Cat advice needed - end of my rope.

For backstory, start here. For the meat and taters, skip to stars.

I am getting rather desperate to find solutions to the problems I have with my cats. I have three - Zyll who we met here and who is still my biggest problem. Gateway, age unknown, though he’s doubled in size since he came to us off the street. Midnight, who we adopted for my ex’s daughter, and I got stuck with her. She’s about 2 years old now, small and runty but healthy.

Zyll has had issues with the litter box since Gateway came along. I think at first he just didn’t like to share, but that seems to have become a patent distaste for doing his business where it’s appropriate. When I realized that he wasn’t happy about that ‘other cat smell’ all over his potty, I gave then each their own and secluded Zyll in his own room (there were other reasons for doing so, he wasn’t well socialized with people OR other animals - he’s actually much nicer these days). That move seems to have come too late. Even in his own room with his own box and bed and toys and food, he would still poop and pee all over the floor and his bedding, and sleep in the litter box.

For Gate, and later Midnight, this worked well. They both used the box and I can’t remember having to clean up a mess created by either of them during this arrangement. I would just sigh and clean up after Zyll as best I could. He got healthier and seemed much happier on his own.

Fast forward a bit to the point Midnight goes into heat. I should explain, she is still not spayed (I know, bad cat mom on my part. Soon as I can afford to it’s the chop chop) and most of the delay is because I made it clear that I was happy with my two boys, and didn’t want the responsibility of caring for another cat. The ex agreed that since it was to be his daughter’s cat, he’d cover the necessary expenses. Never happened, and now he is ex-bad cat owner and I got stuck with her. So yeah - kitty in heat means little peepees all over. ALL over. And the smell nearly drove me out of the house. Very tough to clean up when you have no idea where it’s coming from.

I finally had enough, and tossed her in with Zyll. Rather localize the nastiness than have to track it down, and it saved the last of my throw rugs.

Apologies for the length, but some backstory may help with the advice giving.


Currently I am in Florida, and all three of the nasty devils are locked up in my foyer, because it can be enclosed and has a vinyl floor. Their litter box remains clean day after day, I am fairly certain they’re all using the floor and bedding instead. I hate having to keep them locked up, but they have made my home near unlivable. I have had to throw away more throw rugs because that smell just never comes out of rubber-backed mats. I tried when I first got here to give them run of the house, until my laundry basket got peed in. I have tried giving them each their own box, but they won’t stick to their own boxes, so the point is voided. I have tried all manner of sprays and humane deterrents that I could pick up in stores. I have considered putting the boys outside, but I generally disapprove of having outdoor cats, and Zyll’s deaf. They’d just be eaten alive by fleas and the concurrent worms anyhow.

I am truly at my wit’s end. I don’t want to have to give them up. I am cultivating this reclusive spinster cat lady image, you see. But by all that’s good and right, I want clean cats! None of them are bad at all. Even Zyll is healthy and happy now. Their only problem (albeit a major one) is where they potty. I would be grateful for any advice or tips you can share.

I’m not sure if this will help but maybe it’s worth a try. We have two old (12 and 16) male neutered strictly indoor cats. No litterbox issues ever until this past summer, when one of them decided to start pooping in the dining room.

I laid a strip of aluminum foil on that spot. When I found poop a foot away, I laid foil on that spot too. Pretty soon there’s aluminum foil along the whole wall but there’s been no more poop, and it’s been a month. I can tell that the foil has been explored because it’s crinkled (walked on), but there’s no poop.

It’s worth a shot.

Hang in there, baby.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Get an enzymatic cleaner to thoroughly clean the peed-on areas. I’ve seen Nature’s Miracle recommended before. My mom also had luck with the aluminum foil method; they don’t seem to like the crinkling under their paws or the sound of a drip of urine hitting the foil.

From my experience with owning ferrets, if I clean the box too well, they don’t seem to recognize it as a litter box any longer, and will start playing in it instead. So try putting a little ‘saved’ dirty litter and poop back in their litter box(es) after cleaning; that may discourage treating it like a bed.

Two thoughts:

Move them somewhere else, and lock them out of the foyer. They’ve learned that they go out of the box in there, and you probably won’t be able to convince them otherwise without a lot of training. For now, fix the immediate problem, and work on that part later on.

The general rule of thumb is one litter box for each cat + 1. Right now we’re at four boxes for four cats, but that’s because I naively keep hoping that we’re not going to have to add a fifth to accommodate the new cat. But she’s peed on the couch five times in the three months’ we’ve had her, so I’ll probably break down and get it this weekend.

