Younger Cat May Object to Having to Share Litter Box

Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is immediate past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q. We have two cats, both males. One is almost 2 years old, and the other is about 8 months old. They are both neutered. The younger cat is starting to urinate in various areas of the house even though the litter box is available. Both cats are kept indoors. Is it possible that the younger cat has a bladder infection? Or is he unhappy over being indoors? Do you think that he will need to be given any medication?

Mrs. R. Lewis Mallen,

Villa Park

A. Two cats usually have no problems using only one litter box, unless the box is not kept clean or changed frequently. Still, it may be that the younger cat is objecting to sharing the litter box by going in other places in the house. It is also possible that the younger cat is attempting to establish certain areas of your home as being his own territory by marking with the scent from his urine.

You might try getting another litter box and confining the second cat to an area that he has been urinating around. This essentially amounts to re-housebreaking him. Make sure that the litter boxes are kept clean and available at all times.

If he continues to urinate in various places, have him examined by your veterinarian to make sure that he does not have a urinary infection, especially if he seems to be straining to use the box. Your veterinarian may want to put him on medication to try to reduce his behavior. Be patient because it may be difficult to break habits that cats develop.

Q. Our new kitten was a stray we found at the park. We just noticed that she is scratching at her head and is starting to lose some hair. I used Neosporin ointment, but it hasn't helped very much. We were told that it could be ringworm and that we might catch it from the cat. Is this possible? What can we use to clear up the ringworm? She seems to be doing well and has a very big appetite.

Anna Petcha,

Santa Ana

A. Hair loss and itching around the face and ears of a cat can be caused by several organisms. There is the possibility of two types of mites, one that causes very crusty, sore skin on the ears and face, and another that involves primarily the ear canal and causes a thick dark brown to black debris from the ears. The possibility of the fungus (usually called ringworm) also exists.

Take your kitten to your veterinarian to have the sores examined. The vet will do a skin scraping to look for the skin mites (Notodectes) as well as take a swab of the debris from the ears to look for the ear mite (Otodectes). An ultraviolet light might help identify any ringworm, although a culture of some of the hair shafts will be more diagnostic. Your cat will probably need a medicated bath to clean the lesions and a dipping to kill any mites that may be found. Your veterinarian will advise you on home care.

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