An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Moving On

Dear Greyce, My name is Ted and I am a handsome, two-year-old, orange tabby. In my short life I have had four addresses and while I've been treated well in each of them, I've had to move on through no fault of my own.  (I became a stray when I was about a year old. Then a householder offered me temporary shelter because I cried under her porch every night for a week. She took my to another my purrson who looked after me well until she became very ill and could no longer care for me. And so on.) 

At present I live with Herself and Kato, a wise fourteen-year-old cat who tends to keep to himself. But Herself is moving out of the country! There are boxes all over the house and furniture is being moved.

The next while is going to be quite stressful for at least three reasons. First, several new (to me) adults will be visiting for a few weeks over the holidays. Kato knows them and assures me they are okay, but I'm always nervous with new people. Second, a few weeks after those people leave, Kato and I will move to our new home. Our new purrson is a good friend of Herself. Kato and I know her pretty well already. Third, our new household has two children (ages 9 and 13) whom we have not met. Did I mention that I'm nervous with new people?

Now it's not all scary. Herself assures us that this will be a good home. Kato and I will have separate, safe rooms. There are several carpeted staircases on which to run and from which to jump; I like to view things while seated on stairs (a great combination viewing and hiding spot, I think). There is a small park just out the door; we will be allowed to use it sometimes, just as we are able to now.

But the whole idea is a big challenge for me, Greyce. What do you advise?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Smooshie's Success

Somedays it is absolutely wonderful to be a cat advisor. For example, I've received a lovely note from Smooshie. You may recall she was having problems using her litterbox -- even though she was in it at the time, her waste would travel outside the box! (See entry: Stand and Deliver from October 29,2009) She wrote:

I've had a change of medication (no more sore joints thank you very much) AND a change of litterbox. I've been peeing with more comfort because Himself took your advice and made me a high-sided box just like the one you showed on your blog.  There's lots of room in the box to position myself. I no longer feel confined like I was in my previous, smaller boxes. I'm squatting down when I enter the box, with my bum facing the opening. And even though it faces that way, I don't pee outside the box!

Well Smooshie, all I can say is Congratulations and you DO look wonderful -- thank you for the photo. This is such wonderful news that I'd like to throw a catnip party!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Figgy's Funk -- Getting Over The Loss of a Dog

Dear Greyce, I am Figaro -- a four-year old, black female who lives indoors but goes outside. I deal with my household on my own terms; I have never been affectionate with most of its members -- two adults and their three children (ranging in age from 16 to 20) along with a rabbit and two rats. However I did have a soft spot for our Bull Terrier whom I'd known since I was a kitten. We developed a strong, mutual understanding; and although I was never as demonstrative as that rambunctious and cheerful dog, we loved each other. In the face of her demands for repeated attention, I would respond if and when I pleased. 

If I got locked out of the house at night, my beloved companion would bark until the purrsons would let me inside. When I'd stroll through the door, I'd show my respect for her efforts on my behalf by rubbing against her to mark her -- in acknowledgement of her higher rank in the household.

She died four months ago. Needless to say, I miss her terribly -- as does the rest of the family.

Since her death, my behaviour has changed. Depending on whom you talk to, there are slightly different pictures of what has happened, so I will try to stick to the facts as much as possible: 1) I used to sleep on one of the kid's beds. Now I sleep under the bed. And some believe I sleep more than I used to. 2)Apparently I look 'lost', as if I don't know family members. Some say I growl and hiss at them without provocation (hissing just like I do if someone interrupts me when I'm chattering at the birds outside or chasing other cats away from the yard). Others suggest that I just startle easily. 3) I am not interested in playing. But I am still eating well. And I will sit by the dining table when the family is eating there, in the hope of getting a human food treat.

I like to have control over my purrsonal space. So I have never liked to be touched by humans unless I approach them for the occasional stroke; then I purr. I haven't purred in a long time.

My humans are concerned about these changes and wonder what they could do to help me feel better. And they'd like to get another Bull Terrier and wonder if it would be okay to have a puppy join the household at this time. Would a puppy help me feel better?

Yours, Figaro (but you may call me, Figgy)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Coping with Loss -- Part 7 of Litterbox Blues

There is a song with the words, everybody's got a story that will break your heart. Daisy's story is one of them.

Dear Greyce, My world has turned upside down and I don't know what to do. There have been so many changes in my life that I can hardly keep them straight. So let me begin at the beginning and try to put you in the picture.

