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, June 22, 2011

Cat Pees along Periphery of Rooms

Dear Greyce,

I am a 2 year old, spayed, declawed female with a tabby coat and yellow eyes. For the past year I've taken to peeing in fairly large amounts around the periphery of rooms in the house (except for the kitchen and the laundry room). And now it is on the increase. I've had my urine tested and it is fine.

When I urinate outside the box, Themselves take me back to where I've urinated and then to the basement for 15 or 20 minutes. They also clean the spots and then spray them. And they move my food bowl to where I have urinated. (Ha, ha! I just eat the food!)

Usually they don't see me in action. But just this morning, I did it right in front of Herself. And now I'm adding spraying to my repertoire.

I live in a multi-pet household and I think there is a problem here. My colleagues include two dogs: a) Sam (a 3 year old Cocker Spaniel spayed female) whom I adore and who adores everyone. I wash her, we play fight and we sometimes snuggle and sleep together; b) and Indy, a  5 year old, neutered male Chihuahua who is very affectionate with and protective of Herself and who likes to play with Sam. Indy is afraid of me and hides from me in his little house (to the delight of the adult children in the household).

There are two other cats as well: a) Ozzie is a 19 year old, neutered black male who is very affectionate and a little playful; but he moves slowly and is deaf; b) Misty is an 11-year old spayed female with soft, gray colours. She is vocal and affectionate with her favourites. And her very favourite purrson is Himself. She likes to play and loves being petted. She likes everyone but me!

In addition there are four humans: Themselves (male and female) and their adult children (male and female - one of whom has allergies so has minimal contact with us, and the other of whom we hardly see at all). My main purrson is Herself.

I think part (or all) of the problem is another cat in the house, Misty.

My problem started about a year ago when two things happened. First, Themselves' daughter had a bad allergic reaction and pet hair was suspected. So she would not pet or play with any of us. 

Misty really took this to heart because she had been closely bonded to her. Can you imagine what it must be like to go from being the only-beloved of a purrson and then suddenly being banned from any further contact with her? 

Second Misty got very sick and required extensive hospitalization. She had surgery but the vet could not find anything physically wrong with her.

When she returned home from the vet hospital, Ozzie and I growled and tried to attack her. So Misty was given her own room because the vet advised that her stress be reduced. She is now super-attached to Himself.

Now Ozzie and I have the run of the house during the day, while Misty stays in her room. Then at night, we retire to the basement and Misty takes over.

In the past three months Misty has been allowed out more often. Ozzie just ignores her but I hunt her and fight with her. At first she would fight back but now she just howls and will either run away or go back up to her room. I will sneak up on Misty when she is asleep and attack her. If I'm caught, Themselves put me in the basement for 15 or 20 minutes.

In the last two months we have all shared the space for short, supervised visits. These visits are now increasing in length and Themselves are supervising them less - unless we start to fight.

I know you want background information Greyce, so here goes:

I was a farm cat who was adopted at the age of 5 or 6 weeks. I was confined to the master bedroom for a week and then met Sam (the cocker spaniel) who is absolutely delightful. We are great pals. Then I met the other two cats, Ozzie and Misty. Ozzie was fine from the start. Misty refused to have anything to do with me!

Then I met the other dog, Indy, who was scared of me and kept his distance. He still does - for good reason, because I can be aggressive.

About 3 to 4 weeks later I was let out of the room with one pet at a time, until we all became accustomed to one another. 

As for me: I prefurr to be largely on my own (except for Sam) for I am not a lap cat. The only human contact I truly desire involves playing games with string or toy mice. I'm strictly indoors but enjoy looking out the windows and meowing at the birds. When I hear or see something that is strange to me I run and hide in the basement.

My daily routine is as follows: 6 a.m. breakfast. While Themselves get ready to leave, I chase after treats in the bathroom. This is followed by a nap and/or playing with my toys (with human assistance). 

