Managing Animals within the Household
I have been recently reminded about one of the many reasons why dog and cats are surrendered to animal shelters; toileting in the house.
I was talking with a client about their dog who is boisterous, and does everything at 200 miles an hour, and about teaching their dog Quiet (stop barking) and Settle (asking it to stop what it’s doing and curl up for some quiet time). During this session they explained that their flatmate had had an issue with their older cat and had had it put down. I listened to their relaying of the story with interest as they explained that the cat was introduced into the house after the dog and initially there were a few teething problems with the cat threatening the dog, and not using the cat flap for toileting. The toileting was resolved by providing a dirt box and sorted that out without too many issues, and eventually the cat had gone outside through the cat flap, but only when the dog was inside. The issue of the boisterous dog was obviously a very big issue for the cat but thought that management of the toileting was good and provided the cat a toileting area without being harassed or threatened by the dog. However, a few weeks after the toilet box had been removed and the cat was using the cat flap, it starting toileting inside, in wardrobes or under beds. The cat was old so they took the cat to the vet for a non-return visit.
Why did this happen? When animals have been toilet trained and they are successful at going outside of their own accord and suddenly start urinating or defecation in the house, there has to be a reason. It could be medical, because of the age of the cat, it could be environmental (someone or something in the house or garden), or behavioural (needs some retraining). From the explanation from the flatmate,
- the boisterous dog had started harassing the cat when it was asleep on its owners bed
- when the cat tried to go outside, the dog started blocking the cats access to the cat door
- when the cat was outside, the boisterous dog would chase the cat up a tree and then sit there barking at it until someone took the dog away
Although the cat was having the accidents, you can see from above that it didn’t appear to be a medical or behavioural issue as the cat was trying to get out of the house. It was the dogs behaviour that had changed and it was now bullying the cat at every opportunity it could. The cat was having to search for quiet places to go to the toilet and unfortunately the wardrobes and under the bed were the places that it used.
When issues start with our animals, we have to take a step back and look at the situation and say “what’s changed here for this to start happening?”. It may well be one of the other areas of medical or behavioural, but look around at the animals home first and think about what has changed in the past day, week, month that may have affected the animals environment…you might have new neighbours that have an unfriendly cat, or another boisterous dog next door, the accidents could have happened during a thunderstorm, or a very stormy few days…”What’s different?”. Once you think you know what is different, implement some changes, ideas into place.
In the above scenario, you might:
- put the dog out for an hour, and when you bring it in, then put the cat outside;
- separating the front and back of your section may give the cat and dog an area to themselves, then gradually bring them together.
- creating separation in the house, may also work
- train the dog a behaviour that doesn’t support chasing or blocking the cat
If you cannot think of anything that could of caused the cat toileting in the house, then ask your vet to check your animal. Age is one factor for toileting in the house, but there are many others, and a vet will be able to check the health of your animal to remove illness as a cause.
There are cat behaviourist around that can help you if it is a behavioural problem, but I think that if the person in the above situation had put the toileting box back into the house, created a safe haven for the cat, and the dog had had some behavioural training, the cat could have lived for a few years longer.