Help with 1.5yr old Adoptee - Multiple Behavioural Issues

Katie2112

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Hi :)

I was hoping to get some advice regarding the cat my partner and I adopted a few months ago - will try and give as much background as possible. He's a 1.5yr old Scottish Straight. We adopted him from a family who claimed that they got him for their children as a kitten during the first lockdown but were having to adopt him due to their youngest daughter developing an allergy. We made sure before adoption to ask all of the questions - he was fully litter trained, didn't scratch regularly, great temperment. They said he didn't really like to play much and was quite a "lazy" cat, who was used to spending some time alone and actively spent afternoons away from people to sleep. I have had a cat in the past and so not unfamiliar with looking after them but also wouldn't claim to be hugely experienced. Archie wasn't neutered at the time we adopted him - previous owners stated that he had the appointment booked but they ended up not being able to do it on the day due to him being too stressed (we have since found out this didn't happen since we pulled his previous vet records), and have since had him neutered at around 14 months old with no ill effects.

Since we have adopted him we have noticed the following issues;

- He will urinate outside of his litter box. There doesn't seem to be any pattern to this - it has happened in all rooms of our flat, but mostly in the hallway where his litter tray is located. He has 2 trays, which are huge and we have maintained the litter he has had since he was a kitten. He uses the tray around 50% of the time and alway for number 2. But the inappropriate urination happens at all times of the day, no fixed places, but usually around the edges of rooms, it happens when we aren't in his vicinity and also has happened while we've been in the same room as him. We scoop both trays every day and clean them properly once a week / fortnight depending on how much they're used.

- Scratching - We had trouble with scratch posts from the start - he didn't have any in his old home and his previous owners have said that he just wouldn't use them. We've tried scratching mats flat on the floor and also a vertical scratching post. He also now has a cat tree which he loves and there are scratch posts on this also. He does use the posts (never the mat) but again it isn't consistent and he much prefers to scratch on the living room and hallway rugs. We have tried to encourage him with treats and catnip around the posts, and we try to ignore the bad behaviour but do have to stop him scratching the rugs as they are becoming destroyed. I'm worried that he's associating this behaviour with getting attention which is why he is doing it.

- Playtime - Again - we were told he wasn't a playful cat but we have since found this not to be the case and he is an incredibly playful cat with a hunter mindset - he loves to chase the fishing rod toy around and will do so for hours and hours. We try and provide as much stimulation time as possible and he gets minimum a couple of hours a day which isn't a bad thing but just another change we've noticed in him.

- He's in the last 3 or 4 weeks become a lot more chatty than previously - again not a bad thing but we've noticed he doesn't really settle as much during the day anymore to sleep - he wanders around a lot and meows loudly whenever he walks into a room and will often just sit and stare at us and meow loudly. He is fed regularly at set times, and I don't think it is because he is hungry. He's not an overly affectionate cat, he doesn't like to be held and doesn't sit on laps but enjoys head scratches.

In terms of the change from his old house to here - he went from a family of 6 - 2 parents, a grandparent, and 3 daughters under the age of 15, in a large house to our house - which is just my partner and I. We live in a large ground floor flat.He has lost the multi floor home he had before but there is plenty of space here for a single cat (we have 4 large rooms and a hallway that he has access to (with the exception of the living room at night as he injured himself trying to jump unsuccessfully onto a large cabinet while we were asleep). We have had this injury looked at by a vet who said there were no serious issues - we had some anti inflammatory to give him and there have been no limps etc since. He's had health checks and is a healthy cat with no problems.

I feel that we may have a more anxious cat that we were led to believe he was - and that the behaviour problems might have been there from a much younger age but we have no way of confirming this - the previous owners won't talk to us about it. We are at a bit of a loss as to what we can do. We want whats best for our buddy, and hate the thought that something we are doing is causing this anxiety and bad behaviour, but we are finding it really difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing it and how we can fix it.

Any thoughts / advice as to what we could do would be massively appreciated.

Also meant to add - we have Feliway diffusers on in the flat and also spray with feliway areas of inappropriate urination and scratching. we also clean spots up as soon as we notice them with enzyme cleaner.
 

