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When a cat going outside the litter box gets out of hand

In cats, thinking outside the box is not

In cats, thinking outside the box is not a good thing Credit: iStock

Q We have two 9-year-old cats. Charlie and Stella have been together since they were kittens and are both fixed. They get along fine. In the past six months, Stella has been going outside the litter box. I took her to the vet, and she checked out fine, just a little constipated. She now eats a prescription diet with fiber and gets a cat laxative to help. Our veterinarian also said it could be behavioral, so prescribed Amitriptyline HCL 10 mg, which is next to impossible to give to her. She is still a loving, gentle cat, but urine around the house is getting out of hand. She pees everywhere, like in laundry baskets, on shoes and suitcases and even on the coffee table, which ruined our wedding album.

— John and Dale, Eatons Neck 

A Animals often associate pain and discomfort with where they experience it. When that happens, an animal avoids what they think is the trigger for their pain, which, in this case, is the litter box.

Your veterinarian has pointed you in the right direction, but I would also try a few other things to see if you can't get your cat motivated to go back to the box.

First, she needs a second option. Can you add another litter box in the house that is in a different location? Add a different litter product since the scent of the old litter could be a negative trigger for her, too.

Second, if your current box is covered, then get an open litter box and vice versa. We want to create an entirely new experience for her.

Finally, buy a litter box additive to sprinkle into all the litter boxes. You can find it at pet stores or at online stores. The products are designed to attract the cat back to the box.

Q I recently adopted a 2-year-old dog rescue from China. She had been in a rescue center here for three weeks when I got her. She is a wonderful dog, but, probably because of her background, has no interest in any toys, not even the ones that offer a reward. I take her for a walk each day, and she spends time in my backyard, but when she is home, there is nothing to entertain her. The only thing she likes is chewing on a bone, but I can't give her too many of those. I would love for her to entertain herself with something. Do you have any suggestions? She is not destructive.

— Diana, Smithtown

A Play is something people and animals do when they feel safe in their environment. Because you say it's a recent adoption, give her more time before deciding she won't play with all toys. I agree she probably has had an interesting journey, so it may take several weeks or months before she feels safe enough to play and explore her world.

Don't worry if she is not playing right now. Continue taking her for walks and let her just enjoy outside time with an occasional bone. She is watching and smelling and learning about her world. As she adjusts, she will likely get more animated.

As she acclimates in your home, introduce her to a Kong toy filled with a few pieces of her food or treats along with a schmear of peanut butter inside and outside to entice her. Do not give her lots of bones to chew, but there are long-lasting chews that a dog can nosh on that might be appealing to her. Remember to supervise her when she is chewing on a bone and put it away when she is done. Smear a little peanut butter on the bone every other day to keep her interested in playing with it.

Now having said that, you should know some dogs, when not introduced to toys as puppies, may never fully enjoy toys. But that doesn't mean she might not enjoy a game of hide and seek or that you can't train her to learn some commands or complete a small obstacle course in the backyard. Start training her to sit, stay, come, lie down and heel on her leash to build trust between you. It will feel like play to her and keep her active.

As she relaxes in your home, her personality will continue to emerge, and you might be surprised at what she enjoys six months from now.

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