It’s every cat owner’s worst nightmare: the cat who decides he’s no longer going to use the litter box. In some cases, it’s a long-term issue – maybe you’ve struggled with it since the day of your cat’s adoption. In other cases, a cat who has dutifully used the litter box all his life may one day start soiling outside of it, seemingly out of nowhere. Regardless, it’s a frustrating issue that can cause stress, costly home damage, or even surrender or euthanasia. Read on for some insights on feline house soiling and what you can do about it.
A Common Problem
Feline house soiling can consist of either urine or feces, and it’s one of the most common issues cat owners face. One study found that of cats that were relinquished to a shelter for a behavioral problem, 40% were for house soiling. It’s also the #1 reason adopted cats are later returned to shelters.
Feline house soiling can be separated into categories of medical problems, toileting, and marking. If your cat is a kitten or a senior, a medical problem is more likely to be a contributing factor to going outside the litter box. Young cats may suffer from bladder or kidney stones or anatomical abnormalities such as ectopic ureters, while older cats are more likely to be affected by urinary tract infections, kidney failure, or metabolic diseases. No matter your cat’s age, it’s important to start with a visit to the veterinarian to rule out potential medical issues before behavior is addressed.
“Toileting” means your cat has found a new place to use the bathroom – and he prefers it to his litter box. Factors such as litter type, cleanliness, or location can affect toileting – we’ll discuss these more below. Marking, on the other hand, is a method of communication used by cats. In contrast to toileting, cats that are marking are more likely to release a vertical spray while toileting cats will release horizontally. Fecal soiling is also more indicative of toileting, as marking is almost always urinary. Cats that prefer one “substrate” over others (i.e., your bed) are more likely toileting than marking. Interestingly, there’s no difference in the volume of urine released in toileting vs. marking, although many people think cats release just small amounts of urine when marking.
Treatment of a toileting cat focuses on making the litter box as enticing as possible. Litter boxes should be placed in quiet, accessible, well-lit areas, as many cats will avoid noisy laundry rooms, crowded bathrooms, or basements only accessible via stairway. Common knowledge is to have one litter box per cat plus one extra – buy the biggest litter boxes available and keep them clean (scoop daily, empty and scrub monthly). While studies have shown that most cats prefer a clumping clay litter, it may be worth offering several litter boxes with different types of litter in each so you can observe which type your cat prefers. Clean up any soiled areas outside the box immediately, and make these areas unattractive to your cat.
Treatment of marking cats focuses on reducing the need for your cat to “communicate” with others. If your cat is intact, spaying or neutering is the first step to a cat that isn’t desperate to get his “message” out to his peers. The next step is to get rid of any potential triggers for marking. If multiple cats in the household are fighting, institute full or partial segregation and put a belled collar on the aggressor so the other cat can avoid him or her. If other cats out the window are the trigger, remove outdoor attractants and work on blocking your cat’s view outside.
Creating an “environment of plenty” is another important component of treatment. Perches, scratching posts, puzzle toys, even bags and boxes are all good distractions and ways for cats to release some pent-up energy. Short bursts of playtime (i.e. 5 minutes of play followed by 5 of rest) are ideal. The pheromone product “Feliway” has also been shown to reduce marking, and comes in several formulations (plug-in diffusers, sprays, etc.).
Medications are a last-resort option, but often necessary for difficult cases that may be resistant to behavioral therapy. The treatment of choice is fluoxetine (Prozac), given as a daily oral medication. While this can be an incredibly useful tool for some cats, most cats do return to some level of marking when the drug is discontinued.
We Can Help!
While feline house soiling can be challenging to treat, you’re not without options – and with a little work, most cats can be managed at an acceptable level. Your veterinarian will guide you through diagnostic and treatment options and help create a plan for your cat, so you’ll be able to put away that carpet cleaner in no time.
Why is Your Veterinarian So Busy?
If your pet has visited the veterinarian within the past several months, you’ve most likely noticed some changes – one of which may be longer wait times. A visit to the veterinary E.R. will make the difference even more jarring, with wait times reaching 8 hours or more during peak hours. Here in the clinic, we’ve noticed the difference as well, with appointments being booked out months in advance. While we don’t have all the answers ourselves, here are a few thoughts on why your veterinary clinic may be busier than ever.
To start with the obvious, you’ve probably noticed that your furry friend must go to his or her
appointment unaccompanied. With curbside service, you’ll call the clinic when you arrive so that a technician can meet you at your car and collect any relevant information about your pet. Once your pet is escorted into the clinic and their weight and vitals are collected, the doctor will examine them and call you with their findings, as well as diagnostic and/or treatment recommendations.
Not only do we miss shaking your hand and seeing your face – this process significantly increases the length of our appointments. Instead of discussing exam findings face to face and receiving immediate feedback and conversation, your appointment is now broken into segments: exam, phone call, diagnostics, phone call, treatment plan, etc. While this is the best way for us to provide care for our patients while keeping our staff and clients safe, it’s not without its frustrations.