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di and bob

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I'm so sorry you are having all these issues, but want to reassure you they can usually be resolved with time and patience. He is new to your house and household first of all, and cats absolutely hate change. A 'few' months ago is nothing in cat time, and he is still learning and becoming used to his new house and scared after being transplanted. If he uses his litter box to go number two, that is great, a beginning. make sure you have two boxes, away from each other. Use clumping litter so you don't have to clean the boxes themselves so much, he needs to have his smell there. Maybe switch what you have been cleaning them with, he may not like it. cats usually go outside the box for three reasons, doesn't like the box, or the litter, or is stressed. He is definitely stressed moving to a new home, and maybe trying to mark all his areas. Also, hormones in a tomcat take at least a couple of months to leave the system, so his marking may be lessened in time. I would start with changing the litter and maybe apply some 'cat attract' on the litter to entice him to go. I use Scoop Away and Fresh Step at Walmart, they seem to handle the smells the best. If he returns to the same spot to urinate, get some clear plastic carpet runner and turn it nub side up to discourage him, it hurts their feet to walk on it without injuring them. It would be temporary until he learns to use the box. Get a large corrugated cardboard scratcher at Walmart too and see if he'll use that, apply some catnip to it. He must prefer carpet to scratch on, you might get him his own little carpet and encourage him to use it. Get some cat repellent spray for your rugs, or pick them up until he learns to use his own. Or wrap his posts in carpet samples to encourage him there. As for the meowing, he is lonely and scared after his big move, just give him a little extra attention and playtime, get a kickeroo on Amazon and throw it towards him when he meows to distract him, they are great for that. I really think that time and your help will cure him of his problems, he just needs a lot more time.....
 

Jem

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Well, I'll start by saying that you can probably forget everything that the previous owners have said about him...between the (IMO) lies and the overall differences in your households...I don't think anything they said will apply to your situation.

When you mention he's had health checks...I'll assume that means a urine analysis and a culture was done as well? If there's any chance he has stones, crystals or infection, no amount of behavior modification will work until those are gone.
As di and bob di and bob mentioned, he probably still has "tomcat hormones" and the urge to mark his territory which should lessen over time. And he's still trying to adjust to his new surroundings. I think he came from a stressful situation and now he needs to learn that he's safe and secure...plus he's in this new environment that he needs to adjust to. A few months isn't really all that long in cat time...
When it comes to the inappropriate urination, it sounds like you're doing things right, but what may help is to place even more litter boxes around the house where he's been known to pee. Then as he becomes more consistent, you can slowly move the boxes closer and closer to where you want them...then when they've reached their destination, slowly remove them one by one until you're down to 2. Another thing I've heard that works if nothing else does is to confine the cat in a small space, so it becomes necessary for them to use the litter box. Then when litter box usage is consistent, you slowly expand their territory bit by bit. This is more of a last resort type thing and I wouldn't do it at this time but if all else fails...it could be useful.
The other thing to consider is what the wildlife or stray situation is at your house. It is possible that there is something outside that is stressing him out. That is something that is more difficult to fix but still something to look into.

For the scratching...Scratching is also a way for cats to mark their territory, so if there are a few specific areas that he always goes to, I would place something he's allowed to scratch in/on the area. For example, if it's a rug in a certain room, take out the rug and put a scratch pad (or whatever he's attracted to) in that location. If it's wall to wall carpet, you can't exactly take that out...but you could cover it with something then place a kitty approved scratching thing over the area. And as with the litter boxes, you should be able to inch by inch move the scratching things to a more convenient location for all. Also, I'm not sure how often you do it, but he's still pretty young and his claws will grow fast. You should try to clip his nails at least once a week. Keep them short dull and there's less chance of him actually damaging anything he does try to scratch.

