bizarre behavior change in cat

bizabetNovember 12, 2010

My 10 year old neutered cat has developed some rather odd habits in the last year. First, he's developed a sock fetish--if I leave my sock drawer open he starts collecting bundled socks, carrying them thru the house and 'talking' to them like a mama cat. He also has started chewing on soft plastic, such as kitchen garbage bags and grocery bags. He will occasionally deposit his poo beside the litter pan, or on a throw rug at the door. And finally, he's started peeing in anything that looks like it might be a litter pan. He doesn't seem to be doing this as a 'marking territory' behavior. Rather it is a "oh, that looks like it might be a potty, I should use it". He's peed in cardboard shoe boxes, plastic storage bins and also some other rather weird things, like the plastic formed tray that a dozen peaches came in, and the reel that held 100' of electric cord. Yes, I have other cats. I had one old one when Isaac came as a kitten, added a 3rd when he was 3 and a 4th when he was 7. He gets along fine with them--mutual wrestling matches and cuddles etc. Old cat died 4 years ago, and new kitten added 1 month ago (people seem to keep dropping kittens at the house with the blinking "SUCKER" LIGHT.) I have 2 large litter pans for the 4 of them to share during the day, with clumping litter that gets scooped daily (no, haven't changed brands) and Isaac also has his own pan in his room where he stays at night. (long story, don't ask) He also gets to go in there to pee/poo/eat whenever I am home. I'm at a loss--obviously the sock thing is cute rather than a problem (although he has been known to substitute dirty laundry if he can't find socks) The plastic is worrisome, since I am afraid he will get a blockage, the poo is a pain but managable. The pee is the real problem--I can try to remember to keep containers up and closed, but after the cord reel incident, I'll never know what he might baptize next. Does anyone have a suggestion?

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It sounds like your cat is having a medical problem that is causing him to urinate in inappropriate places. Could be an infection, stones, crystals, sterile cystitis, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or a combination thereof. While I would love to tell you what would cure your cat, honestly there is no way to know what is wrong without a complete workup by a vet. I hope he gets to see one very soon. He must be very distressed to be having this problem, as are you I am sure.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 10:06PM
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Bingo! He'd also started losing muscle mass last year but we couldn't find a cause. A couple of weeks ago-after a nasty case of diarrhea that I thought was brought on by something the kitten brought in--he stopped eating almost completely. Back we went to the vet. One round of hysterical cat and a bit of bloodwork later and you hit the nail on the head. His thyroid levels were almost 3 times normal. He's currently on 2 pills with a recheck coming up in a week or two. Do you think once he gets regulated the extra peeing will stop?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 11:19PM
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If the vet hasn't seen him in a year I'd call and ask for an appt. asap. He needs a full panel done to check the issues meghane mentioned.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 2:12AM
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he goes to the vet--all my cats go for annual checks--and we did a blood panel then. I think this was July. NOthing showed up--kidneys, diabetes you name it all the regular things that you would expect to cause weight loss. They tell me that a cat can lose better than 50% of their kidney function before it shows in the bloodwork, so maybe thyroid works the same way and it had to get really out of whack before it presents. I just hope that we can get his levels regulated with a pill a day (he pills easily--wish I could say the same for having his blood taken) and that once that's leveled off, the peeing stops. He was a bottle baby and doesn't do well in isolation, so it would be very bad if I had to keep him confined to prevent urine damage.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 12:53PM
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Regulating his T4 may help, but unfortunately treating hyperthyroidism sometimes unmasks kidney disease as well. Since you mention he is not spraying and actually peeing, it makes me think more of a medical issue than a behavior one. Then again, bringing in a kitten could have triggered a behavior problem especially in a cat with an unregulated medical problem. These are always difficult situations and even when I have a full workup and history I still have problems helping these cats. Most vets do. There are lots of things to help with behavior issues but discussing them with your vet is the best bet. I don't know what sort of experience or expertise your vet has with inappropriate elimination problems- some are better than others- if yours is not so well versed it may be best to ask for a referral to a behaviorist. I've referred a few cases I couldn't get a handle on and the behaviorist helped the patient and client a lot. Bottle babies are particularly difficult IMHO because they were never taught to be cats by their mommas.

Actually we don't see any changes in lab work until 66% of kidney function is lost, and then all we see is decreased urine specific gravity but bloodwork can be completely normal. At 75% function lost, we start to see changes in BUN and Creatinine but at that point it is just managing a chronic progressive problem as best we can.

I hope that getting his hyperthyroidism under control solves the problem, but be prepared if not.

