In-Depth Mojo: Bea & Fi – grumpiness and litter box phobia

In-Depth Mojo 409 Bea  Fi

Sometimes the problem isn’t the cat and their history.  Sometimes it is.  We get to see both scenarios in this installment of In-Depth Mojo – a behind-the-scenes look at the cases you see on My Cat FromHell – from Jackson’s point of view.

Also available: this companion post about Spirit Essences holistic remedies for animals that are relevant to these cases.

Bea - the grumpy cat who used to attack Aragon the 24-pound Bengal, and Cece, his guardian.

Bea – the grumpy cat who used to attack Aragon the 24-pound Bengal, and Cece, his guardian.

Bea – lashing out at her huge 24-pound housemate of a cat, and his guardian

OK let’s talk about Bea.  Bea and Aragon (the 24-pound celebrity cat seen on Glee), Cece (Aragon’s guardian) and Krista (Bea’s guardian).

Really, Bea’s problem…was she a grumpy cat?  Sure she was grumpy.  But that didn’t really talk about why she was who she was.  Really, again, human problems in this home.

Krista just thought it was a joke!  She really enjoyed Bea beating up Cece or whoever else came in.  And she enjoyed the fact that she owned a very special relationship with Bea.  And maybe that’s what we’re talking about at the end of all this.  Maybe we’re talking about that really unique human dynamic with our animals, where they mirror what we consider our best traits.

With Krista, she saw Bea as taking no s***, y’know, absolutely ‘stand up for herself, announce her presence, she is who she is, take me or leave me,’ and I think that Krista just admired that.  As odd as that sounds, I’ve seen it constantly.

Not only do we admire these traits but we also protect the relationship.  So that’s what we’re seeing again with Krista.  And once we unraveled that, and we allowed Cece to be a parent, and we also switched it up and also had Krista own a relationship with Aragon, well, then things started to change a little bit.

Krista hated the fact that Aragon was this T.V…this stage kid.  She hated the fact that he was wheeled around in a stroller.  She hated the fact that Cece went from being a pet guardian to a stage mom.  She hated all of that.

But when she took ownership of Aragon, she also took ownership of the fact that he was very unhealthy, that he needed to change his diet.  That he needed to walk some more, and she needed to participate.  So, y’know, that was the real in-depth thing.  Again, it sounds obvious that it comes down to the people, but in this case, it really was.

Bea, like I said: grumpy?  Yes.  Psychotic?  No.

Tools of the Trade

The Cat Wheel  Company

CatWheelCompany

Jackson brought in a cat wheel for Aragon, who needed to lose some weight for his own health.  Overweight cats are prone to diabetes and arthritis.

The Cat Wheel Company specializes in exercise wheels for cats.  They’re  made of strong, lightweight, recycled plastic and steel.

More exercise means less ‘acting out’ due to boredom, along with diminished aggressiveness.

 

Fi - declawed as a kitten, she stopped using the litter box ever since...until Jackson came along

Fi – declawed as a kitten, and never used a litter box…until Jackson came along

Fi – litter box phobic

Alright, let’s talk about Fi and Megan.  Great, great story.  As a matter of fact, probably one of the most rewarding cases I think I’ve ever worked on.  Why?  Because Fi was not just a lost cause.  Remember, she was re-homed five times in five years.  That includes four times in three years, by the time Megan had adopted her.  And it was really rewarding for a couple of reasons.  I mean she had never used the litter box as far we would ever know.  She was declawed at a very early age and passed around after that.

So there were two pieces of the homework that I thought were key to our success.    One was of course the cognitive, step-by-step work here.  But there was also the personal investment.

Now Megan had basically said that she was never going to give up on Fi.  But that wasn’t enough.  This was a cat who never used the litter box.  Megan would come home from a long day’s work and then wind up spending the next hour cleaning up pee and poop from all over the house.  So she needed to have a little bit of a reward from Fi, and part of that was getting to know Fi better.  So I had her do what I called “The Story of Fi.”  Writing the story of this cat, who we were putting together the pieces that we knew were her life, which was:

  • Persian
  • bred
  • bought
  • declawed
  • given up
  • and then from that point on, passed around

We know that she went from shelter to shelter.  She was in a rescue group, that kind of thing.  Home after home after home.  OK, we know that part.  Now let’s invest it with, for lack of a better word, humanity.  And that’s where I had Megan write Fi’s story from the first person.  This is what it is to be me, Fi.  So that’s really where, y’know, in reading that story once Megan wrote it, it was really one of the most moving moments I’ve had filming My Cat From Hell.  I cried like a baby listening to that story, it was so beautiful.  So well-written, and so invested.  And from that point, it became even easier to work on this case because we were doing it for Fi.  We weren’t just doing it for Megan anymore.

