Tag Archives: cat problems

My Cat Has What?

By Betsey Cichoracki

Herpes. Ever since high school health class that word has prompted “ewws” and “gross!” in the minds of many. So when our vet informed me that our cat Coal has herpes, I thought “ewww” before even learning what feline herpes really is. Turns out a herpes virus means many things among many species. Continue reading


Filed under ACDC News, Adopted Animals, Animal Rescue, Animals in our care, Foster Parents, Pet Tips, Pet Tips - Cats, Uncategorized, Volunteers

The Stinky Cat Chronicles: This Article Has Me Pooped!

The Tidy Cat Whisperer has finally emerged from the pile of fan mail and is ready to deliver her next article. Well, let me clarify one thing: the Tidy Cat Whisperer (TCW-that’s me) doesn’t get any fan mail-all the nice, cutesy fan mail is for the Stinky Cat, who apparently is a celebrity in his own right. The only “fan” mail TCW gets is more like the mail Dear Abby gets (“TCW, help! My cat won’t stop peeing on the bed,” “Dear TCW-how can I tell if my adolescent cat is using drugs,” “TCW, help! My cat is a catnipaholic! Is there a 12-step program,” etc).

In general, most of the mail we get is regarding cats that are peeing outside the litter box. But lately all our mail has just turned to crap-literally.  Cats having issues with Number Two is really a hot button all of a sudden. Now, as someone who grew up in a household with only one bathroom can tell you, the process of defecation is extremely important-for people and cats as we will see.  A special shout out to all those fathers who on Sunday morning take the entire newspaper into the loo for an hour while the rest of us stand with our legs crossed and the matches ready. When I bought my first house the only requirement I had was that it have two bathrooms, I really didn’t care about anything else…..

There are several medical conditions that can cause your cat to have abnormal stools, or to begin defecating outside the box. Let’s briefly look at the most common-and hopefully everyone has finished their breakfast or dinner as this is NOT an article to read while eating!

Colitis is an inflammation of the colon, and can be a cause of “litterbox issues.” From the outside, it is impossible to tell if your cat has colitis as your cat will look perfectly normal to you. The giveaway is what they leave behind in the litter box. If their stool has frequent mucous and occasional flecks of blood, then it’s time for a trip to the vet. Also watch for vomiting. If you can, try and observe your cat when they are in the process of doing “number two.” Due to the inflammation in the colon, cats with colitis may have severe pain when defecating – they may actually try and stop the defecation process, which results in constipation. There may also be diarrhea-at any rate, none of this is a normal defecation process. Your vet will most likely want to examine the stool for any signs of intestinal parasites, and may also do a rectal exam and possibly a biopsy of the colon wall. Your vet will probably prescribe a bland diet to help the colon rest and heal, and it’s possible your cat will be eating a bland, easily digestible diet for life. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to help control bacterial causes, and other medications such as prednisone may be used.

Cats can also develop a condition called Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), in which the intestine is consistently invaded by inflammatory cells. The most common symptoms of IBD are diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. According to Dr. Jennifer F. Johnson, VMD, the type of IBD is determined by what kind of inflammatory cells are invading the intestinal tract. The different types of IBD are: lymphocytic-plasmacytic, eosinophilic, or neutrophilic. Each type is characterized by the type of cells that become inflamed  – kind of like the difference between VHS, Beta, DVD, and HD/DVD –they’re all in the same ballpark but sit in different rows.  Cats can also develop IBD which is cancerous. This type of cancer of the intestines is usually classified as a Lymphoma.  Lymphoma of the intestines will present with the same signs as a cat with non-cancerous IBD.  The good news is that the majority of cats with IBD do not have cancer.  

IBD is considered idiopathic in many cases (cause unknown). Some vets believe that IBD in cats is an autoimmune disorder.  The only way to definitively diagnose IBD is by performing surgical biopsies of the intestines. Once the diagnosis is made, and the type of IBD is known, treatment can be started. IBD is generally a chronic condition which is not cured, but managed through diet and medication. Various types of diets generally are tried in order to rule out specific food intolerance.

