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Can inside kittes adjust to living outside in an enclosure?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
Long story short, I have six cats that pee and poo anywhere they feel like doing so. I have lived with this problem for 3 years and it involves lots of paper towels and many gallons of natures miracle. I have also ripped up all the carpet in my home and put down hard flooring just because of them. It is easier to clean.

I have tried crating each and every one of them separately for weeks on end with their litter boxes and food (plus playtime many times per day) in an attempt to retrain them to use their boxes and while this works while they are crated it all falls apart the minute I let any of them have more freedom.

I am at the point where I come home and just feel like crying because I see puddles of pee in the corners and poo on top of my kitchen cabinets and I am so tired of cleaning it up. It is never ending and I am done. My house does not smell and you would never even know I have cats, but that is because I spend nearly ever waking moment cleaning. It has taken over my life.

Having said that. I love these cats. They are part of my family and I could never re-home them or give them to a shelter. I know no one else will want to deal with this problem anyway.

I have decided to build them a large enclosure off my deck and plan on having them live there. I will put a roof on it, it is shaded in the summer and they will have many creature comforts, however when I told someone about this she stated that it was cruel for me to make them live outside and that if anyone saw this I would be reported for animal cruelty because they won't have a separate little house to get away from the rain and that I'm depriving them of social contact. (keep in mind it will be enclosed on 3 sides since it'll butt up to my house and there will be a roof.)

This cannot possibly be true, right? Cats live outside all the time, and for these kitties to have a safe enclosure instead of me simply giving up and dumping them has to be a better alternative. Yes they love attention from me and enjoy sleeping with me, but they will adjust to only have snuggle time when I go visit. Right?

I'm so torn now and I honestly don't know what to do. I cannot continue to live this way, but at the same time I don't want to do anything that will make people think I'm neglecting my cats. She made me feel like I was banishing them.

Can cats that have only known the indoor life adjust to not being with their people all the time?

I just want my house back. If anyone has any other suggestions I'm all ears.
post #2 of 27
My hunch is that you probably have too many cats.

Each group of cats can hit a number where there are too many cats for those particular cats to be comfortable in their environment. Fundamentally cats aren't as social as humans and dogs are and their group dynamics can be very complicated and subtle.

Stressed cats can start peeing and pooing in random places especially if they don't have good enough access to clean litterboxes.

The rule of thumb is to have number of cats plus one boxes so you'd need 7. However it's more complicated than that because one of the reasons that so many boxes are needed is to make sure that no subtle psychological warfare between cats can prevent one from getting to a litterbox when they need to go.

Basically a more dominant cat sitting in a doorway or a hallway where another cat will have to walk past to get to the toilet can put that other cat off and make it try to find another place to do their business.

The solution there is to have those litterboxes spread out all over the house so that there is always a non intimidating route to a litterbox for any cat.

However your cats are also in the habit now of not using exclusively litterboxes for toilets so that's a difficult problem as well.

I don't know how they will do in an enclosure like you're thinking about creating for them but I understand why you can't handle cleaning up cat mess all the time.

My worry with the enclosure is that if there are cats that don't get along in your group (which I think is highly likely, I don't mean necessarily aggression and fights, more just cats that would do the subtle psyching out of one another that cats are very good at doing) anyway, yes is that the enclosure is bound to be smaller than your house and with less places to get away from the other cats so the intercat tensions might get worse.

This can then show itself in actual fights breaking out, one cat getting bullied a lot, stress overgrooming and of course peeing and pooing all over the place.

I understand also why you can't give any of the cats away, a cat in a shelter with a history of not using the litterbox properly has very low chances of getting adopted and the cats are *yours*. I do think that splitting the cats up and keeping them in adoring homes where they can be the center of attention and with fantastic people who love them to bits would probably be better for them but I would also like to be rich and have a pony!

So realistically I think you're perfectly entitled to try out the outdoor enclosure. It could be possible as well that you could take one or two of the cats and do the re litterbox training in a crate and keep them inside (and making sure to have enough litterboxes all over the place) i.e. that with less competition and stress inside they'd stick to the litterboxes.

