Need cat advice

Here’s the background: We have seven cats: two Singapura boys who’ve been with us since 2000 and 2002, respectively; a tabby girl and two Russian Blue girls who’ve been with us since 2005 (all three of them arrived within a week of each other, all kittens the same age); and two tabby siblings (boy and girl) who joined us early last year. Our house is 2 stories, about 1600 square feet. The cats are allowed pretty much everywhere except two bedrooms that we use as offices and one bathroom. They have plenty of toys, cat trees, food, and litterboxes (on both levels).

Okay, so everybody was getting along fine for a long time. Before the two tabby kittens arrived we had full harmony. When the kittens arrived one of the Singapuras took an instant dislike to them, but he’s over that now and they all snuggle up together. But…

First problem

…the last couple of months, the middle tabby girl (Clarice, the one we got with the two Russians), seems to have become a bit neurotic. She stays in the same small area of the house and barely ventures away from it anymore (she sleeps in a computer chair, and hangs out near that part of the room downstairs). The two Russians, who were formerly good friends with her, seem to be intimidating her now. And worse, she 's taken to peeing and pooping in a specific area of that same room. Not often, but certainly often enough that it’s got to stop. We’ve tried putting a food and water dish downstairs (there wasn’t one before) and she eats and drinks down there now, but when she gets nervous she eliminates in her little corner. I notice that she carefully tries to cover it with something (cat toys, a washcloth, whatever’s handy) so I don’t think it’s a dominance thing. She’s scared. She’s still completely friendly and cheerful with the humans, she loves the kittens and the two Singapura boys, and she’s eating and drinking fine. But I don’t know what to do to help her with the other cats. Any ideas? We’re planning to take her to the vet for a checkup, but I don’t think she’s sick.

Second problem

Nabby, the boy kitten (who, I might add, is a moose–he’s easily our biggest cat now and he’s not even a year old) likes to chew on things. More specifically, he likes to “pick” at things. LIke he’ll get a tiny little bit of fabric clamped in his jaw and worry at it until he pulls a little hole in the thing. Then he’ll do it again. Needless to say this is really irritating. So far he hasn’t done it with any clothes, but he tries to do it to chairs, our bedcovers, pillows…it’s a habit that needs to stop but I don’t know how to do it. I’m hoping he’ll grow out of it.

So those are my current cat-related issues. Any suggestions (other than getting rid of any of the cats–we love them all, and while in retrospect I might have reconsidered taking the two tabbies to maintain a bit more harmony, they’re here now and they’re part of the family, so they’re staying)? Thanks in advance!

I have a cat who’s like that. She used to do it more when she was younger, but still does it sometimes. We’ve found that Bitter Apple spray works really well. It won’t hurt most fabrics, and she really hates it. You can get it pretty much anywhere that sells pet food & supplies.

Cats also teethe until they’re about 8 months old, so he might be chewing to make himself feel better. Some crunch treats or a toy he can really chew on may help, too.

ETA: as for the other cat issue, I’m not sure what might be wrong with the cat, but she may benefit by having another litter box in the area where she’s been going, especially if she seems to nervous sometimes to venture out to the other boxes. Even if you already have enough boxes, that may help her feel more secure.

That’s a good idea. The only trick will be catching him at it, and I’m not sure I want to spray everything he chrews on with the apple spray. Something to think about, though. Thanks!

Hmm, interesting. I thought he might be teething earlier, but I didn’t realize he might still be. He’s got plenty of toys to chew on, but crunchy treats might be fun for him. I’ll see what I can find.

Yeah, was thinking about that. Didn’t really want to add a box right out in the open, but if it will help her then we can certainly do it. I just hope the other cats don’t decide to take over that one as well.

She won’t like it right out in the open, either. Put ut a big cardboard box upside-down over it, with a single door hole cut into it.

All of our cat boxes are covered, and especially if it’s going to be fairly visible I’d prefer to have something covering it anyway. She does like covered boxes (and oddly tends to prefer small ones–which isn’t good because she “overshoots” sometimes because she thinks she’s smaller than she is :slight_smile:

For the peeing/pooping issue, if the cat has been doing it someplace where she shouldn’t, one solution is to place the food and water dishes there. Cats don’t like to eat and eliminate in the same place.

