The kitty we have now, Puck, was essentially abandoned by her owners because she sprayed. She had been a beloved, indoor and outdoor cat. At age five, her feline companion was hit by a car. Shortly thereafter, the couple adopted two new kittens. In response, Puck exhibited some stress and aggression toward the new cats. She also began spraying. The owners couldn't deal with it, assumed the spraying was because of the two new cats, and just threw Puck outdoors. They would leave food for her as they left for work, but we discovered (later) that crows would get to the food before Puck ever got it.
When my husband and I met Puck (we lived several buildings away) she was coming to our door for food and hunting for whatever she could catch. She was an angry, unhappy, and confused cat -- alternately purring (for the food) then hissing and scratching and being a general "piss ant" as my sister used to say.
We scoped the neighborhood, looking for her owners. We eventually found them, but they didn't tell us why they'd banished her. I think they just wanted her off their hands and were afraid to tell us about the spraying. We had just lost our kitty Lee several months prior and were not ready to adopt a new cat. But my husband, always of sound mind, managed to assuage my grief over Lee by suggesting Lee sent Puck to us, so that we could help her.
So, we took her in. And sure enough, after she came indoors, she started to spray. The first thing she sprayed was our stereo system. My husband and I actually had a good laugh on that -- we both said, "Puck, don't you like our music?"
I'll never forget the look in Puck's eyes when she saw that we'd discovered the sprayed CD player. She shook. She went into a corner and shook horribly. We would NEVER punish a kitty for that, but she didn't know it. Poor, poor thing! I think that's when my genuine bond with Puck really started. I could only assume what she'd probably been through in the years prior to her finding our door.
I've always believed there must be workable causes for inappropriate elimination -- even if those causes aren't immediately discernible. We took Puck to the vet for a full exam. He didn't find anything, but still, I was convinced there might be a medical issue underlying some of her problems. You could call it intuition -- or a hunch based on the years of detective work we'd been through in caring for other cats. So, I observed Puck closely. And a few days later, when we were out in the garden together, I watched as Puck stopped every several feet to urinate. Bingo. UTI. The vet just didn't catch it. Lee had had some UTI's with her kidney issues, so I recognized the signs right away.
I rushed Puck to the vet, got her on antibiotics, and the spraying reduced dramatically. She still did it here and there. I don't know if it was force of habit or additional discomfort. We started using pheromone sprays and then, a very short course of anti-anxiety medication. I tend to shy away from those meds. And my vet was extremely conservative, too. He just thought that if we could take the edge and associations of her past off for a month or two, it might help. I actually don't know if those meds helped. We took her off those pretty quickly since we weren't entirely comfortable with the idea.
All of those measures, including giving her lots of TLC and praise, as well as checking for signs of UTI (she had two subsequent UTIs) -- eventually culminated in a healthy and happy kitty. I won't say she'll never spray again. I imagine if stress enters her life in a significant way, it's a possibility. We watch her diet to make sure there are no ingredients that might activate a UTI, and feed her a diet devoid of known UT irritants. Given her troubled background, we always deal with her gently and respect her sensitive disposition.
To say we are glad we gave this beautiful, loving kitty a chance is to understate what Puck has meant to us. She's just brimming with love and affection -- something we'd have never envisioned in that frightened and angry cat we met on our doorstep. She's been a constant companion through family stress and illness and other hardship, giving us much more than we ever gave to her. And she's whip smart, learning many things on just one try. She can still be a little ornery -- but then, old habits die hard.
The most important thing we derived from this experience was learning to persist when it came to Puck's behavioral issues. It's extremely difficult for me to witness animals as expendable commodities, to be given away or abandoned when they start to cause "problems." At the same time, we realize from firsthand experience how trying it can be to deal with those issues. I hope this particular success story might be a hopeful one for others dealing with similar situations. When any of us adopts a pet, we adopt an animal with innate behaviors and responses. And sometimes, those behaviors and responses are the only way they can communicate to us that something is wrong. I'm gratified that somehow we had the wherewithal to listen to Puck when she was trying to tell us her story.
If you've had a similar success with resolving your cat's spraying problems, you may post your story in the form below. You may be able to help some other reader who is ready to give up on his or her cat.
NOTE: Questions or responses to others will not be published. Think of this as your own mini-article.