Please pardon any typos. I spent so much time struggling to get pictures uploaded to Flickr that I can’t bear to sit in front of my computer for one more minute. If there are any horrible typos or egregious errors, leave a comment pointing it out and I’ll fix it when I don’t feel like punching my monitor.
I need to ask how you manage with that many cats. I had 4 and my house was a zoo. I tried Feliway and everything else I could think of, but one of the females stopped using the cat box and substituting the couch instead. The two males are gone now, but the little female has never returned reliably to the cat box. She pees there, but poos in the house. I love cats. I would love to foster them, but I really don’t have a clue how to manage them. Do you have any references for me, or could you do a blog entry about how you do it? (all of my cats were neutered, three were kittens when I first got them- over a spread of 13 years, one wandered in at a year old).
Before I go on to discuss how I handle having 347 ridiculous cats in this ridiculous house, I’d like to offer a suggestion regarding the pooping outside the litter box issue. I have only really dealt with this situation once (or more accurately, with one kitten who pooped outside the litter box many times), but the pooping outside the litter box is a great big deal breaker for me and I spent many hours frantically Googling around the internet desperately seeking advice.
When I say that it’s a “deal breaker” for me, what I mean is that it stressed me out like nothing else I have ever had to deal with. Years ago we did have a cat, Mr. Fancypants, who would poop outside the litter box if he was ticked off at us, but he didn’t poop on the couch or our beds or even in the tub, but rather pooped near the litter box, but not IN the litter box. That was, well, not ACCEPTABLE to me, but I could handle it.
This pooping pooper I’m talking about developed a litter box issue caused by diarrhea, which caused him to make a mental link wherein pooping in the litter box = pain, so stopped using the litter box and instead used, oh, the middle of the rug or the end of the couch.
It was delightful.
So I desperately Googled around, looking for ways to fix this issue, and I saw pretty much the same suggestions, which spurred me to give it a try.
Firstly, I am quite sure that you took Poopin’ Petunia to the vet to make sure that she has no medical issues. But just in case you fell off the feline turnip truck, I’m putting it out there.
Now, assuming that she’s perfectly healthy according to the vet, this is what you do. You decide on a small room in your house where you can relocate the pooper for several days – a bathroom is the perfect size for this. You put the cat, her litter box, and her food and water in the bathroom. And then you keep her in there for at least three days. She’s not going to be happy about this, and neither are you. It SUCKS. (Side note: I highly recommend using Cat Attract litter while doing this, too. Might not help, but then again it might – and it certainly doesn’t hurt.)
Most of the places where I read this suggestion said that you only go into the room to scoop the litter box and to check the food and water a few times a day; otherwise you don’t go into the room at all. This didn’t work for me, because the cat I was retraining to use the litter box was a SUPER love bug and it was driving us both crazy to just leave him in there without giving him all the love he was desperate for. Instead, I went into the room several times a day, sat with him and told him what a great cat he was, etc etc.
The first day he was kept in the bathroom, he didn’t poop in the litter box. The second and third, he did. I made a big fuss over him every time I scooped the litter box and found that he’d used it; I told him how smart he was and petted and kissed him like crazy. At the end of the third day, I opened the door to the bathroom and invited him out into the rest of the house. Unfortunately, he pooped on the rug a few hours later, which necessitated a trip back into the bathroom for a couple of days.
At the end of day two, we moved him up to the foster room (which is bigger than the bathroom, of course) to see how he did. He did fine, used the litter box okay, and then we started giving him access to the rest of the house for longer and longer periods of time. In the end, he was retrained to use the litter box completely (THANK GOD) and except for a couple of accidents caused by stupid things that were completely the fault of the humans rather than the fault of the cat, there were no more problems.
So if you have the room and the inclination, I would highly recommend that you give the litter box retraining a try.
Now, as for how to handle fosters, all I can tell you is how I do it.
I have a room dedicated to the fosters. Well. I actually kind of have two rooms dedicated to the fosters at the moment, but that second room is technically the guest bedroom and isn’t actually supposed to be dedicated to fosters, but it’s not like we kicked guests out of the room to put fosters there, right?
But that’s not really the point. Let’s just say: I have a room dedicated to the fosters. This is important because when you first bring a litter of fosters home, they need to be contained not only because they’re usually little and maybe a bit wild, but also because you need to make sure they have nothing communicable before you allow them around your permanent residents. Even if they seem to be 100% healthy when you first bring them home and even if they had a fecal check done by a vet that showed no parasites and EVEN if they have perfect little poops at first, at our house right around day four or five they start with the diarrhea, no matter what.
(If you’re going to foster, get used to looking at a lot of poop and determining what to do about the diarrhea. I think that I’ve had perhaps one litter in my entire fostering career that didn’t have any diarrhea, but I can’t guarantee that that’s so.)
Our fosters have to be sequestered for, at rock-bottom minimum, two weeks before we’d ever consider letting them out into the house – and usually it’s longer because even if they’re perfectly healthy, many times they’re really too small or too nervous to let out into the house. The good thing is that even though they’re off in their own room, our cats know that there are fosters in the house (because on the rare occasion that there are no fosters in the house, I leave the foster room door open because a couple of the cats really like to hang out in that room) and they can smell them through the crack under the door and on my clothes. So even though they’re not face to face with the fosters, they know they’re there, and they get used to their smell.
Once we’ve determined that the fosters are healthy and old enough to be let out of the foster room, we open the door and allow them limited access to more of the house – the foster room is at the end of the hallway upstairs, and Fred built a door that goes across the other end of the hallway so that we can open the foster room door and they have access to the upstairs bathroom and my bedroom in addition to the foster room. We let them have that for a few days (until we’re tired of hearing Jake and Elwood scrabble their way over the hallway half-door to get to the kitten food in the foster room), and then at some point we fling the half-door open and start giving them access to the rest of the house.
Some of the permanent residents don’t think twice about the fact that there’s a flood of new kittens running around the house. Some of them get all hissy and hysterical. Most of the hissy ones adjust within a couple of days, as long as the kittens don’t get too much up in their space. Occasionally one of the big cats gets a little too aggressive, and Fred or I steps in to break it up.
When they first get the run of the house, we take the fosters back upstairs to the foster room a couple of times a day so they can remember where the litter boxes, water, and food is located, but they usually figure it out pretty quickly on their own.
Annnnnd… that’s all I can think of at the moment. If you have any questions, Jan (or anyone else), feel free to ask!
I am sorry to confess to y’all that Harlan Peppers is not, in fact, named after Harlan Pepper from Best in Show. (Though I’ll admit that it’s not outside the realm of possibility that it was a subconscious sort of thing.) He’s also not named after the four-man band from Canada. He got that name just ’cause I liked the sound of it.
The Many Faces of Molly Peppers.
Warning: Kitten totally cannot hold her licker.