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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 24467
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
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I have have two maine coon cats, 1 is 5 years and the other

Customer Question

I have have two maine coon cats, 1 is 5 years and the other is 8 months. Since getting the kitten, the 5 year old has been defecating on the bed. I have had coon cats for 25 years, always 2 at a time and have never experienced this problem before. We use corn clumping litter and have one litter box. Have only ever had one litter box for two cats. Litter box is cleaned out multiple times a day. I live in a small one bedroom apartment. two boxes are not an option. And besides, having two boxes would not guarantee one cat per box.
I think this is the 5 year old being pissed about us introducing a kitten into his life. We did so after putting down our dog. Felt that having a companion for the 5 year old was essential to his well being. Perhaps not, but we're not giving up the 8 month coon. What to do to get 5 year old to stop defecating on bed.
By the way, he does not defecate anywhere else in the apartment, other than his litter box. And he doesn't defecate all the time on the bed.
Help!
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 10 months ago.

I understand your frustration at this time. You're correct...he's, uh, upset having to share his space with the kitten. I have advanced training in feline behavior and am pleased to discuss his behavior with you. I must admit that retraining him is going to be a challenge but perhaps after reviewing my notes that I use when lecturing about his behavior you'll have a better idea of how to address it.

Your 5 year old is clearly exhibiting marking behavior. He is not likely to be eliminating inappropriately due to litterbox aversion or a medical disorder. Please note that marking on a horizontal surface (especially beds which is heavily scented by you and a favored spot for him) is marking behavior (a communicative function) caused by the same stimuli that causes spraying. We’re not sure what cats are trying to communicate to us but we do know that wild cats will mark to announce their presence. It’s reasonable to assume then, that he is doing so as well. He's essentially "taking ownership" of the marked areas. The most common cause is increased cat density - in the home or nearby. Emotional problems, such as a stressful relationship with a family member, separation anxiety, anxiety over his status in the existing hierarchy, fear, owner absence, moving, new furniture, inappropriate punishment, teasing, household changes and remodeling in the home are examples of stimuli that can induce anxiety in our cats. The etiology can be difficult to diagnose, especially if the behavior is only manifested intermittently and because the stimuli for his inappropriate eliminative behavior may be imperceptible to you but readily so to him - another cat roaming outside, e.g. If emotional factors are influencing the housesoiling, you might notice other changes such as avoidance, aggression or an alteration in his general temperament.

Treatment involves two major considerations: 1) Remove the cause - easier said than done. You might have to be quite the detective to discern the stimuli for his inappropriate eliminative behavior...not in this case...I'm going to incriminate the introduction of the kitten to your home 2) Prevent him from returning to previously soiled areas by confining him to a very small area with the box and only allowed out when he can be supervised 100% of the time. When confined to a relatively small area, most cats seem to prefer to eliminate in the box rather than soiling the floor. It’s then a matter of confining him long enough for a consistent habit to become established. As a rule of thumb, one week of confinement is usually recommended for every month of soiling. He should be removed from the confinement area as much as possible for socialization and play, but never allowed out of sight. Food rewards may help when given after he uses his box. If he refuses to use the litterbox when confined to a small area, the confinement area should be changed to a large cage. The floor should be covered with litter, forcing him to use it for elimination. The litter is gradually removed and replaced with a litterbox. Once he has used the litterbox in a confined area for an appropriate amount of time, he can be allowed to have more freedom in the home. Previously soiled areas can be safeguarded by changing the behavioral function of the area by placing food bowls, cat bedding or toys in the area. The area can also be made unacceptable for him by placing a motion-activated alarm or lemon-scented room deodorant in the area. Plastic carpet runners can be placed upside down with the "feet" facing up. Plastic, foil, or double-stick carpet tape can be used to protect specific areas. Removing urine and stool odor is important. Products such as Nature's Miracle which are specifically formulated to work on these types of odors are recommended.

Some cats are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. They may mark in response to the most minor of alterations. You must strive to keep the home environment as constant as possible. When situations exist that are likely to upset him, you might want to consider confinement, closer supervision and the use of anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medication such as paroxetine (Paxil) and fluoxetine (Prozac). In fact, most behaviorists feel that without the use of psychotherapeutic drugs our chance of correcting inappropriate marking behavior is near nil. (Personal note: My two cats began marking as kittens. After 6 months of fruitless treatment they became outdoor cats - for 12 years.)

Nobody wants to confine their pet as I've described but his behavior requires desperate measures. My male urinated on my pillow while I slept - an obvious behavior designed to make sure that his sister and I knew who's bed it really was. He apparently was anxious about his status in the hierarchy of my home.

Success in management with psychotherapeutic drugs is measured by a 70% reduction in adverse events. In other words, if my cat urinated on my pillow 10 times monthly prior to drug administration but only 3 times monthly after drug administration, success in treatment is acknowledged. Needless to say, that didn't please me and I certainly hope that you have better "success" than I.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
I live in a 1000 sq ft apartment in the city. Becoming an outdoor cat is not an option. My husband introduced his 13 year old schnauser to the cat when he was a kitten. It was the kitten's home. He never acted out when the dog moved in. When the dog died, we believed the cat (now 41/2 years old) would be better off with a companion and purchased the kitten. Coons are very bright and social. Both cats are spoiled and loved very much. So it's not a matter of one getting more or less attention. In fact, Bubby (the older coon), gets more attention as I feel guilty that he may be feeling unappreciated or threatened.I think the best advice is to try to keep the bedroom door shut when we leave, or even, when at home since the bed is the only place he seems to mark his territory. Hopefully, he will know better than to defecate in bed when we're in bed also.Wish us luck.THX!
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 10 months ago.

Good luck! Yes, the most expedient manner is often to isolate one of the cats to a portion of your apartment off limits to the other cat. I can't tell you that the bed or even you won't be marked while you sleep. My male cat pulled that stunt and he became an outdoor cat for the next 12 years. I understand that that's not an option for you, however.

I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience.