Myths on the Net: Trapped in the Web? – Cleaning, Crating, Soiling
Amazing, the Net misinformation still around about cat behavior. Pervasive, repeated, rarely re-examined when there’s new research, and because these myths are often on respectable websites, it’s accepted as The Last Word. During the last 34 years’ experience in cat behavior, when asking my clients, ‘Where did you read that?’, I hear—well, you see what I mean.
Let’s correct a few bits of ‘wisdom’. After all, just because a picture’s framed and hangs in a gallery, doesn’t mean it’s Art. Words on computer and TV screens ain’t necessarily so, either.
‘Vinegar and bleach are ideal for cleaning cat urine’? This whopper— still spouted by behaviorists, veterinarians, so-called experts—is a tough one, because at first, sometimes, they do work. For a short time. You never read about Noodles re-marking over that cleaned spot, after the stuff degrades; the smell left over to the cat’s nose can be similar to urea. See where this is going? Use an enzymatic product especially for cat urine. If clothes are involved, regular laundry cleaner won’t do it; put that cleaner into the last rinse—with very little water—that should do the trick.
Go by good recommendation, not miles of shelf space at the pet store.
Remember, a cat’s sense of smell is over 40 times keener than ours—plus, their heads are already…down there. You may not sniff it, but they do.
Another dangerous myth: crating a cat who urinates outside the box.
This horrific fiction’s recommended by people who don’t understand a cat’s mental and psychological makeup. (Some Humane Societies in certain states still suggest a ’30-day Crate Method’) One quotes: ‘Unwanted behaviors go on for so long, our pets ‘forget’ the appropriate behavior.’ Wrong. Cats don’t ‘forget’ like that. They act out of normal character b/c they’re stressed, or there’s something medically wrong. Secondly, imprisoning a cat (that’s what it is) in a box is no answer, it just gets them out of the way, for the human’s convenience. Most importantly, Noodles only learns not to soil the crate territory.
We need to know why she’s doing this: box issues? Anxiety? Medical? Hormonal? Then attend to the reasons.
I know of no respected behaviorist, nor vet-behaviorist, who recommends crating for anything more than transportation.
What I have seen is the result: cats who remain fearful, have their personalities repressed, lost their spirit, and show marked stress when in enclosed places, even years later. The urinating problem still exists.
Or crating for introductions? Noodles becomes completely vulnerable, trapped while the other cat or dog is allowed to sniff, hiss, claw at, stare down. The human has removed two aspects of a cat’s life which is needed: a sense of control and sense of choice. There are better ways to protect a cat—and one crucial way is to train the dog, for example. For another cat—it’s a slow introduction.
There is no place to hide. ‘A pen protects, gives it a sense of security’, says one website. No. It does the reverse, because the cat lacks two of the most important needs and feelings she needs: control and choice. She has also become a centerpiece.
‘Crating a cat to cool down’? That is learned helplessness. Cats understand the concept that nothing they do can change the outcome, so they submit and have to tolerate (or not) the situation. That kind of stress, emotional damage can lead to systemic diseases. And submitting is hardly the same as calm.
Crating also removes two of the Five Freedoms, (‘freedom from expressing normal behaviors and freedom from fear and stress’) aspects of animal welfare under human control, adopted by vets, World Organization for Animal Health, RSPCA, ASPCA, AVMA, other major organizations
Nothing is taught, and nothing is learned. But our furry-friend is damaged.
Soiling: Litter. Marketing sells. No matter if it’s right for the cat or not. Big pellets, rough-edged crystals (hurtful not only on toes, but burrowed in-between them. Cats’ toe pads do not even toughen, the way dogs’ do.) And they’re ingested when the cat cleans. Wood chips, newspaper, ‘eco’ walnut shells (which hang on to the smell), even plastic balls purporting to show medical problems (providing false positives, as well as missing important symptom). And scented! Pine, lemongrass, lavender! The very things cats loathe.
Boxes. So many sites still tout automatic ones for human convenience. NOT the cats’! Small angled ones for corners. Hooded ones, top-entry ones, ones hidden in cabinets with plants on top. Please. Consider: outside, cats pick a different place every time. In unscented dirt or soft sand. Large territory. Make where Noodles eliminates as attractive and natural as possible. Forget the petshop-sold litter pans. Get large storage containers, and cut down one end for easy access. Unscented soft clay litter (which, despite web horror stories, is less than one-tenth of one percent side-product of strip mining). And only two to three inches’ deep. The web or TV commercials are there to sell product. Cats on the outside scrape, they don’t dig—unless they’re trying to ind a clean spot in the box. Urine and feces have messaging significance, after all.
Like anything else, it takes research to distinguish the true from the false. For your cats’ sake, isn’t it worth it?