Can’t teach an old cat new tricks.

May 12, 2008 at 11:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

So Puck has had… ummm… issues since we brought Baby O home.

I admit he’s always been pretty spoiled. In the 11 years I’ve had him, he’s slept with me every night. I’ve gotten up at ungodly hours of the morning to feed him when he meows. And Puck’s approval of my boyfriend was on my list of things a guy needed to prove in order for me to date him long term.

He’s been my needy affectionate loving cat for years now. And an ONLY cat, too.

So when we brough Baby O home, I expected that he’d retreat to his safe places in the house and sulk.

I didn’t expect for him to start peeing outside his litterpan.

Which he did, literally a DAY after we brought the baby home. And again the week after. And then a couple of days later.

And now it’s become HABIT.

His favorite spot is on our brand new carpet on the stairs. On the gorgeous, not-even-a-year-old carpet we had installed last July.

And thus the battle has been trying to a) get the ungodly smell of cat pee out of the carpet, and b) make it so that he doesn’t go there again.

For the smell, we’ve tried a pet urine neutralizer, which seems to work well. Except he keeps going there. Again and again, we’ve found a wet smelly spot every couple of days. We’ve tried everything – put furniture over the spot. We’ve given Puck extra attention. Have been really good about keeping his own litterpan clean – I scoop it daily and replace the litter weekly.

To no avail. And this weekend, it got worse. Saturday night, when Baby O cried, Puck jumped off our bed and went downstairs. We found a wet patch of carpet the next day. Which we neutralized.

So last night we put down a plastic garbage bag over the offending area. And when we woke up this morning? There was a yellow puddle on the garbage bag. So J cleaned it up and put a new garbage bag down at about 5:30am.

By 7am… there was ANOTHER puddle.

I called the vet and made an appointment with them tomorrow for him to get tested to see if it’s a physical issue. Which I doubt, but we need to rule it out.

In the meantime, I have no idea what I’m going to do. I closed the living room pocket door and the door to the study so he can’t get to the stairs today. (He’s currently huddled under the kitchen table.)

And I’d lock him downstairs overnight, except I’m afraid he’d pee on something else in the house. At least his spot is KNOWN, right?

It’s only going to get worse as time goes on and Baby O starts to be interested in him. And then when Baby O crawls. And then when Baby O walks.

I am at my wits end and am actually considering the unthinkable- getting rid of the cat. Giving him away to a home where he’s the only cat. Because I have to think that the level of stress which is causing him to pee in our house isn’t good for HIM either, you know? And he deserves to live out the rest of his life in comfort and peace.

But Puck has been my only constant since I graduated college. And it breaks my heart to even contemplate giving him away. But we’ve literally tried everything to get him to stop.

I love my cat, but we can’t continue to live like this.

So that’s my newest stress.

If you have any assvice, I’d love to hear it. I know that we’re going to have to rip out the carpet and do something different with the landing. We’re talking about installing hardwood. But I’m not sure that it’ll fix the root problem – that we have a baby in the house and our cat is acting out.




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  1. I’m so, so sorry you have to deal with this problem!! Sometimes the right thing to do isn’t necessarily the easiest option to pursue. 😦 I know whatever decision you come to will be carefully thought out and will have the interests of everyone in mind.


  2. I know some people recommend temporarily putting a little box in the spot that the cat is going. Definitely not ideal since it is in your landing, but still better than having to clean the carpet daily. Then once the cat is consistently using that litterbox, slowly move it to a better spot.

    Good luck with it! I’m hoping we don’t have the same problem. I’ve been trying to pay less attention to our cat now, but he’s always been my baby, so it’s hard

  3. Try Feliway spray and the Feliway Diffuser. It worked for my cat who was going outside his litter box. It is not cheap, but it somehow works. You can order it on-line at a million places, including eBay and Amazon.

  4. Good suggestion, soapchick – but we HAVE tried it too. Bought the spray two weeks ago… and he’s gone MORE since we’ve tried it then when we didn’t. 😦

    It’s a great suggestion, though – seems to work in the majority of cases.

  5. Check out this blog, she had the same exact problem (but when her daughter got a bit older.) They have pretty much solved it by adding a litter box.

    Good luck!