The fact that he's playful is great...keep up with playtime and give him as many outlets as you can to keep him entertained. The fact that they said he wasn't playful is what makes me think he came from a stressful situation. It may have been too busy for him, and let's face it...some people don't train their kids to handle kitties properly so he may have been hiding most of the time or felt insecure rather than "been lazy" like they said. Also, if the adults of the home attempted to "train" with punishment or dominant tactics that would have simply backfired and made him even more insecure and scared of his surroundings. It sounds like you already know that those types of training tactics don't actually work with cats, so thank you for being patient with him...:hugs:

he wanders around a lot and meows loudly whenever he walks into a room and will often just sit and stare at us and meow loudly. He is fed regularly at set times, and I don't think it is because he is hungry. He's not an overly affectionate cat, he doesn't like to be held and doesn't sit on laps but enjoys head scratches.
Our cat was the same way. He didn't know how to be a house cat. He is probably (as with what our cat did) trying to get your attention the only way he knows how and with what's comfortable.
When he seeks you out like that, pet him how he likes and with time...he'll hopefully become more open to physical affection.
With our boy, he would just come up to us and stare or meow at us and want us to bend down to scratch his head or butt. To get him used to being "handled". I would randomly pick him up, scratch his head and put him down....with time I would hold him for longer periods but always try to set him down before he started to struggle out of my arms. I wanted him to know that me picking him up wasn't a bad thing and that there was no reason for him to struggle because he was never trapped and would always be put down. I would follow up a pick up session with pets and a treat.
As for being a lap cat, it took several months before he would come and sit with/on us and not just sit at our feet and stare or meow for attention. What helped with that though is our other cats. I would watch him, watching our other cats intently when they would just hop up and settle on our laps and get pets and cuddles. Then one day, I was sitting on the couch and low and behold, he jumped up on the couch, and just stood there and stared at me. Then he very slowly reached out a paw and sat it on my leg, then look up at me as if to ask..."Is this OK?". I then scratched his head and put my arm back down and he put both front paws on my leg. He stood like that for another 30 seconds or so, just looking at me, before laying down half on and half off me. I pet him for like 5 minutes then he jumped down. We've had him for over 2 years now, and he's still developing new "house cat" behaviors all the time. He also lets me pick him up and carry him around sometimes for like 10 minutes before he wiggles to get down. Time and patience will win your boy over. I'm sure of it. :catlove:

I think the best thing for him is to make him feel as secure in your home as possible and with an anxious kitty, security tends to come with consistency and a routine. I'll also add territory to the mix, as It seems he may have some insecurities with that as well.

For territory:
-many places for him to mark where HE wants to mark (when he's more secure it can be altered a bit). We actually had a litterbox in our kitchen right next to the kitchen island for about 4 months with our inappropriate peer'...not awesome to say the least but it didn't last.
Be sure he has plenty of high up places to be able to look out from. (cat trees and cat safe shelving) A confident cat likes to be high up but it also provides them with a secure "out post" where they can watch and survey their entire territory. Also cat trees and shelving by the windows is always great entertainment for them.
I would also make sure he has some hiding places if he ever feels the need to escape. A little cave bed, or a cat tree in a room that nobody uses that much, etc...Somewhere he knows he can go and not be bothered.
This is also where the whole wildlife/stray issues would come into play as well.

For consistency and routine:
You're already on the right track for this with his timed feedings, so I would keep that up, but just try to make his whole life as routine as best you can. Scheduled play times, feedings, treats, etc..
You also mention he's a little hunter...One thing that can help increase the confidence of a cat is to foster their instincts to hunt, catch and eat routine. So, if possible, before feeding times, play with him with a wand toy or something interactive with you (don't use your hands). When he starts to "wind down" let him "catch his prey", then go get him his meal and feed him. After he's done eating, he should technically go off and groom himself and probably take a nap.

One other thing...What are you feeding him?
Cats, especially male cats, are prone to urinary issues and a wet food (or at least mostly wet food) diet is very important for urinary health. Cats don't tend to drink much so a wet food diet will ensure he gets that extra water he needs. You can also consider getting him a water fountain, they tend to encourage more drinking as well.

I hope some of this helps you! :thumbsup:
 

sunny578

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Lots of great advice here!!!

A couple of additional questions- are both of your litter trays in the hallway? What litter are you using? And, where are your scratching posts/other things to scratch? Are there hoods on your litter boxes? Has he urinated outside of the box since he moved in with you, or did it start more recently?