I am a senior (11 year old) black and white, Holstein-patterned, shorthaired cat who was the darling of her purrson. We spent a lot of time together; I would sit on her bed and she would fuss over me. I'm using the past tense because my purrson died, seven months ago. Since then all hell has broken loose.

Around the time that she died, there was a strange cat outside who unnerved me by hanging around the windows and spraying the front door. And then the adult human who lives here (along with her partner and a young, teenaged boy) developed a serious medical problem, the symptoms of which were scary and stressful. Then they (those humans) turned the place upsidedown -- packing things in boxes and carting them away, rearranging and getting rid of furniture. I couldn't even recognize the place! To add insult to injury, a male kitten invaded about three months ago and it sure looks like he is here to stay. He is very energetic and wants to play ALL the time. It gets on my nerves so I give him a swat but I lack the confidence to do anything else but run away.

I have been coping with these changes as best I can -- by NOT using my litterbox for anything. I've been doing this ever since my purrson died. It's a good box, filled with clumping litter and scooped clean every day. But I just can't use it. The humans are fed up because they say I've made a mess and its just too much for them. So now when everyone is away, I'm locked up in the bathroom. I pee in the shower stall and poop on the floor. And just the other day, when I was let out of the room I peed on the running shoes by the front door.

They think I am beyond redemption. My only advocate is my 'human aunt' who does not live here; and I cannot go to live with her because she already has several cats. Now they are talking about euthanasia. I wonder if there is another way to help me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cat Attract - Important Information

Dear Readers,

The unfortunate has happened and all because I was indulging in catnip as I was blogging. It makes my pupils enlarge and I find it difficult to focus. And so I didn't read all the print on the package of Cat Attract Litter Additive before I made my recommendations (see my blog entries: Turned Off the Box AND Good Habits Gone Bad). I forgot to mention that this litter additive should ONLY BY USED WITH UNSCENTED, CLUMPING LITTER. Please do not use it with any of the following litters: paper, wheat, corn, pine, cedar, OR any litter -- even clumping -- that has baking soda added to it. (I am going to add this to those entries so they are up to date.)

It just goes to show that even purrfect cats can make mistakes. (Actually, I would prefurr to blame my secretary!)

I vow now, never to indulge in catnip before preparing a blog entry!

Good Habits Gone Bad - Part 6 of Litterbox Blues

Dear Greyce, I am a 16-year-old  female and live with one purrson. For a long time (several months and likely longer) I have not wanted to use my litterbox for pooping. Instead I poop around the house and am tending to favour Herself's bed.

About a month ago I peed on top of Herself's bed. She washed all the sheets and she moved one of my two litterboxes to across the hallway (much more convenient than the laundry room). All was fine until just a few days ago when I did it again!

The only thing different in the household routine is this: The first time, Herself had been visiting a relative who has two dogs and three kittens -- one of whom may have been in heat. The second time, that same relative (and her human family) came to our place to visit.
Herself has put up with cleaning the poop. She figures I'm too old to retrain. But she is getting distressed by the liquid deposits on her bed. What should I do? Calie

Friday, November 13, 2009

Alarm Clock Operetta

Dear Greyce, 

My daughter Babette has become quite vocal at the ripe age of six. She uses an astonishing range of tones around six a.m., sometimes when sitting on the kitty condo and looking out. The sound really travels, especially since we usually sleep with our purrsons and they have a loft bedroom that has no doors. 

I'm so shocked, I do my best to ignore her. I would never join in (although I have been known to be vocal in the middle of the night, a behaviour with does not meet with approval by the human residents). 

Himself is not at all pleased. 

Herself either calls Babette to her bed or puts her in THE ROOM - our safe place fully furnished with viewing spots, litterbox, food and water (though she never touches the water there). Babette might stop briefly as a result. But if our purrsons arise, she will talk until about 10 a.m.!

There are a few other things about Babette that might be relevant: She has become more sedentary of late and she has misformed kidneys that do not function fully. While she is not expected to have a long life, she enjoys what she has - plenty of food freely available and lots of fresh water in a loving home.

