Ask A Vet: Meet Dr. Berger, the SF SPCA's New Advice Giver

Ask A Vet: Meet Dr. Berger, the SF SPCA's New Advice Giver


Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on Dr.Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink…at your service.

We are all accustomed to finding workarounds in our everyday lives, but how often do we really find the root cause of a problem? Have you ever wondered why your pet behaves as it does? Sometimes things are not as they appear – aggressive behavior may not stem from aggression. A painfully shy dog may be a bundle of joy, waiting to be set free.
Q: If I leave dirty laundry around my cat will pee on it. Is she mad at me for not cleaning up or not doing my laundry?
A: Don’t worry, your cat is not making commentary on your housekeeping skills. Although it seems like a condemnation, what’s actually happening is that your cat thinks that the laundry basket is a perfectly fine litter box. If the real litter box is not just as your cat likes it,  or where your cat likes it, your clothes might just be the perfect  litter box alternative. That being said, if your cat squats to relieve herself anywhere other than the litter box, your first stop should always be the vet’s office to rule out a urinary infection or other medical reasons. If that is ruled out, review some of the litter box guidelines.

  • Are there enough boxes? The magic number is one box per cat in the household, plus one extra.
  • Offer different types of litter to find your cats preferred litter: Clumping, non-clumping, sand, clay, etc. If your cat is using soft surfaces such as laundry, chances are your litter is too coarse or too shallow. Use a fine granulated type of litter to the surface is soft and deep, similar to laundry.
  • Always keep the litter box clean- the box might be dirty and the laundry basket is the only “clean alternative”....scoop daily.
  • Use mild dishwashing liquid to wash the box weekly.
  • Place the litter box in the same room where your cat is eliminating outside the box.
  • If you have a multi-story house, have litter boxes on each level.
  • And please don’t place litter box next to food and water.

Troubleshooting Litter Box Problems
1.    Always begin by consulting your veterinarian to rule out medical causes.
2.    Check all the above guidelines.
3.    VERY IMPORTANT: Do not punish your cat for going outside the litter box as this will most definitely not solve the problem.

You have questions? We have answers! No question is too silly or too gross…we’ve heard it all! “Ask A Vet” every Friday from 12pm-1pm on Twitter: @sfspca.

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