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In retraining me cat to use his litter box and not the sofa as his litter box, how long should I keep him confined with his food and litter box by himself, and should he be let out at anytime in the day.
What have you done to try to find out the reason(s) he's using the sofa? Has he been to the vet to determine if there's a UTI or other physical problem? Did he always use the sofa to pee or is this something new? If it's new, what's changed in his environment? Is his litter box in a room where he has privacy when he uses it? Are there other cats or dogs in the house?
Having been through this myself I would strongly suggest you use an excellent enzyme cleaner such as Anti Icky Poo or Ultimate Distributors and completely soak the couch (which hopefully won't destroy it), - I mean until it is dripping through the other side. Then when you are ready to let him out again to cover the couch in a heavy duty water proof tarp and leave that on for several months until you know for sure he has changed his habits.
As for the timing, since that was your original question ---- for humans I've heard it takes 12 correct repetitions to learn something correctly (e.g., playing a piece on the piano) or 21 days to change (e.g., eating) habits... not sure how that translates to cats but I would personally keep him confined for a minimum of two weeks - as long as he is faithfully using his litterbox - then let him out only with supervision for another two weeks. If he behaves you can give it a whirl and keep a close watch on the couch. Two good things about a tarp - easy to clean up, and it actually deters the cats from using the couch because the urine pools there instead of soaking into the cushion, and they don't like stepping into their own urine.
Also, you might want to try using Cat Attract in the litterbox when you first let him out - this should also encourage him to go in the appropriate spot.
Thank you Patti. Great advice. My cat pees occasionally on the couch. He has peed on another couch before and I cleaned it with an enzyme cleaner, same as the one I used on the present couch, but this couch, he uses again and again. I've noticed it is when he becomes very energetic and is galloping back and forth through the house with his tail fluffed out. I usually offer him play time at that point to help him get rid of some of that energy but sometimes it does not work. He has peed three time in the last month, but I'm associating it with the fact that he was lost for 7 days before being found. Prior to that though, he peed 3x in two months. I treat the couch and cushions for days, sometimes weeks before returning everything to normal. The couch is leather. Tau has 2 litter boxes. One private one public. He doesn't care about privacy. He likes to use the litterbox when he sees me cleaning it. I clean at least 1x a day, sometimes 2x. He also does his couch peeing after he eats in the morning. I check his box to see if he has peed and encourage hims to do so if he has not. Sometimes he gets right in and does his business and other times he ignores me.
There is the possibility that he likes his box pristine, meaning cleaned each time he uses it. Was the other sofa made of leather? I wonder if he's attracted to whatever the sofa is stuffed with. We have a couple of sofa pee-ers on the forum and the behavior fascinates me, especially when the cats will use the litter box and still go on the sofa from time to time. The tarp and trying Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract are excellent suggestions. I hope they work for you. I have a leather sofa also and I don't think you can clean it to the extent necessary to get rid of the pee smell (which the cat can detect even when you can't). Might have to replace the sofa. I've heard, but have no actual experience, that cats tend to not like microfibre fabrics so that might be an option. And we have evidence that furniture and bedding stuffed with goose down or any type of feather is irresistible to many cats as a place to pee.
If a tarpaulin on your couch doesn't appeal, think creatively... it does make sense to protect your couch and make it easier to clean up incidents while hoping to correct the behavior. With couches that have cushions that have zips (so are removeable) you can put a plastic lining underneath to protect the cushion. It's a pain to actually do but once you manage that, it makes things much easier. For a smaller couch, a waterproof mattress protector might fit over the couch and you can then drape over a sheet or even one of those sofa covers so that it is not so obvious... and then have a spare sofa cover so you can switch them out if there is an incident.
And as Deborah mentions, adding a litterbox or two can make a difference to the fussy ones that like a pristine box. Better to deal with more litterboxes if that means the couch is safer! Sometimes this is a fairly temporary measure, once there have been some months of good behavior you can relax things and still maintain a happy household.
Thank you all for the suggestions. I will try everything. The previous sofa is leather and there are no down feathers on any. I've done the plastic underneath the cushion because Tau pees right where the cushion meets the back of the couch. I will also switch to the Anti Icky Poo for cleaning. The leather becomes hard after soaking, but steam loosens it and makes it soft again. I spray every day and wait until I cannot detect any smell whatsoever, pee as well as cleaner so this takes weeks sometimes if I don't catch it early because the leather must be dry for me to tell if the smell is normal. I also have an ultra violet light.
You may want to see if you can find 'Precious Cat Ultra Litter Attractant'. Our little guy like to pee on soft blankets, the bed or the area I slept with him over night when we first got him. I'm sure his was just stress or something as he did his #2 in the litter pan.
I removed the bedding for a couple nights and used this stuff and not a issue since those first few days.