I have 2 purrsonal toys -  a very favourite piece of string and a toy mouse, along with a box of shared ones. I prefurr to chase toys and throw them up in the air. I also like to hunt for toys under a blanket or towel. I am a mighty hunter.

While Themselves are at work, I have the run of the upstairs with the rest of the gang (except Misty). At 6 p.m. I am given dinner and everyone returns from work. Since I am fed twice daily and there are household issues, I am served in my exclusive food dish either in the dining room or the upstairs bathroom. After dinner, I have treats for dessert.

After supper I have playtime with a human again. Around 10 p.m. I get more treats (about 10 to 15 in a day) and then I and my colleague, Ozzie, go to the basement for the night. We are confined to the basement because I would want to play in the middle of the night and for some reason all the humans wanted to do is sleep! Misty used to join us until she took sick.

While my food dish is exclusively mine, I share various water bowls and a water fountain with assorted pets. The cats in the household share three litter boxes: 2 open ones in the basement and 1 covered one in the laundry room. Misty has an additional box in the spare room which is her exclusive retreat. All boxes have unscented, non-clumping litter in them and are cleaned weekly.

I have access to all parts of the house (when we are not time-sharing) except for the adult childrens' bedrooms and the bathrooms (because I have urinated there). 

There are no cat trees or scratching posts in my home, largely I think because we are all declawed.

That's all I can think of Greyce. I do hope you can help me.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Cat Introductions: Cat Enters Homes of Existing Cat

Dear Greyce,

You just wrote about my licking problem (Cat Continues to Lick Herself Bald) but said you would also give me advice about Elliot. He is another cat who may come to live in my house for a while starting sometime next month. Please let me know how to proceed.



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cat Continues to Lick Herself Bald

Dear Greyce,

I am a distinguished feline of 11 years who for the past 3, has had a licking problem. Simply put, I lick my belly and hindquarters bald! It started around the time my companion cat was dying.

I have tried a number of remedies. First Himself read that food allergies could be the cause and switched my food to a gluten-free brand. That is now my dry food mainstay (which I free feed). I do, however, insist on a spoonful of my adored canned food, three times a day.

Then Himself took me to the vet where I was tested for fleas and mites; there were none to be found. I was given a cortisone shot which helped for a short time. The second vet I saw took some blood, did some tests (the results of which were normal) and said, "some cats just do that sometimes." Then I went to a holistic vet who gave me mixtures to put in my food and water and to spray on my fur, as well as Feliway. He also tried acupuncture but I let him know what I thought of that: I scratched his assistant!

So far, NOTHING has worked for me.

I have no known medical problems. However when Himself touches my fur, my skin ripples.

When I lick, Himself puts a paper plate around my neck (as per the photo) and says, "Don't lick." When I stop, he removes it. I still get that stuff in my water and sprayed on my fur. And the Feliway diffuser is still plugged in. But . . . I'm still licking.

To put this in context: I live with Himself in a small, quiet home with lots of windows. I am a pretty relaxed cat, friendly, calm and loving. The only things I can't stand are thunder and loud noises. I get lots of interaction from Himself and have lots of toys to play with.

By the way, Himself's adult daughter will start to live with us soon and stay until she finds another place to live. Her cat, Elliot, might join us in mid-July.

Can you help me?


Dear Urs,

I assume that you have written me because you think your problem is behavioural. As you may know, I am NOT a veterinarian and thus am not qualified to deal with conditions for which there is a medical basis. From time to time I encounter a cat such as yourself, where the situation is not clear cut: Your issue could be medical; it could also be behavioural. And so for your benefit (as well as that of other readers) I'm going to write about the possibilities - even though most will require you to work with your veterinarian.

From what you have told me, I think you can look at one or both of the following options.
Option One: The potential for an elimination diet to determine if food allergies are the culprit.
Option Two: The possibility that boredom or inadvertent reward is contributing to your problem.
Option Three: Medication to either alleviate anxiety or deal with your compulsion to lick.

I will describe these options and what they could entail. Options One and Three will require further discussion with your veterinarian before you proceed.

