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Behavior problems in new cat

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
A month ago I adopted a three-year-old neutered cat from the shelter. He was previously owned and very domesticated and seems generally mellow in temperament, but I am having problems with him I can’t seem to solve.

He seems afraid of my living room. I have a large window and outside that is a balcony where many resident and stray cats walk by (though it seems to be the people walking by who make my cat run away the most). I have been spraying cat deterrent on the balcony and door outside to help with the other cats, and the blinds are closed at night, which is when my cat’s behavior problems happen.

The first two weeks I kept him out of my bedroom at night, and he kept me up all night long meowing and howling and scratching at the door. And once each night he would either pee or defecate on one of two chairs in the living room. Finally I let him in to sleep with me, and now he seems much happier and calmer – and whereas he used to spend a lot of time under the bed, he has been spending more time in the living room, mostly when I am there but sometimes when I am not.

I had been using Feliway spray every night on the affected areas. (Which, FYI, I cleaned using a blacklight and enzyme cleaner and which seemed very clean.) Then for the past two nights I decided not to spray – it had been a month and I wanted to taper off since everything was going so well. Also, the bottle of Feliway is almost empty, and I can’t be spending $30-plus a month on Feliway. After two nights without it, he peed on a chair again.

I did take him to the vet to assess medical issues. He’d had blood in his urine the first day home from the shelter, but the urinary symptoms cleared up on their own and by the time we got to the vet, the vet said he was recovered, no bacteria or infection or white blood cell abnormality. And the idea that he may still have bladder issues seems ruled out by the fact that he once defecated on the chair instead. I feel pretty sure this is behavioral.

On to the litter box. I use crystal litter and he seems to have liked it since the beginning. He scratches in it like crazy (indicating that he isn’t put off by the texture), he covers after himself, and he urinates and defecates in the litter box with absolute regularity at all other times except for this once-a-night thing. I haven’t changed the litter yet (it’s been three weeks and supposedly crystal litter only needs changing once a month) but it has very little odor.

One night I even slept in the living room to see if that would change his behavior, but he went and peed on a chair while I was sleeping, and then I caught him trying to do it a second time (I clapped my hands, having read that a loud noise was a good deterrent). But I haven’t been there any other time he’s done it.

I could try tinfoil and putting food under the chairs (since supposedly they won’t go to the bathroom where they eat). But, after my experience with the Feliway, I wonder what’s gong to stop him from going right back to the behavior once I take the tinfoil and/or food away? I can’t go through life with tinfoil-covered furniture.

I’m frustrated and exhausted from trying to figure out what is causing this. I’ve tried everything and spent so much money on products. And I’ve given him so much attention.
post #2 of 13
I could give you my usual advice about kitties that decide to poop/pee elsewhere other than the litterbox (which I'll include after what I'm about to say, just in case it helps), but it seems like he's voicing his great discomfort at having to stay in the livingroom at night. It sounds to me like he's a little freaked out by something that occurs at night, or someone (probably another cat) that comes by around the same time every night. There are some cats that are persistant even to cat-deterrant spray, so it might be another tomcat that's quite aggressive that he's afraid of.

A couple of questions before I give my usual advice:

How big is your kitty? Is he large, average-sized, small?

Does he normally hide when new people come into the house?

Does he hide when someone knocks or rings the doorbell?

Does he hide when the mailman comes by (if you're in a house that has a mailbox by the front door)?

Does he seem a bit skittish with normal everyday things? Or is he normally pretty social?

I just want to get a good idea of what your baby is like before I say anything other than my usual advice.

Now, on to my usual...lol...

There could be lots of reasons for him doing this.

Some things that should help...

Sometimes kitties get very finicky about exactly how their litterbox is set up, and where. That could possibly be the problem here, with the exception of the fact that he doesn't seem to have any problem using it other than that time of night. It sounds like he doesn't have a problem with the litter you're using, so I'm sure that's not the problem.

As for my own experience with litterbox preferences: Our boy, Hobbes wanted one litterbox to poop in and one to pee in, he didn't like hooded litterboxes, and he liked it pristinely clean. I found a couple websites that helped me understand exactly what it was that I could try that would help, and it really did. One good thing is the fact that he's now outgrown his pickiness about wanting two and wanting them in such perfect condition, now that he's two!

Here are a couple websites that should help:




A couple tips:

Cats don't usually like the plastic liners some people use in litterboxes (it's something to do with the sound they make, I think).

Some cats don't like the hooded boxes.

Cats at times don't like the box to be anywhere that they also have to eat and drink.

Sometimes the problem is just that the box isn't somewhere private enough. They only like to "go" somewhere that is low-traffic, quiet, and very private.

Hope all that helps a bit. Ya never know...

Let me know how it goes, and let me know about the things I asked.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the quick reply and for your advice.

He is a medium-sized (11 pounds) angora mix. He is skittish about hearing the mailman and having people walk past the apartment; however, he isn't timid around visitors, is easy to handle, and as the vet remarked, acts mellow and unafraid in a situation where most normal cats would be afraid. As for being social, he likes to sit near people, to play and will come around and "talk" to you; but he doesn't sit on laps or like to be petted or held for long. This is why I'm a bit confused -- it's like I'm dealing with two different animals. My family's had cats before, so I generally know what a scared cat looks like, and he doesn't seem like that.

No hood or liners on the litterbox. It's in a quiet bathroom and far from food.

I should have mentioned -- I think this once-a-night accident is often happening at sunrise. I've observed him at this time of day going a bit crazy -- meowing, howling, scratching, and then the relieving himself in the living room. I know some cats get exciteable at dawn, so that could be it. The only other thing that happens at that time is a lot of bird song... sometimes he tries to see out the window, which I assume means he's trying to look at the birds, but most of the time he runs away when he sees any movement out the window, including birds (like I said, he's a strange cat).

I too thought it was the staying in the living room element that was frightening him, since after I switched to allowing him free run of the bedroom at night, the behavior stopped... until last night. So now I'm confused again. He spent most of the night sleeping next to me, and then (at dawn, I think, after trying to get me to wake up and be with him) went off to pee in the living room. And the night I saw him do it, he didn’t seem scared before or after he did it – he jumped up in the chair, and then got down, lay down a few feet away, and started happily licking himself.

If it is the other cats outside (or the birds), what could I do to fix that? Also, if he really is afraid of other cats, I don't get why he was calm and relaxed in the shelter, when he could actually *see* and smell many other cats, not to mention hear barking dogs.

I will read those links too. At this point I think he may need a therapist... or an exorcist.
post #4 of 13
Can you atleast confine him to the bathroom at night? And see if in the morning when you let him out if he still does it?
Would be curious to see what happens. I went through litterbox problems just this week with my kitten, and once I confined it seemed to work. Your cat is much older, set in his ways, and probably has a reason for doing this, but atleast your furniture would be protected...

I did buy one of those sprays to clean the areas with, worked ok,...And I got one of those repellants to keep them off certain stuff..

Although it did work, you have to keep applying..

What do you think?
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
I have heard that advice about confining to a space. But my bathroom is very small, and since I may be dealing with a stress issue, I don't want to make him more upset rather than less. Plus a month ago he spent eight days in a cage at the shelter, so I'd feel bad doing that... when he had to be put in a carrier at one point, he was not happy about it (not panicked, but he tried hard to get out).

He is older, and it's also a situation where I don't know what kind of home life he had before... I think good, since mostly his temperament is mellow, but he may be used to some thing or some routine that isn't replicated in my home.

