Many cats are dropped off at shelters and rescues when they stop using the litter box. I’ve read a ton of books on caring for cats, and even written one myself. Of course, all that reading and theory didn’t prepare me for the reality. Living with the smell of kitty pee permanently burned into my nostrils helped me get up close and personal with the problem (so to speak).
It Began With a Very Old Cat
Our “pee problems” started when our 17-year old cat Alia stopped using the litter box. She had been in kidney decline for quite a while, but at some point, it seemed like she couldn’t step up into the covered box in the laundry room, so she’d go somewhere else.
We understood that Alia was ancient, so we took a few steps to try and make things easier. Using a saw, we enlarged the opening of the box, so she wouldn’t have to step up so far. We also placed a plastic “boot tray” in front of the litter box to catch the urine when she missed. (A puddle confined to a tray is better than a puddle oozing all over the laundry room.)
Of course, we also took Alia to the vet, who suggested fluids and basically said, “she’s really old.” For those who don’t know, fluids go in and fluids go back out. Alia made some big puddles. Plus, as she got more decrepit, she started relieving herself pretty much wherever she felt like.
During the last few months of her life, Alia was using the living room as a giant litter box. We were breaking out the Nature’s Miracle daily. (I should buy stock in that company!)
The Badness Behind the TV
Our TV is in a corner of the living room. Much to our dismay, the area behind the TV became litter box-central. Even worse, we did not discover this problem for a while, since it’s a dark corner.
After the initial discovery and clean up, we tried laying down little pieces of wire mesh on the floor behind the TV to discourage Alia from going back there. It did NOT work. Apparently, the little mesh pieces were easy to move aside.
It’s Not Just One Cat; It’s TWO!
Even worse, after Alia’s death, we also discovered that the “accidents” weren’t just her. We had been assuming that she was the only culprit. We were wrong.
Our other cat Troi (who is perfectly healthy) apparently figured, “Hey cool, the whole house smells like a gigantic litter box. How convenient!”
I did a teleseminar with feline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett and I have her book. After Alia died, I realized we had to really get serious about the problem. I turned to Pam’s book Psycho Kitty for ideas. She often recommends a product called Feliway.
Feliway is “a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure.” Because cats are scent oriented, it helps places smell less like a litter box and more like a happy place where (we hope) you don’t relieve yourself.
The key to clean up is to get rid odors, so I cleaned the entire living room with Nature’s Miracle. I put the stuff in a squirt bottle, sprayed as much of the carpet as I could and used a brush to scrub it in.
I also threw away a kitchen runner rug that unbeknownst to us had become gross underneath. (Don’t ask.)
The Poor Man’s Scat Mat
In addition to massive cleanup, I also needed to make the area behind the TV less appealing to Troi than the real litter box in the laundry room. She likes to sleep in the living room, so I needed to trump the convenience factor.
I had some 1-inch chicken wire from my garden and I measured and chopped off a big hunk of it that fits the entire space back behind the TV. Now Troi would have to jump down onto the wire, which would be unpleasant on her paws at best.
I also sprayed Feliway all around the corner area, including the log wall.
After all this, it seems to have worked. My house no longer smells like a gigantic kitty toilet. And there was much rejoicing!