Charleston The Anxious Kitty - Seeking Input On Litterbox Problems

ermentrude

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This is going to be long, but I want to try to give you experts as much info as possible.  

Charleston is a 6 year old neutered male Ragdoll.  I acquired him as a rescue off of PetFinder at about 6 months old.  I now strongly suspect he had some issues before I got him, but I do not claim to have done everything perfectly either.

When Charleston came home in September of 2009, he was cat #4.  There were 2 6 year old males (1 orange, 1 grey) and a female - no idea on the females age, just "older".  I thought they adjusted to each other fairly well although I didn't follow any of what I now know are correct procedures for introducing a kitten.  

The cats have a bedroom dedicated for litter purposes.  I had an old trundle bed in there just because I had no other place to put it.  I didn't notice at first, but *someone* was peeing on it.  And someone was peeing on other beds around the house, although never my bed.  I narrowed it down to Charleston and the female and then I finally caught Charleston in the act.  Occasionally he would also cry while in the litter room, but no other cats were there.  I took him to the vet and it had to be cystitis, if we clear the infection, he'll use the box again.  He was on antibiotics, pain meds, special food and eventually some sort of laser treatment.  Nothing stopped him from peeing outside the box though. Early on I sort of admitted defeat and bought washable bed pads - used for toddlers and older people who wet the bed.  As long as those pads were on the trundle bed and changed regularly, he stopped peeing around the house and was content to pee only there.  We went to the vet at least every 4 months over the next 5 years because of some escalation in pee quantity or color, or crying in the litter room.  I was always assured it was avoidance because of cystitis and just be patient, we'll get him better.  I tried everything I could  find online also - more boxes, different types of litter, even more boxes, rearrange the room.  Nothing changed.  

Over the past year he also became more aggressive with the grey male cat, chasing him around at night.  The grey cat wanted nothing to do with it which just made for unhappy kitties all over.  Again there were trips to the vet to see if anything was wrong.  We tried amatriptaline.  He was almost comatose, but he still mustered up enough to continue to pee on the bed.  Stopped the drug and decided to just let him be.

Around January of this year he started pooping outside of the box too.  Back to the vet, more pain meds and conversations about litter avoidance because he's in pain.  A vet, not my regular vet, told me that this was God's plan because I was willing to deal with him peeing and pooping outside the box.  Quite possibly the most ignorant thing anyone has ever said to me.  

In February of this year the orange male had to be put down - had a tumor in his mouth, was quite unexpected.  Charleston and the orange male were not friendly but they weren't enemies either.

In June I found the grey male dead on the stairs next to a Palmetto bug.  Probably a heart attack, but at least he went out chasing some prey.  He was also very bonded to the orange cat and I don't think he ever recovered from his friend going away.

Very soon after the second passing, I talked to the vet and she said that it should be OK to adopt a kitten which was probably fairly selfish on my part, but it is what it is now.  At the same time the vet said I should consider that Charleston's behavior was not associated with a urinary issue but was purely behavioral and decided to try Prozac.  24 hours after the first pill, there was no more peeing or pooping outside the box.  Charleston was lethargic and I noticed he wouldn't get on the cat tree anymore, but I read that could be just part of getting accustomed to the meds.  I then got distracted by the world's sickest kitten - Eddie spent 4 weeks on various medications for every conceivable stomach issue you can imagine.  During that month, Eddie was segregated although by the third week he did get what I referred to as "supervised visitation" - trips out of his room for interaction but no litter box access.  Charleston and Eddie got along and even played.  

During the month, I also noticed that the "big kids" food was going down slower than before and that there was less poop to clean up in the litter boxes - I attributed that to going from 4 to 2 cats in a fairly short period of time.  Then July 1st Charleston showed up with his beautiful mane all crunchy.  And I noticed he had vomited up his morning Prozac in a pile of bubbles while I was in the shower.  As I went through the house there were little piles of bubbles everywhere.  Charleston was sick.  There were no obstructions or other issues so the vet said to cut the Prozac dose in half (5 mg to 2.5).  I couldn't get the Prozac to stay down one way or another - even tried liquid and that failed.  So on the 3rd of July, the vet decided to just stop trying and let him come off.  From reading human forum posts on Prozac, I think I understand what he was feeling - starving hungry but if he just moved he felt like he was going to throw up.  

About 2 weeks after stopping (last Friday), Charleston was back to normal - appetite, playing with Eddie, and peeing / pooping outside the box.  So we tried to see if a lower dose of Prozac might work, tried 1.25mg (~1/8 of 10mg pill).  The next day, he threw up dinner.  So Prozac is no go at any dose.  

Yesterday the vet started him on 4mg of Zoloft with a 2.5mg pepcid chaser.  This time the pills are done with the nightly wet food also.  So far no upset tummy, but a little lethargic and still peeing outside the box.  I actually setup a camera in the "litter room" so I can watch the little man do his business.  He's not spraying, he squats and goes.

I have two goals now for Charleston to get better - first I need a clean house, that 45 days of no pee outside the box was amazing and I even had a co-worker over.  Second, I need Eddie the impressionable kitten not to think this behavior is acceptable because he may not limit himself to one location like Charleston.

Why am I posting?  Mostly to vent because this is killing me.  But also to see if there is any encouragement that I haven't just entirely ruined this cat and he may be able to be recover normal litter habits despite everything I did wrong.  I'm also very open to any other ideas.  Meds were not my first choice and I feel guilty giving them to him. 
 

catladyvettech

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Hats off to you for doing everything you've done so far! That is an incredibly frustrating situation and I think you're handling it admirably. Two of my cats are on fluoxetine due to cat-on-cat aggression and it's worked wonders for them. I'm sorry charleston had such a hard time with it. In my opinion, medicating cats because of behavioral issues is fine. It's not ideal, and other options should be tried first but if meds are what helps then I say go for it. I hope the Zoloft works for him! And I wouldn't worry about the new kitten picking up on his inappropriate potty behavior. My cat Fernando has cerebellar hypoplasia and pees on potty pads but none of my other cats have ever tried to do that. I think cats instinctually prefer litter so I expect your kitten will go where he's supposed to. Good luck with everything!
 
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ermentrude

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Update on Charleston, the Zoloft started on Thursday night. So far he seems to be tolerating it better than the Prozac. No vomiting so far. His appetite seems normal, at least he's eating wet food like a fiend. He doesn't seem entirely stoned, he still runs and plays with the kitten. Best, he hasn't gone outside the box since Saturday night / early Sunday (small victory). I put a motion activated camera in the litter room and can see he is going through the ritual to go on the pads - scratching it up into a little cup shape, but then jumps down and goes in the box. It took a month on the Prozac before Charleston stopped eating and started yacking up bubbles, and this hasn't even been a week so I'm not letting myself get too excited yet. But he doesn't seem as lethargic as he did on the Prozac. And maybe getting the meds with dinner and pepcid is helping.
 
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ermentrude

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Forgot to mention, I can see that every time Charleston goes to the litter room, Eddie the kitten shadow is there. They don't fight or play, but Eddie does stand a few feet away and observe. And Eddie the kitten has an incredibly fast metabolism, the other two cats are in there a couple times a day, Eddie is in every 2 hours or so. I feel like having a camera may now give me too much information.
 
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