The second part of the homework that I thought was really the most key – for me, the most risky – was “build-a-box.”  And “build-a-box” was really about re-associating Fi with a litter box.  But kind of in a way that I’ve never worked on before, which was… I had this idea in my head for quite a long time…to basically create something from nothing and therefore re-associate.  So with Fi we knew that she would go on puppy pads.  She wouldn’t go on litter but she would go on puppy pads.  Great.  From that point, let’s create a box around the puppy pad.  So, like, I wanted to start with like a cookie sheet, something like that.  So that basically she’s stepping on to something, but not in something.  We stumbled on something that was like, it was a puppy training box.  So it was a plastic cookie sheet basically, that you put a puppy pad on, and from there, there were little walls that you would build around it.  That was basically it.  My attempt was to build a litter box around these puppy pads, and just push Fi’s challenge line ever so gently to that point where she wouldn’t even realize she was getting not just on something, but in something.  And that “in” became the litter box.

And one of the most amazing payoffs ever was when Megan basically caught Fi going into the litter box for the first time ever.  And how amazing that was.  And since then, Fi has used a litter box as often as she ever used [puppy pads].  It was an insane payoff.  And it just goes to show you that when a cat doesn’t use a litter box because of pain, what they’re saying is not “my body hurts,” they’re saying “this place hurts.”  Why would I keep going back to this place that reminds me of pain?  So in writing “The Story of Fi,” we discover this is why she hurts the way she does.

Then we re-write the story of Fi using the “build-a-box.”  It was an amazing case and I’ll never forget it.

Tools of the Trade

Build-a-Box

build-a-box

If you build it they will come.

This is the type of puppy training box that Jackson used to help Fi re-associate with a litter box and get over her litter box phobia.

Tip: the product is not actually called “build-a-box.”

There are various products that basically do the same thing, but go by various names.  Here are a couple:

 

 


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We regret that Jackson does not answer questions posted in the comments. This is due to his demanding schedule and the high volume of requests he receives. But most importantly, since he has not met your cat, it would be contrary to his approach for him to give specific personalized advice for your specific situation. That being said, general questions and issues are addressed throughout this blog, in his book CAT DADDY and of course, the show My Cat From Hell.
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31 Responses to In-Depth Mojo: Bea & Fi – grumpiness and litter box phobia

  1. Sparkle June 10, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Fi’s story practically made my human cry, she felt so awful for her. It was just a graphic illustration about why declawing is such an evil, evil thing to do to a cat. Thanks so much for helping her and her human – and helping Bea and Aragon too!

  2. Gail Ream June 11, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    I’m so happy I discovered Jackson and his show. I love it. I wish my cats were “cats from hell” and qualify to be on the show…however, they are both great cats.

  3. Cathy de France ;) June 11, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Hello,
    Fi’s story was really moving and gets me very close to tears. This cat has had a lot of luck to have a guardian as Megan, so dedicated.
    I’ve never imagined that declawing what such a terrible mutilation. But I always thought that people using those barbaric methods on their cat for their littlle confort did not really love their cat. That thing should be forbidden.
    A bientôt,
    Cathy from south of France

  4. Jules June 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    My cat Bandit who has since past at 27 yr’s. was declawed & back then we weren’t educated on the horrific procedure & what it did to our pets. It gets me mad when I think how my poor Bandit use to shake his paws, I feel back then we didn’t use common sence I mean how would anyone feel if they ripped our nails out. Anyway Bandit use to pee on everything if it was left on the floor. I took him to countless doctors & even a bio chemist at one point thinking we were missing something & one vet put him on anti depressants , that only lasted 3 days he was out of it. It probably was his paws & the litter. It makes sence . It’s a shame for 27 yrs not one vet picked up on it. now when I hear anyone talking about declawing there cats I set them straight , I can’t even believe they still do the procedure.

    • Donna December 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      I too had a cat that I had declawed. I rescued her when she was only a week old and had to bottle feed her so she was my baby. I had never had a cat that was strictly an inside cat so I decided to have her declawed. As a result when she was 3 yrs. old my youngest daughter left the back door open one day and my cat went outside. Which would have been ok had she gone in the front yard. I had a husky/wolf cross breed in the back yard and she hated cats. As a result I lost my cat because she had no claws to defend herself. I will never ever declaw another cat. I will also never have another dog that has not been raised with cats. It was one of the worst things I could have done having my cat declawed.

    • Lizel December 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

      Declawing is just as inhuman as tail docking with dogs, luckily they have stop doing this procedure, so why not stop de clawing too?

