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Can These Two Live Together

Guest Adrianne

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Guest Adrianne

The animals in my home are in turmoil right now, and I'm at my wits end. I don't even know where to start....


My cat, Riley, is unhappy. He

has always been persnickety about using the litter box---always, from the day he stepped foot in the house almost six years ago. Ninety percent of the time, he would go outside to do his business, and that was fine with me. The times he did his business in the house, well, about seventy percent of the time, he'd use the litter box. Thirty percent of the time, he wouldn't. Why, I don't know. The litter box was always kept clean. This was a problem, because it took me years to get his diet adjusted to where he would have good solid poop.



Enter Chevy....the first dog I have ever had who likes to snack on cat poop. Not good. He will dig and hunt for cat poop out in the yard if I let him (which I don't), and I always know the moment Riley has used the litter box just from Chevy making a beeline for it. And then there's Ollie, who has always watched the greyhounds and imitated their behavior. So, all of a sudden, I had not one but two cat poop eaters. Another note to add here: Chevy is Riley tolerant, but he likes Riley to keep his distance and will give a low growl if he gets too close while he's lying down. He's never chased Riley, but Riley has always been used to rubbing up against the dogs and lying down with them if he wanted. He can't do that with Chevy.



In the last two or three months, Riley has decided he no longer does his business outside....it's all inside. Why he decided this, I don't know. Nothing has changed outside--no new dogs, no feral cats. The neighborhood is the same. (I did see Chevy make run toward Riley once outside as if to chase him, but Riley didn't move, but Chevy just pulled up & sniffed him. That's all I know of that's happened outside.) So anyway, he started doing his business inside. And he wasn't happy with the litter box. I put it in the very back bathroom for privacy, but he would go in and poop on the floor two feet away from the litter box. I added a second litter box right across from the first, and he seems happy with that. Again, I would know the instant he used it, because Chevy would make a beeline for it.



Then he started spraying the linen closet door...not peeing--spraying. He did it several times; I caught him in the act once. Each time he did it, the door and carpet had to be scrubbed and everything pulled out of the closet and washed. This is a neutered cat. I understand that he's frustrated about something, and I thought maybe it has something to do with Chevy racing me to the litter box. So I added a baby gate and blocked off the entire back part of the house. Riley can now roam back there freely without Chevy having access. His food bowl is also behind the gate so he has access to that without the dogs eating all his food.



However, the addition of the gate has caused its own problems. Chevy and Ollie are kept from the back because of the gate, except at night. Ollie sleeps with Seth every single night. She has since she got here. So now Chevy is the only one who doesn't have access to the area behind the gate, and he's frustrated. (And why shouldn't he be--poor baby.) To be fair though, he never slept in the back before the gate went up--he has always chosen to sleep in the living room. He has started guarding his food bowl and barking at Ollie and Riley if they even enter the kitchen when he's eating. Just a single bark--no jumping at them, no snarling. He will even not eat all his breakfast and lie down to watch the bowl. If Ollie or Riley go near it, he lets out one bark. He's fine when he's on his bed, he'll still lay down with Ollie. And the other night he laid down with Riley, and even put his head on Riley's back. You could tell how uncomfortable Riley was with that, and he got up pretty quickly and moved.




A couple weeks ago, Ollie walked in the kitchen nowhere near Chevy, and he turned around and barked at her. It scared her, and in her haste to get back, she wrenched her back. Not a good thing for a dachshund. It's just a tweak, and we're treating it, but for now she can't run or jump or bounce around or go on walks. But she's not even trying to do any of that. She's better every day, but we have to be careful with her little back.



I'm trying to spend more alone time with Chevy, taking him on long walks just me and him. I'm giving him extra treats, extra brushings, etc. Oh, one other thing that has affected him. We got new furniture a few weeks ago. Hubby did not want to buy new furniture because Chevy stays on the couch when we're not around. He KNOWS he's not supposed to be up there and will get down when he hears somebody approaching the room. Anyway, Jamie & I compromised. We'd get new furniture if I would work harder to keep Chevy off it. So, the couch & love seat get blocked off at night and if we leave the house. This is also frustrating Chevy. (And before anyone says anything about hubby insisting no dogs on the furniture, let me say "don't." Hubby is a good man who has compromised with me on the animals many times. He didn't want any more dogs three dogs ago, but he loves me & gives in to me and loves the dogs. He's a very kind hearted man. And besides, Chevy already knew he wasn't allowed on the furniture--now it's just impossible for him to get up there.)