  6. Has the cat spent much time with the baby? Have you encouraged him to sit with the baby and try to play with him or cuddle him when you’re holding O? I’m just wondering if it’s a case of needing to integrate the cat with the kid.
    My mom told me that when she had brought me home from the hospital our cat, Stinky, seemed leery of me – no doubt wondering what this ugly, boring cat was doing in her house. So my mom set me down on the bed in my carrier and let Stinky jump up and sniff all around me and check me out. Stinky apparently then decided I wasn’t anything interesting or any threat and went about her business.
    Granted, this sounds like quite a bit more of an issue than the Stinky thing as she was only with my mom and dad a year or so before I came along and it seems Puck has had you to himself for quite a while. It sounds similar to when people have an older child and then a baby comes along and the older child starts acting out. Maybe if you went about it as if you needed to help an older child warm up to the baby by encouraging playing and helping with caring for the baby…
    It may sound weird, but that’s what I’d try. Especially if no medical problem was discovered.
    Good luck. I hope this works out as I imagine Puck would be happier with you, even if that new ugly cat is still around! If only you could just explain to him that he’s got to knock off the peeing thing or he’s got to go! 😉

  7. We had this SAME problem. Our cats (we have two) were pooping on the basement rug. After a year of constantly picking it up and deep cleaning the rug, we moved the litterbox to the unfinished part of the basement and now we don’t have the problem anymore. I would suggest putting it on a hard floor, uncarpeted where he can’t scratch and have it feel as though it’s litter.

  8. Not a lot of assvice here. Mainly because if you fix the problem in one area chances are Puck is going to find another place. It’s not like Puck’s box is in an out of the way place either. Cripes. My cats would LOVE it if their litter box was so available.

    He’s making it very clear to you that he does not approve of this new addition. Your vet may have some good suggestions on how to curb this behavior humanely and safely.

    Good luck.

  9. I have a cat who does something similar…peeing either on clothes that are on the floor, or sometimes just on the floor itself. One thing that I did read was that cats do not like their food/water anywhere near where they potty. So one possible thing to try would be to move her food/water on top of the spot he usually pees. He may stop, or he may just pick a new spot. The other thing to try would be to move his box onto that spot to let him know that he’s supposed to be doing it in there. Cats are not stupid and, despite vets who have told us that cats are not purposely vengeful, I’ve known several who will pee where they’re not supposed to when they’re pissed off. I hope you don’t have to get rid of him! I know it would break my heart if I had to do that with mine. Good luck!

  10. Definitely DO NOT use plastic bags. That’s an open invitation to pee, actually.

    Instead try taping down some strips of tin foil in his new favorite spots.

    As for long term? I actually hope this is something biophysical and not social as you can take different actions on the bio to help eliminate the problem. Social? Unfortunately, there’s only one solution, and neither you or the cat will like it.

  11. People have suggested moving his box, but I think I would use a disposable box and leave his regular box where it is. For one, the disposable ones are smaller, and the spot being on the stairs may make that important.

    My cat held out for 8 wks before he finally accepted our little one. He is now able to hang with me and baby without the stress. Hopefully time will cure this issue if all else fails.

  12. I don’t know if this is something that you’ve already tried or if it will help at all. I used to have a cat that was a master of the passive aggressive pee. He started doing it when I forced him to be an inside cat. He would ONLY pee outside his litter box when I was at home because he wanted me to know he was doing it. He even gave me a vocal warning in advance. My cat was very food motivated, so I started giving him a treat whenever he used the litter box. He figured this out within less than 48 hours and for the remaining 11 years of his life would frequently fake using his litter box for a treat. This may or may not work with your cat, but try to find out what he really likes, and reward him when he makes his deposits in the appropriate place. I’m sorry you’re going through this on top of taking care of a newborn. I’m sure your vet will have some good advice on this subject. Good luck!

  13. No assvice here, jut interested in the comments and possible solutions. Our cat poops on the floor when she’s stressed (and soemtimes for giggles) so I feel your pain.


  14. Mimi (an only child for 11 years and sleeps with me every night) was totally freaked out when we brought the baby home. She ran whenever Lu cried and developed a leaky eye after a few months. The vet said it was a latent illness reactivated by stress. It took about 4 or 5 months for Mimi to relax and she’s great around Lu these day. It got easier when Lu stopped crying so much and I had a little more kitty time with her. So my assvice is to give Puck some more time to adjust. Easy for me to say, I know. My cat didn’t pee all over the place. Good luck!

