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post #1 of 61 (permalink) Old 02-01-2011, 10:07 PM Thread Starter
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Rehoming Snowby?

I've hesitated a long time before writing this post, but I figure I should reach out for any suggestions anyone may have, in one last attempt to save a situation that I am afraid is beyond saving. I think I need to rehome Snowby.

Some of you may have read my journals during the five months Snowby was behind a baby gate in my bedroom last winter/spring, since Blizzy would go after her several times a day and she wasn't socialized and was defensive/aggressive. Last July I finally was able to let them both roam in the house together, unsupervised, together with Hersh and Little Hersh. Snowby has stayed downstairs since then, never returning to the bedroom, and until Thanksgiving she would move around the main living level.

I went away for four days over Thanksgiving, and when I returned, Snowby had become almost exclusively a counter cat, staying in the kitchen or on a shelf in the adjoining family room. She would no longer walk across the foyer from the kitchen to use the litterbox, and for the first time went on the kitchen counter instead. All because Blizzy would chase after her maybe two or three times a day, and Hershey would also jump on her, to play, whenever she was on the floor. It's funny, because she still eats meals normally, on the floor next to Blizzy and Hershey, and she will sleep on a kitchen chair with Blizzy on an adjacent chair. 98 percent of the time, things seem fine, and she knows how to bat at Blizzy and Hershey to keep them away, when she cares to.

But she still refuses to walk across the foyer to use the litterbox. I tried moving the box into the kitchen but on the floor, and she still doesn't seem to use it, not even at night, when for 8 hours she is alone in the kitchen, with the guys upstairs with me.

She has peed on the kitchen counter and on my dining room sideboard, rather than use the litterbox. When I carry the litterbox over to her, she quite willingly jumps in and uses it, so she does not have an aversion to the litterbox per se, just the idea of having to travel on the floor and make herself "vulnerable"--even though she will play in the family room, on the floor, sometimes in the evenings.

I am at my wit's end, since I cannot keep carrying the litterbox over to her for her to use. I do not have a good elevated place in the kitchen for a litterbox to sit, and I don't like that idea, since it is not sanitary, though it seemed to me the most logical solution.

Snowby is such a sweetheart, a lap cat, a purr machine, gorgeous, and she has become so well socialized generally over the past year, to the point that she even grooms and sleeps with Little Hersh now, so it does hurt me deeply to have to rehome her. And I have Blizzy trained so that he hardly ever goes after her anymore--yet the couple of times a day are enough to have permanently modified her behavior.

I am trying now, little by little, to get her to use the litterbox when it is not elevated to counter height to begin with, but I cannot get her to hop down onto the floor to use it.

So, does anyone have any guidance on how I can get her to get back to using the box on her own? I am going away in three weeks, only for a day and a half, but I can't have her going in inappropriate places just because I am not there to help her.

Otherwise, I have concluded, after trying to avoid doing this for so very long, that she would be better off as an only cat somewhere else. I hate, hate to do it, and she ironically shows no signs of stress that I can see--good appetite, purrs frequently, she does go several times a day, etc. So it drives me crazy that she has become so reluctant, despite being able to hold her own against any of them, that she won't use a box on the floor.

Sorry to have taken so long, but this has been bothering me for two months and I have tried to solve it, without success so far other than being her litterbox servant.


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Last edited by NRD; 02-01-2011 at 10:10 PM.
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post #2 of 61 (permalink) Old 02-01-2011, 11:39 PM
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Wow - that is a major problem. I understand your distress.
It seems you have diagnosed the problem very well, but what to do about it?

The only thing I can thinik of is to force Snowby to stay by herself in either a room or a large cage until she gets used to using the litter box normally again. My brother had great success re-training a cat to use a litter box by confining her to a large dog crate for several weeks.

But that doesn't solve the problems Snowby is having with the others, especially Blizzy. I have no experience disciplining cats, but it sounds like the others need some correcting.
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post #3 of 61 (permalink) Old 02-02-2011, 09:03 AM
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NRD, I didn't read in your post you had tried taking Snowball to the vet. I know it might seem behavioral (probably is), but Brandy had litterbox issues once and it was a health issue. We thought it was protesting the new kitten we had just added to the household. Just a thought.