Option One: Elimination Diet for Food Allergies

Some of us are sensitive to certain foods and others of us have allergies to them. If you were sensitive, it would be likely that you would show this by having a runny or smelly stool or gas; vomiting is also a possible symptom. But since the compulsion to lick is your only symptom I would think that food sensitivity is an unlikely issue for you. A food allergy could be a possibility, however.

I am quite surprised that you have never tried an elimination diet in your case - which either means that it got overlooked somehow or that there is something about your situation that made the all three vets look elsewhere (and of which I am not aware).In any case, this is worthy of discussion with your veterinarian - if only to clear up why such a diet has not been tried.

From what you have written, you have had many tests. However to the best of my knowledge, there are no definitive tests for food allergies other than an elimination diet. Yes you are on a gluten-free, organic food of high quality. And yes, you adore a very popular canned food three times a day. But that does not mean that you could not be allergic to something in at least one of them.

So let's look at the foods that are most often implicated in cat allergies: beef, lamb, seafood, corn, soy, dairy products, wheat gluten. While your dry food is gluten-free, I have every reason to believe that both your dry and wet foods have some of these ingredients. And that MAY mean that you have an allergy to at least one of those ingredients.

The only way to find out is to go on what is called an elimination diet. Here you have three choices:

Choice A: Try a  food with a novel protein and novel carbohydrate source (one you have never tried before), consistently for 12 weeks; examples of novel proteins include rabbit, venison, and duck; and novel carbohydrate might be peas. Such foods are available from your veterinarian and from some pet supply stores.

Choice B: Try a "limited antigen" or "hydrolyzed protein" food such as Hills z/d (in which case the proteins and carbohydrates have been broken down to such a small molecular size that they no longer cause an allergic reaction). This food is only available from your veterinarian.

Choice C: Try a customized diet involving Himself preparing your food from scratch according to a veterinary recipe. (Resist the urge to just download something off the Internet. This is really a case where getting a proper recipe from your veterinarian is very important. And if you need more reasons that this from me, just ask.) I don't recommend this option at this point. It is time-consuming and requires that Himself commitment to ongoing preparation of your food from scratch, using great care to ensure that it is done properly. And that is a lot to ask.

For more information about food allergies in cats, have a look at Food Allergies in Cats.

If you do decide to try an elimination diet, make sure Himself understands that we cats detest having a food changed suddenly. To get us to accept it, he MUST grade the new food in slowly. This helps us get used to the taste and also minimizes the chances of tummy upset as we adapt to the new food.

Here is one way to grade the new food in:
Step One: 1 part new kibble mixed with 9 parts regular. If you accept this, then eat this proportion for a few days. Then you are ready for Step Two.
Step Two: 2 parts new kibble mixed with 8 parts regular. Again, if you are fine with this combination, eat it for a few days and go to Step Three.
Step Three: 3 parts new kibble mixed with 7 parts regular
and so on until
Step Ten: all new kibble; no regular.
At any point, if you are NOT fine with the new proportion, go back a step or two and eat that for up to a week; then proceed with the next step and so on.

NOTE: Himself MUST do the same for that lovely canned food you adore. Since you eat such a small amount of this every day (but really, really enjoy it), I suggest he mix up the proper combination and store it in a very clean, glass jar in the fridge. He will need to throw out any un-used, open wet food within a week (or check with your veterinarian about food safety in this regard).

Urs, many vets will suggest a quicker grading-in process. The one I suggest is slower but that is because you are older, and because Himself and you have been through so much that I want to give you the greatest chance of success. If Himself and you are willing, then a faster grading-in process would be to start with 25% new and 75% old, then 50% of each, then 75% new and 25% old, and then 100% new  - all done within a period of two weeks (that means switching proportions every 3 to 4 days). It is quicker but it MAY be more difficult for you to except.