New Furry Family Members
With more time at home (and for some of us, the need for a fun distraction), we’ve seen a sizeable increase in new puppy and kitten adoptions. Trust us – we’re as obsessed with your cute new furry friend as you are! However, new puppies and kittens require much more frequent visits to the vet during their first few months of life. The average new puppy will need to come in for three to four visits by the time they are four to five months old – and this translates to a busier schedule and appointment spots that fill up faster.
More Time at Home
Another phenomenon we have noticed is with more clients working from home, many have become more on top of their pets’ medical care. If you used to spend 8 hours a day away from your dog but now stay with him 24/7, you’re much more likely to notice that slight limp or that new skin lump. Or maybe you never noticed your dog licks her feet all day long until you were around to see it. Whatever the reason, we’re seeing an increase in pets here to get that lump or those itchy ears checked out when in the past, it may have taken months to notice the problem. We are ecstatic that so many people are being proactive and seeking care before a problem gets worse! But again, more appointments mean that we book up faster and may not have as many available slots as we have in the past.
What You Can Do to Help
There are a few things to keep in mind that can help your appointment run smoothly and efficiently. Arriving a few minutes early to your appointment is always a good idea. Bring your cell phone and something to do. If you have multiple concerns you would like addressed at your pet’s visit, writing down a short list can help keep you (and us!) organized. When calling to schedule annual or routine exams (or those puppy/kitten vaccine appointments), calling three to four weeks in advance is best. If your pet is running low on a prescription medication, calling 24-48 hours in advance will ensure we have plenty of time to get you the refills you need. Above all else, we so appreciate your patience during this time. We are working hard to get as many pets the care they need as efficiently as possible while keeping everyone safe.
Pets are such a comfort and wonderful part of our lives. They’re fun, cute, and give us love. BUT! There’s always a BUT. . . They can be stressful too. As much as we want things to warm, fuzzy, and perfect . . . we know that life is a little more complicated than that. Every family has their specific dynamics and every pet is different with very individual personalities. We don’t want a family’s relationship with their pet to be undermined. SO, WHAT DO WE DO??
Here are some topics (problems and helpful interventions)
Early intervention is best, when possible (like when they are puppies and kittens)
Cats Scratching and Clawing. Damaging furniture is frustrating and can be costly to replace. Having scratching posts is important. Both vertical, horizontal, and located in “public” parts of the house (not isolated). The posts should be made of rough material that they can shred and be stable so that they don’t fall over and scare the cat.
Inappropriate Urination. Cat urine on the carpet or furniture is one of the most offensive things to us, but not necessarily to a cat. This is a way that they mark their territory. Keeping the litter box clean is important. The size and type of litter box is helpful too. Some cats benefit from a larger litter box, especially older arthritic cats. Litter boxes with covers and a door are scary to some cats. The type of litter can be a factor too – fine grained, unscented is ideal. The location of the litter box is can make a difference. If it’s in the laundry room and the dryer buzzer is going off periodically, then the cat is not going to want to use it. So a quite spot free of things that might startle them is best. If there are multiple cats, then multiple litter boxes are needed. A general rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat, plus one more. The more cats you have, the more likely there are going to be territory marking. Enhancing their environment is worthwhile. Cat trees, Catio’s (patio for cats), and access to a safe yard are helpful.
Dog biting family members. As puppies, play biting is normal. They are so CUTE, it is hard to not engage and let them grab your hand. However, as they grow up, this becomes a bad habbit. No longer is it cute and it HURTS! Which certainly undermines your relationship with your dog. Best thing is to play with a toy and calm play time down. Don’t necessarily reprimand the dog, just phase that kind of play out. Redirect it to toys, training time, or walks.
Inter-dog aggression. We see this as a problem for a lot of dogs while on walks. It is somewhat natural, dogs are territorial by nature. Barking and lunging at other dogs can make your walk miserable though. The root issue is to make sure your dog feels that you are in control of the situation. Use a Gentle Leader or similar type halter type collar, this not only acts as a collar but directs their head including their attention = to you. Use a normal leash (extend leashes don’t work very well). Hold a section of the leash firm in one hand with only 1-2 foot of distance to your dog and hold the slack in the other hand. This keeps your dog from careening back and forth on the end of your leash creating chaos and uncertainty. Having your dog short and controlled creates reassurance and a semblance of calm.
