Friday, September 01, 2006

It's always a mistake to nickname your cat "Pooper"

Originally emailed 7/26 - now with updates!

I'd say it's a mistake to name or nickname any animal anything that has anything remotely to do with bodily functions, but most especially elimination. You're just asking Karma to bite you in the ass.

As you all know, Pixel has been crotchety ever since we got the new kittens.

The Culprit

Some of you have had personal experience cleaning up after him (We're REALLY sorry!) when he has pooped or peed on the floor RIGHT NEXT TO the cat boxes. You probably hated it. We hate it. We tried all sorts of things.

  1. Checked with the vet: is he sick? Several hundred dollars later for testing... Nope. Perfectly healthy except for the lumps and being 16. Other than that, no sign of any infections.
  2. Maybe just one cat box that's cleaned daily isn't enough? $20 in plastic storage boxes later... We tried adding two more cat boxes. Nope. Now MORE cat boxes to pee NEXT to.
  3. Twice daily cleaning. Any difference? Nope. Random days WITHOUT peeing. No consistency.
  4. New cat litter? Sometimes in it, mostly next to it.
  5. Cleaned the floor with enzyme solution. Cleaned the floor with bleach. Cleaned the boxes with OxyClean. Cleaned the boxes with bleach. Randomly peeing/not peeing or pooping/not pooping. Still no pattern.
  6. Bought the expensive cat attracting litter additive (smells like catnip and something else). Nope. The kittens LOVE it, though. The scratching, it is incessant. Perhaps they love it too much!
  7. Tried adding a cat box in OUR bathroom. Proximity problem? Nope. Peed right next to that one too. Now I have to clean my tile up, too!
  8. Bought the really expensive cat pheromone thingy. And the pheremone spray. No response.
  9. Tried spraying the really horrible smelling bad cat stuff around. Still nothing, except now MY nose was offended. Choking and coughing ensued.

So we figured it must be the kittens. They must be chasing him or cornering him, or he THINKS they're about to so he pees/poops and runs. He isn't leaving unhappy presents throughout the house or anything - just RIGHT NEXT TO the cat boxes. Now we're desperate and have decided it's time for a crash course in retraining. We locked him into Caitlin's bathroom for2-3 days with a cat box, his food, water, a mat to lay on, a toy and a scratching post. We visited often throughout the day.

Not one single accident.

Yup. It's the kittens.

They look innocent, don't they? (Kaboom on left, Domino on right.)

Now we've moved him into the exercise room where it's a much bigger space and (hopefully) more comfortable. He's always excited to see us and purrs and purrs and purrs. Dedicated Pixel time. No kittens.

Not one single accident.

Now, it would be cruel to leave him locked away in that room for the rest of his life, so we've decided to install a magnetically locking cat door (it's in the mail to us right now) with a collar "key" that will unlock the door. This should keep the kittens out completely. The plan is to train him to go in and out of the cat door using treats and attention. We will leave his food, water and cat box in there. The other cats will not be allowed in. We're HOPING that he can learn that THIS is his safe place and where he is expected to use the cat box. We're hoping we can give him access to the rest of the house once he proves willing to go in and out of the cat door and that he won't try to go in the basement again.

This is our hope.

If that doesn't work, then we're gonna start locking him up in there every night, letting him out only after he's eaten his breakfast and putting him away every night with his dinner. We'll also be taking up the kitten's food once Caitlin is done with her breakfast, so they will need to learn to eat FASTER!

I'm hoping it doesn't come to that. Otherwise we could be looking at another 10 years of solitary confinement! Aieee!

Wish us luck!

P.S. In case you're wondering what took us so long, previously it was "just" poop, which is irritating, but VERY easy to clean up. Lately, it seems to be both ALL THE TIME. That got old REALLY fast.

Update to the story:

Well, we taught him to go in and out of the door. No poop/pee occured for the first few days and then suddenly, it started up again. Both in his new room and in the basement. Whaaaaat?! In one location isn't enough for you? Aargh!

So I talked to the vet again while I had Domino in for a well visit. She said that we were extremely dedicated owners, she's never seen the like. Kudos to us. Then she suggested anti-anxiety meds. For my cat. Clearly, says she, he's not happy with the other cats and this pattern will continue. Try the drugs for a month and see how it goes.

Well, I'm here to tell you that a) my kitty is on meds and b) it's working. For awhile we were still locking him up at night, since that's when he was at his worst. Now we've tried letting him roam free - after taking up the kitten food. As soon as we put his food down in his room in the morning, he immediately walks downstairs and lurks near the kitten food. He expects that since it's early, I won't notice him sneaking bites. Sometimes he's right, but mostly he just gets yelled at and skulks off to wait for me to get distracted again.

So there you have it - we've traded pooping and peeing next to the cat boxes for a hole in our door and drugs. I've had him for 16 years (longer than I've been with Eric), so I can't justify kicking him to the curb over this. I may be able to imagine it, but not actually do it.

Three cheers for modern medicine and magnetic kitty doors! Huzzah!

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