Anyway, good luck
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
I have mroe than enough litter boxes and I scoop them everyday, change twice per week.

They use the boxes, they just also choose to pee and poo anywhere else too.

They really do seem to like each other, they sleep together and play together. That's why I'm not sure if they're doing this because there's tension in the house or just because they can.

I'm having the enclosure built today. I feel so guilty for feeling so excited about it.
post #4 of 27
If they all sleep together and play together then they probably get along.

Are the boxes spread all over the place or confined to a single room etc?

Anyway good luck with the enclosure, it really sounds like you need a break from cleaning up after the cats indoors.
post #5 of 27
I agree that perhaps there just isn't enough territory for everyone. Perhaps you could put them all in the enclosure. Clean the house top to bottom and start by bringing one cat into the house, if it does well and always uses the box, perhaps put it up for adoption via craigslist or the like and find it a home by itself or with just one other cat. Continue to try them one or two at a time in the house and perhaps find a happy medium with 2 or 3 cats for yourself. In the enclosure its still going to be a mess and the cats are going to get filthy living in it.

post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
How much territory would be enough for that amount of cats? My house is 2000 sq feet, it's not ginormous but it feels like there is enough room for everyone.

Siggav, the boxes are all in the same room. That is all that's in there, just cat boxes and a cat tree.
post #7 of 27
Originally Posted by Silverpawz View Post
Siggav, the boxes are all in the same room. That is all that's in there, just cat boxes and a cat tree.
Maybe they don't feel like holding it for the walk to that room, when they have the option of just "going" wherever. What if the boxes were spaced out throughout the house so that there's one convenient wherever they realize they need to go?
post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
This may make me seem inflexible but I really don't want litter boxes in every room. It just seems unsanitary to me and I don't want to have to look at a litter box while I'm eating dinner or watching TV or laying in bed.

This is the one and only thing I'm not willing to do.
post #9 of 27
I think you have more than enough space for 6 cats. There are people in this site who live in a trailer with more than that .
I think they do it just because they got used to it. I also think nature's miracle is not the best choice for cleaning... When you move them outside, try some Anti Icky Poo . IMO this is the one that works the best.
I think that once you move them to the enclosure, you can bring them by pairs inside the house, making sure they use the box. If they don't, you take them outside again. Once they are all used to come in and use the boxes, you can start bringing one by one in, until all of them are inside... I think there is hope they can come inside, and I also think they can be happy in the enclosure. Make sure to put many hiding places in there, and some vertical space too - hammocks, cat trees, boxes and benches.
IMO there is no way this can be considered cruelty...
post #10 of 27
When the problem is that they're peeing and pooing in other rooms and you won't put litter boxes in more than one room, then I do think you're being inflexible. They're letting you know it's not working for them. And having them pee and poop in a litter box is far more sanitary than having them pee or poop outside of the box. And cleaning up the litter scattered from a litter box is a lot easier than cleaning up pee or poop.

While I admire your dedication to your kitties, I think there are things you can try that I'm not sure you have.

If it were us, we'd go for litter boxes in other rooms - so don't put one in the dining room or your bedroom. But just FYI, there are ways to have a litter box without seeing it:;

Make sure they have a lot of vertical space;

Get Feliway diffusers for the rooms in your home, or get Feliway spray and use it every 2 - 3 days (make sure NOT to use it near scratching posts and litter boxes);

Get a different cleaner - Nature's Miracle is not very good.

See how it goes with the enclosure and maybe reintroducing them to the house.

post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 
I understand what you're saying, is IS more sanitary to clean up litter from around the boxes than to have pee on the floors. You are right.

I am being inflexible when it comes to that, but I think I've put forth a truckload of effort into these kittes and there comes a point for me where I just have to say enough is enough. I simply won't bend my life anymore for them. I also have dogs that will eat the litter and considering I use the sawdust type stuff that can be dangerous.

I'm fully aware that that is just an excuse, and if I really wanted to make the dogs stop eating the litter I could. But I honestly don't have the energy or desire to do so. Not anymore. I'm defeated and tired and ready to throw in the towel at this point.

