Cat ignoring litterbox -- behavioral (vs medical)?

Sorry, long story:

I adopted two cats together on August 1 – an adult male and a male kitten. These are the first pets I’ve ever owned. They are a bonded pair and get along (adult grooms the kitten, they nap together and can eat from the same bowl), although the kitten is more energetic than the adult (naturally) and tends to harass the adult.

There are two litterboxes in the house, one upstairs in a spare bedroom and one downstairs in a bathroom. The one downstairs seems to be the litterbox of choice, and I try to scoop the litter twice a day (failing that, once in the morning). As of this morning, the litter was getting old and turning into that sandy stage; it’s since been replaced with new litter. I use World’s Best, since it is dust-free.

Last week, I walked by the spare bedroom and noticed a pile of blankets along the wall had been disturbed. Upon investigation, I saw one of the cats had peed in the middle of the blankets. Both of the cats seemed to be currently using the (downstairs) litterbox as usual, so this was odd. The litterbox in that room was clean and unused.

The adult is a royal pain in the ass to get into his carrier and into the vet, so I took a 50-50 chance that it was the kitten and brought him to the vet last week. Turns out, he’s fine and his bladder is too small to produce the amount of urine that had soaked the blankets. Great, the culprit was the adult. I was told to keep an eye on him and bring him in if something happens again.

So a week goes by and both cats are using the litterbox without incident. Until last night, when I discovered that both the bed in the spare bedroom and a pillow in the closet were peed on, probably earlier yesterday since they were still damp. Well, shit.

This morning I made an appointment to bring the adult in to the vet, but I couldn’t get him into the carrier and he went into hiding. As I went looking for him, I discovered that he had also defecated in a basket lined with a towel (I put that there as a cat hideout) in the spare bedroom.

I spoke to the vet when I called to postpone the appointment, and we came to the conclusion that since he’s been using the litterbox without a problem for a week and since the misbehavior includes rogue defecation as well as urination, it’s probably not a urinary tract infection or crystals but some sort of behavioral issue.

The litterbox in that bedroom is clean with brand-new litter, but that room tends to be favored by the kitten, so maybe the adult is doing this to mark his territory? The vet said it sounded like he was doing this because he was stressed out by the kitten’s harassment. The urine/feces isn’t sprayed on the walls or anything, it’s square in the middle of the bed, pillow, or blankets, as though he squatted down and peed. He’s eating, drinking, and otherwise acting normally, although he tends to only drink from the bathroom faucet when I’m in there (I’ve never seen him drink from a bowl).

The vet’s advice was: get a portable water fountain so he drinks more, get another litterbox so that there’s 3 in the house, use Cat Attract litter, and close up the spare room so he can’t get in there. I’ll also play with the kitten by himself to tire him out more and keep him away from the adult for long stretches of time.

Does this sound like a good course of action to you? I’m not second-guessing the vet, I’m just looking for a group consensus, I guess. I’ve never lived with cats before and want to make sure that I’m doing the right thing, especially since I won’t be able to get that stubborn fool into the vet’s office today. Do cats just do this from time to time?

Sorry, short response:

The course of action proposed at least sounds consistent with my experience with vets, cats, and urination problems.

Buy Nature’s miracle. Spray down the stuff he peed on. Just because it smells clean to you does not mean their noses can’t smell it. It is forever marked as a bathroom spot if you don’t treat it. Buy the gallon jug while you’re at it. Wash the stuff, and throw in some white vinegar as well. You might also try new bedding.

You can try Feliway, the plug-in and/or spray. It seems to work for me. The main problem is peeing on the bath mat so I spray it. I’ve tried Cat Attract, but at the same time so it’s hard to say which of the 3 did it. He still has “accidents,” I’m guessing because the spray smell fades if I don’t do it every now and then. Thankfully they’re easy to wash.

If the litterbox is covered, take off the lid. I have 3 boxes, and the bastards use the uncovered, messy one 99% of the time.

He doesn’t necessarily have a UTI, crystals or other urinary disease, but this is still flawed logic, IME.

My cat *did *have urinary disease, but still dependably urinated (or tried to, anyway) in the litterbox. But because he started to associate the litterbox with pain, and because cats is weird, it was *pooping *in the box that he started to have avoidance issues with. I think it was because he found it easier to just “hold it” with the poop, until he just got desperate.

Whatever the cause, and hopefully it’s not medical, you should strive to make elimination as convenient, comfortable and pleasant as possible. You have to experiment with different and more boxes, litters and locations. Just like you prefer a clean, comfy and convenient place when you have to go, so does your cat, probably even *much *more so. Finding out what you can do to improve the whole experience can be a bit of a pain, but both you and the cat will find it to be well worth the effort. You may find the insights and advice given here to be very helpful. I certainly did. It’s long, but read it all while trying your best to see it from the cat’s POV.

Another thing that I think helped me was positive reinforcement with treats given *immediately *after proper elimination, although it may take a bit of time and effort to be around as much as possible to observe. But whatever you do, never, *never *try to discipline or scold the cat for lapses, or try to force the issue in any way. Stress in general is a biggie, and not just in direct relation to elimination issues. Cats respond to stress in various, weird, always negative, and sometimes very serious ways. Do whatever it takes to remove any and all sources of stress and negativity at all times, but especially in relation to elimination. Try not to even display any disappointment whatsoever, however difficult that may seem. It won’t help, and can only aggravate the problem.

You just have to do anything and everything you can to make it a positive experience not only to go in the box, but also to live the life of a cat in your house.

I’ve added a third litterbox in the basement, and so far, both cats have been using it and there have been no accidents in the house. Although, that said, I’ve been home sick since Thursday and have kept them company all day, and today is my first day back at work…let’s see what surprises await me upon my return.

Here’s the thing about cats…they do things for the hell of it. I have a 15+ old female cat. She has ignored her litterbox because 1) she actually had a urinary tract infection. That time I woke up in the middle of the night to find her peeing on me to tell me she was feeling like she needed a vet appointment. 2) Another cat or pet is making them unhappy. She has peed in both of our dogs bed after particularly good arguments between them. 3)If she doesn’t approve of my housekeeping skills. If my husband or I take off our clothes and leave them on the floor instead of in the hamper, she will wait until we are in bed and pee on them. She gives my daughter a pass on this because I guess she figures she’s too young to know better. And finally, as our vet said, “sometimes she might just be in a bitchy mood” I’m not a cat person. I’m a dog person. 15 years ago my then boyfriend, now husband talked me into getting a kitten. I do love her, but I think she might live forever just to spite me.