I have fostered a few cats that had IBD and they generally seemed to do well on a limited ingredient diet. A limited ingredient diet is just what the name implies: the ingredients are limited to a specific few which have been proven to be tolerable to the cat’s digestive system. Studies have shown that some ingredients are more likely to cause issues than others. In cats, the most common offenders are beef, lamb, seafood, corn, soy, dairy products, and wheat gluten. In a limited ingredient diet, the protein is provided by a combination of green peas and either duck, rabbit, or venison, which are rarely associated with adverse food reactions in cats. Hill’s DD or ZD diets are veterinary prescription diets and are sold exclusively at your vet’s office, as are prescription diets by other manufacturers such as Royal Canin, Purina, and Iams. If your vet approves, you may also be able to manage your cat’s diet with Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets, which are not prescription, a bit less expensive, and can be purchased at local pet supply stores.

Another medical reason for your cat to avoid defecating in the litter box is anal gland disease. According to Dr. Johnson, all “predators,” be they the domestic ones like cats, dogs, or wild ones like the occasional skunk in your backyard, have anal glands-they just use them differently. (We all know how skunks uses theirs!) The glands have a secretion which cats and dogs use at times to mark their territory. Every time your cat makes a “doo-doo,” the surrounding muscles should put enough pressure on the anal glands so that they discharge some of this secretion.

However, the glands can become impacted, infected, and abscessed. Affected pets may lick the anal area, ‘scoot’ along the floor, or have problems with defecation. A trip to the vet is in order. The “easy” way out: the vet will have to manually “express” the glands, everyone holds their noses and then all is hunk-dory. The “hard” way out: if there is an abscess, it may need to be lanced. In severe cases, surgery may be required. If your cat has chronic impactions of the anal glands, your vet may suggest a high-fiber diet. The added fiber or bulk in the diet should put more pressure on the anal glands and hopefully result in a more normal stool with some anal expression. Sometimes your vet might also prescribe a food additive similar to a Metamucil or other fiber product to help “move things along.”

We know it’s a stinky job but for the good of your cat’s health it is always smart to occasionally observe your cat’s bathroom habits, and any unusual behavior or “output” should be noted and reported to your veterinarian. As always, Happy Scooping!

Acknowledgements to Dr. Jennifer F. Johnson, VMD, owner of Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital for medical input, explanations and terms where noted.


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The Stinky Cat Goes “Green”

By Kim Butler

Solving Your Most Challenging Litterbox Issues: The Tidy Cat Whisperer is at it again!

I know, I know, I’m a little late to the eco-frenzy that has swept the nation. I’m still driving a non-hybrid vehicle-although it IS a 4- cylinder instead of my old gas-sucking Jeep; I just replaced my old, rusty oil-fired hot water boiler with….a brand new, oil-fired hot water boiler. However, it is Energy-Star certified and, even though it consumes fossil fuel it will at least consume less of it. And I did replace all my incandescent light bulbs with those squiggly bulbs that are supposed to last into the next millennium and use less energy. So I should get some points for that.

Believe me, I would have loved to have replaced my electric supplier with a row of solar panels on my roof, but at $30,000 it’s a little out of my league. That’s how much I spend annually on cat food, for pete’s sake. Plus I wouldn’t have any money left over to buy the five tons of litter I need to buy every week. The cats glared at me for even thinking such a thought. Which made me think: what if I could get my cats to go green—without telling them?

Since I usually write about litter and litterbox issues, let’s focus primarily on that area, since that also appears to be the biggest area we can make an eco-difference, starting with the litter itself. If we didn’t have cat litter, we would have to either let all of our cats outside, leash them up and take them for walks, or train all of them to use the toilet. The first option is an absolute no-no if you want your cat to live a long life without winding up as road kill on the side of the street. The second option? My cats are laughing their whiskers off. The third option will probably lead to an increase in the number of people attending 12-step programs.

The Invention of Cat Litter
Cat litter is generally credited as being invented in the mid to late 1940s by a genius named Edward Lowe as an alternative to packaged ash from burnt wood or sand, which was also commonly used. Lowe’s concoction consisted primarily of Fuller’s Earth, an absorbent clay which was used as an industrial absorbent. In 1947, he began selling the clay concoction from the back of his car in five pound bags as he traveled around the country, and in 1964, he founded the Tidy Cats brand of “kitty litter.” The first clumping litter was invented by Thomas Nelson, a biochemist, in 1984.

Ever wonder what it is that makes the litter “clump”? Sodium bentonite, which expands when wet and forms a “clump.” Sodium bentonite is so absorbent it’s used to seal stock & recreational ponds, dairy and sewage lagoons, and landfills. Wait, somebody call the EPA—we have the answer to the BP oil spill—just throw clumping cat litter down there! We can suck up all the oil, all the ocean, AND plug the leak! WOW! (The cats are yawning and eyeing me sideways as if to say “well, we could have told you THAT.”)

