Behaviour-problem cats are usually the chronic pee-ers, and the biters. In both cases, we don’t always know whether the behaviour is the result of some sort of stress in the original home or the sanctuary environment, or whether it’s a well-established habit. The No 5 Road Shelter has passed on to us several cats who have been surrendered for peeing, and who have subsequently been adopted as an only-cat, with no sign of the behaviour problem in question – sometimes all it takes is guaranteeing the cat a status as the one-and-only in a home.
Sometimes the elimination problem has a clear origin – declawed cats are frequent culprits. Thank goodness, declawing is increasingly something that vets are unwilling to do – it can be a traumatic and pain-filled experience for a cat. Even after the paws are “healed”, the cat often suffers discomfort in the litter-box, and proceeds to eliminate on a softer surface. And the owner, who has declawed the cat to protect the furniture, then surrenders the cat – also to protect the furniture.
Deety is one of our declawed cats. We’ve not got him as a problem eliminator, though; he has his own corner, from which he rarely moves, and his own litterbox. Instead, he is a problem biter. His very strong declawed paws are expert in catching on to his victim and pulling them in for a good chomp – and there’s nothing wrong with his teeth!
I don’t know whether Puffin was actually surrendered for biting, but while in a cage at the No 5 Road shelter, he bit a visitor who brought their face too close to his space. Puffin is another loner in the front courtyard, but doesn’t actively seek human attention. He’s so beautiful, though, that we have to warn visitors to limit their petting, and to act with caution. Another cat we all step warily around is Baby(he’s safely locked away when we have visitors). Most of the time he’s quite shy, and wary around other cats – but there’s some little switch in his brain which occasionally drives him to bite – and when Baby bites, he bites HARD!
With some cats the elimination problem is a physiological one – and the Manx cats are prime examples of this. In extreme Manx syndrome, the shortness of the tail is linked to lack of control over sphincter muscles – and consequently cats like Sweet Pea have no sense of when they’re “going”. We just mop up after her, wherever she wanders. Sweet Pea adores being cuddled on someone’s lap, but you need a thick towel to protect yourself! She’s not an adoptable prospect – and in a kill shelter she’d last no time at all – but this truly is sanctuary for her.
There are an enormous number of litter-boxes in the Sanctuary, with various materials including clumping litter, sawdust and woodchips – and there are still cats that choose to do their business right in the middle of the courtyard, or against a closet door. With some of them it is habit – they just don’t want to take the time to find a box. With others, it’s a way of dealing with the plethora of cat-smells in the place – it’s part of territorial marking. Very often these problem cats struggle at the Sanctuary because of the presence of other cats – see The Garbo Cats – who knows if they might be adoptable candidates for someone who’s prepared to be patient, and willing to guarantee no further cats? Other cats are part of the standard warning to visitors – “don’t put anything down; it’ll get peed on!”
But we love you anyway, Jake!