ONLY WHEN YOU ARE ON 100% NEW FOOD can you actually start the 12 week elimination diet period, to evaluate whether or not this is working. And if you try, for example, a food with duck and it doesn't work for you, the vet might suggest that you try rabbit, etc. Whatever you do, you MUST stick to the same food for the 12-week period UNLESS it is making your situation worse! This will be the only way you can find out if allergies are the culprit. It takes time, possibly some guesswork if you need to switch, and costs more than regular food.

So if you think that food allergies could be involved (or just need to clear up why an elimination diet has not been tried with you), consult your veterinarian.

Option Two: The possibility that boredom or inadvertent reward is contributing to your problem.

 Some cats start or continue to lick because they are bored, and licking is one way to alleviate their boredom - especially if they are indoor cats because the indoor environment can lack the necessary stimulation.

I know that you have toys and interaction with Himself. But it is important that you have interactive toys and that Himself gives you regular workouts (twice daily). 

Since I have written about this issue before, I suggest that you look to the labels column to the right of this blog entry. Then click on Play/Predation.You will get a list of articles; click on On On My Terms; don't worry that the cat has a different problem. The advice on toys and playtime can apply to you, too.

Have a look at your environment. You MIGHT benefit from having a new box to explore (just a carton from the store) if you are a box-investigating kind of cat. Or purrhaps you need a cat tree on which to perch and look out the window. Consider having a look at the article, A Cat Tree for Every Cat (2/7/10); just go the that label column again and click on Cat Tree and look for that entry.

Also humans whose cats have licking problems get upset when they see the licking and try to stop it. For example, they may ask you to stop or try to distract you. Unfortunately this might end up being the way you really get attention. If that is the case, the best thing that can be done (in addition to the other measures I've mentioned above) is to ignore you when you start to lick. That way you don't get any attention reward for it.

Option Three: Medication to deal with your compulsion to lick.

For some of us with compulsive licking, a solution is medication. You have mentioned a cortisone shot which helped you for a short time. You have also mentioned a number of non-pharmaceutical,anti-anxiety mixtures as well as the use of a Feliway diffuser. None of them has seemed to work for you.

Since you do not believe they are of any benefit, consider stopping their use - in consultation with your veterinarian. I suggest consulting your veterinarian just to make sure that any of the things that are being added to your food or water require a weaning-off process.

You can stop the Feliway right now. Just unplug the diffuser. No weaning-off process is needed.And if the Feliway is really doing you some good, it should become apparent once it is discontinued (and then it can be plugged in again).But save that Feliway because it will come in handy for another use I will mention it in another blog entry, related to the arrival of Elliot - that other cat.

You have also mentioned rippling skin. Have you brought this to the attention of your veterinarian? I ask because it could be part of  feline hysperesthesia syndrome. Cats whose skin ripples sometimes get quick jumpy and start to lick as a way to calm down. Should this be the case, medication (such as those listed below) may be considered.

Medication can also be considered if general anxiety is an issue - even though you say you are a relaxed cat.
Anti-anxiety pharmaceutical such as amitriptyline (Elavil) or chlomipramine can be tried. Of course, this can only be done under veterinary supervision.

Most are now available as a topical gel (if you specify this prefurrence) which means it can be gently rubbed on your ear flap for absorption rather than being given in pill form. This can be a great advantage for many of us. (I hate being pilled, so I opt for gel whenever I can.

So these are the options I think you have Urs.

Meanwhile you have mentioned another matter, the possible arrival of Elliot. I will address this in another blog entry because it is quite important too.

Do let me know what option(s) you try and how it works for you.

Best wishes,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Response to Cat Over-aroused During Play: Dash Tells All

Hi Greyce,

I'm getting back to you as soon as I can - which is pretty fast since my polydactyl paws allow me to reach more keys. You asked me a lot of questions, so be prepared for a lot of answers.

At present, I don't have a bite-type toy. Themselves try to distract me with a toy mouse or my fleece-feather pull toy. The latter is quite wonderful - a long piece of fleeces with feathers at the end, attached to a plastic stick. It can be dragged along the floor or dangled in the air or over the stairs. I LOVE this toy and have destroyed more than a dozen copies by chewing on the feathers and fleece.