So.....I can move the gate and give Chevy access to the back of the house. But that means keeping doors closed, blocking Riley's access to the litter box frustrating him to the point of pooping where ever. I would also have to find another secure spot for the cat bowl. I could leave the bedroom and bathroom door open to give Riley access, but that also gives Chevy and Ollie access which seems to frustrate Riley to the point of spraying the linen closet door.



I could leave the gate up, alleviating Riley's frustrations and dealing with Chevy's frustrations. I could invite Chevy back to our room at night to sleep, but the bathroom door would have to be shut, blocking Riley's access to the litter box. I've tried a gate just across the bathroom, but Riley acted like it was a brick wall. You might say, "Well, he'll get used to it" but he doesn't even try. He just poops right in front of the gate, and if you step in it in the middle of the night going to the bathroom, he doesn't care.




And you know what? I'm washing linens again today, because Riley sprayed the door again yesterday. The gate and the extra litter box have helped--Riley no longer leaves surprises around the house. He is using the litter box 100%. But he's still frustrated about something, and I suspect it's Chevy. He stays hidden during the day, and he cuts a very wide path around Chevy. He's used to being the ruler of the house.


Oh, and Chevy and Riley have been to the vet and gotten clean bills of health. It seems to be a clash of personalities, and Riley is making everyone feel his pain.


I don't know what else to try, and I don't like the idea of rehoming one of my animals. I love them all. But I am beginning to question if they can live together in peace and harmony. I don't want either of them to be frustrated--I've always tried to give my pets a peaceful, happy, safe homed.



ETA: I could be off base about Riley being frustrated with Chevy, but if it's not that, I have no clue what it could be. Nothing else has changed.


ETA: I forget to say why the doors would have to be closed if we moved the gate. Chevy will grab anything he can from any room he can. Some of the things he's taken.....trash, a box of feminine products, toilet paper, Jamie's cell phone, a hammock Seth was given for graduation, electronics, and the list goes on. So, before the gate went up, doors were closed off at night.

Edited by Adrianne
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I honestly think you should consult a behaviorist who can do an in home consultation for you. Lots of complicated issues there.


My cursory thoughts are that you do need to leave an area of the house gated for Riley. I would think about where he likes to spend his time the most when the dogs/where his box is/etc are not factors and try to set up the litter box and food behind a gate there. I would also try a cat DAP diffuser for him (or a collar if they make the collars for cats, they do for dogs). Depending on the area closed off, I might also set up additional litter boxes elsewhere so he has easier access to them, or try changing the style of box - pick a bigger, flatter pan if you use a covered one, or pick a covered one with a door if you use an open one, to see if he prefers a different style.


For the dogs, I would start with management, particularly separating the dogs for meals so there are no opportunities for reactivity. Make sure the dogs are all getting ample exercise (might mean exercising some more than others, playing fetch outside, running off lead somewhere, etc.) and start doing some clicker training with each of them (separate the other dogs and work one at a time with them). I would focus on things that help with day to day management, self control, etc. like wait, sit or down stay, leave it. Also work on an "off" cue so you have an easy way to get Chevy off of the furniture when he tries to get up there and heavy rewards spontaneously when he does choose to lay on a dog bed instead. Patrica McConnell has an excellent booklet on managing a multi-dog household called Feeling Outnumbered that I think you would find really helpful.


It doesn't sound to me like you have an unworkable situation, but that you need to focus some more attention on identifying what the issues are for your cat and addressing them and working on better management and additional training with the dogs. I really think a private consultation with a behaviorist will be most effective for you. Good luck!


Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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Guest 2dogs4cats

I sort of breezed through your post, so forgive me if I missed some details. I have always had cats and dogs together, but they do need their own designated space or they can get ornery. I cut a cat door in my laundry room door, so the cats have their own space and I don't worry about gates, etc. The litter box is in there and the cats like to hang out by the dryer, so it works out. I also feed the cats high up, so the dogs can't get at the food and the cats can eat in peace. To give cats more of their own space, try creating space "above". I don't know the layout of where you live, but you can create space with shelving, small stairs, platforms, etc. If the cat can get away easily, have their own territory, they will be happier and the dogs will be happier not tripping over the cats.

