Forget the line “the dog ate my homework.” In our house, it’s “the cat peed on my homework” and sadly it’s been true more than once. After investigating several possible causes, I think I might have discovered the reason. (Teachers, you’re off the hook. The cat peeing on your assignments is not editorial in nature.)
Before we get to Kitty’s indelicate peeing problem, a little background: this animal’s name is Kitty because she came to us- or more particularly my daughter Cindy- as a stray. Cindy wanted to call her only Kitty so as not to confuse her, assuming that she had some other name unknown to us. After all, our intention was to return this stray to her owner. She was being fed and sleeping at our house for only a single night.
The day after Kitty arrived in our home, we posted her photo on the neighborhood listserve and my daughter carried it door to door. No one claimed or recognized Kitty. Just as I considered letting Kitty out to see if she would find her own way back home, I realized that Kitty had been declawed. While it’s arguably unsafe for any cat to be roaming outdoors, there’s nothing to debate with a declawed cat. With no defenses, our guest cat Kitty wasn’t going anywhere. We continued our efforts to find her owner to no avail until we finally realized that Kitty was home- with us.
Shortly after Kitty’s arrival, Kitty began peeing in the living room. The vet said Kitty had no problem with her urinary tract. We followed the vet’s advice to put the litter box wherever she made her makeshift toilet and to gradually move it closer and closer to the bathroom. This process temporarily stopped Kitty from peeing on our living room floor but it did not fully accomplish a transition to using the litter box.
Paper is her preferred substrate, which is how Kitty came to pee on the kids’ homework. The vet suggested that Kitty was trained to toilet on paper and never fully made the transition to litter box. She suggested that we put out paper for Kitty to use next to the litter box. The plan was to wait until Kitty consistently used the paper alongside the litter box, then to stealthily begin placing the paper on top of the litter box. If Kitty fell for that switch, the next step would have us removing the newspaper altogether. Kitty never made it beyond Step 1. I think the instability of paper atop of the litter box deterred her.
What has been most perplexing about the cat who refuses to pee in the litter box is that sometimes she does pee in the litter box fairly regularly. But before long, Kitty abandons the litter box, appropriating the newspaper or any other soft surface. For awhile, I thought that Kitty was rejecting the litter box if it wasn’t cleaned daily. But excessive cleaning didn’t get Kitty any closer to consistency than the paper trick did.
Tonight I read an article on About.com about cats peeing in places other than the litter box. Same old advice- poor cat must have a urinary problem, yeah, well not this cat- until I got to the middle of page 2. Under the heading Has Your Cat Been Declawed? the article explained that rough substrates in the litter can cause pain in the nerve endings of declawed cats, causing them to avoid the litter box. The proof’s not in yet, but this fits Kitty’s inconsistent reaction to cat litter – we use whatever brand of cat litter’s on sale- and her preference for peeing on soft items. And luckily, if this is the cause of Kitty peeing on the kids’ homework and newspaper and other soft surfaces, the solution is simple enough- using a recycled paper based litter or other litter with a soft substrate.
Now where is that cat? I have news for her, and it’s not the latest edition of the Washington Post.