The downside of traditional clumping cat litter is the dust factor, which not only you, but your cats inhale—and the fact that when your cats lick their paws they may be ingesting a certain amount of litter—and sodium bentonite. However, there are litter alternatives which may not only be a little healthier, but also a little greener.

  • ExquisiCat, manufactured for PetSmart and sold in their stores, markets an enviro-friendly pine litter, made from recycled pine—so that new trees do not have to be cut down.
  • Yesterday’s News is made from recycled newspaper, another excellent eco-friendly choice.
  • S’Wheat Scoop is made from wheat—although my cats weren’t sure whether to pee on it or eat it.
  • World’s Best Cat Litter is made from totally organic ingredients, primarily whole kernel corn.
  • Nature’s Miracle Odor Control Litter is made from corn cob, plus it has natural enzymes which help break down the odor which normally accompanying a “session in the restroom.”
  • Feline Pine is perhaps the best known pine litter.
  • Arm & Hammer markets their “Essentials Naturally Clumping Cat Litter” which is made of corn fibers combined with their trademark baking soda. Personally, I also like the fact that it weighs about half of what a typical bucket of traditional clumping litter weighs. No more blown rotator cuffs or cranky backs for me!

So there are quite a variety of choices to make when considering to “green” your cat’s bathroom habits. But what about the litter boxes themselves? Unfortunately there aren’t as many eco-friendly options. Just about all litter boxes are made from plastic of some sort. However, Petmate, the company that makes a variety of pet products including bowls, feeders, and waterers, also makes litter boxes and many of their litter box designs are made from 25% recycled content. Aside from disposable cardboard litter boxes, that’s about it.

I have a friend whose cat has decided that the best way to be eco-friendly is to use her tub as a litter box, which completely frustrates her, but I say “hey, look at all the money you save on litter, you don’t have to buy any litterboxes, and all you have to do is run the water and wash it away.” (oops, forgot what a mess #2 makes) Oh well, can’t have everything.

So my friends, hopefully we’ve provided some good information for you. There is also an excellent website/blog which has a wealth of information on more eco-friendly options for your cat including a 30-day program on “greening Fluffy.”


Filed under Pet Tips, Pet Tips - Cats

The Stinky Cat: Matchmaking 101–How To Get Fluffy Attracted To The Litterbox, Problems In Da “Hood,” and Some “Simple” Solutions

Solving Your Most Challenging Litterbox Issues: The Tidy Cat Whisperer is at it again!

By Kim Butler

Yes, the Tidy Cat Whisperer has returned, with the complete “scoop” on litterbox issues. In the first article we looked at some of the various “psychological” reasons a cat might not use the litterbox, i.e. new baby, new furniture, adding another pet. 

There are some other reasons that are a bit more concrete and easier to grasp: 

  • A perfect reason to avoid the litterbox is when it’s not scooped and cleaned regularly. Put yourself in your cat’s shoes: would you use a toilet that hadn’t been flushed for a day or two? Ummm, probably not.
  • Daily scooping is required, as well as a wipe-down of the edges and sides, especially where there may have been urine. Do not use cleaners with an ammonia base, i.e. window cleaner; that will just intensify the urine smell to your cat.
  • Use cleaners like Simple Solution or Nature’s Miracle as they contain enzymes which will help break down the urine odor.


The Look of the Litterbox
Nowadays there are as many choices in litterbox styles, sizes, and shapes as Michelle Obama has in sleeveless dresses. There are litterboxes that look like litterboxes…and then there are litterboxes disguised to look like something else entirely. A litterbox that looks like a spaceship? What I want to know is: how easy is it to clean, and will it beam Fluffy into the carrier for that trip to the vet?   

Keep in mind: most of these “cutesy” litterboxes have one thing in common—they have a hood or lid. Yet again, someone forgot to consult the cat.  Put yourself in your cat’s shoes: just how much do you enjoy using a PortaPotty that’s been used 50,000 at that outdoor rock concert you’re attending? Especially one that hasn’t been washed down in a month? That, my friends, is what it’s like for your cat when they are sitting inside a hooded litterbox. The hood traps the odor of urine (“hmmmm, yeah I really wanna be inside this thing, maybe I’ll go pee on the couch.”) Hooded litterboxes were invented by people for the convenience of…. People (the cat is not at all surprised by this news). Hooded boxes are designed to reduce the amount of litter flying out of the box onto the floor but I believe there is another reason people like them: out of sight, out of mind. Put a lid on it and all of a sudden we can’t actually see what Fluffy has done in there. See, we people think that if we can’t SEE the clumps in the litter, oh then maybe it’s really not there—and maybe we won’t have to clean it as much. But—if your family members insist on a hooded box, remember to always wipe down the inside of the hood as well as the edges and inside of the box after scooping so you can eliminate the leftover urine smell. Fluffy will thank you by not urinating elsewhere. 