As far as training on help her, I have no advice. Perhaps as the other poster said to put her in a room by herself with the litterbox and her food and water and see what she does. To "retrain" her.
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post #4 of 61 (permalink) Old 02-02-2011, 10:08 AM
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I wouldn't want to leave a litter box on the counter either. But maybe on top of the refrigerator? (Of course that might turn into a problem when she ages as an old kitty and can't jump.)
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post #5 of 61 (permalink) Old 02-02-2011, 10:22 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks much for the suggestions. I think I will bring her up to her old room, the bedroom, today, and see how she reacts.

As for seeing the vet, she had her annual physical and vaccinations on Monday. She is fine.

As for litterbox on the fridge, that is the one area no kitty has tried to reach so far, so I can keep tall cereal boxes and chips bags there without fear. It's so high it would be a major pain to clean, and I'm sure litter would get all over in hard to reach places. But it's a very creative solution, so I appreciate the outside-of-the box thinking--or in this case, above the box!


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post #6 of 61 (permalink) Old 02-02-2011, 10:25 AM
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Even if you re-train her, she will still have her fear of Blizzy.
That is at the root of the problem.
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post #7 of 61 (permalink) Old 02-02-2011, 10:35 AM Thread Starter
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I know. That's why I think I do have to rehome her, after a year of effort. It is very frustrating, especially after days like yesterday when they were in close proximity numerous times, staring at each other, wary, yet nothing bad happened, and I kept coming over and petting both of them. FYI, I should add that I tried months of feeding them treats together, play together, etc., and that's how I got them to this point. I just could never stop the two-three times a day chasing by Blizzy. Then, to top it all off, every few days Snowby gets really bold and walks right up to Blizzy and bops him with her right paw for no apparent reason. He flinches and walks away. I ask her (rhetorically) why she can't do that when he goes after her. Instead, he decides to get his revenge later on, by chasing her again....


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post #8 of 61 (permalink) Old 02-02-2011, 12:33 PM
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Cats do the darndest things....I'm talking about the bonking Blizzy on the head when he isn't doing anything. Yes and they do get their "revenge" later. Did you try objecting to Snowby's behavior when she looks like she's about to bonk Blizzy? Perhaps by calling her to come to you or redirecting her focus with a toy, or even a sound (like pssst, pssst) would be enough to stop her bonking. When Blizzy decides to go after her, did you go after him, and stomp your feet and give him a hard stare while saying "No!"? If he stops or walks away and behaves himself, you can then call him to come and invite some play, or throw a toy, to redirect his mind. Sometimes you can modify a cat's behavior if dominant cat respects you as the alpha in the house who won't tolerate that kind of bullying behavior. You may not get Blizzy to stop chasing completely, but you might get him to stop if you intervene with your voice or other action. The fact that Snowby has enough gumption to even approach Blizzy shows she's not that afraid of him, so she may not be that distressed by his chasing. If she were laying on her side urinating on herself during one of Blizzy's attacks, and extremely fearful of even moving around anywhere, I would agree that her life is stressful and miserable and she should be rehomed. That's not the case here, as you say, she's a healthy, happy cat otherwise.

Cats are pretty regular about when they pee. My girl always like to go when I'm scooping the litter box in the morning. Try and make a note how often and when Snowby pees. Can you set up a litter box just for her, say in a closet or somewhere that's not accessible to Blizzy and the other cats? When you go out, confine her to that one room (or when you're going to be away). When you're at home keep the door closed so Blizzy won't be able to use the litter box. Put her in the room (or even in the litter box) during the times when you think she will pee. She may get to the point of meowing at the door for you to open it if she has to go. I think it's worth a try. Good luck!
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post #9 of 61 (permalink) Old 02-02-2011, 02:01 PM Thread Starter
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This is great, catloverami. You're giving me some ideas, which is what I wanted/needed. First, a couple of observations.

Do I object to Snowby's behavior, when she is about to bop? Yes, when I see it. It is so infrequent, I am sometimes unprepared. As soon as it happens, I tell her in an angry voice that she's a bad girl, and she looks up at me, with her one big yellow eye, one blue eye, as if to plead "He's the trouble-maker! Why are you mad at me?" I will even walk away from her, showing my displeasure. There are times when she is on the counter, shies away from Blizzy when he stares at her from the floor, and then as he starts walking away, she walks to the edge of the counter, leans waaaay over the top and stares back at him, while he is not looking. I find it hysterical, but I also see it as part of the cycle of dislike and taunting/counter-taunting, so on those occasions I immediately go up to her and tell her "no, bad girl". She does stop then.

