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Question
Please help... Our 16 yr old house cat has freaked out.  We went on a 10 day vacation, and had our neighbor watching our cat, hamster and dog.  This is the same pet sitter we have used for years and she is very reliable, coming in twice a day.  Her report to us was that all was well and in order.   But we have found that since our return the cat refuses to go in his litter box.  He has been using the couch, carpet and bath mat.   I can't stand the odor and have been cleaning up as I find new spots.   I took him to the vet and she could not find anything wrong.  She took an X-ray and declared him fit.   He is eating , drinking water and is friendly to us when he is awake. He has a new sleeping place under my daughters bed and cries loudly if he can't get to her room.   This was never a preference for him before.     I bought new litter boxes one with. Lid and one without.   How do I get my cat to relearn what he needs to do in the proper  pice?   Please advise soon, we need to remedy this fast.
Thank you!

Answer
Jennifer,

This is a very, very tough one.  Let me ask, if this has continued since you first wrote me?
Also, have you ever taken a long absence for any reason since you have had your cat (i.e. a week to two weeks)?

Cats do suffer from separation anxiety and, given that your cat is geriatric (at age 16), I seem to think that is where the problem had begun. So as far as cleaning is concerned are you using an enzyme based cleaner specifically for pet stains and pet odors? If not, you need to get to your nearest pet supermarket and get one of these cleaners.

I am assuming your vet did blood work and checked out his urinary tract and digestive tract. If we rule out medical, we must assume that there is a behavioral issue stemming from the probable separation anxiety.

In the case of a behavioral problem you may need to do some detective work to find the cause.  Any little thing can trigger it. A change in brand or type of litter, a new addition to the household (2-legged or 4-legged), the dog interrupting him when your cat is doing his business, etc. Although it sounds like your pet sitter is a real gem, she was not there as much as you usually are, and something could have happened!?!?!?

I would start by confining him to one room in a very cleanable area with at least a couple of clean litter pans. See if he figures it out. You will have to totally ignore any talking he does. If he begins to use the litter pan or pans, then extend his range and see if he manages to behave.

Anywhere he has gone before needs to be covered with something.  Cats hate to pee or poop on aluminum foil and also hate to walk on anything sticky (like two sided adhesive tape).  If it is only peeing, you might try a Fel-o-way diffuser where he has done the most inappropriate peeing (these are available from the pet supermarkets.

Another place to find excellent advice on feline behavioral issues is:

http://jacksongalaxy.com/category/cat-behavior-and-care/behavioral-issues/

He has lots of really good hints and tips that may help you out.

Please let me know how you fare.

Best regards... Norm.  

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Norman Auspitz

Expertise

I can answer most non-veterinary questions about cats. My particular expertise is pedigree cats, breeding and showing. However, I am versed in feline behavior, cat breeds and their characteristics, general feline husbandry, and the like.

Experience

I judged for the Canadian Cat Association from 1975 until 1982. I am currently an approved allbreed judge for the Cat Fanciers'' Association (the world''s largets cat registry), and have been judging for them since 1991. I have been breeding pedigreed cats since 1971 and have been exhibiting pedigreed cats in shows since 1970. I obtained my first pedigreed cat in 1970 and have never looked back. In 1971, I obtained my first Abyssinian which has become my primary breed. In addition, I have bred Manx and Persians. Currently, besides the Abyssinians, I am also breeding Maine Coons.


Organizations
Cat Fanciers'' Association, inc. (CFA) and the Manx, Maine Coon, and Abyssinian breed councils. I am currently Abyssinian breed council secretary.

Publications
Cat Fancy Magazine, The Abyssinian Chapter in The Cat Fanciers'' Association Complete Cat Book, and Articles for various editions of The Cat Fanciers'' Association Yearbook

Education/Credentials
I received a B.S. from Drexel University in 1968, a M.Math from University of Waterloo, in 1970, a Ph.D. from University of Waterloo in 1975, and a MBA from McMaster University in 1980. I received my approved allbreed judging status in the Cat Fanciers'' Association in 1999.

Awards and Honors
We have produced a number of Cat Fanciers'' Association (CFA) National winning Abyssinian and Maine Coons. We have produced a number of Abyssinian and Maine Coon Distinguished Merit females (an award for a top producing cat), including the first Distinguished Merit Abyssinian in the red (sorrel) color. I am the CFA Abyssinian breed council secretary and belong and/or hold office in a number of cat clubs. I am also a member of the CFA Judges Association.

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