If he checks out at the vet, I would start by re-evaluating your litter box set up. I would try out new litters—cat attract is a great one to try as mentioned above. I would make sure there are no hoods on the boxes, and also make sure they are in easy to get to places. I would aim to have at least one box in each room for now, and one other cat thing—a scratching thing that he likes (perhaps a cheap rug remnant secured to the floor), a cat tree, a bed, his toys, etc. All the scratching and urinating around the perimeter makes me think that he is trying to spread his scent in this still new environment.

And, as mentioned above, it might be helpful at some point to go back to keeping him in one room for a bit with lots of boxes and other cat things, and then slowly expand his territory once he starts using his boxes 100% of the time. I don’t think you are there yet though. I would try the vet visit and rethinking your litter box setup first.

Another few thoughts—are you renting your flat? It’s possible that someone before you had cats or dogs, and he is trying to cover that scent with his own. You could look into a carpet cleaning company that specializes in pet odor. Carpet really hangs on to old scents:(

Please keep us posted and let us know if you have any other questions!!
 

Lucy&Petra

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I'm going to respond to each thing, one by one. Before I do that ... it sounds to me like you have a perfectly normal cat, that really just needs your patience and lots of training (which his previous family did not give him).

- Urination ... When a cat is not spayed/neutered early on, this can happen. It is perfectly normal and often will go away in time. I imagine this could be what you are seeing here. Tip: wherever he is spraying the most, try putting the litter box there and try to 'entice' him to use it. Also, spray the areas he is peeing on with something citrus-y, could also get him to stop. Give him LOTS of rewards when you see him go pee in the litter box and try to get him to associate going in the box with some of his fav. treats.

- Scratching ... This seems like the previous family didn't train him not to scratch. Best way to deal with this is to put some scratch protectors wherever he is scratching. Amazon sells these and they work like magic. Are your scratching posts covered in rope or carpet? I don't know why but it seems like cats that scratch furniture sometimes prefer carpeted scratching posts, maybe if you don't have that also get one of those? In addition, don't give him attention when he scratches inappropriately. Just simply pick him up and move him (don't speak or scold or make any noise really, just a simple pick up and move).

- Playtime ... Again this seems like the previous family weren't the best owners. By the way, if he needs a lot of playtime, then the scratching and urination may actually be linked. Try this: take large boxes, turn them upside down, cut holes in them (i.e. you are making play boxes for him), then get LOTS of fluffy small balls (like this: Chiwava 24PCS 1.8" Catnip Furry Cat Toys Ball Soft Pom Pom Balls Kitten Chase Quiet Play Assorted Color : Amazon.ca: Pet Supplies). I don't know why but those fluffy balls and the box 'caves' help my play-crazy cats get some of their play out (without needing me at all hours). This combo works for me, sharing as I hope it may work for you or inspire you to think about how you could (cheaply and easily) create a more engaging environment for your little guy (clearly he is an active little dude).

- Meowing ... This sounds like he's talking and wants you to talk to him. It also sounds like he is bored. Have you considered a friend for him?
 

catsknowme

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Lots of excellent advice given already! I would add a few more suggestions:
Add high-intensity play which is easily done by attaching a teaser toy to the end of a retired fishing pole or old horsewhip or long,thin stick. The goal is for your cat to make across-the-room dashes (like 12 ft dashes) and high leaps into the air.
Also, comfort grooming might be enjoyable. I use a plain plastic comb and control the tooth depth by holding my thumb across the teeth. I use short, soft 'J' strokes that imitate a mama kitty's licks. I mostly groom about the neck, behind the ears, in back of the shoulders and about the face.
Lastly, simple tricks are good confidence builders. I start with "up" to train to get onto a perch and then let the kitty choose their trick - usually "tail whips" or "circle around aka circles'.
The territorial marking might indicate either previous marking by another animal tenant or there are wildlife such as ferals, raccoons or roaming dogs outside.
Please keep us updated!
 

sanfran_kitty_lady_21

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Such a cutie!

My 2 cents - doesn't seem like he was happy/getting what he needed in his previous home. The fact that he's more playful and more vocal are signs he's feeling more comfortable so please, please, please pat yourselves on the back.

