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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 24384
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
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We have a cat we rescued 5 years ago who is around 16 years

Customer Question

We have a cat we rescued 5 years ago who is around 16 years old. sAt that time we were able to get her to a vet for shots but since then she has increasingly become a problem. She has never been affectionate, or let us hold her or pat her. She will let us pet her for 20 seconds and hisses at anyone who goes near her. A couple of years ago she started peeing on the kitchen stove. We manage to get her to the vet and they checked her out and thought it was a phycological issue suggesting we isolate her for 3 days and then see what she does. The isolation seemed to correct her behavior. About a year and a half ago she started to not groom her back end. It has become matted and she leaves clumps of fur everywhere. We have tried to comb, cut and remove the mats but she has bitten and scratched both my husband and I pretty badly a number of times. About six months ago she started peeing and pooping on the mat in front of the litter box and recently has started peeing on the rug near the bathroom door. My husband and I are both handicapped and in our late 60's. I called a vet who gave us an estimate of over $300.00 to shave her which included shots and physical exam, but we have lot of medical bills and cannot afford that. What can we do with her? We cannot keep cleaning up after her much longer and are desperate for some help.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with Oreo. I have advanced training in feline behavior and will be quite frank with you concerning her. Her inappropriate eliminative behavior may be related to an age-related medical disorder but is more likely to represent marking behavior considering where she has eliminated - areas heavily scented by her owners such as the stove and rug. She would require a thorough physical exam including diagnostics in the form of blood and urine tests in order to rule out a medical etiology for that behavior but I must consider that cognitive dysfunction (senility) is also likely and that isn't something that will show up in our tests.

Her matting is consistent with geriatrics that have become increasingly unable (due to osteoarthritis, e.g.) or unwilling to groom efficiently. This problem will never abate and would require repeated professional grooming.

A medical condition at her age predisposing to inappropriate eliminative behavior will require some sort of therapy - most likely life-long - and I understand how difficult that would be for you to achieve in a cat not amenable to handling. Marking behavior requires psychotherapeutic drugs and confinement to a small area with her litterbox if we're to expect any meaningful improvement and success in such treatment is measured by a 70% improvement in the frequency of the inappropriate eliminations - not 100% improvement. Considering what you're facing and your financial constraints I would be less than forthcoming if I didn't tell you that such a cat is more of an unwelcome boarder than a pet and either making her an outdoor cat, rehoming her to a cat sanctuary, or surrendering her to the SPCA or animal control facility near you should be considered.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.