(continued from Part 1)
After my first visit, I put together a written game plan of steps to take next. I didn’t want to over-complicate things by telling them EVERY SINGLE THING we could do to change Holly’s behavior. It can be overwhelming, so I started simply: add another litter pan, slightly move the one they had away from a drafty doorway and add two sessions of play time to Holly’s day.
The second litter pan was a hit. Holly used it right away, but she continued to pee on a bed every so often and clearly even one time would be too many times. I knew that Holly could be reacting to old stains that were not cleaned up so I urged Stephen to get a black light (because urine and some other bodily fluid stains glow under black light), cleaning supplies (like vinegar and a CO2 enzymatic cleaner). We set another date to tour the entire house.
The answer was clear right away. First bed we checked had sparkling clean sheets and blankets, but the mattress had a butt-shaped urine mark on it. Of the three of us only Stephen had a decent sense of smell. I think mine died from cleaning one too many ammonia-scented litter pans over the years. He dove in. He didn’t get fussy about it. He sniffed away and acknowledged that the mattress did have some scent. We got to cleaning it, while Holly ran into the room, jumped on the bed and was completely uninterested in peeing on it. She played in the corner on a fuzzy pillow and promptly fell asleep while we continued to scan the beds.
We didn’t find much more, but one of the girl’s bed was going to be an issue so that room was going to be closed off from Holly, period. The last room we did was the master bedroom. Okay now this was a bit weird for me. Rock star bedroom? The inner sanctum!
Okay, so we had a clean space. The bedrooms would be shut down for now. We’d see how it went with Holly. The Kelloggs looked relieved. Maybe this would do the trick?
Being a singer/songwriter means traveling to events or going on tour from time to time. The Kelloggs went out of town for the weekend, leaving the kids and Holly with grandpa. I didn’t hear anything for a few days but when they came back I got a long text late at night from Stephen. Holly had peed on the sofa, passed stool on it and on a sleeping bag that was on the floor and I think peed on a bed, too. I tried to soothe Stephen’s concerns. Firstly, Holly was accidentally locked in a room that had no litter pan in it so a few of the issues weren’t her fault. I didn’t know if the schedule was completely in turmoil or if the girls were acting up because the parents were gone. Maybe Holly was upset by the change. Maybe this would not continue to happen?
But it did.
So we took Holly to the vet.
I’ve been to many vets over the years. I was not a big fan of this person. He didn’t want to listen to me but clearly was focusing on Stephen and the fact that they both had four kids. The vet was almost proud to say he was split from his wife and only had the kids on weekends as if it was a relief. I was horrified. Stephen and Kirsten smiled and were polite, listening attentively, adding their take on the situation. I wondered what they thought of the vet and if they shared my disdain. They certainly had far a better poker-face than I do.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stephen with Holly-girl at their vet.
I had warned the Kelloggs ahead of time that this might happen and to NOT buy the food. The vet gave a compelling pitch about why the food would help her, telling them it had helped other cats because it had “soothing proteins” in it. Excuse me? What the HELL are “soothing” proteins? I almost popped my lid when I heard that line of BS. I could see Stephen was tempted. Heck, I’d be tempted, too if I didn’t know any better, and if I believed just feeding my cat would stop her deeply rooted behavior issue. Thankfully he listened to me and didn’t buy high-carb, grain-loaded junk.
All we learned from Holly's x-ray...she needs to poop.
So now what? I really wanted to take Holly to see MY vet, Dr. Larry. He’s a great diagnostician and he knows not to try junk foods on any of my cats, but I’d just encouraged Stephen to drop a lot of money on Holly. I couldn’t ask him to do it again.
Meanwhile, I reached out to a few of my cat behaviorist friends. I ran Holly’s history by them to make sure I hadn’t forgotten something. They all agreed there was nothing more to do other than confine Holly to a smaller space, which was next on my “to do” list.
