, which in­volves keep­ing the an­i­mals sep­a­rated in rooms or crates or by us­ing baby gates when you’re not home.

If a prey drive is se­vere though, it can be dif­fi­cult to man­age. Train­ing, coun­ter­con­di­tion­ing and medication of­ten can’t cor­rect an overly ag­gres­sive prey drive. It re­quires con­stant su­per­vi­sion, and you can never safely leave the dog alone with other an­i­mals or kids, ever.

You did the right thing by putting the foster dog in a crate. When you left, you had the re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tion that he would still be in the crate when you re­turned home. There was no way for you to know he would break out. I don’t think your other dog was prey-driven. He likely just got caught up in the en­counter when it hap­pened.

I un­der­stand your grief and the guilt you feel over the death of your cat. Sadly, the trauma of this event may linger in your heart. I hope with time you will for­give your­self. Cathy M. Rosen­thal is an an­i­mal ad­vo­cate, au­thor, colum­nist and pet ex­pert. Send your ques­tions, sto­ries and tips to [email protected]­pun­ In­clude your name, city and state. You can fol­low her @cathym­rosen­thal.


Changes in the home can cre­ate lit­ter box is­sues. Ideally, the rule is one more lit­ter box than num­ber of cats.

Cathy M. Rosen­thal

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