Wrangling cats need to start over building a good relationship
Q: Nigella was born under our shed. I took her in when she was about 8 months old. Our 15-year-old cat is not happy about that. The cats have had vicious fights, so I've had to lock up one in our playroom, especially at night. Unfortunately, when we lock up Luna she pees on a table or on the floor. Sometimes, she just doesn't use one of our two litter boxes. Spraying her with water for doing this hasn't helped. The veterinarian says there's no medical explanation for this behavior. Any advice? We're desperate. -- S.G., Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
"To do this effectively, they'll be a part for several months," he says. Since Luna was there first, it's best to keep Nigella in a separate room, or the basement. Do visit and play with Nigella often, and make sure both cats have interesting environments with lots of toys.
Holub, of Hingham, MA, says to take something each cat has slept on and place it near the other cat's food dish (first maybe 6 feet away), gradually moving it closer. Use Feliway diffusers, which emit a copy of a calming pheromone which only cats can detect. Also, ask your veterinarian about a diet from Royal Canin called CALM, which does exactly what the name implies.
To stack the odds even more in your favor, ask your veterinarian about fluoxetine (Prozac) to help calm the aggressor. Fluoxetine for dogs is sold as Reconcile, and can be used for cats -- a good idea since this chewable pill tastes and smells like liver. Speaking of which, Holub says spraying Luna with water just causes more anxiety, and does not communicate what you DO want Luna to do.
When your world has calmed down, put up a double-baby gate or screen door at the entrance to the special room Nigella calls home, and let the cats greet one another as they wish. Don't push it. However, when they come to the gate/door and act civil toward each other, reward both with tuna or salmon. Over time, they'll discover when they act friendly they get an amazing treat.
"When they do finally come together, having three litter boxes is a better plan than two boxes, and scoop at least once daily," Holub adds.
Q: My cat sometimes steps in her poop when she's trying to cover it. I've tried showing her how to cover it, but she doesn't understand. Then, she tracks poop all over the house. Could I train her to go in a (human) toilet? -- B.P., Cyberspace
A: "While your cat may be a tad clumsy, she isn't abnormal," says Winn Feline Foundation Board Member Dr. Glenn Olah, of Albuquerque, N.M.
I would like to see a video of you attempting to teach your cat to cover her droppings. It's not that crazy an idea, as cats can be good observational learners.
Olah advises that if you have a covered litter box, remove the top so your cat can move freely. Olah says he's had success with extra-large boxes, particularly canine litter boxes meant for 40-pound dogs (available at select pet stores and online). He says the best choices are deep at one end, shallower at the other.)
As for toilet training, there are contraptions cats can stand on that make it possible for them to use a toilet. You gradually cut away at the "toilet trainer" until eventually the pet is straddling the toilet. The potential problems, though, are numerous. What if a family member accidently closes the door (and your cat's really gotta go), or puts down the toilet lid?
Also, as you may see in YouTube videos of cat using the toilet, some try in vain to scratch at nonexistent sand or litter. Also, overweight or arthritic cats may not be able to easily hop onto a toilet.
Q: My 9-year-old cat was just diagnosed with diabetes. Can this disease be regulated only with diet? -- C.V.C, Cyberspace
A: "It depends," says Dr. Vicki Thayer, president of the Winn Feline Foundation and a cat veterinarian based in Lebanon, WA. "Some cats can manage without the insulin, and with a high-protein and low-carb diet, combined with weight loss, the diabetes goes into remission. Other cats absolutely do require insulin. Still, though with management of diet and weight, those cats (on insulin) may sometimes go into remission as well and no longer require insulin."
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)