Choose Your Own Adventure – Litterbox Edition – Introduction

Behavior problems are the number one reason for pet relinquishment, and inappropriate elimination tops the list for cat behavior problems resulting in relinquishment.  Even if you have not had to go so far as to rehome your own pet, I would guess that you have dealt with this issue.  It is a common, frustrating, many-faceted topic.  It is sometimes completely rooted in behavior issues and sometimes complicated by medical issues.

I hope this post gives you some tools to begin to solve the issue, and allows you to feel as though the solution is at least partially in your hands.  Having your mood and your home completely in the paws of your cat can be frustrating, infuriating, even bond-breaking.  Having urinary issues completely in the hands of your (albethem awesome) veterinary team can be frightening and unempowering, especially when the wellbeing of your cat and unknown financial issues are involved.  Bringing your cat, your family and your veterinary team together with you at the decision making seat could very well be the winning combination that allows your cat’s issues (be they behavior, health or a combination of the two) to be resolved and your home to be once again peaceful and to smell like…well…nothing.

I know I always say that it is best to bring your veterinary team in on any pet related issue as soon as possible.  “Start with a thorough physical exam and find out what if any laboratory tests need to be done.”  However, I also realize that many, many cats are relinquished before a veterinarian is consulted at all, and probably even more families just live with behavior issues without seeking veterinary help.

Part of the issue is financial-How much is this going to cost to explore?  Who knows?  It depends…on what we find at the first step, and the next, and the next.  Part of the issue is wondering whether the problem is medical at all-Why consult doctors when the cat is “being naughty*?”

I hope to address each of these issues here, but in case you hesitate to rush a cat right in for peeing outside his box, I hope to empower you to do what can be safely done at home to resolve the issue, and draw a clear line between when it is safe to try conservative home-based courses of action, and when your pet needs to be seen by a doctor sooner rather than later.

Disclaimer or Warning or Whatever: You are all awesome, and I know you would not do this.  But in case you have just wandered here and happen to be un-awesome, please DO NOT try to skip through these steps when going to see your pet’s veterinary team.  If you need professional help with your cat’s issues, trust the professional team.  Do not say anything like “Dr. Finch said my cat only needs a urinalysis-I don’t want to pay for an exam.”  Or “I checked the internet.  I know what is wrong.  Just prescribe me <wonder drug>.”  You laugh.  It happens.

*On “being naughty…”   Though misbehavior of our pets often seems intentional, please understand that every behavior issue of our pets is a conditioned response.  In the case of inappropriate elimination, your cat is either responding to an environmental stimulus or exhibiting a medical symptom.  No malice is involved in pet behavior issues.  Ever.

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