5

3 months ago, we brought a new cat home. She is just over a year old now, and took a couple of weeks before she was comfortable roaming our apartment. During that time, we had the litter box tucked away besides the couch because under the couch is her "safe zone". Since then we've moved the litter box to an area where it is still out of sight, but the odor doesn't get to us.

Regarding the litter box, we keep it filled up about 2-3 inches of Arm and Hammer litter. We clean the litter box twice a week on wednesdays and saturdays.

Approximately every week or two, we'll come home to find poop on our bed. Sometimes she'll do it when we're in the living room. I've noticed that occasionally she'll sit on the half-wall shelf near our bedroom door and constantly meow at us. This seems to coincide with when she's left the gift.

Luckily we have plenty of sheets available, but it is getting agitating either way. When we check the litter box afterwards, we find that there is some poop and some chunks of solidified litter from the urine. However it is not much and usually requires a bit of digging before we find anything.

I am confused as how to get her to stop. She is obviously aware that it is a bad thing. She typically hides under the couch until the next day, and she'll actively avoid us if she tries to go out for food and water. The first few times she did it, I brought her over to show her that pooping on the bed was wrong, but I don't know if it left the right impression.

What can I do to get her to stop?

9

She is obviously aware that it is a bad thing. She typically hides under the couch until the next day, and she'll actively avoid us if she tries to go out for food and water. The first few times she did it, I brought her over to show her that pooping on the bed was wrong, but I don't know if it left the right impression.

I can almost guarantee that this left the wrong impression. The fact that she's trying to avoid you and hide from you means that she's scared of what's going to happen if you catch her. She knows that after going on the bed, something is going to happen that she doesn't like, not that going on the bed itself is bad. There's a common misconception that dogs and cats can know when they're doing something bad or good, when they can't really, but they can associate the events that come after their actions.

That's the idea behind positive re-enforcement, is that it builds the connections between an action, and receiving a positive reward afterwards. Again, this doesn't mean that they know what they're doing is good, they just know that good things happen if they do it.

Dogs are awfully eager to please when they know they're going to get a rewards for obeying, but unfortunately cats haven't been selectively bred for obedience as dogs have. People want cats to be independant. But all that just means that it takes more work and patience to train them, not that it's impossible.

First off, I think that there are two things going on here.

  1. She is using the same spot because it smells like her urine. Cat urine is very high in ammonia so it's extremely difficult to clean out completely. Also consider that even though you might not be able to smell it, your cat still could. Cat's are hardwired to detect cat urine, since they use it to send messages for things like territory borders and when they're in heat.

  2. Stressed cats typically avoid litter boxes. There are many reasons why that is, and I'm not well versed enough in cat behaviour to say why, but for whatever reason, cats tend to go outside the litter box when they're under stress. Considering how she's acting scared for a few days after, I think it's safe to say there's some stress being cause of her fearing whatever punishment she receives for going on the bed. But, it's important to note that it could also be stress from a medical issue, like say a urinary tract infection, and you would want to take her to a vet to make sure.

My advice to you is to make sure that the cat urine is cleaned out of the sheets and mattress completely. Use a strong pet cleaner like nature's miracle to attack the mattress. Luckily we have another question that's been asked about removing urine from a mattress: How can I get old cat urine smell out of a mattress?

It might also be a good idea, if it's a possibility, to restrict your cat's access to the bedroom. Keep the door closed for a week or two and see if she can't get back into the habit of using the litterbox.

The absolutely most difficult part of it (believe me, I've been through it too) is when you find a mess, you have to completely ignore her. You're going to have to act like nothing happened so that she realizes that whatever she's afraid of happening after she goes isn't anything she needs to be stressed about. It's going to try your patience, because it will take quite a bit of time for this to happen, but after she stops being stressed she should be more comfortable using her litterbox again.

I assume you've had her for a while, so she should know where her litterbox is located, but it might not hurt to re-acquaint her with it. If your bedroom is closer to where she normally spends her time than her litterbox, than maybe she's having trouble getting to the litterbox in time. This could be a sign of a medical issue, and again you'll want to have her looked at by a vet.

If it's not a medical issue, you can treat it the same as you would with a kitten. You want her to relearn how long it takes for her to get to the litterbox from different areas of the house. So say the litterbox is in the basement, you would want her to stay in the basement for a week or two, and once she learns how long it takes to get to the litterbox from a room or two away, then you can let her go a bit farther until she knows how soon she needs to make her way to the litterbox from the farthest point in the house to make it on time.

It might not be a bad idea to have a second litterbox at the other side of the house that the other litterbox is at though. Depending on how much space you're dealing with of course. It might not be necessary in a small apartment.

You might also want to consider trying out some different types of cat litter. Cats are pretty picky and like kids and vegetables their preferences can change. Perhaps the litter doesn't mask the smell of their urine/feces enough, or even the opposite where the scent of the litter is too strong.

Finally, something that might help in the training, and calming down stress department. There are a variety of cat calming aids available. Something like the ComfortZone diffuser, assuming it works in helping control the stress and anxiety your cat might be having, would be useful to use if you can identify when your cat is acting most stressed. Separation anxiety for an example, you could turn it on as you leave, and slowly dial it back as you work on training to combat the anxiety.