Fixing the Furniture
If Fluffy has decided that your furniture looks like a good substitute for a bidet, you can possibly salvage your furniture if it has not had a ton of damage. For spot soiling, Nature’s Miracle or Simple Solutions make cleaning products that will help get the odor and stain out. Oreck (yes the vacuum cleaner people) also makes a very good spot cleaner for pet stains. In most cases however, you are better off having the furniture professionally cleaned, especially if there are several areas to be cleaned. Most all of the major rug and furniture cleaning companies have special solutions that tackle pet stains & odors. 

Falling in Love with the Litterbox—Again
Now, onto the BIG issue: how to make Fluffy fall in love with the litterbox again. We can do the soft, easy way, or we can go “hard core.” First, let’s look at the easy way out:   

We need to somehow make Fluffy feel better about her environment so that she will feel more at ease and naturally gravitate towards using the litterbox—all without the use of Valium (sigh). This presumes that whatever it is that Fluffy is stressed about has been resolved: renovations, change of litter, new members of the household. (And no, I am not suggesting that you give the baby away….by now your cat is probably used to the idea of the baby being in the house). 

There are two products which I suggest we invest in: Comfort Zone with Feliway and the Sergeant’s Sentry “Good Behavior” collar. Comfort Zone is a plug-in, similar to the air freshener plugins like Glade, only there is no smell or detectable odor to this special plug-in. The Comfort Zone plug-in uses Feliway, which is a synthetic copy of the feline pheromone used by cats to mark their “territory” as safe and secure. Neither you or I can detect Feliway—but your cat can, and it gives them a very calming sense of security and helps reduce their level of stress when faced with a challenging issue. It’s sort of like “kitty Prozac” without the after-effects. Usually I suggest having one or more of these plug-ins, especially in areas where your cat frequents the most. 

The Sergeant’s “Good Behavior” collar is very similar to Feliway in that it has a very calming effect on the cat due to the pheromones contained in the collar. The difference is that the cat is wearing the collar 24/7 so the effects stay with the cat as long as they wear the collar. The combination of both Comfort Zone/Feliway and the collar may be just enough to get Fluffy back into good litterbox habits….. 

…but if we still aren’t quite there, then we have to go “hard core:” 30 Days In The Crate

It’s not as bad as it sounds, truly. Fluffy will be given her own separate room, and she will be crated in a standard cat/dog crate with her litterbox, food, water, and whatever toys and bedding she might need. Her litterbox will be filled with a special litter called “Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract.” She will not stay in the crate 24/7, you can let her out for supervised exercise, love, and attention, and of course when you clean her litterbox. The point here is that by being confined, she will have no choice but to use the litterbox—and the special litter that was designed by people…for cats. Cat Attract is a clumping litter like regular litter, but blended with a natural herb attractant. The scent, texture, and particle size seem to be just what many cats are looking for and they happily start using their litterboxes and stay that way. 

Along with the crating, I also recommend use of the Comfort Zone/Feliway plug-ins, placing one nearby the crate, as well as wearing the Good Behavior collar. It is very important that this plan be followed for 30 days. Once we have passed the 30 day mark, we can then start giving Fluffy more time out of the crate-supervised time as we want to be certain that she is using the litterbox only and not looking for other places to do “her business.” With patience and perseverance, you will usually wind up with a new cat in 30 days—a happy cat who will be more than happy to use her litterbox regularly—provided you live up to your end of the bargain and keep it clean, scooped daily, and leave the hood off!

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The Stinky Cat: Cats and Their Love/Hate Relationship With Their Litterboxes


Kim has become known as the "Tidy Cat Whisperer" for her unique gift of being able to help pet parents solve litterbox issues!

By Kim Butler

I know I really have no life now when I have decided to devote precious spare time to writing about litterboxes—or, rather, cats and their use and non-use of them.

