Why Cats Pee on Your Stuff – A Veterinarian’s Perspective

Sep 5, 2013 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Behavior, Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

In a recent blog contribution, Dr. Ray recommended trying to evaluate a cat’s litter box from a cat’s perspective.  Boy, was his article timely!  I just had one of the more frustrating conversations I have had with a client about their cats that were not reliably using their boxes and feel really badly for this owner’s cats, because the owner was not willing to listen to what I had to say about making the litter boxes desirable for the cats, not him.  I get that we want cats to easily integrate into our homes and that one of their more desirable characteristics is that they are supposed to be clean and low maintenance, but the reality is that though cats have been domesticated, they remain guided mostly by their instincts.

For more than two decades now, people have recognized that for most cats it is not safe for them to roam freely outdoors.  Cats have become cherished family members rather than utilitarian mousers that were almost considered by some to be disposable.  I absolutely celebrate this fact, but am disturbed that a lot of cat owners don’t take the time to learn about cat care and how to create the optimum environment for one or more cats when they bring home a cat.  Most people wouldn’t think about getting a reptile or another exotic pet without making sure they insured the pet would have the right habitat, but lots of people with take home a kitten and assume providing food and water and a litter box is all they will need.

The reality is that though most cats are low maintenance, the environment from their perspective (read not ours) is super important for the cat to thrive and to be healthy.  It is paramount that all cat owners understand the concept of resource availability as a cat sees it.  Resources for a cat refers to their ability to procure food, water, a comfortable place to rest and access to their litter pan without feeling threatened. Keep in mind that what a cat is threatened by can be very different than what a person is threatened by.  Just like people’s personalities and anxiety levels vary, cats are not all wired the same.  And just because a cat is a cat and another cat is a cat, it doesn’t mean they will like each other any more than two strangers will like one another.  Think about it – would you meet a stranger on the street and within minutes ask that person to come home to live with you?  That is sort of what most of us do when we acquire cats and decide to get them a cat buddy.  We bring the buddy cat home and tell the original cat to enjoy their new friend.  What if they don’t have any “chemistry” together?

So, let’s continue to celebrate cats and protect them from the various threats they can encounter outdoors, but let’s all try real hard to remember to periodically evaluate the home we offer our cat or cats from a cat’s perspective.  Those of us who want to share our home with a cat, need to remember that is what we are doing. We are sharing, so it can’t be all on our terms!

Dr Diane Eigner

Diane Eigner graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School in 1980. Dr. Eigner established her exclusively feline practice, The Cat Doctor, in Philadelphia in 1983, and began offering house call services at the Jersey Shore in 1991. She is a past president of the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinary School Alumni Society, a Past President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and is a member of the advisory board of Harcum Junior College’s Veterinary Technical School. Diane has been the consulting veterinarian for the Morris Animal Refuge since 1983. Doctor Eigner’s column “Ask The Cat Doctor” appeared in the Cat Fancier’s Almanac from 1996-2000. Diane joined the Catalyst Council’s board as the American Association of Feline Practitioner’s representative in 2009. She is now serving as the immediate past-chair of the Catalyst Council.

An avid Sailor, Diane loves nothing better than to be at the Jersey shore where she keeps her sailboat, Purrfect, and where she has a second home. Since meeting her husband, Fred Turoff, Temple University’s Men’s gymnastics team head coach, her family life has been dominated by men’s gymnastics. Her son Evan is a level ten gymnast that competes nationally and will join her husband’s division I men’s gymnastics team in the fall.. Diane also shares her life with three very entertaining cats. Though she shouldn’t have a favorite, her Sphynx cat, Velvet, which she rescued at the shelter where she consults, is the cat love of her life. Her integrated home also includes a Welsh Corgi named Twinks, two Cornish Rex cats, Naui and Padi and a Russian Tortoise.

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Philadelphia, PA 19130

Phone: (215) 561-7668
Fax: (215) 561-3616
Email: meow@thecatdr.com

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  • VetChangesWorld

    Blown away by the wonderful resources that have been coming out from the Catalyst Council and AAFP to help us and our clients better understand cats. I use “The Household Resources Survey” for owners as well as the “10 Commandments for Cat Management” with my owners a lot. So much of their behavior makes perfect sense the more you know about what’s normal for them.

    Thank you guys for all your doing for kitties everywhere!

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