Saturday, November 19, 2011

Living With a Neurotic Cat

Well, the official verdict is in. I have a cat with emotional issues.

Now there's a surprise. Have you ever known a cat without emotional issues?

I've had an on-again, off-again issue with somebody in the household who periodically decides that rather than use the litter box (any one of the 3 available), he/she will just use the bath mat or the pile of laundry sitting by the washing machine or the dog bed or just about anything else soft that is handy.

That sometimes includes furniture, and therein lies the problem. Two chairs in particular are favorite targets and I have to keep waterproof mats in place as a precaution. Because I have new living room furniture and I don't trust the heathen cats in the slightest, I have no choice but to keep everything draped in plastic when I'm not home to monitor their activity.

In the past this sort of behavior would have resulted in certain parties being ejected from the house. But since moving to the forest and losing two cats to what may have been coyotes, and having declawed these three to save my furniture from being shredded, and having the conviction that once you have made the commitment to take on a pet you don't just drop them at the pound when there's a problem, I am obligated to try to find solutions to their "emotional issues".

So, the first step was to try and determine just who the culprit is. I had my suspicions from the beginning, but I'm a fair pet parent and wanted to make sure.

I was fairly sure that Dixie was not the source of the trouble. The first round of this annoying behavior occurred well before she became a member of the family. Plus, she seems to love her litter box and spends an inordinate amount of time there, so litter box avoidance did not seem to be a problem for her.

One down, two to go.

Boo was a definite possibility, since he is a neutered male and neutered males can sometimes have chronic urinary infections. In fact, we have been down the antibiotic route with him on several occasions. When cats with urinary infections experience pain in the litter box, they may associate the pain with the litter box and seek alternative places to relieve themselves. Two weeks ago when we suddenly had another round of inappropriate elimination, I took him to the vet for a checkup.

Now, Boo does not like the vet. He is normally the most loving and cooperative cat, but let the vet start prodding and probing and he turns into a mini lion of horrendous disposition. This requires a few minutes in the "happy box" (an option sort of on the same order as that happy gas the dentist gives you to relax your nerves before he starts the drill) before they can get anywhere with determining the state of his health. Add to that a urine extraction, urinalysis and sonogram to check the state of his internal organs and this becomes an expensive proposition. (I should also mention that since his first round of urinary tract issues I've been faithfully buying him special food that helps keep stones from developing and since it is impossible to separate the cats' food, all three of them are eating this very expensive gourmet food.) For a cat I acquired free, he has turned out to be as expensive as raising any kid.

It turned out that Boo did have a mild infection. I opted for a pricey long-term antibiotic injection. Ever since the cat bite experience of 2006, I do not poke my finger down a cat throat for any reason, so pills are out. In about a week, Boo's mood improved and he obviously felt better. Money well spent, but I was still doubtful that the potty problem had been resolved.

I was doubtful, because I always figured the real culprit was Scout. I've always known she is a bubble off plumb.

So, I kept my fingers crossed, but my eyes open. For a couple of weeks, all was well. And then, one day, when I was in the room with her, Scout carelessly hopped up on one of the protected chairs and proceeded to squat. We had words and she kept her distance for a few days.

A few days later, the whole episode was repeated. That time, I was close enough to aim a swat at her butt, missed and cracked my knuckles against the hard frame of the chair. My hand was already in a mess from a bout of poison oak and now it became swollen and a beautiful shade of green.

I was not a happy Mommy. I found myself considering that trip to the pound. I kept MY distance from HER this time until I had a chance to calm down.

I decided I had better rule out any medical causes for her behavior, so off we went to the vet yesterday for another round of diagnostics. Fortunately she cooperated with them and we skipped the expense of the "happy box" and she willingly offered up a urine sample, so we skipped the extraction expense. The results came back with a clean bill of health - except....

The vet caught something I had missed. Scout had been compulsively grooming herself and had removed most of the hair on her stomach. We talked about other odd behavior I had noticed. Scout compulsively chews the edges of magazines and newspapers. She frequently walks the floor, yowling plaintively and her eyes will become hugely dilated. Dixie and Boo periodically jump on her and beat the stuffing out of her. While she was a model citizen during the two week evacuation, it nevertheless was probably a factor in her behavior.

Diagnosis? I have a cat with stress issues. Now what?

Well, I was saved the expense of added medical procedures, but we decided to try the calming effect of adding pheromones to her environment. I've placed very expensive diffusers upstairs and downstairs. She did express a lot of interest in the things as I was assembling them, so I'm hoping we have some positive results in the near future.

While I had plenty of litter boxes available, they are all clustered in one area and we've decided I should move one into a separate area where she might feel less likely to be attacked by the other two while she is attending to her business. Probably be a good idea to try different litter, too.

Well. How nice. I have a cat with a stress disorder and I have to be extra nice to her to re-establish her sense of security and I have to pick up even more special items on my twice monthly visit to the pet supply depot.

Do I know how to pick 'em or what?


1 comment:

paul said...

wow - you have had more than your share of pet problems

kudos 2 you, though, for getting to the bottom of things