I am concerned. Greyce, what can be done?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Family Feuds

Growing up in a multi-cat household can be hazardous at times. Witness the meows of help from Ziggy, Curly and Persephone:

Dear Greyce, We are three gorgeous, fabulous, one-year old cats who live with our parents (Felicia, a magnificent Maine Coon and Felix, a tiger-striped tabby); we share our household with humans. At night we are sequestered in a large bathroom (with food, water, litterbox and toys), where we sleep soundly. The humans keep us there; otherwise some of us tend to want to wake the humans up to play. At around 6:00 a.m. Herself enters and lets us out. Mom wants to go outside immediately. If she can't (Herself has this 'thing' about not letting Mom outside until it is light out), she gets really snarly and takes it out on one of us. She lashes out and attacks! We have heard that the behaviour of some females can be volatile and moody at certain stages in life. Do you think she is going through meno-paws? Please help us! Ziggy, Curly & Persephone

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Overcoming Trauma - Thoughts on The Four-Paw Declaw

Today (November 11th) is Remembrance Day in Canada and my purrsons went to City Hall to attend the ceremonies that honour those killed in by war. Herself, who is a bit of a softy, said she wondered about  all the animals who have died in wars -- the horses used by the cavalry in WW1, the dogs who find landmines, the pets who are maimed and displaced along with their humans. When humans go at it, it is amazing that we (and they) manage to survive!

Herself saw some amputees in the crowd (veterans whose legs or arms were taken off) and when she started to talk about that it got me to thinking about Molly.

Those of you who read my most recent blog entry know about Molly and the challenges she faces. For those who are not familiar, let me briefly recap: Molly has a history of abandonment and being picked on by other cats. She has very few defenses: no claws and almost no teeth. She was picked on by other cats in the shelter that was her temporary home. Now in a new and loving home, she kept good company with an older Persian until his death. The Persians I've met tend to be laid-back and this one was older (i.e., less energetic) and had a heart condition. No threat there! I assume they could both adopt a philosophy of live and let live and this allowed Molly a large measure of comfort. Her new home continues to be great except for the presence of a new arrival -- a confident, energetic cat called Ivy who won't take no for an answer when Molly tells her to back off. Confronted with a hiss (which any cat knows means keep your distance; I'm afraid, but if I need to I WILL fight), she continues forth and gets a bite or two in return. After that? Ivy bounces back. But Molly is even more scared -- hiding, crouching, and becoming more anxious. Holy tuna! What an kettle of fish.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oil & Water - Introductions Gone Wrong

Humans can be exasperating, even with the best of intentions. Take my friend, Molly, for instance, who wrote as follows:

I am over five years old with light blue eyes and a coat that goes from white to tanny rust. I have a lovely round face with perfect small ears, long slim legs, and small dainty paws. Regardless of how beautiful I am (and I AM beautiful), I've had a very hard life. First, the people I used to live with had me declawed on all four paws. Most of my teeth are missing (though, thank goodness, I can still eat quite well). Second, I was abandoned -- found on the streets in winter. Third, after being rescued I was put in a small room of a sanctuary with five other cats who left me alone until I ventured off my perch to go and eat; then they'd attack me! My nose got scratched several times. The good news is that I was adopted about 18 months ago into a loving home. There, my feline companion was a laid-back Persian who I liked very much. Unfortunately he died almost a year ago, from a heart condition.

The difficulty started because my purrsons have big hearts. And because they have the space, they decided to open MY home to another cat. So about six months after the Persian died, an interloper joined the household. Her name is Ivy and she is an energetic, three-year-old. She, too, spent time in a sanctuary after being found wandering around. I have to admit that she is quite pretty: large ears with moon-like markings nearby, perched atop a small, triangular face, a black and grey ringed tail, and a snow white body. She has only eye and it is blue.

When she arrived at MY home, she stayed in the basement for two days. Don't worry, she got good care: there was lot of food, water, even a litterbox. And my purrsons made sure to keep her company as well. They soon learned that she is a lap cat.

After two days they let Ivy venture upstairs. Like any respectful cat, I ignored her at first. My folks thought I wasn't curious. They didn't know that I was sizing her up.

Now she is permanently upstairs and I wish she would keep her distance. When she passes by me, I hiss to tell her to back off. I will also howl. I've retreated to the bedroom and spend most of my time there (even though I would like to be in the main room -- perhaps on the dining room chair where I can be somewhat hidden).  

Ivy scares me. I've even peed a few times when I'm afraid to go down and use the litterbox for fear of running into her. (Also when my folks have gone on holidays, but that's another story.) When I venture out of the bedroom, I do so in a crouching posture, like I am hunting. Guess why? And yes, I admit to using the few teeth that remain and giving Ivy a good bite or two. Ivy also likes to go outside and spend a lot of time on the front deck. As far a I concerned, she could live out there!