What's weird is that he seems trainable and eager to please in other ways -- I've managed to get him to use a scratching post instead of the carpet, and eat kitty grass instead of my plants. When doing something he shouldn't, like trying to get into a cabinet, he often responds very well to a single "no" -- he instantly stops and lies down where he is. If I could catch him peeing on the chairs, I might have better luck stopping it. For now, I'm trying the tinfoil.
post #6 of 13
Sorry if you've already mentioned this, but have you tried using Feliway plug ins? I know they're expensive, but I've heard really great things about them. Maybe it would help calm him down. Maybe even if you used the spray, it would help. It really sounds to me like something is scaring him and he's reacting in this fashion. Another thing...is your window covered at all? Like drapes, or some such?
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
I have been using the Feliway spray for most of the month, but I'm not sure whether it's having any effect... it was just after I stopped using it that he had his latest accident, and he's reverted to spending more time under the bed. However, he did have several accidents during the period when I was using the Feliway... the thing that calmed him down (until this most recent outburst) was letting him spend nights in the bedroom.

No drapes, but I do have slatted vertical blinds. I close them at night, but I have to leave them open during the day, or my plants and orchids will die.

If things continue like this, I was thinking of going back to the vet to ask about anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. Do any of you have experience with this? How much does it cost and how long does the cat have to take it? Is it the sort of thing where a couple of months on the drug would ease the transition and break the habit of nighttime accidents, and then I could wean him off of it? I have some doubts about giving him a sedating drug, since he's already so mellow and is a laze-around type.
post #8 of 13
The Feliway plug-ins create a constant scent that should calm him quite a bit. Talk to your vet about it and see what he/she says. They cost a bit, but they're worth it! I would recommend it, ESPECIALLY if he was fine while you were using the spray and the behaviour has restarted since stopping its use.

You should really consider trying this before any kind of medication.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
The problem is, he wasn't fine when I was using the Feliway. During the weeks I was spraying it daily, he continued urinating and/or peeing on the chairs and showed signs of agitation, howling and meowing and scratching at dawn.

I resumed the Feliway yesterday, but I think I am going to only use up this bottle and then stop. There hasn't been any conclusive sign to me that it's affecting him. It seems even to be a slight aversive to him -- he used to sit on the couch, but won't since I started spraying it with Feliway.
post #10 of 13
Not sure if I understand everything correctly..But I do understand you not wanting to do the bathroom thing. Only because I couldnt stand it either, I kept letting the little kitten out. Even though he's tiny, space shouldnt have been a factor, I just hated confining period. Plus with a child around, To have to say KEEP THAT DOOR SHUT 100 times a day is stressful on anyone..

So I do understand your response to my first post..And the advice that I am gonna give now, if it doesnt make sense. Disregard it...
I am thinking that he was happy to sleep with you at night at first, because he hated that room , and was scared. And thats how the spraying started??

Well can you confine him to your room???
That way its really not confinement, its cuddle time..As long as he lets you sleep.But that way he cant get out there.

And see if you can get past the time he does it, then let him out....
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Yes, the worst of his peeing (definitely peeing and not spraying -- he squats) was happening at the beginning, when I was keeping him out of the bedroom. Then it stopped for a few weeks once I let him into the bedroom at night, but he's started again.

Keeping him in the bedroom is a good thought; maybe I will try it. I don't know how he'll take it... he seems to react angrily to any closed doors in the apartment and being limited in any way from roaming freely. He acts agitated and scratches at closed cabinet and closet doors, too, meowing in the same way that he does those nights he has accidents... so I try to distract him and calm him down.
post #12 of 13
Try it, what can it hurt...I would even put everything you have for the cat in that room..That way maybe he will be distracted..Even put down his dinner when you go to bed..
All the toys, etc..scratching posts, if you have any...

And see if it doesnt happen..The worst that could happen is he sprays once again, but I have a feeling he might not if he cant get to that spot..Just keep him in there till the "time of day" he usually does it passes..

Let us know I am curious..Im moving myself to a new house, so Im nervous about taking mine, I hope it all goes well. I would hate to start off in a new house smelling not so good scents
post #13 of 13
Did you try this yet??? just curious
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