This post contains mischief on many different levels, and it was all started by our cat Conrad. It’s really just a result of living in a multi-pet household, with different species, and the added complication of old age.
Level 1: Cat won’t use the litterbox.
It’s been a while now that Conrad has refused to use his litter box most of the time. We had him checked by our vet, and tried every trick in the book to get him to. We cut him a break now because he is at least 17 years old this spring. It’s on the lower level of the house and not easy for him to get to. We take him down there several times a day and sometimes he’ll use it, sometimes he won’t. Honestly, I don’t think he has a lot of control over it these days. So we live with it. We have wood and tile floors and we can clean it up. The big problem is that if he poops in the house, this is an exciting event for the dogs….and they all go running for it. It became the biggest problem in the middle of the night. Who wants to get woken up by dogs running downstairs, and then try to get up and race them down there (and hardly ever win)? No fun!
Our house was originally set up as a Chalet style with an open loft upstairs. When we decided to remodel and move our bedroom up there to enjoy the view from, there was really no way to make a door to that room, so the staircase is open, with no way to block the dogs up there easily. We didn’t want to move the kitty litter to the main floor, and I don’t think Conrad would always use it even if we could find a place away from the dogs. The other option was to corral Conrad somewhere at night. For years, Conrad was a skittish cat who spent a lot of time hiding away, so we just didn’t like the idea of now having to hide him away somewhere.
But when Cricket started having some stomach issues lately, we felt that the late night “poop runs” were not helping! We had been propping up a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs, anchored by a chair, but Cricket had figured out a way around or through it. So we had to come up with a new solution. With the staircase the way it is, getting a gate up there wasn’t easy but we finally figured out a way to do it.
Level 2: Luke won’t go through the gate.
Luke wouldn’t go through the gate. I don’t know why….we’ve used these gates many times since he was a puppy, in different locations, and it was never an issue. We used it most recently when he was recovering from having his knees checked. I guess because it was in a new location, our fearful boy was going to have a problem with it. So the first few nights, my hubby had to keep taking the gate down to get Luke up to bed, and then put it back up again. Not ideal.
So during the days I started working with him using treats and trying to get him to come through. The best I could get was him stretching his neck through, but he just wouldn’t come up. We simply weren’t making any progress. By the way, he would go down through fine, but he would not go up! I honestly think it’s because he wasn’t thinking about it when going down, he’s usually at a run when he’s headed down!
Sheba was a bit timid about it at first too, but not for long.
Level 3: New lure, and a thief.
OK, who uses a tissue as a lure to get their dog to do something? Desperate people, that’s who! Luke loves tissues, so I just figured it was worth a try. It actually worked one time, but after that he was on to me, and he wasn’t doing it twice. And then this happened as well:
I didn’t see that coming. Sheba is not a tissue lover like Luke. Though come to think of it, years ago she was the reason we had to start putting our bathroom trash can up on a shelf. She was a trash picker.
Level 4: Do NOT try this at home.
Tired people don’t always think clearly. More than once, we happened to get behind Luke when heading up to bed, and found that just a gentle push up through the gate would get him to go through. My hubby elevated that to actually half picking him up and just kind of putting him through. Does it seem wise to force a fearful dog to do something he doesn’t want to? No, it does not. But force is a strong word…if Luke had actually struggled at all, we would have immediately stopped. He let us do it, and guess what? It worked. Luke is now going through the gate with no problems. All we can figure is that just giving him that push fairly quickly didn’t give him time to think about being scared. When he is afraid of something, if he can’t see it, he is often fine (my hubby learned that at Luke’s recent vet visit…another story for another time).
We’re just grateful that we finally found a solution to the Conrad problem. Cricket’s stomach seems to be feeling better, and we’re proud of Luke for overcoming one of his fears. The first few times he went through that gate on his own, we gave him lots of praise and I think that helped him along too.