  • I'm going to go ahead and mark this the answer, especially for the negative reinforcement part. I did talk about this with my parents and they said the same thing. Unfortunately she gets anxious when she can't sleep near someone, amd has figured out how to open the bedroom door on her own. – user2579 Nov 17 '14 at 16:42
  • @Thebluefish That reminds me, I know there are anxiety diffusers that look like glade plugins. They're supposed to help cats with anxiety by using a sort of calming scent and pheromones. I've never used those, but I have used a sort of pasty treat filling that essentially did the same thing for a long car ride once. It might be something to look at to help with the training process, worst case scenario if your cat has anxiety problems that it can't handle, I think there are prescriptions you can get from a vet to help. – Spidercat Nov 17 '14 at 16:52
  • @Thebluefish It might not be a bad idea to ask a new question about how to help her control her anxiety with sleeping. I think getting her attached to sleeping with a small stuffed animal might help, and there are even ones that you can warm up either in the microwave, or plugged in like a heated blanket. But I'm sure there's plenty of solutions that other people can think of for that. – Spidercat Nov 17 '14 at 16:55
7

I would suggest that you clean the Litterbox much more regularly than 2 times a week. We clean ours at least twice daily. Imagine only flushing your toilet twice a week - would you want to use it after 3 or 4 days of no flushing? Cats are just as particular as we are when it comes to this. I find that cats much prefer clean litter boxes. Plus it keeps odors down.

1

In my experience, cats who sometimes use the litter box but sometimes go to the bathroom in a different and specific location are generally trying to tell you something. It frequently is in a bed or a specific location in the house.

The fact that it commonly occurs around the time that she is meowing at you repeatedly seems to reinforce this idea. It sounds like she may be doing it when she feels like she isn't getting enough attention or is otherwise upset about something.

It could be many things, like perhaps she doesn't like her food or litter. One of the first things I would try is swapping out the litter for a different kind. You may try a very plain litter that's pretty much just clay, or you could go the other way and try one of the attraction litters. You may try switching her to different food. If she's mostly eating dry food you will also want to be careful about dumping out and refilling her water bowl, and cleaning it from time to time. If the bowl feels slimy when you touch it, it should be cleaned. My cat doesn't care what her water is like when she has been eating mostly wet food, but will quickly get angry with me if I don't swap out her water when she's been eating mostly dry food.

I would also try giving her more consistent attention. I've noticed with my cat that she will often act like she doesn't want attention, but if I (gently) insist then she quickly becomes very docile and cuddly. This usually consists of picking her up and starting to pet her, and then when she jumps away I gently pick her up again. (I usually try to very softly restrain her while still allowing her to leave if she wants. Wrapping my arms around her so that she has to climb over them to get out works well). If she doesn't settle down after a few times it usually means she doesn't want attention and I leave her alone.

When I don't pay enough attention to her over time she will start freaking out completely every once in a while and just start tearing around the house and running wild. I think this may be her form of pooping on my bed. Reacting to this with firm but gentle affection completely stops this behavior. Generally this consists of me yelling her name once in a loud and firm tone to get her attention, followed by affection and sometimes kitty treats.

Something I've noticed that is very counter-intuitive with cats is that negative reinforcement does not normally work very well. Your cat probably knows that you don't like poop on the bed - that's why she hides. Negative reinforcement in this scenario will not teach her anything. You may think that giving her extra attention when she's being bad will encourage bad behaviors - but in my experience it actually does the opposite. Positive reinforcement will help reinforce the bond between you and your cat and make her more likely to avoid behaviors that she knows you do not like. Negative reinforcement seems to make cats act much more combative as they will rebel against being controlled in this fashion. You want to convince her that she does not want to poop on the bed as opposed to convincing her that you don't want her to.

I've never had litter box issues with a cat, but this is how I train my cats not to use their claws as I can't be bothered clipping them. My cat, who lived on the streets for most of her life, used to pop her (very sharp) claws out any time I did something she didn't like such as brushing her fur the wrong way, picking her up when she didn't want to be, etc. She even clawed my eyeball once and scratched my schlera pretty badly when she didn't want to be brushed. Now she never uses her claws, even when I'm drunk and insist on holding her for way longer than she wants to be held ;).

I've never punished her or yelled at her for clawing me, she just doesn't want to because she knows from my reaction that I don't like it and we're now very close.

None of this is scientific at all - this is just my own personal theory on interacting with cats. It seems to work well for me but it probably doesn't apply to every cat.

I wish you luck!

0

I agree with the accepted answer. I also wanted to suggest a few things that may be helpful:

1) In my experience with my sister's cat (we babysat him for several years) he would not go in the litterbox if it had a single deposit in it - number 1 or number 2. We finally gave up and bought an expensive (but worth every penny) litterbox that has a motion sensor in it. You use clumping litter, and 10 min after the cat is finished, an automated arm rakes through the litter and deposits any waste into a closed box.

2) My friends co-owned a cat for several years as roommates. They noticed that the cat pooed on the bed of only one roommate - the who snuggled and picked up the cat even when the cat squirmed to get away. They put two and two together and the cat stopped when the person stopped the unwanted snuggling! Cats.

3) My roommate's cat was terrified of the sound and movement of the sump-pump in our basement. She didn't poop there for the days it was raining and the sump-pump was active. Are there any strange noises, smells, movements or sounds in the new place you've placed the litterbox that might make your cat uncomfortable?

Good luck!

0

Yes, twice a week isn’t enough. It may be just that simple to fix. I have two cats and I scoop twice daily. It is actually much easier to scoop out the hard matter everyday as well as more sanitary for everyone in the house besides the cat.

-2

There's always the cliché approach of negative reinforcement. The problem is, unless you catch them in the act, and "punish" them immediately, they'll never be able to associate their behaviour with you being mean to them.

I would try lightly spritzing them with a spray bottle when you catch them, but only if you actually catch them doing it. If your cat knows it's wrong (as you think), but does it regardless, then unfortunately, they're a dick (unless they have another reason). At least in humans, "dickish" behaviour is never easy to iron out.

Good luck

Edit: I just had an idea. You could try putting a blanket in the litter box (not a longterm solution). They might have found the litter box material to be uncomfortable, and found your bed as a cosy alternative.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy