Pet Q&A: For stray cats, every place is a litter box

NewsdayJuly 25, 2013 

Question: My husband and I adopted a stray cat that had been rescued and sheltered for a few months with friends. He is very sociable, playful and loving, but he is used to getting his way. He tends to act out by peeing on something near the door, such as a pair of shoes or a rug. When he does this, we scold him and isolate him in the basement for at least an hour. He is about 2 years old, by a vet's estimate, and has been neutered.

His litter box is cleaned more than once a day. We do not want to give him away because he is such a good pet in every other way. Any advice on how to prevent this behavior from continuing?

Answer: What you first have to understand is that the cat is not acting out or doing anything wrong by animal standards.

A cat lacks the cognitive brain function to think that urinating on a shoe or bag left on the floor will make you feel sorry for not letting him out of the house. If he urinates on the floor after he is not let out, it is because he had plans to urinate outside and was holding it in.

To solve this problem, look at it from the cat's point of view. When he was living outdoors, he most likely dug holes in the ground and went there. So take some dirt from a flower bed and mix that in with his litter to make it more attractive to him.

I would also advise you to put a litter box near the door. If he wants to urinate outdoors and he is not let outside, then the litter box is right there as the handiest option.

Q: We are getting a dog and there is just too much information out there about which breed is best. It seems like everyone we ask has a different opinion and it is causing a lot of arguments in our family.

A: The real question is what breed of dog is the easiest pet for you. That depends on your particular lifestyle. Large dogs need more training as puppies than small dogs do. If a Mastiff puppy jumps up on you, you will get knocked down. If a Pomeranian puppy tries to jump on you, it looks cute.

If you do not have time to exercise the dog many times a day, do not get a breed that has high energy levels. Get a smaller dog that gets tired out chasing a ball around the living room as you watch TV.

The staff at most of the shelters I have been to seem to know the dogs there very well. Explain your situation to them and they will do their best to find you the correct match.

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