DEAR JOAN: I am writing to you on behalf of my daughter, who has run out of solutions for dealing with her 6-year-old indoor female cat that is urinating on the carpet two to three times a week.
She has taken Nina to the veterinarian to rule out any medical condition.
My daughter and her husband moved to Nevada about a year ago and my daughter, who used to work at home now commutes to work on a daily basis.
Shortly after the move, they noticed wet spots on the new carpet. For the most part, Nina will use the litter boxes (two are available in the two-story apartment), which are kept clean and filled.
They have placed puddle pads where she has urinated. This has helped keep the carpet clean, although sometimes she misses the pad. They, of course, would prefer she use the litter box instead.
Do you have any suggestions as to why this is happening and how this bad habit can be broken?
DEAR MARY: I'm glad that your daughter took Nina to the vet. That's always the first step.
In the absence of a medical problem, I suspect that Nina was knocked a bit off-balance by the move and your daughter no longer working from home. It isn't a spiteful thing; she probably was just uneasy in her new surroundings.
Unfortunately, it has now likely developed into a habit, but it can be broken.
I found some great tips for employing a two-step method for dealing with the problem, and it is simplicity itself.
Make the litter boxes irresistible while making other spots unattractive.
Start out with new litter boxes and clean litter. Cats can have their own preferences, but usually the fine-grain litter is a favorite.
Avoid the scented brands. Even some unscented litters can have a slight perfume.
I recently received a sample of Fresh Step Lightweight Extreme litter, and as I don't have a cat at the moment, I gave it a friend to try. She reports that her cats, who are notorious for performing outside the box, have now started using the litter box regularly, so your daughter might want to give it a try, too.
Cats are very private creatures and don't like to be watched in the box. Place the boxes in quiet, secluded areas and maybe even put up a screen to give Nina some privacy. Some cats like enclosed boxes -- mine did -- but others don't.
If the box is on tile or another smooth surface, put a rug under it so Nina can use it to do a bit of scratching around. Lastly, be sure to keep the litter boxes clean, scooping at least once a day, and dumping litter and washing out the box at least once a month. And don't overfill the boxes -- two to three inches is plenty.
As for making the other areas unattractive, be sure to clean them thoroughly, not only to remove the urine, but to remove the odor, which we might not even detect. Don't use ammonia or products with it. To a cat, that smells like urine, and they will attempt to cover that scent with their own.
Once the spots are clean and dry, put down a sheet of aluminum foil to keep Nina from reusing them. Leave them in place until Nina shows no interest in them and starts using her box.
Nina doesn't realize that what she's doing is wrong, so punishing her will only make the matter worse. Love and patience is key.