Short Takes: 05/07

An endorsement for a litter box spray; some facts on orphaned cats.

A Litter Box Spray Endorsement

We can almost see the ads now: “Tests at a major university prove our product eliminates cats inappropriate elimination problems.”

And indeed, thats more or less what a study at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine (as published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery Vol. 9, No. 1) proved: “. . . use of Zero Odor litter box spray appears to decrease litter box odor and increases the attractiveness of litter box(es) to cats.”

So said Tufts animal behaviorist Nicholas H. Dodman – but only after giving a rather limited definition of cat “dissatisfaction” with litter boxes. Dr. Dodman was careful to qualify his endorsement, cautioning, “Zero Odor litter spray should not be used as a replacement for regular scooping and replacement of dirty litter.” But, he concluded, “Used as a supplement to routine litter box care, application of Zero Odor litter spray could be a positive addition to standard litter box maintenance.”

The behavior euphemistically called “inappropriate elimination” really is a serious problem. Its the most common feline behavior problem presented to veterinarians and behaviorists, Dr. Dodman notes, as well as the number-one reason for “relinquishment” of cats. For lack of patience, carpet shampoo, tolerant landlords or knowledge of what to do, all too many cat owners become former cat owners because of inappropriate elimination.

So heres what Dr. Dodman considers to be signs that a cat is “dissatisfied” with its toilet arrangements: Scratching the sides of the litter box, the floor or wall near the box; balancing on the sides of the box when exiting or entering; raising a paw or placing paws on the side of the litter box while eliminating; hesitating and walking away without using the litter box; jumping out without using the litter; or “absence of digging, circling or covering waste while using the litter box.”

To which we would add ShortTakes sign numero uno: eliminating anywhere in the house other than the litter box. And sure enough, when Dr. Dodman asked ordinary cats owners like us to try Zero Odor on their litter-dissatisfied cats, the stuff seemed to work as advertised – in two tests out of three. The test that proved “inconclusive” was a side-by-side comparison: With one litter box sprayed with Zero Odor and one without, which would the cats prefer?

There was no statistically significant difference between the “mean number of urine and fecal clumps scooped from Zero Odor boxes and control boxes,” the behaviorist reported. Then he noted one curious statistic. Normally, over a four-day period, cats tend to eliminate between 12 and 20 times. But cats in the Zero Odor study used their litter boxes around 32 times in a four-day period.

Next time around, Dr. Dodman says, he will include “video surveillance” in his scientific litter box studies. Unscientifically, we wonder: Maybe the cats kept coming back because they liked the smell?

Orphaned Cat Facts

An article in the journal Waltham Focus (Vol. 16, No. 2) on caring for very young, orphaned kittens makes us glad we adopted Frannie when she was older.

Aside from feeding issues (too much milk-replacer causes diarrhea), orphaned kittens should be weighed every 12 hours to ensure that proper nutrition is promoting growth. And orphans under three weeks of age, the article says, “must have the anogenital areas stimulated after every feeding to induce defecation and micturition.” Were glad Frannies mom handled that chore.

For relief, we turned to a table called “Development Milestones for Kittens” and learned the following: Cats eyelids open between two and 16 days after birth. Kittens attain normal vision in about 30 days, and their adult iris color develops within four to six weeks. Their ear canals open around day nine, but functional hearing can take four to six weeks to develop. Crawling begins at seven to 14 days and graduates to walking in no more than three weeks. v