  15. My cat was going outside the box (before lily) and it turned out he had a UTI! Who would’ve thunk it? Although, I dont think that is the problem bc it seems too coincidental since Baby o just came home.

    One thing that’ll work to protect your carpet is to put down tin foil in the soiled places and he’ll steer VERY clear of these spots! We did that with our cat and it worked WONDERS!! Cats HATE tin foil! We actually put a strip in front of our front door and door leading to the garage and HE NEVER even attempts to get out bc he’s so horrified by the tin foil. Looks silly having a strip there on the step, but it works wonders. Good luck and keep us posted!! Literally!!

  16. I know that our cat was peeing everywhere after bringing a new animal in. Come to find out, it was a uniary tract infection and he couldn’t help himself. I honestly think the vet appt. is a good step! Good Luck:)

  17. You got some great suggestions above that are worth trying for sure. I have no assvice. My only thought is that he might eventually adjust. I hope so because I can only imagine how difficult it would be for you to give him up!!!

    Good luck!


  18. I second the suggestion to try for some positive baby/kitty interactions.

    Our cat was acting out when we first brought the kids home by attacking me. Never while I was holding a baby, thankfully, but she’d make flying leaps at me. The crying, it drove her NUTS, and she clearly blamed me. If a baby was crying and I wasn’t actively trying to calm him down, she’d attack. It didn’t help that I was constantly having to shove her out of my way and not hold her in my lap anymore – her place was occupied.

    I started introducing her to the kids in small doses. Let her sniff, I let her curl up in their blankets and .. well, she loves the swing seat. And we have a spare (2 kids, 3 swings ..) so we let her have one. She can sit in my lap again, so long as I’m not feeding and she doesn’t sit ON the kid. It seems to have helped, her knowing that she’s a part of all this.

    I hope your vet has some good suggestions though. Cats are tough, like babies, since they can’t talk!

  19. Oh no! I hope you don’t have to give away your fur baby, that would be SO sad. I hope that some of the suggestions you have gotten have helped…I am a doggie person, personally, so no assvice from me.

  20. Not like you have any time, but when you do… try to pet your cat more. Give him as much extra attention as you possibly can — any time one of your hands is free, use it to pet him with. Give your husband the baby and hold the cat. Was there some activity pre-baby that he just loved? (Like chasing a string?) Do that with him every day. I don’t buy that cats are of low intelligence simply because they have little brains; nor do I buy that they’re not jealous and vindictive little critters. I’ve known too many cats!!

    Thanks to the other commenters about the aluminum foil on problem areas! I’ve never heard that, and am so glad to know that it will work! (One of our cats died a few months ago, most likely due to antifreeze unfortunately, but prior to that, he had been going anywhere *but* his litter box, and we were at our wits’ end! We ended up having to kick both the cats out of the house because he would poop and pee in every room of the house. I wish I knew this tip a year ago!)

    But think of it this way — the time you spend cleaning up after him could be used to pet him. As the baby gets a bit bigger, you’ll find that you do have a bit more “free” time — that is, time when you’re not actively holding the baby.

  21. My cousin’s cat actually did this…but when they brought new cats into the house…no kids but she has 4 cats in her big home.

    The vet actually gave her cat anxiety meds and it worked!! I don’t know what it was called….I can find out for you and comment the info back to you.


  22. We’ve had a cat with litter box issues once for an infection but she kept up the bad behavior once the infection cleared. I was told to isolate her where she had little choice were else to go and we literally locked her in the spare bathroom for what amounted to almost two weeks until she relearned her good litter box habits. We did let her out during that time but only when watched. so in effect she was locked up all night and all the work day. It sounds mean but it worked in this case. We have not had problems again. You really have to elminate the smell at the spots where they went outside the box completey or any technique won’t work. Cat pee is so hard to clean. We used an enzyme called natures miracle or something like that. If they smell the pee they will keep going there (and in houses with more than one cat the others will start to go there too.)

    I hope you get some advice from your vet.

    Very frustrating. What a pain.

  23. We are having similar issues with our cat. However, she bit our baby the other night. Not bad but broke skin and the baby had to be put on antibiotics just in case. I think I’ve finally come to the realization that we have to get rid of our first baby. :{

  24. Back up, back up, back up! Don’t panic! You aint tried nothin’ yet!

    Seriously, there are a whole lot of solutions, and the most obvious have been given above. The best thing is your cat is still using a pattern – peeing in the one place – so it’s predictable and easier to deal with. Personally, I wouldn’t start with the tinfoil. The cat is stressed and until you deal with that root cause I think you’ll just move the problem to a different place. There might be tinfoil in your future, I just wouldn’t use it as the first step.

