Dear Fellow Felines:
I’m still being a really bad girl. I’ve managed to stay away from the stove after my touch-and-go paw-burning incident of last month, but I’m still peeing in sinks and spraying walls and doors. As “supervisor” over here at For the Love of Cats, Marco’s no-kill cat rescue, people are always asking me why their cat is misbehaving. Yes, I know, that makes me a hypocrite!
Take the other day for instance. My driver was driving me to Naples when a call came in from an exasperated woman in Maryland whose cat “Bill” was peeing in corners and shredding the living room furniture. I asked about other pets in the household and yes, there is indeed a Great Dane named “Omar” in the picture, but Bill-the-cat got there first. Besides, the befuddled lady assured me that the cat and dog are in love, and even sent me a photo of Bill and Omar napping blissfully side-by-side.
My first instinct was to fess up to being just as guilty as Bill and recuse myself from the case entirely. But disclaimers aren’t my thing, so I pretended that I was beyond shocked that her cat was behaving so badly. I suggested a trip to the vet to rule out medical issues like urinary tract infections and crystals, which make cats associate the litter box with pain while urinating. But my caller had already done that and Bill had passed his medical exam with flying colors.
Cats are notoriously territorial and will defend their turf by whatever means necessary, even if it means disappointing their staffs (remember, dogs have owners, cats have staff). Fighting tooth and paw with fur flying and spine-chilling sound effects is a favorite strategy, albeit one that will always get the perpetrator in trouble.
In order to avoid repercussions the more savvy cat will resort to more subtle tactics like “scent marking.” Cats have special glands located in their cheeks, paws, and near their bladders that are capable of producing acrid fumes. You know the smell, that awful ammonia odor that’ll knock you off your paws. Spraying can escalate when another cat in the household retaliates in kind. Then you really have an air quality problem.
If there isn’t another cat under roof, as in Bill’s case, this rogue urinating may be due to anxiety stressers such as a change in diet, lack of adequate rest, and an absence of playtime. Or the stresser could be more obscure; maybe a new family recently moved in next door and has given their kitty unlimited access to the outdoors. Next thing you know the neighbor kitty is sunning itself on your front stoop.
As frustrating as is stopping spraying behavior, never physically punish your cat. Don’t rub our noses in the urine, don’t throw things at us, and don’t even think about hitting us. Try scooping our boxes at least once a day and getting some new kitty litter that doesn’t smell like Pine-Sol. While you’re at it, take the top off the box. Covered litter boxes make your cat defenseless, and a perfect target for the bully in the house.
And yes, spayed female cats can and do in fact spray. Take me for example. Ever since I moved into the big house with shelter co-founders Jan and Jim Rich, I’ve been in a turf war with the other three cats already in residence. It took six months alone just to get my paws through the door and past the laundry room. Once in I started spraying to lay claim to the entire joint. But I wasn’t fooling anyone; it was pretty obvious that I was the culprit.
Jim and Jan have tried every trick in the feline playbook in an effort to get me to stop. They’ve added an extra litter box, they’ve tried different brands of litter, they’ve moved the litter boxes to more secluded areas, they’ve put one of those purple calming collars on me, and they’ve plugged happy pheromone diffusers into nearly every outlet in the house. I don’t know if I can ever stop spraying, but I feel a bit more chilled out with that purple collar. So for the time being I’ve taken a hiatus from spraying, but I am, after all, a former dumpster diving street cat who is terrible at sharing. I don’t know what Bill’s issues are, but I’ve read that the best defense against spraying is to have male and female kittens spayed/neutered by the time they’re four months old. So if you take in an eight or ninth month old un-neutered cat you could very well end up with a sprayer. In the business of cat rescue we send our kittens for spay/neuter surgeries when they’re approximately 10-12 weeks old.
Speaking of cat rescue, I currently have two adorable litters of kittens under my watchful eyes: momma Percy and her litter of Petunia, Pansy, and Pancho; and momma Madison and her gang of six: Ava, Noah, Liam, Sophia, Ethan, and Jacob. Can you believe that the Madison family is going through 20 cans of Fancy Feast every 24 hours! And three of them are going to one home! If my math skills are what they used to be, this means they’ll be fed 10 cans of Fancy Feast every single day until they’re finished growing! No one ever fed me 10 cans of food a day. And they wonder why I spray.
“Rosie,” the sweet kitty who was nearly strangled by her collar last month, is still here with us finishing up her hydro-therapy. She is still pretty shy so I’ve been working with her a lot lately. And poor, sweet little “Dusty,” another abandoned house cat, is making a steady recovery from an eye infection. Sadly, she will never regain full vision in that eye so she will need an extra-safe fur-ever home. We also had a traumatized and de-clawed Maine Coon cat, who was discovered in a vacant monthly rental by a cleaning crew. This sweet kitty found a new home after only a couple of hours at one of our PetSmart adoption events.
And then there was the pelican! That’s right. I said PELICAN. A lady who recently adopted one of our sweet little kittens spotted the injured pelican at the Caxambas boat ramp a few weeks ago. The poor thing had been flopping around with a broken wing for at least two weeks according to people who fish there every day. No one is sure why the flightless pelican was not reported earlier, but my trapping crew got him up to the Nature Conservancy of Naples. The shelter’s van, however, did not fare so well. According to the driver, who wishes to remain anonymous, “The smell and mess was indescribable!”
Love, nips, and purrs…