Separation anxiety. Many pets get scared and anxious when left alone. When they are young, is the ideal time to help them develop confidence to be home alone. Crate training is helpful for many dogs. They associate this as their “den” and have a sense of security. Getting used to sleeping and or spending time in their crate is something that is started from an early age. It is often hard at first. Naturally you want to coddle them when they are young but it can lead to problems later. Gradually getting them used to sleeping in their crate right from the start is ideal. Having toys, etc, for them makes the transition easier. Another tip to help with with separation anxiety is to keep your comings and going as benign as possible. When you leave, don’t say good bye, just keep things very “matter of fact” – just do what you need to do to prepare and then leave. When you arrive, ignore your pets. Making deal about your arrival emphasizes the whole leaving and arriving process excessively. Just ignore them as best possible and once things are settled and their focus isn’t completely on you – then give them some attention.
Every pet is an individual and every circumstance varies greatly. These are some basic issues and tips. For more in depth discussions it is best to schedule an appointment with us. Depending on the circumstances, we may advise seeing a trainer. We have a number of highly qualified trainers in our area that we can recommend.
Vomiting is a common symptom that can have a great many underlying causes. When we see a pet that has been vomiting, we first try to narrow down whether it is a long term issue or whether it is more sudden/ recent development. A critical factor is whether the pet is keeping any food and water down. If it is a recent development and they are not keeping and food or water down, then it is considered much more urgent. It is also helpful to know if the vomit is consistently undigested food versus a combination of fluid and bile.
Chronic vomiting conditions can be caused by a variety of underlying issues. Cats are notorious for vomiting a couple times per week and that can be normal! (annoying, but fairly normal). It can be a fine line as too when we should be intervening with low grade chronic vomiting in cats. But whether it is cats or dogs – low grade chronic vomiting can be caused by a food sensitivity, inflammatory bowel disease, Gastro Esophageal Reflux, organ disease, and sometimes tumors. Because the pet is usually stable, we can do diagnostics tests and make treatment changes over time. Often, we will get baseline blood work and do prescription food trials. Depending on what results we get and how the pet is responding, we may advise further testing ranging from specific blood tests to ultrasound.
Acute vomiting conditions can also be caused by a number of things, but tend to be much more urgent. So we do a lot of the same things that we would do for Chronic vomiting pets – but we do it a lot faster. We also need to do our best to make sure that the pet is stable and not in pain. Underlying conditions can range from a stuck foreign body, to a severe upset stomach, Pancreatitis, hormone disease, organ disease, and cancer. Starting intravenous fluids to keep them well hydrated and at appropriate electrolyte levels can make a big difference. Pain medication as needed. STAT blood work to screen for organ and hormone related diseases. Sometimes Radiographs are helpful. Ultrasound can especially be helpful in these cases. Ultrasound images are notoriously challenging to interpret. We utilize a mobile ultrasound service. An experienced technician with a high powered, state of the art, ultrasound machine captures the appropriate images and then sends them to a specialist for interpretation. In some cases, exploratory surgery is the best way to proceed.
We have had some pets eat things (Foreign Bodies). We’ve had surgery in which we’ve removed corn cobs, socks, lead fishing sinkers, hair ties, plastic toys, underwear, string, rocks, wadded up plastic, even an Almond from a cat! Usually those cases do well, but there can be complications if the foreign bodies have caused necroses to a section of intestines.
We have treated pets that had advanced diabetes that was bad enough to trigger Ketoacidosis. The pet’s poor body is going through a “roller coaster” and it is our job to stabilize them. Depending on the severity, we may have to transfer the pet to the Emergency Veterinary Hospital for 24 hour critical care management.
Many cases are gastroenteritis, in which the pet has eaten something that severely upset the stomach. These cases range in severity but often respond to fluid support, anti-nausea medication, gut soothing medication, etc. Some are severe and take days to respond. Pancreatitis is an extension of gastroenteritis and it can also vary from mild to severe. Sadly, it can even be fatal. Avoiding poor quality food, limiting treats, and minimizing table scraps are important for avoiding pancreatitis. Small breed dogs are especially susceptible to Pancreatitis. Mild bouts of it early in their life can lead to Diabetes because insulin producing cells are located in the Pancreas. They get damaged from the bouts of pancreatitis and stop producing later in life. SO! NUTRITION is important. Avoid poor quality food, excessive amounts of treats (especially fatty ones), minimize table scraps, and NO rich table scraps like ham, bacon, roast beef, steak, sausage, etc.
Tumors can trigger vomiting whether they are benign, metastatic, solitary, or multiple. Splenic tumors are one that can potentially have a good outcome with surgery. It depends on which kind of splenic tumor it is, though. Some splenic tumors are metastatic and have spread by the time you become aware of them. Other’s are solitary and can be cured by surgically removing the spleen. Other types of tumors vary vastly. Depending on the scenario, we can ever refer cases to surrounding specialists. We are fortunate to have Oregon Veterinary Referral Associates near by and Oregon State University Veterinary School only an hour away. Both have specialist on staff that can help with complicated cases. We always do our best to consider the case in its entirety. Meaning that we consider the pets age, overall condition, and whether surgery, referral, advanced diagnostics and treatments are truly in the pets best interest. We always want to make them better, but if they have numerous pre-existing issues and their quality of life is already in question – then it may be unkind to put them through too many tests and treatments.
