Q: Chuck Norris has been urinating inappropriately. He and our other male cat have lived together since they were littermates. Chuck Norris tends to go on our dog’s little couches. We tried buying new couches, and now we pick the couches when the dogs aren’t using them. I must say, Chuck Norris is an easily stressed out cat. Recently, one of our cats also started peeing behind the litter boxes in the basement. It might be our other cat, Spike. I’ll try to remove the litter box covers and see if that helps. My husband and I are reaching our limit on this issue. Soon, the only answer may be no more cats. Any advice? — L.M., Cyberspace
A: Your dogs have their own couches?
I’m surprised that a cat named Chuck Norris can’t get his act together. Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Ilana Reisner, of Philadelphia, PA, says, “You’re doing a lot, but you didn’t say that both cats had a thorough veterinary exam. You also didn’t mention the ages of the cats, but certainly if they are older I’m thinking about hyperthyroid (disease).”
If these cats only have two litter boxes, both located in the basement, this could also explain the problem. For starters, arthritis in cats is under- diagnosed, and as cats age, navigating steps in the dark is not so easy, so they just don’t bother to find the litter box. Regardless of your cats’ ages, add a litter box at the main level of the house since the rule is one more box than the number of cats in the home.
“Basements aren’t all bad,” adds Reisner. “A basement may offer security and privacy, which some cats prefer.”
For a specific response, it’s important to determine if the cat with the problem is spraying (which is territorial vertical marking, often dripping down from furniture or walls) or voiding (simply urinating on a flat surface). There’s a distinct behavior difference between the two. In any case, using Feliway (a copy of a comforting feline pheromone) is a good idea to reduce stress. Since you point out that Chuck Norris is easily stressed, hang in there with the Feliway.
Reisner says the relationship between the cats might be at the heart of the problem. Even if they seem to be buddies, that doesn’t mean they’re pals 24/7. Could Spike be purposely or coincidentally blocking Chuck Norris’ access to the litter boxes?
Be sure to offer each cat lots of space and hiding places, says Reisner. Remember that cats think about space vertically. One or both cats might enjoy a perch up high (at the top of a high bookshelf or cabinet) to securely watch over activities.
No matter what’s going on, Reisner says both litter boxes should be scooped daily, and washed out monthly. Sometimes problems are solved by simple hygiene.
If Reisner’s tips don’t help, don’t give up. Litter box issues may be frustrating, but they’re typically solvable. Consider seeking out a referral to a member of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, a veterinary behaviorist or certified cat behavior consultant.
©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services