Of course, that may mean that she simply starts using some other wrong place as an impromptu litter box.

As for overshooting, I’ve had that issue myself. Look carefully at any domed box you might buy and make sure that the lip of the dome fits inside the box rather than only outside of it. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this well, but if the cat shoots high and hits the dome, if the dome’s edge fits inside the box, the dribble will stay inside. If the dome’s edge only fits over the outside of the box, the dribble can very possibly seep through this seam and go outside the box onto the floor.

A little FYI, I work closely with a feline behaviorist. The number one issue she works on with people is their cat’s litter box issues.

Rule #1, uncover the boxes. You might think the cats like the covers, because they use the boxes, but usually it’s a matter of using the box in spite of the cover. If you’ve got a cat who feels she’s on the defensive, she’s going to avoid a covered box because she can’t see who’s coming while she’s in there. The most vulnerable place a cat can be is in the litter box. If they can’t see a bully cat coming, they’re going to eliminate in a place where they feel they can instead.

Rule #2, placement of the litter box within the room needs to be across from the entrance, where the cat using the box can see who is coming in and out of the room. Again, it’s a defensive cat thing. If a cat feels vulnerable, she needs to feel like she can see her antagonizer coming from as far away as possible while using the box. Some furniture rearranging is sometimes in order.

These are just the first two things she tells EVERYBODY. If the people she’s consulting can’t follow these first two things, then she won’t work with them any further. These two things MUST BE DONE in order to be sure these two things aren’t the problem. 80% of her cases are resolved if people do just these two things. The other 20% need further work and usually have to do with other cats in the house, territorial stuff, and/or truly mental or physical issues.

Also, I can say firsthand that Feliway does wonders for making cats feel happier in the home and lends to harmony amongst the brood. I thought it was hooey for many years, but ended up with my own improper elimination problem in my home, which has resolved since I followed my behaviorist friends advice (added 2 more boxes, uncovered) and added 2 Feliway diffusers. That was 2 months ago. The Feliway website has a lot of good information and had really good, specific instructions on how to use the diffusers vs. the spray.

I can get you the behaviorist’s name and business number if you want a consultation at any point. Just PM me and I can send it to you. She does her behavior calls 2-3 days a week so sometimes takes a couple days to get back to people. I don’t remember how much she charges - I think it’s something like $30-$50.

The only times I’ve known her advice to not work has been when people don’t or won’t follow her instructions! (the furniture rearranging can prove difficult to convince people to do)

Thanks, everybody. Great advice! Wow, SeaDragonTattoo, I didn’t even know there were feline behaviorists! That’s really cool. I might need to consult one. :slight_smile:

We’re going to get another box (preferably one with a high back to prevent overshoots), and put it in a spot where Clarice can see everybody coming. I don’t think I’m quite ready to have an uncovered box out in the open yet (since the spot is right next to where I spend a lot of time) but if things don’t improve I will consider it. We haven’t had any issues in the past couple of days. We’re making it a point to shower Clarice with extra love, hugs, and petting so she knows she’s still an important part of the household. We’ve got a Feliway diffuser but we’ve been using it upstairs. I think we’ll move it down near where she is and see if it helps more there.

I’ve actually got another cat problem I’ll toss out to Dopeland and see if anyone has suggestions: our male kitten, Nabby (this is the moose–even though he’s only about eight months old, he’s huge) can’t settle down at night. He ends up playing with the spouse’s feet (and by “playing” I mean “pouncing on” and “biting”) while we try to sleep. Oddly he doesn’t do this to me. But it’s making the spouse very unhappy. We usually have to boot Nabby out of the room at night and close the door, which isn’t an ideal solution since it means closing some cats in our room and others out, depending on who’s around at the time. Any suggestions for making him stop doing this? When he calms down he’s really a sweet purry snuggly guy, but the pouncing and biting has to stop.

I know a lot of cats won’t use covered boxes, but I didn’t really know why.

We bought one of those large, clearish plastic storage boxes for a litter box and cut a piece out of one side for an “entrance” (leaving about 8" of wall under it). We wouldn’t have needed to do that, but we’ve got an elder matriarch who wouldn’t be able to jump into the box over the 2’ walls.

We’ve got a male cat who wants to pee against the corner walls, and another cat who’s bigger than she thinks, so we were having lots of problems with things not staying in the litter box. The giant box with very high sides has completely solved that problem.