    Good luck with your vet check – you’re perfectly right, there may be a physical problem and that needs to be ruled out.

    Then I would go for putting the litter tray in that spot. Yes, inconvenient, but at least he’ll relearn the litter tray/peeing connection and you won’t ruin your carpet, so it’s an improvement whilst you work on the main problem.

    You can then inch the tray back to a more convenient spot (this might be where the tinfoil comes in – as you inch the tray away, if he starts peeing back in the same spot, some tinfoil may discourage, and the litter tray is still right there to reinforce the correct place). Hopefully you are already thoroughly neutralising the odour, as this is important when you start to try and break the location (the smell will attract kitty back) so double-check your product choice with the vet tomorrow or, for preference, an animal behaviourist.

    You might discuss anxiety meds with your vet or talk about such products as a feliway infuser/spray (not sure what this would be marketed under the in US – just googled quickly and got all Australian sites but can guarantee there is a similar product over there and/or just order online). This type of product actually does work, more for some cats than others, but I swear I’ve seen the evidence with my own eyes and you generally will see an improvement. One of the big plusses is you don’t have to give the cat tablets, which often further stresses them.

    Talk to your vet about ways to make kitty feel secure – a baby-free area in the house is often a good one. Must be easily accessible and more or less free of baby smells (ie baby never goes in, even carried). Also remember your new-kitten settling to sleep tips if there’s a change of sleeping spot.

    Get your vet to recommend a good animal behaviourist.

    Cats can be taught new tricks, but it takes time. I would expect an adjustment period to last several months. And yes, after that there’ll be crawling and walking, but that might not cause as much of a problem in and of itself as you think – the new creature with the new smell may well be the biggest disruption.

    This doesn’t mean everything will definitely turn out rosy, so tuck the rehoming idea in the back of your mind in case you do need it later, but there’s a lot of things you can try first which may solve the problem. Rehoming will also be a disruption, so there’ll be some adjustment either way, it’s only a question of a) what unsettles your cat more and b) who deals with it.

    Wishing you the best of luck.


  25. I’d give it some more time–sometimes it can take months for cats to accept newness. For what it’s worth, we moved our high-need cat’s litter and food out into the garage before the baby was born…and it’s made life much easier with the baby here. We have a kitty door so she can come and go at will, but she spends alot of time out there eating and what nots which I think makes life happier for all of us.

  26. Well, you’ve gotten a lot of good advice, and I agree that the situation is not out of control yet. My cat started peeing in the corner of the living room after we moved, and there were a few things I did, after we ruled out a medical problem:

    1. Isolated the cat in the bathroom for a few weeks. She came out only when we could see her. Like Beagle said, it broke her of the behavior. Meanwhile, we treated the spot, and tried to get out the smell (which is tough).

    2. Placed additional pans at the pee spots. Over time, we got rid of one of the pans, but have left an additional pan out. It turned out that the pan spot we first selected didn’t pass muster, I guess. I know you are not dealing with a new move like we did, but maybe the change in schedule has freaked Puck out a bit, or maybe something is making it tough for him to get to the pan? So an additional pan may help ease his anxiety, if he really is targeting the same spot over and over again.

  27. Ugh, we had pee issues with Lucy both in this house and the last, and after speaking with many, many people it became quite clear that it’s an attachment issue. As in, you are Puck’s, and he is yours – and because he’s yours he’s going to make your things smell like him. Or something like that.

    Anyway, the best assvice we got was to clean the pee with just warm water, nothing with fragrance, and as disgusting as it sounds it actually works! She then doesn’t feel the need to cover the alien scent with her scent again and (touch wood) she seems to have stopped.

    Good luck with Puck, I’d hate the thought of him living without you after all these years.


  28. Vinegar to get the smell out and tin foil on the area to keep him off.

  29. We are vinegar fans here – MIL’s cat lives here and pees, though not regularly.

    Shelli over at has plenty of cat-pee-cleaning experience.

  30. Try Cat Attract litter additive if you haven’t already. I was at the end of my rope with this problem until I tried this one. I have to put it in midweek to make sure it still attracts her… Good luck!

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