I like the idea of giving them some time in the enclosure and then bringing them in in pairs to see how they do.
post #12 of 27
Do you have any closets that you can dedicate to litter boxes? I really could not handle having boxes all over the house and with 5 kitties, I need several, so I dedicated closets with nothing in there but litter boxes. That way the boxes are spread throughout the home, the cats have one close by when needed. I have the bottom of the door cut out so, the doors are always closed and keeps the dog out, too.
post #13 of 27
Thread Starter 
That is an awesome idea. I have two closets I could try that with.
post #14 of 27
Again, you may want to consider litter box furniture. I don't know if you checked out the link in my last post, but it achieves the same thing as dedicating a closet without the closet.

post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
I'm not really able to afford that right now. But thank you!
post #16 of 27
Thread Starter 
Could someone please tell me the mixture/solution for getting rid of urine odor?

I know it's been posted here several times but I can't seem to find it doing a search. It's a homemade recipe with 3-4 ingredients. Thanks!
post #17 of 27
post #18 of 27
I have four cats in a bigger house and I am having a similar problem. And I completely understand your frustration. I don't think that you are a bad owner to your cats. You could just let them out side without any protection, but instead you are building them a nice enclosure. My DH and I are going to do the same thing, soon. Be sure to make the new "home" fun with lots of shelves to jump and climb on and some areas to bed down in. We are planing to let our cats come in and out, but our problem has not reached the level yours has. We are also making this change because we are wanting to expand our family and DH doesn't do cat litter and I won't be able to once I am pregnant. I just wanted to let you know that I don't think you are being cruel at all!
post #19 of 27
I only have 2 cats, but I live in a very small 1400 sq ft condo. I have a small screened in porch. My 2 cats stay on the porch all day. I have a real potted trees on the porch, several fans and 3 squirrel/bird feeders outside the screen for them to watch. They love it on the porch. I let them in for maybe an hour in the morning to run around the house and then I let them in at night. My husband is very allergic to the cats and really does not like them but understands I love them. The cats have their own bedroom they sleep in at night with the door closed. I have one litter box on the porch and one litter box in their room. They play with each other all the time and have never peed or pooped anywhere in the house other than the box. I think my cats are very happy. Good luck with the enclosure as I think it is a wonderful solution. Many cats in shelters live in a small crate. Given the options that yoru cats have, I think you are doing a great job.
post #20 of 27
I forgot - you should also try Cat attract litter - you can buy it at petco... It really works!
post #21 of 27
Thread Starter 
The enclosure is half done and in the mean time I'm making them a two shelf tree which looks like it's going to be an art deco style because somehow the entire thing is leaning to one side and the boards are crooked, but it's the thought that counts right?
I'm sure the cats won't care if it's pretty or not.

I'm just glad I don't have to build the enclosure myself or I'm sure it would collapse from lack of structure.

Thank you for allt he suggestions so far, and for the support, I really appreciate it.
post #22 of 27
My advice, having seen indoor cats put outdoors?

Use caution - even in an enclosure - I've known some to be "stupid" enough to not seek adequate shelter in winter (depending on where you live whether or not it's an issue).
post #23 of 27
Thread Starter 
I live in South Carolina, we don't have bad winters here. I didn't even have to use my heat the entire winter season.

If anything I'd be more worried about the summer heat, but it's below a well shaded area and will have roof to block the sun.

If it gets really cold or really hot I would of course let them in.
post #24 of 27
If you put them on your balcony (or wherever you mean) as long as they have adequate water, food, shelter from the elements, bedding & medical care when needed, the RSCPA will be fine with you. If you're worried, give them a call and ask them for their advice, this will go in your favor, that you're showing concern for your pets.

The RSPCA will not be concerned about the amount of cats, as long as they are living in reasonable conditions, are in reasonable health & are not being abused. If you can tick all the boxes, everything should be fine. The RSPCA is concerned only for the welfare of your pets & their living conditions.

I suggest if you put them on the balcony, buy some of those cheap plastic dog kennels, (or even wooden) put some clean warm blankets inside, and make sure the enclosure is always as clean as possible. Maybe put some cat toys & cat furniture in there for them as well.