One thing I would do is to increase the number of litter boxes to 1+ # of cats in household. You have 4 cats, so according to behaviorists, you need 5 litterboxes in various locations around house to satisfy all cats. He may benefit from anti-anxiety medications as well. But that's for a vet to figure out. Also make sure he is able to get to the boxes easily. Cats suffer from arthritis at his age and can't get up and down stairs as easily as before and may be satisfied with peeing on the carpet rather than going into the basement to pee or whatever. The more accessible the litterboxes are, the better.

Hope you can get this issues resolved soon. I know inappropriate elimination is a very very difficult problem- the #1 reason cats are euthanized or given up to a shelter. It is so damaging to the home and so frustrating to deal with. I can only wish you the best.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 9:57PM
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It didn't help any that the folks who raised him, while good hearted, literally knew nothing about cats, and I didn't get him until he was at least 9 weeks. I had just lost one, and I thought her sister would be lonely. Ha. Bonnie wanted to be an only child and the only socializing she was interested in was child abuse. So I have a cat that is completely unafraid of workmen running power tools but spazzes at the sight of a cat outside. He's never minded my additions, and for the last 2 served as nanny. he was doing the "oh look a place to pee!" before the kitten came in.

In fact, now that I think of it, I believe he started about the same time that I noticed the weight loss. I have a ranch style home, so fort'ly not much of an issue for steps to the potty. I did have a 3rd litter pan in the hall, but he was still doing the pee thing, so I went back to my 2 bigs ones, which has always worked til now. With him, it seems to be more of an opportune moment--he sees, he sits, he pees. You should have seen him anoint the peach tray. I had literally just emptied it and set it in a chair prior to heading out for the trash, Ike is on the table watching, I turn my back and there he is squatting on the plastic peeing away. I don't think there are any behaviourists around here. Will just have to dr what comes up and see how he does--the kidney/thyroid thing I didn't know, but I've been wondering about his for a while. He drinks a lot of water and always has. We had him on amytriptilene earlier this year. He was licking at the hair of his leg and belly until it was bare skin. He has always been a puker--multiple times a day, usually he eats, he pukes, he eats again. WE never could find a cause, tried different foods etc to no avail. So the vet this summer thought maybe it was nerves and the ami would help. It seemed to for a couple of weeks and then off he went again. I will say, that since he's been on the thyroid, that seems to be much less of a problem, which would be lovely. Poor old guy has had a host of problems--more in his 10 years than all the others combined.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 11:36PM
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A thyroid test isn't typically included in a standard blood chemistry, so unless your vet specifically tested your cat's thyroid levels back in July, it probably wasn't checked at that time.

One thing you need to watch for is overdosing methimazole (Tapazole). Unfortunately, many vets still seem to believe that there is some merit in prescribing a high starting dose (higher than 2.5 mg daily) which can cause very serious side effects in many cats, typically 1-3 weeks after starting the drug. If your boy suddenly becomes inappetant or demonstrates other new or increased gastric or behavioral problems, stop the methimazole and take your cat in for a thyroid retest right away. If your cat does suffer the effects of methimazole overdose, usually they can be reversed by lowering the dose substantially. Occasionally, however, the effects of overdose are so severe that they are irreversible, and the cat is ultimately euthanized.

Methimazole overdose is almost entirely avoidable with a "start low and go slow" dosing strategy in which the cat is started on a low dose of 2.5 mg daily (split into two, 1.25 mg doses daily), then retested in 3 weeks. The dose is then adjusted, if necessary, by no more than 1.25 mg daily, and retesting is done in another 3 weeks. The dose adjustment - 3 week retest schedule is maintained until the cat achieves euthyroid (normal thyroid levels). This low and slow dosing strategy allows the cat's body to adjust gradually to the decreasing thyroid levels and helps protect the kidneys from a major "crash" while safely regulating thyroid function.

As far as whether or not your cat's inappropriate soiling will resolve once his thyroid is properly regulated, only time will tell. Sometimes a problem that starts as a result of illness continues out of habit. Hopefully that will not be the case here.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 11:57PM
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Ok. The thyroid followup came back at 1.4 so they want to keep him on his pills. Thing is now he is really acting weird. Almost jittery like he's on speed. He has eaten some--,maybe not as much as I'd like but he's been scarfing food for so long it's hard to tell what is enough. But he wants to find dark tight places and stay in them--like up on the fridge under the cabinet or in closet corners. This evening he hid when I came in--like I was a stranger and he was another cat entirely. Once I found him and picked him up he was purring but still not settling down. Worries me--makes me think that he's really sick and looking for a place to hole up. He is pulling more at the hair on his legs, and last night I think he must have scratched at something every 2 minutes.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 7:01PM
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Please see my response in your other, new thread.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 1:26AM
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