First trip is to the vet, especially with Zyll. A huge percentage of litter box problems, especially in males, are triggered by UTI’s, bladder or kidney infections. That will not get better without treatment, trust me. It may come and go, but it will always come back until properly treated.

Next, as **Risha **says, time to move them out of the foyer, at least for a few days so you can do a thorough - and I mean thorough - cleaning in there. Wherever you put them, put three litter boxes in there and fill them all with Cat Attract litter. Yes, it’s expensive. How much are those throw rugs you keep replacing? :wink:

Treat the cat(s) as recommended by your vet, including antibiotics and prescription urinary formula food if required (if one cat needs the prescription food, you might find it easier to feed it to all of them; our vet said that was okay, but check with yours), increase the number of boxes (once you can let them out of an enclosed space, there should be 4 boxes throughout the house; 1 per cat + 1), use Cat Attract litter for a while and keep those boxes as clean as possible.

We had a male who peed on everything for his first 7 years of life. Turned out he’s prone to urinary issues. The above fixed him up, and two years later, we stopped the prescription food and moved to Purina One’s Urinary Tract formula (much cheaper, not quite as healthful) and we’ve even been able to switch to Fresh Step crystal litter in the last few months, which is better for odor control than Cat Attract.

Oh, yeah, the Florida bit was relevant because of the temperature and bug situation, making it not feasible in my mind to keep them outside. Those thoughts got separated along the way.

@AuntiePam
I will try the aluminum foil thing. So it’s the presumably the noise of it they don’t like? Wonder if other materials would work as well.

@Ferret Herder
Sadly, Zyll will continue to sleep in a poopy box. I don’t pick him up very often anymore. :frowning: I think my dad has a huge bottle of some enzymatic cleaner somewhere. I have been using vinegar and water (after the scrubbin) to clean hard surfaces.

@Risha
Trouble is I really can’t have them ruining carpets, and it’s the only spot I can close off with a hard floor. I will try taking the 2 better cats out of there, but Zyll’s got such issues that I prefer to keep him segregated from the rest of the house. At the very least until I can install child safety latches on my cabinets. He seeks hidey holes, and doesn’t mind if he has to share them with a stack of dishes or pans.
More litter boxes, that I can certainly do. With 4 cats, any recommendations on odor control (I’m already a scooping fanatic)? I prefer those domed litter boxes, they tend to keep the smell down more. Do you think I should have all the same kind of box? For the cat comfort and familiarity, of course. Picky little bastards.

And a :stuck_out_tongue: I totally expected that to Johnny.

Thanks again everyone!

Try some of the advice at this site: THE LITTER BOX

Definitely. I am still settling in, but I have asked around for vet recommendations. It’s a rural area, there are quite a few. It’s again time for all their shots and Midnight needs the snipping - I see myself loading up the dog crate full of cats very soon. And then buying bandaids. I took Zyll about 10 months ago to be checked over about his wheezing problem, the vet didn’t find anything in need of treatment. Perhaps he was in a stage of UTI remission, and it was missed. I will certainly ask specifically for the next vet to check his urinary system.

I shoo them out of the foyer and sweep up and scrub mop daily, I won’t let them live in filth like that. I really want to let them out, let them play with the dog, purr on me and bat things about.

Can cats in close quarters catch things like UTIs from each other? Confining them has helped a few issues, such as the spread of fleas through the house. I was able to get rid of them on all 3, lock them up, then kill off the ones in the carpet. I totally see the ways it’s been detrimental, though.

I think that the vinegar will suffice on hard surfaces, but it definitely isn’t good enough for soft. Pick up the big jug of Nature’s Miracle and use it everywhere that they’ve ever gone on. You can use it in the washing machine, too. Enzymatic cleanser is pretty much the only thing that will remove the minute traces that the cats will still smell months or years later.

I’ve never noticed that the type of box mattered much to them. While the new cat was quarantined in the spare bedroom, we used an old, extra box that we had in the garage, and she took right to it, but she didn’t care when we switched her to the regular boxes. Of course, with cats YMMV, the bastards. :smiley:

I, too, use the domed version for additional odor control - plus, that way I don’t have to look at the mess unless I’m cleaning it! Other than that, no great secrets. I keep the boxes far away from anywhere we’re storing bedding or clothing, and the heavily occupied areas of the house.