If you live where it gets wet or it snows, make sure, in the winter, to either bring them inside, or to make sure their bedding is never wet or sodden, and perhaps regularly insert a warm , hot water bottle or buy one or two of the professional heating pads.

As long as it's enough space for them to move about, stretch, and otherwise be happy, I don't see there being a problem. Making it as VERTICAL as possible for them also helps - cats like climbing, width isn't as important as being Vertical to keep them occupied and happy and give them "me space" away from the other cats (cat climbing structures, even boxes stacked on top of each other)

The aim of the game so to speak, is to think to yourself "If I was living outside with them, what would I want? what would make me comfortable? what would be ok living conditions for me or someone I love?" and apply that. If you can do that and tick every box, then it's humane and the RSPCA cannot fault you and you'll be making your cats happy.

The one thing you need to be concerned about though, depending on your area, is snakes & spiders. Outdoor cats are at severe risk of these, but they're more street-smart than indoor cats. An indoor cat confronted with a snake might make a stupid choice and pay for it. So make sure you know your local area, and that the bottom of the enclosure is well secured so that snakes can't get in, and also keep up to date on the symptoms of spider bites & snake bites and know what to do if it occurs.

Make sure the enclosure is secure, because if you're in an area where there is nasty wildlife, they might see your kitties as a bit of a tasty treat - foxes, alligators, feral dogs, even other feral cats (depending on your area) if a fox can get a chicken in a chicken coupe, your cats would be fair game in an enclosure that isn't secure knwim?

Same goes for Insane & Nosy neighbors who might not like your cats for any reason and decide to give them a poisonous treat, probably not likely, but when you put them outside, even enclosed, you put them in a higher risk category where outside influences can affect them, thus you need to be on the ball.

These are some of the reasons I am oh so careful with my own cats indoors & safe enclosures, because there are so many hidden dangers lurking that could claim your kitties, that if you're prepared for, you can avoid and your kitties can be happy & healthy bundles of fur and joy lol
post #25 of 27
Just a quick note now that I know more about how you have the litterboxes. If it's possible at all it would be great to use "closet litter boxes" or furniture litter boxes so you can keep them in more than one room

All the litterboxes being in the same room means it's extremely easy for a cat to block another cat from going to the toilet in the boxes. He just needs to sit near the door into the room and a more timid cat might not then feel comfortable enough to want to walk past and then use the box.

This can happen even if the cats aren't super enemies or anything, more that some cats just don't want to be near other cats when they go to the toilet, so having the boxes more spread out, in different rooms gives them more choice so it's a lot more likely they'll stick to the boxes.
post #26 of 27
I think it's really great that you are trying everything and not just giving up on them. Good for you, they are lucky kitties.
post #27 of 27
10 cats and 3 dogs here with just a little more square footage than you have. I have 5 oversized litter boxes that are spread around the house. If I put them in a single room, they would eliminate all over the house. Each cat has their favorite box(es) to use and they select the ones they use carefully to get away from the others. When I have health problems when a cat stops using a box, I add Cat Attract litter additive to the boxes.

And yes, I have dogs that graze in the litter boxes. To solve this, I have 3 of the boxes covered with a large box with a hole cut out. It's made from wood and covered in carpet so they also work as benches. The 4th box is in our utility room with the door open enough for cats to enter and not the dogs. The last box is in our bathroom and we have simply trained the dogs that they are not allowed in that room.

Nature's Miracle doesn't really work - a cat will return to that spot regardless of how much you have saturated it. Nok Out works exponentially better. And pee goes into wood floors, so you still have to saturate it if they go on that surface.

Many years ago, with an equal number of cats, I suffered thru the same issues that you face now. I also had to rip out the carpet, sand down the wood floors underneath, and seal them with industrial strength varnish. So I got more boxes, spread them out in the house, used the right cleaners, tested different litters to find out one that they liked the best, added Cat Attract when necessary, and enriched the house with cat condos, toys and other things to keep them entertained. When I have issues now, it is always health related.

You mentioned that you use a sawdust type litter. Maybe they simply don't like it? Do the side by side litter box test: use different litters in your boxes and see which ones they choose to use.

You can move them to the outdoor enclosure, but there are other things you can still try within your home.
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