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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
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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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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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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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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Discussion Starter #5
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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Discussion Starter #7
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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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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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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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!

AC
 

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NRD, your last post went up after I started composing my post, so I didn't see it...

It looks like you've already begun to step down on the cat corrections a bit, which I think is a good idea. Cats are sensitive creatures and scolding them often negatively affects our relationships with them more than it changes the unwanted behavior.

In place of the scoldings, you can try redirections. Call the kitty to you, toss out a treat, or throw a toy across the room for the cat to chase.... anything that moves their focus away from the other cat without scaring or menacing them.

Again, good luck!

AC
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks, AC, for your encouragement and words of wisdom!

I don't want to sound stubborn, but I'm pretty convinced she doesn't have a UTI. This is not a classic UTI behavior, IMO. She has no problem whatsoever with the litterbox per se, as long as it is brought to her. She digs and uses it just like she always has. She also shows no discomfort or hesitation about using the box while in it--no crying, no reluctance, just digging and going, but she hops out very fast afterwards, to avoid the risk of being jumped by somebody.

What she has a constant fear of--except at mealtimes--is in fact being on the floor. She avoids the floor for almost all activities, almost all the time, except at mealtimes and treats times, and she has a hair-trigger for hopping back up on the counter at other times, as she doesn't like getting jumped. So, based on pretty careful observation over a long period, that is the crux of the problem.

That's why I am going to go the route of isolating her in a room on her own with a litterbox, to retrain her. The fact she only has peed on the counter once the past six weeks tells me it's a last resort for her, when she feels trapped by their presence and is unwilling to walk across the hall to the study where the box has been. She has only peed on counters a total of maybe four or five times since Thanksgiving, all but one of which were while I was away and the first few days back, but it is the fear factor that has me so stymied.

I don't want to give her up, either, having gotten everyone this far, but I need her to go into the box on the floor on her own again.

Thanks much again.
 

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You have my total sympathy and understanding for your situation. And kudos to you for how long you've been trying.
 

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Thanks again, AC. Redirection it is. I did also used to use toys and other distractions, but I did enough scolding that it may well have had an effect.

And Marie, I appreciate your understanding. To be honest, the main reason I didn't post this problem sooner is I always felt it paled in comparison to what you were going through with Gigi. This is hardly a contest, as we know, but I felt, until Thanksgiving, that my situation was at least manageable. As you know only too well, you feel totally trapped by the situation. Mine had turned fairly positive, and I was enjoying it. Less enjoyment with the peeing. My concern is I will be traveling from time to time over the next 20 years, and if every time I go away Snowby reverts in her behavior, that is unsustainable. Everyone is in such a good mood this week, it kills me to think of letting her go (she's the best looking of any of us, by far, and purrs the best!), so I reached out to you all. Let's see if being back in the bedroom sometimes retrains her.
 

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You've done very well to figure out what her problem is, and it's good that Blizzy and Hersh listen to you. I agree for whatever reason it is the floor. Maybe because it is slippery she feels if she gets jumped on there she can't get up fast enough or escape? I think if you can get her to use the box either in the bathroom or your bedroom, and keeping the door closed, so the other cats don't go in there, she will come to feel comfortable it is her "safe room", and that she will meow at or perhaps scratch at the door to get your attention to open it. I did read somewhere of a cat (or maybe it was a dog?)....whatever, it doesn't matter, to paw at a bell that had been attached to the door knob by a string or ribbon to signal it wanted to go outside. Might not work with cats, as the others may just thing it's a neat playtoy and keep batting it. :? I think if she meows to get into the room that would be great. Many years ago when I did have indoor/outdoor cats and before I installed a cat door, the cats would meow all the time when they wanted "out". Hopefully Snowby will meow that she wants "in".
 

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...I always felt it paled in comparison to what you were going through with Gigi
I think your situation is much worse, I don't know what I'd do if there was also a peeing issue!
 

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NRD, I really sympathize. I've never had inter-cat issues because I've only had one at a time, but I've had more than my share of peeing issues ... to the tune of having to replace a couple pieces of large furniture. Peeing issues are a game-changer, unfortunately. I know the total frustration you must be feeling, and yet we hesitate to do anything about it because we love the kitties so much. As my husband said at the time, "There is absolutely no answer. I can't take her back to the shelter, and I can't live in a cat pee house."

I can just offer Murphy's story as an example of great rehoming. His first owners had 2 cats, both adopted as kittens, and Murphy was never happy having the other one around. He was competitive and unhappy. Because he was the sweeter of the two cats, they decided he was the candidate to return to the shelter since he would probably get adopted quicker. And then we came along, 1.5 months later, pulled him from the lineup, and gave him the home of his dreams, kitty-free, king of the house, pampered and spoiled to within an inch of his life. Just sayin', that sometimes rehoming is the kindest, most productive thing to do.
 