So we confined Holly to the master bathroom. Perhaps the house was too much for her and the quiet of the bathroom would keep her away from the kids a bit more, in case they were stressing her out. Holly had her own litter pan that was kept perfectly clean, her new diet (which she liked very much) and some comfy beds. This was going to work, right?
©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Two litter pans in the master bathroom: one with the litter Holly used at the rescue and one with World's Best.
I was also toying with the notion that Holly maybe needed a cat-buddy. Maybe her being the only pet in such a large home was too much for her and that a friend would help her adjust. Stephen and Kirsten were open to the idea, but I didn’t want to, again, do too many things at once, plus they’d have to introduce the new cat to Holly and that was just going to add more stress to the situation. No. We had to get Holly’s health issues resolved-IF she had any.
Since the first days I’d begun this case Stephen and Kirsten kept returning to the fact that Holly began peeing on things AFTER she was spayed. I called the clinic who did the procedure and they spoke with their vet who does the spays. I spoke with two of my vets, a handful of vet techs, did research online and found that there ARE incidents where there are post-surgical complications or there are genetic deformities that can’t be visualized on x-ray which could be the culprit. It was rare that this happened and Holly would have shown incontinence issues, along with inappropriate elimination. I knew we’d have to do an ultrasound to get this resolved, but I also knew that there was only so much money we could spend without the Kellogg’s pushing back. In truth, they have to balance the vet costs with the costs for caring for their family. It didn’t make them villains. Everyone deals with this balance who has a pet.
I had high hopes we’d find SOMETHING wrong. In a way it would be a great relief. I felt terrible wishing she was sick, but at least we could probably cure whatever it was and having to deal with cat pee in your bed is very high up on the “sucks!” list.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Holly waiting for Dr. Larry. While I wonder what the heck is going on with this kitten.
Dr. Larry was great. He even suggested maybe Holly needed a friend. He also said that some cats do better going outside-for which he knew I was going to flip out over. He sees this situation over and over again and how people deal with it is as different as are the cats who have the problem. He’s had people want to euthanize their otherwise healthy cats. They don’t want to spend money doing tests. They want the peeing to stop but they won’t do what it takes to really SOLVE the problem.
We finally did a full blood panel and the results were normal. Urinalysis and culture were normal, too. Fecal test was normal. IF something was wrong with Holly the only thing we could do was ultrasound and they’d already spent a lot of money. It would have to wait…if the Kelloggs could keep the faith.
By now a month had passed. We’d had good and bad days but trending towards worse days. Maybe Holly was upset from being confined. Stephen had the added pressure of leaving for 3 weeks to go on tour soon. If Holly wasn’t improving how could he leave his wife to care for the family AND deal with Holly’s urinary mishaps?
I returned to the Kelloggs’ home to assess Holly again. I felt like I was losing my mind. I told them new things to try and they had failed. What was so bizarre was that Holly wasn’t peeing on the lovely pure white very soft and fluffy rug in the bedroom. She only peed on Kirsten’s side of the bed. I’d asked her about laundry detergents, perfume, makeup, hair spray, anything that had a scent that could set Holly off, but there was nothing that made sense to cause the peeing.
I contacted one of my mentors and we spoke again about this case and again I was told I had done the right things and that we could continue to tweak how we dealt with Holly, IF the Kelloggs were okay with it.
I also had more detective work to do. I spoke with the lady who runs the rescue where Holly came from. What I found out made me change my opinion again that this wasn’t a health issue. It had to be a behavior issue.
©2017 Stephen Kellogg. Holly home from the vet, but when will we find out if she's sick or if it's a behavior problem?
Holly was rescued from a kill-shelter in North Carolina with her siblings where she lived in a cage. She was only 5-weeks old and had no mother with her. She was transported to Connecticut and went into another cage on arrival. Holly spent her life in a cage up until she was adopted at 11-weeks of age. What had gone on with her social skills? She couldn’t learn as much without her mom. Maybe she never had proper experience with a litter pan? What did the stress of being confined, then removed from her siblings, do to her?
[to be continued]