I really like my purrsons -- even the human kittens. I liked it best when my folks took Ivy to stay with relatives who have three dogs while they took a vacation (the folks, not the dogs, that is). Ivy became the pack leader and I was left blissfully on my own (with a housesitter)!

So Greyce, the bottom line is this: I am anxious all the time. I never know when Ivy will come around me. And considering the life I've had, I think I have every reason to be scared. I didn't ask for this interloper and she won't leave me alone. I've tried to get her to back off, but she persists. I'm very vulnerable and have few defenses -- no claws, a few teeth and my growl. I fear that Ivy is here to stay. And now I hear talk of putting me on drugs! Help me, Greyce, I'm scared!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Guys Just Wanna Have Fun!

Just when I think I'll get a nap in, I get an e-mail instead. This time it's from a teenager -- Minoose who is at loose ends.

Dear Greyce, he wrote. At two years of age, I'm stunningly covered in black, brown and white fur with a stylish white ruff on my chest. To add a dash of chic I have coloured fur on my left ear. My green eyes turn dark when I'm up to no good. (I have a mischievous streak.) I was feral and didn't see purrsons until I was eight-months old but I'm okay with humans now (except for their kittens who can be a bit much) and am most attached to a converted dog person if you can believe it. The problem simply is a difference in expectations: Herself expects cats to just sleep a lot and purr -- the ultimate low-maintenance pet; but I have lots of energy so I expect her to partake in activities throughout the day that are mutually entertaining. I'm afraid I'm exhausting her.

Here is my typical day. I start after Herself rises by supervising the preparations for breakfast from my perch on the dining room table. A meow is sometimes necessary to get Herself to speedread through the morning paper so that we can embark on the next phase: massages and pets for as long as I can stand them! This is followed by races all over the house (with rests, of course) chasing the laser pointer. (I go through my tunnels, too.) Then it's back to supervising morning chores, after which we usually take a nap together. In truth, we usually nap a couple of times a day unless she goes out or doesn't feel like it. For example, sometimes Herself shows no sign of settling down in the afternoon and I have to whine a lot to remind her. If she ignores me, then I go off by myself and sleep in the closet. Laser races commence before Herself's dinner. (I free feed throughout the day.) Around 9 p.m. I get dry food and a few teaspoons of yogurt. We are mostly content with ourselves as company. But she seems to be getting a bit harried by my energy level. In my younger days, I used to play with meeces, tossing them up and hiding them in Herself's bed and shoes; but they don't interest me much now. What do you advise?"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Turned Off the Box! - Part 5 of Litterbox Blues

Sometimes cats are a mystery, even to me and Starla, an eight-year old female with a lovely orange and brown long-haired coat, is a mysterious feline indeed. She wrote:  For the past three years I have been living with a couple of humans and am kept exclusively indoors. Then they had the nerve to go away for three weeks and some other people moved in to be my temporary caregivers. Something happened (and I'm not telling); but since then I don't want to poop in my box anymore. Instead I leave it on the carpetted landing at the entrance to the house. So my purrsons got me a new box, a new brand of litter and even placed the box at my new pooping area; I still don't want to use it for that. I am a very private cat so I don't feel up to telling you more about how I handle my business, except to say that I deposit my waste in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep. (In case you need to know, I'm fine with peeing in the box.) My people are getting upset and this is upsetting me. Please help me get back on track.

Oh Starla, I think you need a cat detective especially when you keep so many important points hidden. Nevertheless I will do my best to get at the heart of the matter by offering a number of suggestions. It will be up to you to figure out which may work for you.

When your temporary caregivers were with you, I wonder how often they actually cleaned (scooped out) the litterbox? The reason for my question is simple: Many cats develop an aversion to using the litterbox when it is cleaned less often than they prefurr. And then they find it difficult to switch back, even when the cleaning pattern goes back to 'normal'. It seems to me that this could be part of your problem, especially if you were not too thrilled with the substrate (that is, the litter itself) in the first place. Many cats tolerate a sub-optimal (to their preferences) substrate until some change happens in the household and then they go 'off' using the box. And since we all spend more time in the box when voiding solids compared to liquids, it makes sense that you'd go elsewhere for that.

Now your people got you a new box, a different brand of litter, and put it where you poop; but as far as you are concerned it's still 'no deal'. That suggests to me that you aren't particularly impressed by the litter inside the box -- it's not enticing enough for you to want to use it when it comes to leaving the solid stuff. You mention that you prefurr to use the carpet, even when the box is left right in the area. So help me out here: How far from the box do you leave your deposits? I ask this because I'm trying to figure out if you'd really rather use the box if there was only something worthwhile in it. Cats who feel this way often poop very near the box, but not in it.