The Tidy Cat Whisperer
Both in my little world of animal rescue and among friends, somehow I have acquired the not so glamorous reputation as the one who can solve litterbox issues. Call me the “Tidy Cat Whisperer.” It stems from having had several foster cats who arrived on my doorstep with some stinky baggage, specifically non-use of their bidets, and somehow I was able to get them “back in the box” and on their merry way. (Of course I had a few of my own cats who had the same issue, but why would I bother solving their problems when they have so graciously accommodated me and my own pile of crap, none of which I have bothered to fix?)

Anyway, back to the issue at hand. I get tons of e-mails about this very issue—from the general public, past adopters, friends—even the mailman. Just the other day, I was dismayed to learn that I would be needing a new heater. Quite a pricey expense. Needless to say, there will be NO Fancy Feast in this house for quite some time. So the heater guy and I get into a cat discussion, turns out his wife does TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release), and then he starts telling me about one of his cats who is a pee-er…and naturally I gave him some advice. (Hmmm, maybe I’ll get a discount on the heater?)

I am no expert by any means, and I always will refer people to specific products or professionals who may be better able to meet their needs if I think it’s warranted. I merely make suggestions that many times the average cat owner just may not have thought of themselves. By “average cat owner,” I am referring to a person who may have no more than four-five cats.  When you’re the Tidy Cat Whisperer like me, having 15-20 is a walk in the park….

Get Your Cat Examined
The first thing I always recommend is an exam by a licensed veterinarian to rule out any medical issues. In some cases the cat can have a serious medical problem which, once treated, will result in a happy, healthy cat who is back to using their box without further incident. A bladder infection, urinary tract infection or a kidney issue all are prime suspects and reasons why a cat might not be using the litterbox.

Barring a health problem, in most cases a cat does not use the litterbox for behavioral reasons, which is exactly the point where I find many pet parents—not veterinarians—to be the experts. The one “solution” that veterinarians often seem to prescribe is medication, specifically anti-depressants or behavioral modification drugs like Valium, Xanax and the like. Now there is a good and a bad side to this. The good side is that when I’ve had a bad day, I can simply pop one of Fluffy’s Xanax in my mouth and instantly go on a pleasant mind trip. The bad side? Fluffy turns into a zombie, who will be too spaced out to climb into your lap for those wonderful moments of interaction you love so much—and who may still continue not to use the litterbox. Drugs will do nothing to solve the problem (do I sound like Nancy Reagan here?). We need to dig deeper to get to the root of the problem. This is where the Tidy Cat Whisperer comes in…

The Problem With Change
Nothing rocks a cat’s world like change. Most people, even though we hate change, grudgingly come to accept it and we just move on. I was fascinated by cell phones, or “mobile phones” as they were known in the day when they first came out. They were HUGE—and they were only installed in your car, with an antenna as big as the NBC transmission tower. And then, just when I managed to scrape the $1,000 together to get one of those monstrosities, the cellular industry started making portable ones that you could carry with you…in a bag the size of your suitcase. Gradually they got smaller—oh wow this one will fit in my pocketbook!…and smaller-now I can wear it on my belt!…and now they are so miniscule they had to do away with the keypad because the little gnomes who make them couldn’t make them that small. So now they’re all touch screen….which is a change I hate because I can’t get any of the numbers right. When I want to order pizza, I am constantly dialing China. I am now on a first name basis with the main operator at the Peking Ballet. Forget text messaging, I have created my own language which would throw the Linguistics Department at NYU for a loop. But eventually I will get used to it, and move on.

Cats, however, just DESPISE change in their worlds. A change as simple as moving the furniture around can throw a cat into a panic. (“What? The sofa is now by the WINDOW? Oh my god how will I survive this? Where’s the Xanax?”) In most cases, moving the furniture is not enough to distract a cat away from its litterbox routine. There are some changes which can get a cat totally unglued—and many people have no idea they’re creating a feline meltdown by:

  • Doing renovations to their house—without consulting the cat
  • Having a baby (without first consulting the cat, of course)
  • Deciding their cat needed a playmate and thus bringing home a kitten (again, without consulting the cat or without making proper introductions)
  • Deciding that a dog would be a great addition—especially one that likes to chase the cat…

 There are more items which a cat can have major objections to, but these are the most common ones I hear about. Once I mention some of these, nine times out of ten the response I get will be “Oh, you know, Fluffy started her litterbox thing not long after we ripped out the kitchen and remodeled”…and then I know what’s upset her.

The next blog post will be how we get Fluffy back to using the litterbox—and some ways to make sure that Fluffy continues to have a happy relationship with her litterbox forever and ever.

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