Do I go after Blizzy when he's about to go after her? Always. He has long since learned to stop as soon as I tell him to. In fact, while I don't believe in anthropomorphizing, I think he developed the equivalent of an inferiority complex during the five months of baby gates, since he would be scolded so often and would appear to be the odd cat out, since she was in my bedroom sleeping with me, and he was excluded. I do think it possible he held this exclusion against her, adding to the problem, even though I tried to compensate at other times. Sometimes he would go after her and then stop and shrink away from me as soon as I told him he was a bad boy. My problem is that my interventions have been successful but, as you said, I haven't stopped it completely. Added to this is the complication that Hershey does not chase her, but he frequently wants to wrestle with her whenever she hops down to the floor. She long ago learned not to be fearful of Hersh, but she doesn't like to wrestle, she has made abundantly clear, and so the gauntlet she faces when she is on the ground is not just Blizzy, who in fact leaves her alone most of the time, as noted. Hersh more often will hop on top of her to wrestle (and yes, I say no to him and try to stop him), just causing her to hop up onto the counter again.

Have I noted her bathroom habits? Yes, she seems to pee twice a day, once in the late morning and once in the mid-evening, usually an hour or two after mealtimes. Poop once a day, unpredictably. Today I brought her in her carrier up to my bedroom, where she lived during Babygate. First time she's been upstairs since last July. She took it in stride, explored some but stayed on the dresser and cat perch, for the most part. I let the guys trail in with her, as I didn't want her to become fearful of them again up there and I was there to supervise. No one went after her, though Blizz stared a lot, and she in return. I took her to her old litterbox in the bathroom--it was late morning, the time she usually goes--and made sure none of the others was around her. But no luck. OK, just a first try, but at least we got out of our current rut. After about 30 minutes, I announced to everyone it was time for their lunchtime snack, and the guys immediately ran down the stairs. Snowby looked at me from the dresser as I was in the corridor. I encouraged her to run after us, saying "lunchtime, let's go". She got excited, finally jumped down and ran down the stairs behind the rest of us. Once in the kitchen, she is fine at mealtimes with them, as they all bat at one another while waiting for me to feed them. Thirty minutes later, I brought the litterbox over to her, and she jumped in and peed--I put it on the floor as soon as she jumps in.

I will soon try to leave her alone in the bedroom, door closed, for periods of time when I am away that are near her bathroom times, to see if I can get her to use her old litterbox again on the bathroom floor. She has already learned to anticipate my personal litterbox servant service, so I have got to stop that very soon, as I am afraid she is now dependent on it--not good, but she's only peed once on a counter the past six weeks, so that was my first priority. One step at a time. I just don't know if the combo of Hersh and Blizzy may be too much for her ever to overcome, though.

One last point. Blizzy spent the day at the vet's Tuesday, getting his teeth cleaned, an experience he hated. He was SO grateful to come home again, he's been as affectionate the past two days as he was the first week I adopted him. He just started sleeping on the bed wit the other guys at night about a week ago, so he finally seems to be feeling like a true member of the family. I am trying to keep him feeling that way and not taking any previous exclusion out on Snowby any more, since as I said that might have added to the problem in the past. Just lots of love when the two are together, except when danger lurks. We'll see....


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post #10 of 61 (permalink) Old 02-02-2011, 02:09 PM
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I think the wonderful progress you've already made in the relationships between the cats supports continuing the effort.

If I were in your shoes, I'd do two things - first, get a urinalyses done. Peeing on smooth, cool surfaces is classic UTI behavior and the fact that Snowby is on the floor at other times indicates she's not afraid of it. It would be odd that she'd avoid the floor for only one activity, you know?

Second, as has already been suggested, I would put Snowby in her own room - the smaller the better - or large dog crate to "retrain" her to use the litterbox. Even if she has a UTI that's causing her to avoid the box (by trying to avoid the discomfort she's now associating with it), you'd need to take this step... might as well start on it now.

Keep in mind, however, that if it is some type of UTI, trying to retrain her without addressing the root cause will definitely fail, so getting that urinalysis would be a priority.

Good luck! I can't imagine how I'd feel if one my beloved furbabies starting peeing/defecating on my counters!

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