I understand that you are a very private cat. You remind me of Greta Garbo. Perhaps you just vant to be left alone! I don't want to pry any more than necessary. So instead of subjecting you to further questions, I will leave it to you to encourage your people to do the following:

  • Leave the old box with litter in the basement (old) location so you have a nice place for your liquid waste. (I figure they are already doing this, but just wanted to cover the bases.)
  • Keep the new box in your new pooping area, for now. (At least at night which is when you seem to use it.)
  • But get them to change the TYPE of litter. As I understand it, they went from one type of clumping litter to another. Frankly from my point of view there isn't much difference between brands of clumping litter (unless one is scented and one is not), so I don't blame you for not being impressed. Besides for all I know you could be like some of my long-haired friends who detest clumping litter because it messes their fur or makes their paw pads uncomfortable. So I'm going to give you two choices for new kinds of litter to try (in no particular order). Try only one at a time over a period of several days or longer, to see if one will work for you: a) Something soft like Yesterdays News (which is made of soft clumps of plain, unprinted newsprint and is often used when cats have been declawed -- but let's not go there); some cats who like carpet, like this. b) Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract Training Litter or Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract Litter Additive. This comes in two versions -- one is a complete litter to be used in place of whatever is inside the box now and the other is an additive that you put into existing litter AS LONG AS that litter is UNSCENTED CLUMPING (with NO BAKING SODA added); otherwise, please do not use it. Since the humans are paying, they get to choose which of the two versions to buy. This litter/additive has an herbal attractant in it that might entice you to use the box, rather than to go elsewhere.
  • Okay I can hear the complaint already. Isn't it a clumping litter? What if it's added to a clumping litter and I already hate clumping litter? Well Starla, that's why it might be worth trying the newsprint version first. If you like that, then it is a pretty sure thing that clumping litter ain't your fave. But if newsprint doesn't make you fall in love with your litterbox all over again, then the second litter option I suggest is definitely worth trying. 
  • Both Yesterdays' News and Cat Attract are available at pet supply stores (your people should call first to make sure). Be aware that your folks will probably mutter over the cost, since both options are more expensive than the brands you currently use.
I have another thought as well. Is there a cat who comes to your door (or nearby window) at night to bother you? Have your people check to see if there are any spray marks on the outer door or window closest to where you leave your deposits. If so, you might be middening -- leaving a visible reminder of your presence to warn off an invader cat. If that is the case, enrol your purrsons in helping you to get rid of the invader. One way is to thoroughly clean off your outer door (and/or screen) or window using a cleaner made to deal with cat waste. Again the pet supply stores have such products and they work as long as your people follow directions carefully. The purpose of cleaning the area is to discourage the cat from topping up the scent -- because such scents re-attract cats back to the area for a top-up from time to time -- exactly what neither you nor your people would like to have happen. Note that I say your people should be following the directions; I'd never expect you to have to clean up the mess!

If there is any possibility that there is something that makes you anxious enough to midden, consider having a Feliway diffuser plugged into an electrical outlet nearest where you deposit your solids at present. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone which reduces anxiety and is available from your veterinarian. A container of diffuser should last at least one month. The initial purchase (which requires both the diffuser and the container of pheromone) is a bit pricey (be prepared for muttering again), though it's far less expensive than most things that humans consider essential for their well-being. But if they are at the point of calling the vet to order this, then they should ask about the worthiness of a possible stool check-up as well. A bout of constipation, problem with an anal gland, etc. could put you off your box for sure. And if you make that trip to the dreaded vet, take a fresh (or as fresh as possible) stool sample with you in a clean, plastic bag. It sure beats having to hang around the clinic for a day or so, until you produce one on the spot!

So Starla, I've done my best to give you some options to try. Whatever you choose to go with first, just get on with it. And keep on it until you find something that works.

I wish you the best.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Painful Drop - Part 4 of Litterbox Blues

After supervising leaf-raking in the backyard, I thought I'd climb up on Himself's chest so the two of us could snooze together. Alas such was not to be, for over the wires came a cry for help.Twila a two-year old tabby was in distress.

"Oh Greyce," she lamented. "My people are so thick I am at my wit's end. For the past day I just hate using the litter box. I feel the urge, get in the box and only a drop comes out. And it's soooooooo painful! Just when I think it if over, I get that urge again . . . and again. My people are so pre-occupied that I can't get my message across. What do I do now?"