Scratching: one thing I learned from my cat is that cats can be picky scratchers. My cat would either scratch my linen couch or cardboard scratchers. She wouldn't scratch anything else (though enjoyed rubbing up against them). Since then I've only purchased cardboard scratchers and put them everywhere in the house and replaced that couch. Seems like your kitty really likes carpet scratchers so 1) I'd buy/make some and 2) put them on his favorite scratching spots and 3) put a bedsheet or something on the rug for a few weeks to 'rewire his brain'. To further encourage the new behavior, try giving him a treat whenever you see him scratching the correct thing and continue that a few weeks after getting rid of the bed sheet.

Peeing: Just you case you haven't, I'd ask the Vet to check him out (though it looks like you've been taking him to the vet for a few other things so I'm guessing you already did this). Is your liter box open? Is it in an area where he can see what's coming at him while he does his business? It's possible, being an anxious kitty, he doesn't feel safe in his litter box. There are a few really great videos on YouTube about litter box (my fav channels are Jackson Galaxy, All About Cats, and Helpful Vancouver Vet) and they all pretty much say the same thing. Don't have a cover, make sure the box is in a central location, and make sure they have a good view.

Another possibility: it can take a while for the hormones to calm down. It's possible he is still marking and trying to find a female. I'm not sure how long that lasts though. Overall, highly recommend looking at those expert's you tube channels, finding their videos on litter box challenges and see what you can change.

Lastly, as a fellow anxious cat guardian, I feel you, it gets better. I adopted my kitty a year ago (she's 6 years old), she was a tiny bit over weight, super skittish, and afraid of being picked up. After 6 years of horrible quality dry food, I managed (over months of time) to switch her to wet food. She's calmed down enough that she actually kinda likes being held and will pur when I hold her (but she's over it avter a minute). And I started using Jackson Galaxy's Stress Stopper formula (it's not medicine but some herbal thing) to help her calm down when I knew she'd be stressed out (vet visits, people coming over) - that helped A LOT.
 

Lukasmommy

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Hi!!! I’m sorry you’re dealing with this and THANK YOU for sticking with him and working with him! I have a few ideas I heard while working at a shelter, I thought I’d share in case they haven’t been mentioned.
For the litter box, I would try slowing switching over to a different litter. For whatever reason, he may have developed a dislike for what he had in the other home. I would try a few different kinds, just to rule that out as a cause. Stress can sometimes cause not using litter box, something like moving or having another animal in the home. I’d clean out the box at least 2x daily and replace/clean it once a week. If none of this improves things, it could potentially be a medical issue so I would have him checked at the vet!

For scratching, I’ve heard a few things. The first is that when a cat decides something is great for an itch (like, a couch), they’ve really just told you where the scratching post needs to be. Put one next to that item. I’ve heard a few places online suggesting using a catnip spray on the post to further encourage use. Additionally, cats are sensitive to certain smells. Things like citrus essential oil mixed with water can be sprayed on furniture as a repellent. I also had a co-worker say that black pepper (like on food) can deter. She put a small dish of it under her couch to ward her cats away.

I hope this helps!!
 

danteshuman

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It sounds like you got great advice on peeing out of the box.You might want to invest in a blacklight & some enzyme cleaner. If it glows, use the enzyme cleaner!

Scratching: vinyl scratch guards & cat attract spray on mutiple scratch surfaces (get carpet, sisal & cardboard.) The cardboard cat house and scratch mat or the card board cst sofa are always popular.

The meowing: try talking back to him or call him towards you. This shuts my cat up within a minute or reo instead of10-30 minutes of meowing (my cats us a talker!)

Play: interactive toys you rotate along with a catio or a daily walk may help (you would need to harness train him.)

If in a few months he is still highly stressed, you might consider adopting him a calm confident little brother. Nothing calms a stressed out cat like another cat that is completely calm!

Thank you for adopting him (& yeah it sounds like they lied to you!)
 

danteshuman

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Oh and make sure whatever post you get him are tall (4 ft preferably) and sturdy so they don’t wobble. A good 6-9 ft tall cat tree of carpet & sisal and a cardboard sofa should give him all 3 types of things to scratch. You can then find out what kind of texture he prefers.

6 different cats that I know of like this type of scratcher so I would bet on it. There is also a spray you can buy that tells cats to scratch here, to help get him started. My guy even likes the flat cardboard scratcher in the bottom of his Christmas log house
 

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