A bonus is that we can put the lid on and the cats still have room to get in. They don’t like it much, so we generally only do it when there’s company. I think they’d be fine with it lidded if we’d gotten a taller box. This drastically reduces the smell of fresh poop!

We didn’t intentionally get a clear box (as far as I know, maybe SO did it on purpose), but we haven’t had any problems with the cats using it, including at least one that wouldn’t use a covered box before.

It’s tucked into a corner, behind stuff, so it’s not really obvious and is somewhat concealed. But the cats can still see out, which is probably good for preventing ambushes.

Thanks for the info SeaDragonTattoo!

Resurrecting this thread because one of the problems is still going on and there are some new things to report.

First, let me add that we didn’t put a box in the corner yet. After rereading this thread I think I will try that, but I’m not sure that’s going to solve the problem. I think there’s something deeper going on. Here’s why:

The cat (Clarice) has episodes of what I can only describe as “insanity.” They happen maybe once a day (sometimes twice, sometimes not for a few days) and during this time, she does the following:

  • “Mutters” to herself. That’s the only way I can describe it. It’s almost like she’s talking to herself. It doesn’t sound like a pained sound, just strange.

  • Charges around the house like a mad thing, still muttering/talking. Mind you, this is normally a pretty sedentary cat.

  • Runs into corners and acts like she’s going to pee or poop. Sometimes she does it, but usually she just stands there for a bit and then takes off running again.

  • Doesn’t like to be touched when she’s like this. Sometimes I’ll pick her up and try to “corporally cuddle” her (hold her tightly but gently, try to talk to her to calm her down) but she yowls and acts like she’s in some kind of pain. I’ve also tried gently prodding her sides and stomach and that doesn’t seem to get any worse reaction than normal.

Last night was a really bad incident. I picked her up and tried to hand her off to the spouse because I was busy and she was driving me crazy (but I was still gentle with her) and she let loose with a stream of urine all over me, the kitchen floor, and the dining room rug. As an aside, her urine smells really strong. At some point she also pooped in her usual corner. Oddly, this isn’t nearly as big a deal, as her poops are always solid, relatively unstinky, and easy to pick up.
A while ago she had another particularly bad episode (she seemed more agitated than usual and almost like she was in pain) so I packed her off to the vet, who checked her out, took a blood test, and pronounced her physically fine (the blood test came back fine too.)

So…any ideas? We’re kind of at the end of our rope with this. We have a Feliway thing plugged in the room where she hangs out–no idea if it’s helping. The vet suggested that she might need Kitty Prozac, since some of this seems to stem from the fact that she and our two Russian Blues can’t stand each other. But the funny thing last night was that neither of the Russians were anywhere near her when she went off.

One more final factoid: When she’s not having her insanity episodes or stressing out around one or both of the Russians, she’s a sweet, loving, very friendly and human-social cat. She spends most of her time sleeping in the chair near my computer or in the spouse’s lap if he’s using “her” chair.

No clue on that, but now I’m curious - has the big moose finally knocked it off with the toe biting? Our kitten did that at first, and she’s outgrown it. You?

Our moose (who’s even bigger now–he’s grown into a real beauty of a long, lean guy) is now the sweetest, mellowest snugglebug I could ever hope for. Almost no more chewing or toe biting, and he now likes to snuggle next to me under the covers at night. The only thing he still does (and I can’t fault him for this–he’s a cat) is gets underfoot a lot and is militant about not moving–which is kind of a pain since he’s so big.

Do these happen at a specific time each day?

Sounds somewhat like the ‘nighttime crazies’ that are common to cats. They run around crazily, jump or climb on things, chase each other around, etc. Sort of like kids with an excess of energy.

Cats are naturally most active as dusk, as the sun sets. To our indoor cats, that may be at dusk, or at bedtime, when we shut off most of the lights in the house. Could this be what is happening? (The urinating isn’t usual, but it may be a habit your cat has come to associate with this time.)

No, it’s definitely not the “cat crazies.” Some of my other cats get those, and they’re fun to watch. :slight_smile:

This is definitely more distress than insanity. And the time is variable–sometimes morning, sometimes afternoon. Last time was mid-evening (around 8:00).