I work closely with a feline behaviorist. Litter box problems are the biggest issue she deals with. (PM or email me if you want her info. She does phone consults for a fee)

I don’t know all the advice/recommendations she gives, but some of what I hear the most, always, always, after ruling out medical issues:

Uncover the boxes! Cats feel the most vulnerable when they go potty. Many will disdain the box if they can’t see danger approaching (i.e. the other cats, strangers, even you) and they could become trapped.

Try different litters by putting multiple boxes out, each with different litter. (Clumping, crystals, feline pine, swheat-scoop) A trial can be worth it. In each spot where there’s one box now, add two more with a different type of litter.

Also, make sure the boxes are placed across from doorways where another cat may come from and surprise the one going potty. It can be very inconvenient for you, but worth a try because the problem is that bad. Hiding covered boxes in secluded areas of the house are a sure way to keep kitty from using it.

Your guy who likes to hide will certainly use a covered box to hide in if it’s the only place. Give him a kitty hidey-hole (just an example) in each room. And if the boxes are uncovered he’ll stop using them for hiding.

The best-best-best stuff for the smell, it puts Nature’s Miracle to shame, is Anti-Icky-Poo. It’s the best stuff ever, they use it in crime-scene clean-up! If you had used this stuff you would not have had to throw any rugs out.

There’s more, lots lots more, I’m not the behaviorist, though, so my recommendations have to end here. I’m sorry this is happening in your house. I’m amazed you’ve tried as much as you have. I’ve seen cats returned to the shelter for less, so in my book you are a terrific human being.

Oh, and for fleas, definitely use Advantage, Frontline, Revolution (topical preventives you can get from your vet) they are 100% effective, applied once every 30 days and are not toxic to the cats (unlike the Hartz-type crap people buy from pet supply stores, I’ve seen cats die from that stuff).

Here’s to your health.

Agree! Covered boxes keep the odors down for humans. Cats, with their sensitive noses, are forced to go in the smelly things with the odor-trapping covers and some cats hate it.

Like the Litter Box site I posted above says, covered boxes just make it easier for humans to delay cleaning to boxes as it hides the waste & waste odor from them - but the cats are still very aware of the smells.

There is no substitute for cleaning the boxes properly and often - try them cover off. And make sure the boxes are large enough. I buy contractor mixing boxes from home improvement stores. They’re huge and less than $5 each.

Thanks for that tip. My 18-pound cat is too big for the box, and the sides could be higher too.

I tried paper towels and Saran wrap first but that didn’t work. I don’t know if it’s the crinkly noise or (like another poster said) the sound of pee hitting the foil, but they don’t like it.

Nature’s Miracle does work exceedingly well, but please be mindful to test a small portion of carpet for colorfastness before you use it. It took the color right out of my carpeting! I’ve since discovered that Out! works well, too, and I didn’t have the problems with it removing the color from my carpets.

I heartily concur with everyone who has urged a visit with the vet, and Boscibo made a very thoughtful list as well. I might also suggest using Feliway, just in case it is a territorial/behavioral issue. I have had good results with it; perhaps you will, too.

Having pets should enhance your life, not make it worse. If you’ve tried all you can do, and these cats are still peeing and pooping all over your house, you might want to consider re-homing them (or maybe just one or two of them). I know when you take on pets you are completely responsible for their lives, but there’s your quality of life to consider, too.

Really good advice so far, so I won’t repeat anything other than the bit I think is the most important: a vet visit. One of my males had potty issues that went away when the crystals in this urine were taken care of with a prescription diet.

Rubber backed mats seem to be magnets for cats to whizz on. I have several friends with cats that have no litterbox issues other than the irresistable urge to pee on rubber backed mats. So even after you take care of the rest of the pee problem, you may want to get rid of that type of mat.

I think I may have mentioned this on the board before (I seem to remember typing it out?), but one method for retraining cats to use the box is to confine them in a relatively small area with it. If you have a dog crate, that’s perfect for one cat at a time.

I agree with SeaDragonTattoo, Zyll may be sleeping in the covered box because there’s no where else for him to hide. A covered bed or tent or a cat condo with holes to hide in might be good for him. My sneaky cat likes the floor to ceiling tower we have, it lets him get out of the traffic flow on the floor and keep an eye on things. It was only $40 at Meijers.

How about contacting a cat behaviorist? Not sure how you would go about finding one, but with 4 cats I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting things going on that a professional could help you sort out.

Good luck! And thanks for being so dedicated to working this out. :slight_smile: Taking them to the shelter isn’t a good solution for them, who’s going to adopt a kitty who isn’t housetrained? You’re being a good cat mama. :slight_smile: