you might have been following our saga chez bee, in which the cats' constant (almost daily) peeing outside their litter boxes (not on clothes or furniture, thankfully, just within a few-foot radius of the litter boxes) was bringing me, my marriage, and our household to our knees. we were pretty sure that we were going to have to surrender the cats to the shelter, which would be a death sentence for two cats that were known to have bad litter-box habits. they just don't get adopted.
this had been going on for about three years (since shortly after we adopted them) and was so much worse than just "i hate cleaning up after them" or "i hate that smell." the smell, first of all, permeates everything, every part of the house, and really dominates one's brain in its presence. but it also stains and can ruin flooring, and this was happening in the dining room (so, no company almost ever, for someone who used to entertain regularly and have monthly dinner parties, and a terrible welcome-home greeting because it is situated smack dab between the two entryways to our house) and in my craft room (talk about saddening and frustrating, having my precious craft room, with its beautiful light and wonderful storage and my favorite color on the wall, become a place that i was loath to enter, let alone spend time in). it was virtually the only topic about which mr. bee and i ever fought, and we didn't fight nicely and healthily about it. it really was dominating my life and my psyche in terrible ways.
once we agreed that rehoming or surrendering was likely to be the solution, i became despondent. i cried constantly, couldn't sleep, couldn't think about anything else.
finally, i found a behavioral consultant who would work with us, despite the fact that she is more than a four-hour drive from us. i found only three consultants through the international association of animal behavior consultants who were within 200 miles of us, one in central pennsylvania and another in virginia. the one in central pennsylvania pretty much dismissed the idea (of working with us) out of hand; the one in virginia took forever to get back to us and still wasn't especially useful (thankfully, by then, we'd been working with debbie via phone and email and were on a path to a plan). i posted in three groups on ravelry and got lots of help, support, and advice from folks there. i read a ton of books. and i took the cats to the vet AGAIN.
this time, i really laid it out for dr. ben, explaining that this was really the end of our rope and that we were serious about rehoming or surrendering the cats if we couldn't make this stop. we are finally at the point that we are ready to paint and refloor the whole house, and we simply couldn't do that if the cats were going to ruin walls and floors. and we couldn't keep living in this shithole that the fixer-upper continues to be after more than seven years of living in this uneven, unfinished crapshack. not even for these wonderful, sweet, funny cats.
so dr. ben's advice (combined with some of the advice i'd received from other sources) was this: get four boxes (one for each cat for each function because some cats like to use a different box for peeing than for pooping) and put them all in one room. allow a few inches of space around each box, and put pee pads on the floor all around and underneath them. the pee pads would make detecting spots easier and make cleanup easier as well. and they would stop further damage to the floors and walls. in each box, try a different substrate (because cats). see what they like (use) and don't like (use) and keep working until we find what works.
so i implemented operation clusterbox the next morning. i threw out the cabinet in which the craft-room cats' room box had been, moved my work table to the other side of the room (so that the boxes were completely open because cats), and used get serious to scrub the floors [spoiler alert: WAY better than simple solution or nature's miracle, imo], using a blacklight to make sure that i had cleaned all the spots. i laid down pee pads (i've since been advised to use pads made for handling human incontinence instead, both because they're cheaper and because they're not treated with pheromones to attract puppies; those are on order but haven't arrived yet) across the whole area where the boxes would go, overlapping the edges a little for complete coverage. then i arranged the boxes:
- box 1 is a shallow sterilite bin containing seven pounds of world's best multiple-cat litter
- box 2 is a deep sterilite bin containing the same amount of the same litter
- box 3 is a scoop-free box
- box 4 is another shallow sterilite bin; we originally had it empty but, after it went untouched when the others were getting used, we added another litter we've used before, swheat scoop.
things are SO MUCH BETTER here i can't even believe it. we are at almost exactly three days (72 hours) since beginning operation clusterbox, and we have had exactly one accident that i know of (there could have been one in the first 48 hours in the dining room and i wouldn't have known it because the carpeting was still down and i didn't get down there touching actual fibers), and even that one was JUST behind one of the litter boxes so was probably just bad aim. they are consistently using the two shallow boxes.
the cats' room hardly smells at all and is very easy to clean both accidents and the litter boxes themselves. the dining room smells MUCH better; i tore up everything stained that i could yesterday, down to the floorboards, then used the get serious on the floors, but i couldn't get the last of the stained carpet out. my husband is home from his trip now and will take care of that, and then i can do one more pass with the get serious (which is AMAZING stuff that i cannot believe is not in every home in the world) and the blacklight to make sure that all the odor is out.
my stress, anxiety, frustration, and sadness levels, all of which were through the roof and really dominating every corner of my heart and mind for...well, for months or and parts of even *years*, are pretty much zero now, which is a feeling i haven't had in i can't remember how long. definitely years. i have great hope that we have seen the last of these problems and that the cats will live out their long and (i hope!) healthy lives with us.