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Why is my cat suddenly too good to squat in the box?

The cat was upset because her eight-year-old cat, who had once squatted to go to the bathroom, now stands and shoots pee over the litter pan on to the wall and floor. When I suggested she take the cat to the vet because he may be suffering from arthritis, she insisted he couldn’t possibly have achy joints because he still jumped on the counter. Cats are naturally secretive about pain or illness, so I explained jumping takes only a fraction of a second, whereas squatting to pee or poop requires a kitty maintaining a painful position for 30 to 60 seconds.

I suggested she try crouching for one minute. Only then did she realize her kitty may no longer be able to assume a squat. This woman isn’t alone. Often people who ask for my help maintain that the cat misses the box or sprays out of spite, when the likely cause is pain or fear. Even though we humans were smart enough to land on the moon and invent the can opener, when it comes to bi-species communications, we’re sadly lacking.

We often misinterpret what our kitties are trying to tell us. It’s like actor Strother Martin said to Paul Newman in the movie, Rather than viewing a cat’s motive for any infraction as an act of jealousy, anger, stubbornness or arrogance, try looking at it as an attempt to communicate with you. He can’t tell you his bladder hurts or he’s afraid or the smell of the box makes him queasy. Hopefully, as you read CSI with an open mind and your questionnaire handy, you’ll experience some “aha” moments. Let’s start with a cat scene diagram of every room your cat has access to.

Don’t worry about drawing it to scale. Items you need to include are the locations of:

• Litter boxes

• Windows and doors

• Food and water bowls

• All major appliances (washer, dryer, refrigerator, trash compactor, air conditioner, furnace, etc.)

• Heater and air conditioner vents

• Locations where Fluffy is spraying/peeing/pooping: Place an O where Fluffy pees outside the box and an X where he poops. When you do this, think about the textures of the surface. Does he have preferences (clothes, bathtubs, newspapers)? Who they smell like?

• Places where Fluffy likes to sleep, play and scratch You may want to keep a journal. What happened 30 minutes before the incident? Did someone come to the door? Did the dog walk in the room? (For example: Angie’s new boyfriend came over and Fluffy pissed on the couch. Fluffy peed next to the door. Fluffy peed in the corner of the room. Butch the dog is in front of the litter box. Fluffy cried out as he peed on the couch.) If possible, set up a camera in the areas where he goes. This will help you observe something near the litter box that frightens him or uncomfortable interactions with other pets.

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