Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Don't Wait

As with many things in veterinary and human medicine, the longer you wait, the worse the outcome. Early intervention (or even PREvention) is the key to the best overall health.

This is something I hear a lot in practice. It's frustrating because I know that if I had been able to intervene earlier, I may have been able to give my client (actually the pet in this case) and the owner, the best outcome. In some cases, this means avoiding being given up to another home/shelter or even euthanized.

What is it I am referring to here? It's a cat with inappropriate urination (sometimes defecation too). This is a cat who is NOT going in the litterbox. They could be going anywhere - one place, carpets only, newly laundered clothes, etc.

Yes, this is one of, I'd venture to say reason a cat ends up being given up to the shelter. And I can tell you folks, cat's don't DO "spite." So stop assigning them YOUR behaviors and mentality. 

Cats do get anxious, fearful and sometimes exhibit dominance or submissive behaviors. They don't knowingly think "oh I'm gonna piss my owner off today and pee on her bed because she got a new boyfriend." Let's face it, a cat is smarter than to do something that will likely get her killed.  It's more likely STRESS (if it's not a medical issue). 

But here's the deal: The longer you wait to bring her in to the veterinarian for a full exam and some diagnostics, the more likely you will have a problem that will not be fixable. 

I've been to many seminars on this topic because I'd love to have an answer for every case. I hate to see someone either dump a cat or throw them outside because of misconceptions AND lack of even trying to find out what's wrong.

There ARE medical reasons for this and they can be anything from a simple urinary tract infection to something like thyroid disease or other metabolic or systemic issues. AND get this: If kitty starts out doing this because of a medical problem and you DON'T address it, you are very likely going to end up with a behavioral issue that remains even AFTER we resolve the medical problem.

Here's the bottom line:
1. Always have more litterboxes than cats by one. It's N+1.
If you have 20 cats, you best have 21 boxes.

2. Do not wait if they are going out of the box. The longer you wait, the chance of your success drops precipitously. I've been told by the experts that at 1 yr out, you will NOT fix this.  6 mos is truly pushing it. We need to intervene in the first days to weeks of this!

3. The more cats you have, the more likely by 10% you will have a problem (this is not a scientific study but something us vets have seen anectodotally) - ie, 10 cats = 100% chance of a peeing problem.

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