There are SO many variables with pets that are vomiting. Fortunately we have training, experience, diagnostic equipment, treatment regimens, and a whole team ready to help. We make our best judgements to do what is best for the pet and make these judgements together with the pet’s family. Communication and understanding are of course important. Cost enters into what can be done in most cases too. We use our judgement to prioritize what tests to run first and what treatments have the highest likelihood of working.
Our hearts go out to all the family and pets that have suffered during these terrible Wildfires. We will certainly help however we can. GreenHill Humane Society has set up services and a Veterinary Triage Center has been set up to help pets needing veterinary care. They will do an initial assessment of the pet and then coordinate care either there or at another clinic (including ours). The triage center is set up at McKenzie Animal Hospital VCA. Below is some contact information for those two sites.
VCA McKenzie Animal Hospital is for Veterinary Triage Center. (541) 747-3859
Lane County also has some information. See lanecounty.org Animals in Disaster
Mild to serious burns, smoke inhalation, and various injuries are the main things that are expected to be seen by teams involved with the Veterinary Triage Center. But we know that there are going to be a lot of scared pets that have been separated from their families too. Teams are searching and working on re-uniting them.
Q Street Animal Hospital’s
COVID-19 Action Plan
Modified Hours due to COVID-19: Monday-Friday, 8AM to 5PM
Saturdays, 8AM to 12PM (excluding holiday weekends)
OUR POLICY IS EVOLVING. OUR PRIORITY IS TO PROVIDE CARE TO PETS THAT ARE IN NEED, WHILE PROMOTING SOCIAL DISTANCING TO SUPPRESS THE SPREAD OF COVID-19
1. Please call us from the parking lot when you arrive. If you do not have a phone, knock or open the front door and let us know that you are here. After that, we will give you further guidance either by phone or by coming out to your car. If you need to come up to the clinic (i.e. don’t have a cell phone, or can’t get a hold of us), limit it to one person per pet, and wear a mask or facial covering.
2. If you are exhibiting respiratory symptoms, please let us know. It is best if you not come to the clinic at all, but if you do – it is important to let us know so that we can take appropriate precautions.
3. We are doing exams for pets that are sick. We are doing surgeries and dentals for pets that need a procedure to relieve eminent underlying pain, discomfort, or disease. We are refilling medications as normal.
4. Annual exams and routine vaccines may be delayed for several weeks to minimize exposure and spread of COVID-19. Surgeries such as spays and neuters may be delayed to also reduce exposure, but also to reduce use of personal protective gear such as gowns, masks, and gloves.
5. We are doing Curb-side appointments, meaning that we will bring your pet into the clinic while you wait in your car. The Doctor will then call you to discuss diagnostic and treatment plans. We are certainly sensitive to certain circumstances such as euthanasia, and will make accommodations.
6. Drop-off appointments are also available, in which you leave your pet with us for part of the day. We will do an exam and call you to discuss (again) diagnostic and treatment plans.
7. We are offering Exams via phone as well. There is a $42 consult fee. We can also view images and possibly video from our email for consult exams (email@example.com). Normally, an in-person exam is required for diagnostic and treatment plans, but because of COVID-19 – the rules from the state are allowing for “tele-medicine” appointments.
8. It is unlikely that COVID-19 can infect pets at this time. However, pets are susceptible to other respiratory diseases. If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of respiratory disease, then call to discuss and possibly schedule an exam.
**Please be aware that we are experiencing an extremely high volume of phone calls, and ask that our clients continue to be patient with us during this very uncertain time. We are also scheduling many appointments several weeks to a month out since we are so booked at this time. Call us at (541) 746-8491 to discuss availability.
(THE FOLLOWING PROVIDES MORE DETAILS)
The health and safety of our clients, their pets and our employees is our top priority during this period of uncertainty with the corona virus (COVID-19). We are doing everything we can to provide a safe and sanitary experience for you and your pet without compromising the quality of our services.
We are following the latest information and protocols from the world’s leading health experts and government authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). We have implemented the recommended social distancing measures in the workplace as much as possible and ask that if you are exhibiting symptoms such as a fever, cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties that you not come in to the clinic, but call us so that we can figure out the best way to make sure your pet is seen. We are also asking that people wait in their cars as much as possible to decrease the number of people in the waiting room and limit your pet’s companion to 1 person in the examination room.
We have increased our stringent practices of sanitation, disinfection and cleaning throughout the building. There is hand sanitizer available in several locations and a restroom equipped with antiseptic soap. We have instituted a policy for employees to stay home from work if they have a fever or any respiratory symptoms.