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Guest BiancasMom

I have two cats and two dogs. I also have a separate area for the cats to eat and have their litterboxes. I have rigged the door to their room so that only a slim kitty can get through. I had some problems with inappropriate urination from one of the cats so I got Feliway. So far the Feliway has worked. I have a diffuser in the cat's room and one in the main living space. The company also makes one for dogs ("DAP") but sounds like the cat is the one who is stressed. I like the cat door idea so that the cat can get through but the dog can't. Maybe you can make a baby gate with a built in cat door? That way it is less permanent.

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Guest LindsaySF

I'd do a vet check on your cat, if you haven't already. Sometimes litter box issues are the first sign of a health problem.


Definitely leave the gate up, the cat needs to feel comfortable enough to eat and use the litter box without being bothered by the dogs.


I'm not understanding the nighttime issue clearly. Is it that you want the cat to be able to get to the box, but the dogs can't? If so, you could get a baby gate with a cat opening on the bottom, keeps dogs out, lets cats through. If it's a pressurized gate, you can mount it several inches above the ground, so the cat can scoot under. If the gate itself is difficult to deal with, you can install a cat door on the bathroom door itself.


As for the dog to dog issues, some possible fixes: More exercise, more stimulation, separate for meal times and high value treats, etc.


Several of my dogs would probably kill each other if they were free to roam about during dinner time. :) They eat in their crates, and then I pick up the empty bowls, so no one fights.

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Guest cwholsin

For the kitty issue: definitely try the feliway diffuser, it worked well on our guy. Secondly, do get the kitty in to the vet. Not to scare you, but our guy was peeing because he didn't feel good. It ended up being something serious so efinitely don't neglect that option. Especially since there's been a change in kitty choosing not to go to the bathroom outside anymore. Third, if you don't already, rig up some gh spaces for the cat. Cats feel more secure if they can be up high and that might help with the peeing behavior if it's not a medical issue.


Best of luck!

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I have more experience with cats, and I think that your kitty is feeling some sort of extra stress that is upsetting him. It could be that there was a change in the neighborhood that you aren't aware of (I doubt you see all of the wildlife in your area, nor all of the stray or feral cats, which can be experts at evading humans). It could be a medical issue, it could have been being frightened outside that brought him into pottying in the house (frightened of what, we would never know), or it could be a personality conflict in the house with one of the dogs. Since your cat never has been "tied" (as I call it) to his litterbox, something extra added to the equation has accentuated that. A friend of mine with multiples with litterbox issues had great experiences with the Feliway diffuser, my other has had limited (but hers wasn't litterbox but cat aggression problems). Feliway also comes in a spray bottle (DH calls it a "perfume bottle") which can also be used in specific areas. You might try this in the area he's spraying specifically.


One thing: if your litterboxes are plastic, the recommendation for some tough litterbox issues is a completely new box every year, sometimes more. Some cats are that fussy that the scent of the box may deter them. Also, check your cat for different litter substrate preferences - there could be a change in the litter you've been using or the cat's preferences so now they would like a different kind (clumping versus non-clumping, different scents versus unscented, clay versus organic types, etc.). Keeping all dogs away from the litterbox is, of course, essential (who wants to be interrupted by a rude dog when using the box?). Also the type of litterbox may be an issue (covered or uncovered, high sides or low, and general size/weight [my boy tipped over a small litterbox because he had front end on the edge of the box, and now we buy the absolute largest boxes we can find]). Also, location location location (noises might cause resistance, or weird shadows, or methods of approach [tucked in a corner or open on all sides for entering or leaving], or convenience).


You also don't mention the age of your cat, and if it is an older cat sometimes they can get arthritis and may not want to have to clamber into a high-sided box (we have that issue, which is two-sided in our case: one cat has arthritis and doesn't jump or climb as well as she used to...but she also cannot hold a squat for very long and ends up pottying over the edge). A vet visit might help in this area (and might also show kidney issues, or bladder crystals, which can be deadly and are sometimes more commonly found in cats - changing food might help and a urine test can tell the vet a lot about any issues there).


As for the dog and the food/dish growling: can *you* approach the dish and remove it, so he has nothing to guard? If you can, I would institute that immediately (didn't finish your breakfast = that's part of your dinner now). If you cannot, I would try working on the traiding up so you can remove it.

Edited by Fruitycake
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