Herself takes the fleece toy into the spare bedroom with me for a private play session (while Himself plays elsewhere with Skeeter). She drags it across the bed and the floor. I jump on the bed to get it, and she pulls it away. When I show that I have LOTS of energy, she will drag it from the floor to the bed and vice-versa. We keep this up for as long as I'm engaged (15 to 30 minutes usually). Sometimes our play is so intense that I'm totally tired out; I've fallen asleep on the bed with the feathers in my mouth!

We do this in the morning before Themselves go to work and then again in the evening. (I get one or two play sessions every evening.) 

A quiet moment with Skeeter
Sometimes I only get this particular game only once a day - but that is when Himself has had another kind of play session with me. He takes the feather toy and runs it along the stairs for me to chase. Or he will bring a toy mouse for me to hunt and chase on the stairs.

In the winter (usually), Themselves take me into the basement and put a treat at the very top of the cat tower. I jump to get it and then run to the other side of the basement (for another treat) and then back to the tower. Himself gives me a treat after a play session. Sometimes Herself will dole out a treat in the evening, too. Other than that, I'm not really food motivated and don't like to eat food directly off the floor. So I doubt that food puzzles are the thing for me.

From time to time, I like to chase the laser pointer. But I can outsmart it, so I get bored with it too.

Most of the time the toys work and I calm down. But sometimes I need a sudden clap of the hands or a spray from the water bottle to break my pattern.

By the way, if I'm sleeping on my back and someone pats me gently, I will wake up wanting to play fight.

I hope this information helps.



Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cat over-aroused during play: Dash's update

Dear Greyce,

Here is a long overdue update on the progress my companion, Skeeter, and I have been making in adjusting to our new home. You recall that Skeeter and I were adopted at the same time, although we had not lived together before. Themselves thought it would be a good idea for me (a special needs cat who is anxious) to have a feline companion. (Interested readers can follow my story by viewing the blog entries listed at the end of this blog entry.)

Snuggles are always in order
I'm pleased to say that my relationship with Skeeter is a positive one - even though we have had and continue to have our moments of disagreement. Now Skeeter feels comfortable snuggling with me during naps, as you can see from the photo.

You may remember that I, in particular, was having problems: I was traumatized by that strange noise machine (I think it is called a treadmill), have difficulties with aggression (toward Skeeter and Themselves) from over-arousal, and from time to time took to peeing outside the litter box.

While all of these problems have not been fully resolved, I must say that I'm doing much better. Themselves are very conscious about exercising me (to help me reduce my arousal level) and ensuring that we all stick to a set routine and schedule, as much as possible, because I don't do change well. So you see, we HAVE been following your advice.

About that treadmill and my fear of unusual noises: I continue to take Star of Bethlehem drops (a flower remedy for past trauma) twice a day and my temperament has been very positive and even. No growling or hissing. Herself did run that noise machine in the basement while I stayed upstairs with the basement door closed. I was curious about the noise but handled the situation very well. Not like the very first time when I'd freaked out so badly.

Now about my peeing: I did pee on the stairwell recently - the first such incident in a couple of months. So even with respect to this, I believe I'm doing quite well.

As for my over-arousal and aggression: I still get over-aroused from time to time and will pester Skeeter; but when this happens, Themselves re-focus my attention with play.

I really come alive in the evening. Sometimes I've been so wound up that I have jumped on Herself and bit her leg - but only when I'm really aroused with play or I've been scared by a sudden, unexpected noise. When Himself has tried to separate Skeeter and I during an intense play session, I continue to jump and play on his arm.

As for what the future holds: The Feliway diffusers are not in use now, though I heard that Themselves may start them again. And Themselves have mentioned that we may try a weekend at the cottage, soon.

I'm not purrfect, Greyce: I still jump on counters and the dining room table - but that's another matter. I am also trying to learn to use a small toy in the kitchen to help keep my claws away from the furniture upstairs.