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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Pungent Scents of Comfort. Urine Marking #2: New Humans or Pets in Your Territory.


Continuing with the fascinating topic of urine marking, I'm going to propose some general solutions to the problems created by changes in personnel, both human and non-human, in your territory. This includes a) the long-term or permanent addition (or deletion) of a family member (human or non-human), as well as b) temporary additions such as visitors or houseguests, c) the appearance of a stranger (usually a cat, sometimes a dog) outside your home, and d) strange or unfamiliar scents of others, brought into your home via clothing, shoes or the doormat.

Adding or Deleting Family Members (Long-term)

Every so often your purrson may get the so-called brilliant idea of adding someone new to your home - another cat, a dog or another purrson. Holy sardines to that!

Another Cat: Don't blame the newcomer. In some cases, your purrson thinks it will be good for you (and is feeling guilty about not giving you all the attention you deserve. He thinks that another of your kind will befriend you, thereby solving that problem.) In other cases, your purrson has a soft heart and adores felines (who wouldn't?) and couldn't resist bringing another one home. Little thought may have been given as to whether or not this is in YOUR best interest! To ease the transition I have ordered Herself to post an information sheet in the form humans can understand. Look for the blog entry May I Present? Another Cat! due for posting on January 14, 2010.Bring that to the attention to your purrson (prefurrably BEFORE the dreaded newcomer darkens your door) and you will have a good chance at making a new friend.

A note about crowding: Even with the best of intentions, sometimes the addition of another cat or dog (usually cat) just puts the household over the limit. And what is that limit? It depends - on you, the other resident felines, and the newcomer. For example, my colleagues in Manitoba (also known as the Boys from Brandon) said they've been fine with up to six cats or so; but adding just one more is a precursor to a pee festival extraordinaire. And once the newcomer was re-homed, the pee festival was over.

A Dog! Don't even get me started on this one for I am not a dog lover BUT because some of you may be forced into such situations or even learn to enjoy them, I've directed Herself to provide yet another information sheet in the form of a blog entry called May I Present? A Dog! due for posting on Janaury 15, 2010 for those who need to be in the know.

Another purrson. Hopefully this is someone you have already met; and if you already have and you like him or her, so much the better. As long as that purrson respects you and doesn't disrupt your use of space too much, all should be well. The personnel additions that usually cause the most trouble for us are children (ranging from brand new babies all the way to young teenagers) and humans who dislike or feel threatened by cats.

The new baby becomes cause for concern as soon as your purrson starts planning for its arrival, largely because that usually involves redecorating, the addition of new furnishings, the introduction of new smells (like baby lotion and later, baby puke) and sounds (like musical toys and crying), scheduling changes and disruptions in routine, and a re-focusing of human attention away from you and on to that baby. And this is just a taste! The smart and sensitive purrson will understand that this could upset you greatly and start preventing problems for day one (and no, that is NOT the day baby arrives at home!). Those readers who are confronted with this issue will need to be on the lookout for the blog entry, May I Present? A Baby! due for posting on January 16, 2010.
The sudden arrival of children (via the blended family, for example) represents another challenge. Toddlers are unsteady on their feet and love to grab ears, whiskers and tails unless properly trained and supervised. Cat trees, higher shelves and hiding places are highly recommended. Indeed toddlers should NOT be left alone with cats because the temptation is just too great. Older children can also be tempted to either smoother you with too much affection (and not let you go) or to tease you for their own entertainment, often in ways that are cruel. Oh my, this sounds like the topic for another blog entry at some time in the future.

In the meantime, if you've suddenly started urine marking and there is one of these hooligans sharing your household, your purrson should look no further for the cause of your distress. Solving it is another matter, especially as the child ages and seeks control over the parent. Believe me, this is an issue for a human therapist. In the interim, keeping you safe (either through direct supervision, providing hiding places, or keeping you in a safe room - to which the offender has no access when a responsible purrson is not at home) should be a prime concern until your purrson can get that hooligan under control.

The room-mate or significant other. The most common problem of this type is the signficant other who doesn't like you (or purrhaps all of your species) and instead of just avoiding you becomes downright mean:  so-called forgetting to feed you, blocking access to your litterbox, and rough handling (ranging from pokes all the way up to throwing you against the wall) fall into this category. Often these instances occur when your purrson is not present. Or the significant other will provoke you and when you retaliate, use that as justification for hurting you in the name of punishment. Such people are bad news and I don't blame you when you spray their legs or pee in their shoes.

