Ask the Behaviorist: Litter Box Woes and Nail Clipping
Please note: It is important to seek professional help for any problems that may be tricky to resolve, or that may be multifaceted. Quick fix, band-aid approaches seldom work long term. Many behaviors do not develop over night and may have more than one component to them.
Why did my 3 year old cat pee on the dog bed?
Q: My 3 year old neutered male cat, who has not, to my knowledge, done his business outside of the litter box since he and his female litter mate were adopted at 4-5 months old, recently peed in a completely inappropriate spot for two days in a row, then ceased doing so. I happened to walk by the bed the dogs sleep on and saw him squatting at an odd angle in the center of the bed. I picked up his bottom and discovered he was peeing with me standing right there.
Fortunately, the mattress was not soiled, because I keep a taped together cover of potty pads on the bed to keep dog grunge and damp paws from seeping through the flannel sheet that covers the bed and reaching the mattress. I laundered the sheet and replaced the potty pads, then put the sheet back on the bed. The following day, I found a wet spot in the center of the bed with a cat’s paw print impression in the wet spot. I stripped off the sheet and pads, replaced the pads, and left the bed sheetless. There have been no further “accidents”, or “on purposes”. I have treated the sheet with a cat urine remover/ product and washed it again, and am preparing to place the flannel sheet back on the bed, with hopes that the peeing will not resume.
First, I’m curious why, after 2 1/2 years, my cat would do this, and second I wonder if he was attracted to urine residue the second time, even though the sheet had been washed. The only changes that I can think of that may have affected the cat before the incidents were a heat wave that lasted several days, and his being deprived of his short daily jaunts outside on the leash on excessively hot and humid days. The litter box was not full; I keep it scooped. With my other cats, in the past, any time there was inappropriate elimination I placed a litter box in the chosen spot and that solved the problem. I do not want to place a litterbox on the bed, though. – Kathy
A: Kathy, if your kitty has gone for outside jaunts, he may be urinating outside at times. This resolves any litter box issues he may have, such as problems with the box, cleanliness, location, depth of litter, and so on. With the humidity, the box itself may need to be cleaned more often. In addition, some pee pads or potty pads that you are using as protection from wet paws on the bed are scented to attract dogs to urinate on them. I’m not sure of their efficacy in that regard, but since felines have an excellent sense of smell, this may have attracted your cat. If he did this two times in a row, most likely it was a habit from the first day and the issue he had was unresolved. Likewise, the scent could still be there and he had that association with the pads. If he has never urinated outside the litter box (and you know he is not urinating outdoors on a regular basis), he might have a urinary infection. These infections can wax and wane and sometimes are difficult to eradicate. For further help, read How to Resolve a Litter Box Problem.
How can I train my 6 week old foster kitten to use the same box as his litter mates?
Q: I’m fostering a momma cat and her 3 – 6 wk old kittens. All kittens are using the box but one – who likes this one corner (their food is right there). Momma cat is semi-feral, kittens are starting to warm up. How can I train just this one kitten? I caught him/her in the act once and picked up and put in low sided kitty box but next time – back to the old spot. (I cleaned area with natures miracle) Any suggestions appreciated!! – Trish
A: I might move the food and put a little litter box there to begin. There needs to be more known about the litter box arrangements and spatial arrangements you’ve set up as well as behaviors kittens show towards each other, as well as if the kitten is urinating or defecating, or both, in an area away from the communal box. You might also want to look at preferences in litter box height (lower sides and entry way), how easy it is for the kitten to get into and out of the box, as well as the health, well-being, and dexterity of the kitten. Although 6 week old kittens are small so can have a smaller box, if all the kittens and the mother share, the box needs to be kept impeccably clean, and a larger box (length and width, not height) will be needed.
Q: I just clipped my kitty’s claws for the first time! Although I was FAIRLY successful, it was a battle, especially using regular clippers. Which really wasn’t the hard part, it was trying to hold a fuzzy kitten down! Any idea’s to make it easier? And to help her to adjust? – Michelle
A: There are a number of things you can do depending on the nature or personality of the kitten and her size. Often little fingernail clippers are the easiest since they are not as clunky. The smaller and lighter the clipper the better. Cats also do not like restraint. No animal does.
One approach you might want to take is to clip a few nails while your kitty is snoozing or very sleepy. You can gently take a paw, hold the toe so the claw is visibly seen and clip the tip only. Do not pull legs or paws, which will only cause your kitten to pull back against the restraint.
When you are not clipping the nails, touch the toes regularly and gently and give treats. Hold the toes or the paws while you are petting and cuddling your kitty. Don’t touch or hold the paw to such an extent where your kitten feels the need to pull away from you. By desensitizing your kitty to having her paws and toes handled and held, it will make it much easier for you to clip her nails.
Another approach is to clip a few nails while she is lying down or standing. Sit or kneel behind her or next to her (not in front of her). Lift a paw gently, hold a toe so the claw is visibly seen and clip the tip. Give her some yummy treats or food while you are clipping, and afterwards, to distract her and have her associate nail clipping with good things. If you do not restrain and are very gentle, you might be surprised with how easily she allows you to clip her nails over time. You do not need to clip all her nails at one time. Just clip a few a day or every other day to begin.