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I have a few suggestions. We've gone through something very similar to what you're describing with Torri and Jitzu.

Jitzu never liked Torri, right from the first day I brought Torri home.

Originally Jitzu was just upset and would ignore Torri...no issue right. Normal. Not so much really. When Torri was around 1 year old (right around the time I brought Doran home) I realized Torri was super skinny. Turns out she had gotten sick, and Jitzu hadn't been letting her eat.

Since then Torri has been the only cat allowed in our room. She has her own litterbox, and she gets fed in there seperately from the other cats.

The past year we've made a lot of progress with Torri, but IMO the big thing that helped was her knowing that she had a place she could go to where she would be completely safe. She asks to come in and go out, and will do so if she's had enough of her siblings.
Her issues are mostly with Jitzu, who used to chase her mercilessly, but also with her brothers. They just want to play and wrestle, but she is very nervous and skittish and doesn't want to wrestle. (Muffin is 15 lbs, and Doran is 10lbs...Torri got weighed at 3 years old and 6 lbs. No wonder she doesn't want to wrestle!)

Lately the boys have grown up a lot, resulting in that they can now play with her and they uinderstand they have to be gentler with her than they normally are. Torri has gotten much braver, especially in the past 3-6 months, so I'm very hopeful that things will continue to improve.

IMO there are a few things that have specifically helped.
1. Having her own room. She knows she is completely safe there. No other cats are allowed in, so she never feels cornered or overwhelmed in her sfae place. This is the best thing we ever did for her, and she loves having her special mummy and daddy time.
2. Building her confidence has helped soo much. I did lots of training with the other cats, the boys especially, but I hadn't done much with Torri because she seemed uninterested. Then I realised I was doing this wrong. I spent time with Torri in our room teaching her and building her confidence, THEN we moved training out into the main house with the other cats.
3. Training the other cats. The boys learned that they have to be gentler and let her innitiate playtimes. They're still working on it, but it's definitely helping. And when Torri is around that is when we really get down to training. Training here means fun, cookies, and learning. So the best things happen when Torri is there too.

As far as the litterbox issue I feel this could be solved if she felt safe enough to go to the box. Having her own room and her own box IMO would get rid of this issue. Then when she is out in the main house and she needs to go you could place her in her safe room and know she'll use the box rather than hold it until she just can't hold it anymore. (BTW coinstantly holding their bladder until they aren't capable of holding anymore can cause issues like infections and incontinence...vet check maybe just for that.)
Building up her confidence, and giving the other cats jobs to do when she's around will help her feel less watched and monitered. I know I wouldn't feel very safe if someone was always watching me, regardless of how much actual chasing went on.

With Jitzu she always starts by watching Torri from afar, that's when you need the intervene, before it escalates to hunting and chasing.

I think you're trying really hard to fix this issue, and I know exactly how hard it can get. Good luck! Feel free to PM me if you like :D
 

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I don't want to sound stubborn, but I'm pretty convinced she doesn't have a UTI. This is not a classic UTI behavior, IMO. She has no problem whatsoever with the litterbox per se, as long as it is brought to her. She digs and uses it just like she always has. She also shows no discomfort or hesitation about using the box while in it--no crying, no reluctance, just digging and going, but she hops out very fast afterwards, to avoid the risk of being jumped by somebody.

What she has a constant fear of--except at mealtimes--is in fact being on the floor. She avoids the floor for almost all activities, almost all the time, except at mealtimes and treats times, and she has a hair-trigger for hopping back up on the counter at other times, as she doesn't like getting jumped. So, based on pretty careful observation over a long period, that is the crux of the problem.

That's why I am going to go the route of isolating her in a room on her own with a litterbox, to retrain her. The fact she only has peed on the counter once the past six weeks tells me it's a last resort for her, when she feels trapped by their presence and is unwilling to walk across the hall to the study where the box has been.
First, I agree that she needs her own room with litter box, a room where the other cats are not allowed to go. She does need to be allowed out to visit, though.

Another thing no one has mentioned is using a covered box near the kitchen when she is allowed out of her room.

A cat that feels it may be ambushed while using the box will often refuse to use the box. It's a common call to the behavior line at our shelter. Sometimes it is a dog or small child that ambushes kitty while in the box. A covered box often solves this issue. Even better if you can elevate it even a little bit off the floor or place it in a crate facing backwards, or in a corner where the opening to the litter box is hidden.

Good luck, you are doing a great job in trying to keep her. I know how difficult it has been for you.
 
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