  5. Barb June 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Hi Jackson, I particularly liked this episode. I thought you did a marvelous job with Megan and Fi. Normally, you do a great job showing care and concern in each episode but on this one,you showed extraordinary compassion for that furry little lost soul. I was very moved by Megan’s dedication to Fi. I know that’s what you need to see in a client and that is their total buy-in to help the cat. It was lovely to see two cat-lovers truly working to give this cat as normal a life as possible. If everyone gave their animals and strays that level of care, we could solve this crisis. Keep up the good work. It was truly a pleasure to watch this episode. Best wishes, Barb

  6. Lauren June 12, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    I was also very moved by Fi and Megan’s story… Also, I thought Megan was just awesome. Fantastic sense of humour and so, so sweet for committing to that poor kitty. A beautiful cat and a beautiful human – I hope they have many more happy years together and Fi’s little paws hurt a little less. :’) Megan, I hope you read these comments so you can see other cat lovers talk about how much you rule (though I’m sure Fi tells you so in her own way every day!)

  7. Barb June 13, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    Jackson,
    You did a wonderful job getting to the bottom of Fi’s issues.
    That was a lovely episode.
    Keep up the good work!
    Barb

  8. Kaci June 14, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    I think Fi’s story is my favorite story from My Cat From Hell. I loved to see her human so invested in her happiness, and refusing to give up on her. And I loved to see Fi come out on top in the end. Great, great story. So glad you could help Fi and Megan, Jackson!

  9. Faye June 18, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    I wonder where Jackson got the puppy litter box – not the “build a box”, but the other low box with an even lower entry. It’s similar to the “Second Nature” dog litter boxes which are no longer available. Those boxes are great for cats with mobility issues. I volunteer for a no-kill cat shelter; we have been looking for similar boxes but have been unable to find anything like those. If anyone has a source, please post – our shelter could really use a few of them!

    Both Bea & Fi were great episodes (as usual) – very good info about declawing!

    • Team Cat Mojo June 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      Hi Faye — Good eye! I’m impressed that you caught that, the camera barely showed it. OK, here’s a link to the Puppy Go Potty product…I think that’s what you saw… http://puppygopotty.com/products.html

      • Faye June 20, 2013 at 7:07 am #

        I have my own disabled cat – she has two “Second Nature” dog litter boxes (she’s fussy about their cleanliness so needs to have two to get through the day sometimes). I know they won’t last forever, and wish I had bought extra before they were discontinued. So I’m always looking out for something similar, to either have as spares for my own cat or for the shelter at which I volunteer (The Cat House in Lincoln, Nebraska, if anyone is interested). The Puppy Go Potty product may not have a wide enough opening for some disabled cats, depending on how they move around, but I’ll order one to check it out. Thanks!

    • Stephanie August 5, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

      Super pet has something similar for ferrets and rabbits

  10. Cheryl Ruppel June 20, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    I just wanted to comment the episode where the cat scratched the side of the litter box. We have a rescue we found in our yard as an extremely, malnutrioned, 6wk old probably runt. Poppy, he had so many issues & illnesses that they told us he might have some learning etc problems, he is a bit dumb, but his most dumb behavior is he seems to think that scratching on the cover of the litter box is covering his mess, He usually will scratch until we remove or cover it for him. Wondering if that cat had similar problems

  11. Michael Foreman June 22, 2013 at 1:46 am #

    I want to know if there is an Appetite suppressant for cats, we have a beautiful Seal Point Siamese -Jasmin, she is 2 years old & wants food & treats every moment she is awake, I have had many cats, & they do become glutinous with age. Usually 5-8 years of age.

    I try to make sure she always has allot of clean fresh water, so she wont want to eat all the time, is there a Appetite suppressant for cats?

    • Jenny Herzenstiel December 7, 2013 at 7:24 am #

      Sorry my reply is so late… I hope you signed up for notifications.

      My guess is that she isn’t hungry, she’s bored. I would try food toys that make her work for a small amount of food. Like a ball that she can chase that dispenses one kibble at a time. There are a lot of interesting varieties on Amazon. It’s called “enrichment feeder”

      My mom’s cat had similar issues and it turns out it was a thyroid problem. Have a vet do some blood tests.

  12. Elaine B June 30, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    After watching this episode last night, I decided to try something similar with my rescued declawed cat who had been peeing in all the wrong places. I put newspaper (which she already likes to pee on) in an open litter box in the same spot where she had recently sprayed. Then I sprinkled some shredded paper on top. Just now, guess who just used her litter box?!! I can’t thank you enough Jackson, for the good service you do for animals and their humans in general, and now, for my household too.

