WHAT WORKS FOR...
Gary D. Norsworthy, DVM, DABVP (feline practice), Alamo Feline Health Center, San Antonio, Texas
Dr. Gary Norsworthy with technician Emily Boulet.
When housesoiling is the problem
Inappropriate elimination, often called housesoiling, is a complex and common problem. It is the most common behavior problem
of cats and one of the main reasons cats are surrendered to shelters. This behavior is usually initiated by a stress-causing
situation or a physical disease.
I recommend an aggressive approach to the problem that attempts to resolve stress-causing initiators or diseases that may
cause chronic pain or polydipsia and polyuria. If these problems can be diagnosed and relieved, it is much easier to get the
cat back to the litter box. However, once inappropriate elimination becomes patterned, a behavioral aspect (compulsion) may
develop. In my opinion, after a short time, inappropriate elimination is patterned so deeply in most of these cats that it
becomes what would be called in human medicine a form of mental illness. This may be impossible to correct. Ultimately, as
Dr. Haug states, the owners can choose to live with the problem, try to rehabilitate the pet to an acceptable level, find
a more suitable home for the cat, or euthanize the cat. In addition, I think owners have another option before euthanasia,
and that is to make the cat an outdoor-only pet. It is hoped that euthanasia is not the chosen option.
Euthanasia is a decision that needs to be made very carefully, but it is also a decision that may be the best one for certain
situations. Regarding feline housesoiling, one has to consider the frequency, the duration (greater than six months means
a grave prognosis in my experience), the degree of home damage, the degree of aggravation or tolerance by all family members,
the options, and the owner's personal feelings about euthanasia.
WHAT WORKS FOR...
Michael H. Riegger, DVM, DABVP, Northwest Animal Clinic, Hospital and Specialty Practice, Albuquerque, N.M.
Dr. Michael H. Riegger
Get a clear understanding of the situation
One of the toughest issues we face in clinical medicine is coping with the issues surrounding dangerously aggressive dogs.
We have handled more than 250 cases associated with bites, many with legal action. The most emotionally traumatic of these
involved the maiming of children's faces.
Our message and plan is a face-to-face visit with the family and dog to develop a clear understanding of the history, situation,
environment, triggers, and prognosis.
Then I have a sit-down conference with the family and without the dog to discuss options, risks, strategies, and commitment
to a behavior modification plan that includes significant follow-up visits.
One thing I would like to add in regard to Dr. Haug's excellent article is that although dental extractions to address behavior
problems are controversial, we have experienced good results with this procedure in about 80% of the patients that would otherwise
have been euthanized (because of aggression or destructive problems).
1. Riegger MH, Guntzelman J. Prevention and amelioration of stress and consequences of interactions between children and dogs.
J Am Vet Med Assoc 1990;196 (11):1781-1785.
2. Riegger MH, Guntzelman J. Prevention of aggression in the dog. In Proceedings. 9th Annu ACVIM Forum 1991;279–281.
WHAT WORKS FOR...
Wayne L. Hunthausen, DVM, Animal Behavior Consultations Westwood Animal Hospital, Westwood, Kan.
Dr. Wayne L. Hunthausen
Empathize with the owners
The decision to euthanize is rarely, if ever, an easy one. But it is even more difficult if the pet is healthy, yet poses
a considerable danger that cannot easily or dependably be managed.
It is important that the clinician handles these situations with utmost compassion and empathy. Families that feel guilt must
be supported so they understand the correctness of the decision and their courage in making it. They need to be told that
the caretaker understands the difficulty inherent in choosing to euthanize, but that the consequences of not euthanizing make
the decision unavoidable.