This is today’s cat behavior problem. It is quite a tricky one:
Miss A has two cats: Freddie and Freda – one male and one female. They have been with each other since birth and are 5 years old (amended due to Ruth’s comment – see below!). Each has their own litter box. The boxes are a good distance apart. When Freddie is in his litter box doing his thing, Freda likes to intimidate him by pawing at him. This puts Freddie off and upsets him. As a result, he poops on the carpet sometimes….
The first “issue” is whether “pawing at him” is a form of intimidation. It is disturbing Freddie but it might not be hostile, deliberate intimidation. What would cause a cat to paw at another cat while he is in a litter tray? It may be that Freda is trying to get Freddie’s attention. Cats often paw at humans to get their attention. The point I am making is that it might not be litter box intimidation. That is a point worth making I believe. However…..
There seems to be two main areas where a dominant cat can intimidate a more submissive cat: the food area and the litter area. I think this is a case of one cat, the female, Freda, dominating the male, Freddie. The reason why it is happening at the litter box is probably because of scent marking.
Pooping is not only eliminating waste but a form of scent marking. Both urine and feces are scent markers for cats. Incidentally, scratching the ground or trees (visual marker) and rubbing scent from glands in the body against objects also scent marks.
It seems that Freda is telling Freddie that the house where she lives is her territory and Freddie should not be there. Freddie is indirectly marking territory. This upsets Freda as it is her territory. If that is the underlying reason behind this cat behavior problem, what is the solution?
One strange thing is that the problem has just happened whereas before there was no problem. As I understand that appears to be the case.
Make Environment More Friendly
I think we have to try and make Freda more relaxed about her territory. Make her more accepting. Feliway, the commercial cat pheromone, comes to mind. It makes places feel more friendly to cats, apparently. I am not sure how effective it is.
Change in Environment?
Something may have occurred that is suddenly making Freda anxious or unsettled. It may be something that is not obvious. Perhaps the cats’ owner has a new live-in boyfriend or something like that and he is inadvertently making Freda nervous. She in turn is trying to make her territory more friendly by trying to turf out Freddie. If there is a human problem it should be removed 😉 get rid of him…..
Do cats fall out of friendship? Cats make friends. We know that. It is well established. If a cat can make friends perhaps they can become less friendly and start to dislike each other. This may lead to the sort of behavior described.
Physically Separate Litter Trays
A physical and rather crude solution would be to put Freddie’s cat litter in the garage or an unused room. Place an automated receiver type cat flap (cat door) in the door to that room or garage. Put a collar on Freddie that activates the cat flap. Train Freddie to go through the cat flap and to her litter box. Freda would be barred from getting to Freddie’s litter box as she has no collar which opens the cat flap. That would be a physical barrier to stop Freda intimidating Freddie while on the toilet.
Covered Litter Box
A very simple solution that does not deal with the underlying problem but which would possibly stop Freda pawing at Freddie would be a covered litter box/tray.
The problem with this cat behavior problem is that these are apparently two adult cat well settled in their ways. It may be difficult to find a long term solution. I feel that Freda needs her own space as does Freddie. It would be nice to create two zones in the house: one for Freda and one for Freddie. This is probably impractical.
I don’t think separating them and re-homing one is the answer as they have been together all their lives. This implies they have got on in the past. It also implies that something has changed to upset the relationship between the two. It may have been a slightly frosty relationship from the word go, which has surfaced due a change in the environment or a change in character of Freda (due to getting older). If that is the case separation may in fact be the answer.
I find this a tricky cat behavior problem. Anyone with a good idea? It’s a real problem.