  13. Lisa June 30, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Saw an episode and Jackson gave the homeowner a bottle of spray for cat urine. Can i get the name and where to purchase it. Thank you

  14. Sally Lentz October 29, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    We have a unique issue with one of our rescue’s cats. Amber was adopted shortly after being pulled from city animal control. She was extremely matted and had to be shaved. She moved into her new home and has been using one litter box in the basement just fine. But, the one upstairs in the bedroom is a different story. She will poop in the box, but not urinate. Her owner says she knows when she is going to pee because she starts pawing and scratching at the carpet. Neither litter box is covered. They figured that out right away. They have tried moving the box to a more open area in the room, they have put a pheromone collar on her and started using cat attract litter. Nothing has worked. Yes, she is front paw declawed, but why would she use one box, but not the other?

    • TG December 7, 2013 at 12:52 am #

      Litter may still be uncomfortable on her feet, but perhaps she is willing to use the box in the absence of any other “viable” (to her) alternatives. But maybe in the presence of soft carpet, the softer substrate could be preferred?

  15. Cecilia November 26, 2013 at 2:55 am #

    What is the season and episode that shows Fi’s case (litter box phobic)?

  16. Virginia Meakins December 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    My cat, now 20 years old, at one point quit using the litter box and would frequently go outside the litter box – and sometimes on MY clothing. After cleaning up numerous messes and getting very frustrated, I decided to try something; a BIGGER litter box. I also decided to look at her paws and I was shocked to see many red blotches on her little pads. I decided to try a paper litter. It worked. She just needed a little more space and something a little softer on her paws.

  17. TG December 7, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    I (briefly) used to work at an awful vet’s here that pushed declawing at 6 weeks of age. I quit as soon as I possibly could, but not before fielding a phone call that broke my heart. A client of this vet practice was calling in tears to make an appointment to have her 5 year old cat “euthanized” because she had never been consistent using the litter box and this woman felt that she had tried everything. Of course she had brought the cat in for extensive testing (to the same practice that had mutilated her cat’s feet in the first place), and nothing was medically wrong. She had tried everything, but the second she opened her bedroom door, the cat would sneak in and pee on her bed, and the second she dropped a towel, the cat would run over an pee on it. This poor cat would pee on tile rather than go in her litter box.

    I had to be careful (this vet practice recorded every single one of our conversations with clients, and I couldn’t yet afford to be fired), but I basically questioned her until I found out that this behavior started about 2 months after she’d had the poor thing declawed at a few months of age.

    I suggested wee wee pads and a training pan much like the above, and told her about the pain that can arise even with the modern “painless” laser surgeries. Thankfully, it worked. But to think this cat was not only mutilated as a kitten, but then going to be killed because of it.

    It broke my heart. And I wonder about all of the phone calls I was not there to field, since practice policy was (is) to kill any animal on demand when an owner requests, even if perfectly healthy, without questioning and *without offering any alternatives*. I used to get into trouble all the time for trying to create loving alternatives to killing a healthy animal. Even though I was making sure that I was not doing it in a way that would shame the owner, even mentioning an alternative was considered “second-guessing” the client, and therefore Not Allowed. I’m grateful to be out of there. And horrified to think of how often this happens around the country.

  18. Susie December 30, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    I have a 1 year old female cat. She hasn’t been spayed or declawed. She is urinating everywhere! He favorite place is my sofa! I took her to the vet. He said she had crystals in her specimen probably caused by her food (Purina Kitten Chow). He put her on an antibiotic but it hasn’t helped. I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions? She is an inside cat since we live on a busy highway.

    • Telliet January 3, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

      First of all, GET HER SPAYED.

      Seriously, hormones can set them off in so many ways, and a cat that is in a constant state of being set off is more likely to inappropriately urinate.

      Secondly, I’m confused by what you are saying about her crystals. Crystal formation is a specific thing (and can certainly cause inappropriate urination), but is NOT the same thing as a urinary tract infection, the latter is what is generally treated with antibiotics. Very MILD cases of FLUTD (see link) can be treated with antibiotics, but this might require a more comprehensive treatment approach. Infections that develop as secondary to crystal formation can be handled by antibiotics, but crystals, or most FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) usually require a different, more comprehensive, treatment approach.

      http://www.cat-world.com.au/flutd

      Does your cat have a chronic Urinary Tract Infection/Inflammation (UTI) or crystals? That difference matters.

  19. Andrew Jacob January 24, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Hi Jackson,

    Within the past year our baby girl ‘Poppy’ (british short hair of almost 3 years old) has taken to pooping outside of the toilet box. Her brother Gizmo (from the same litter and both spayed) doesnt have this issue.