If you have a sensitive and mature purrson, he or she will notice the signals that all is not going well and then make a choice in your favour. And that is wise, for a purrson who treats you this way is not good material for a long and positive relationship with any being. If you have an immature or emotionally needy purrson, he or she is likely to ignore the signals and blame you. In such cases, finding a new home for you is your best option because staying around will be like living in hell.

When a family members disappears. Yes, this can happen - for example, when a beloved young adult moves away from home or someone dies. Members of the household need to understand that you will go through a grieving process as you adjust to the change, especially if that purrson was your main one and for some reason you cannot accompany them. Aids to your comfort would include more attention from another family member, play sessions, having access to an unwashed article (full of smells) of the beloved's clothing, and possibly the addition of a Feliway diffuser to your main space.

Temporary Additions (Human Visitors/Houseguests)

No cat should be put in the position of having to be nice to guests. You should be able to meet new people on your own terms, in your own time. And if you are not the friendly type, then you are under no obligation to play the host. The wise purrson will sequester you in a sanctuary room with all necessities, where you can rest undisturbed during the visit.

The worst scenario is when the guestroom happens to be a favourite of yours and is taken over by invaders! It would be wise in the longer-term for your purrson to look at switching your favoured area to somewhere else (through the addition of items likes a cat bed or cat tree into a new space). Otherwise the best option is for your purrson to keep the guestroom off-limits to you during the duration of the visit. That's what doors are for! Overnight visitors tend to be lax about these kinds of things unless told, "If you leave the door open, Fluffy will pee on your suitcase" - in which case you can expect more compliance.

When the visitors leave and before your re-enter the scene, bedding should be laundered and the room aired. The use of Feliway (spray form) is recommended.

The One-Night Guest in Your Purrson's Bed! This is a special variant of the overnight visitor, for not only does he or she invade your home but also your purrson's bedroom. And if you happen to be the kind of cat who shares that room, and most especially that bed, this can be most upsetting. Most nights you are the beloved companion and all of a sudden you are treated like yesterday's news! The wise purrson would provide some other, acceptable space for you such as a cat tree or purrhaps a lovely high-sided cat bed with a pet heating pad (not the human kind which are far too hot and can burn you even on the low setting). And if you are the type who is unnerved by change, then changing the bed linens before you get to that bed again is in order. If you are sharing the bedroom, at the very least your purrson should install a Feliway diffuser to engender a sense of calm for you.

Temporary pets: Oh my! Even if you have already met, the introduction of a new, temporary cat or dog into your territory can cause your anxiety level to skyrocket. Assuming this is a being who is staying for a short while, separating you from said animal is advised. And don't forget the Feliway!

The Stranger Outside

If you are an indoor-only cat, your human may be very surprised when you start to urine mark because of the presence of a strange cat outside. Many humans don't realize that our territories include the areas we can see (even if we don't have access to them). And that means that the cat who sits on OUR fence, looks at us through OUR basement window, or sprays OUR front door is seen as a threat. Removing the visual and olfactory presence is required. In other words, have your human use measures to discourage others of your kind from entering your property. Consult the blog entry, The Invading Stranger, due for posting on January 17, 2010.
The Scents of Others brought into your home, usually on shoes, the door mat, or clothing.

You could insist that the members of your household remain inside at all times but I doubt you could enforce it. But there are simple solutions that can be tried.  Shoes that are removed in the hallway and left there are fair game if your are the anxious type. The wise purrson would put those shoes in a closed closet so that the smell would not be bothersome to you. Ditto with clothing. I have zero tolerance for the purrson who doffs his clothes in a pile - even the laundry room, and then has a meltdown when you choose to add your scent.

The wise purrson who has spent time with the neighbour's dog whom you fear would remove the offending item (usually trousers) and put it in the washer (or laundry hamper with lid down) before going any further. Some use a dash of Feliway spray instead. Hand washing before contact with your delicate nose and fur is in order as well.

Main entrances are the place where smells from the outside are introduced. If you are made anxious by them, a Feliway diffuser inserted into the outlet nearest the hall should help immensely.

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