    We have wooden floors in the house which she preferred to poop on and we found that if we have a large piece of carpet, she’ll poop on that instead of the wooden floor but not in the box, she also doesnt poop anywhere in the house except in the living room. If we try to ween her off the carpet she goes back to the wooden floor.

    We have numerous litter boxes around the house and have tried different litters. Strangely she has no issues in peeing all the time inside the box just doesnt like leaving a number two in there, its like she loves to display what we feed her, little monster! :)

    She has masses of energy, plays well, sleeps well and eats well but the vets in england cant seem to advise as to why this might be happening. She did have a bout of Colitis a few months before the issue started but we’re not sure why this is happening in general.

    We have been watching and loving your show, we never show any form of anger towards our babies, even if they are naughty or when she leaves her calling card. She is truly loved but any advice would be much appreciated…

    Keep up the great work and look forward to your next show!

    Kind regards, Andrew, Iris, Poppy&Gizmo from London, UK.

  20. Barb February 15, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    Andrew seems to have the same problem as we are having. We adopted a male kitten, about 6 mos old and brought him home. One of our kitties, a female, hissed at him and has attacked him. He is very meek and cowers and does not fight back. We don’t know for sure if this is the reason, but he started pooping in our tub. He has not seemed to pee anywhere in the house that we have noticed, he seems to be peeing in the litter box, but will poop mostly in the tub. He will find another spot if we keep that door closed. I will take him to the vet to see if they can help him, if it is a physical problem, but we think it may be the other cat harassing him. We talked to the foster mom and she said he was with many other cats and always used the litter box there. we recently ordered the spray from Jackson Galaxy and just started using that. We have no idea what to do, have read a lot of articles and none seem to really address this specific issue. I will try a different litter, and maybe a pee pad as I read in a earlier suggestion and relating to this story. If anyone has any other ideas please let us know, we have to solve this issue.
    Thanks!

  21. Dana April 11, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    SOMEONE PLEASE HELP!!!
    18 months ago, I saved a 6 week old kitten (Sammy) that was living in a tree. I also have a 10 year old tabby (Male) & a 16 year old Brindle (Female) named Bella. Sammy immediately started bouncing all over Bella and Bella in turn, began urinating & defecating on the basement rug next to the litter boxes. I moved 1 of the litter boxes upstairs to the spare room where Bella spent most of her time & she proceeded to urinate & defecate on the spare room rug next to the litter box. I took her to the vet to see if she had a kidney problem, the blood work came back & she’s perfectly healthy, the problem is behavioral. I began locking Sammy up in the basement when I wasn’t home, in an attempt to make Bella feel safer. The problem got worse, she moved into our master bedroom & began urinating & defecating under our bed. Now what? Wee-wee pads. We lined the floor under our bed w/ wee-wee pads. She won’t walk around the house at all, she can..she just refuses to. She meows to tell me when she wants to go from the bedroom to the living room & vice versa. Our bed has a cubby/cabinet directly behind our heads (about 1 foot deep), I used to keep picture frames on it, now its Bella’s feeding station b/c she won’t eat if her food bowls are on the floor. We even put a fluffy pillow in between our pillows for her at night, so she would feel safe & secure.
    Last week, Bella started urinating on her pillow, located ON OUR BED!!! My boyfriend told me tonight that he won’t sleep in our bed anymore & I can’t blame him. I don’t know what to do, aside from a small cataract; she’s a physically healthy cat.

    I am sick to my stomach knowing that after I send this message I have to move her food & water into the bathroom w/ a blanket & pillow in the bathtub. I don’t anticipate either one of us will get much sleep tonight.

    Everyone is telling me “it’s time” but I blame myself for bringing Sammy home, it was too much for her & now it’s too late. I know ultimately the decision is mine to make, but I would give just about anything for some advice…

  22. shannon April 16, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    I am having a problem similar to what several here have described – one of my cats will poop in the litter box but will only pee right in front of the box on the floor. She is not declawed but is overweight and diabetic, and gets her shots regularly. This is a fairly recent problem, occurring within the past year. I had the vet test her for a UTI but that was negative. The vet thought that she might be having trouble getting into the box because of diabetes-related weakness in the legs and suggested getting a box with a lower front and no cover. That did not help – and besides, I know she can get into the box, and she jumps up onto the couch and my bed, so her legs aren’t THAT weak. I have not changed their litter. I cannot have a second box, as I live in a studio apartment and there is nowhere to put it. She WILL be on a pad in front of the box, just never IN the box. It’s very frustrating, and going through 3-4 pads a day is getting expensive. Would love some ideas…

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