Monday, November 8, 2010

A bigger hole, setbacks, and wonderings.

Well, it's been a while since I've updated on the process of toilet training our cat, Booboo. Here are the first, second, and third posts on our process. Up through the time of that last post, it was a very smooth and natural adjustment for Booboo. Then at the end of September, S changed the hole in the litter box from a soda can to a yogurt container.

This means it became much easier for Booboo's paw to slip down the hole and land in the toilet water, so he has had to learn how to navigate around it. Going from a soda can to a yogurt container was a bit of a jump in size, but we were confident Booboo could handle it. Unfortunately, at that same time, we ran out of litter and I replaced it with a different flushable kind that was cedar. Big mistake, big. Huge! This is the point where we first encountered some resistance from Booboo. He began to hold "number 2" and even used rugs multiple times instead of his litter box. And, of course, holding it for longer than normal made it difficult when he actually did go, which made him want to hold it more. (Even during this time, he still always went "number 1" in the litter box for some inexplicable reason.) I started to do some research and discovered a forum for toilet training cats. I learned about doing the "potty dance" and began to spend a lot of time with Booboo in the bathroom trying to convince him to "go" on the toilet. (The term "dance" does not properly convey the way I felt during all this time in the bathroom with Booboo, though perhaps it does indicate the joy that comes after he finally does "go" in the toilet.) We started incorporating treats and lots of praise every time he went "number two" in the litter box.

I think that time of setbacks and potty dancing was mostly due to my changing the litter to a type Booboo did not like, which unfortunately, coincided with the introduction of the larger hole in the litter box and a change in his food, based on a recommendation from his vet. Thankfully, after we switched the litter to his previous flushable litter, Booboo has only "gone" in the litter box. At this same time, we also decided to take some steps back to try to firmly re-establish Booboo's comfort level with the litter box. S temporarily closed the hole by placing another (unaltered) yogurt container of the same size inside the hole in the box. He filled up this new yogurt container with litter to the same level as the rest of the box. This left the structure of the hole in place so that Booboo still had to step over and around it, but removed any danger of falling in the toilet water. Over the next week or two, we gradually reduced the level of litter inside the yogurt container insert until there was no longer any litter it. As the level in the yogurt container insert was getting lower, Booboo (mostly) stopped stepping in the hole and began to navigate it successfully.

After we were sure he was comfortable at this stage, S then cut a hole in the very bottom of the yogurt container insert that was slightly smaller than its diameter. This was to re-introduce the presence of toilet water below the litter box in as non-threatening of a way as possible. After a couple weeks at this stage, S removed the yogurt container insert so that we are now back at where we were at the end of September. (See the above photo.) Booboo now seems comfortable with the size of the hole and balances on the toilet seat very well. For the last few weeks, we have begun encouraging proper positioning on the toilet seat (which means having no feet in the litter box.) On his own, he has used proper positioning at least once, but most of the time, he has his front two paws on the toilet seat and the back two in the litter box. We figure increasing the size of the hole (very slowly over time) will teach him how keep his feet only on the seat as the walkable space of the litter box decreases. We know he is capable of using proper positioning, since he has done it with our help and by himself, so that's good.

Judging by how adaptive Booboo has been during this process, we think he could master the toilet training. It is a very long process (much, much longer than we anticipated). Though we have now learned that it sometimes takes a year or more, the timing doesn't really bother us too much because the end result would be well worth it, as far as the litter goes. But now we are questioning if we want to continue the process because we are wondering if Booboo is simply happier with his normal litter box. We started toilet training right after we moved, so we have too many variables to determine causation with any accuracy, but we agree that Booboo seems less happy now than he seemed before the move. Booboo has been sleeping with us less, and we don't know if it is the move, the still-unsettled apartment, the changes in S's work schedule, the change in his food, the orientation of furniture in the new bedroom, or the toilet training.

So......we are carefully watching Booboo's mood. This last week, he has been sleeping with us more like he used to, so maybe he is getting back to his happy "Montréal self"? Of course, maybe this has to do with the fact that we hung dark curtains in the bedroom last weekend, instead of the white ones we have had up since the move and which let in lots of light at night. Maybe Booboo likes a dark sleeping environment and it is as simple as that? Or maybe Booboo is thankful we went back to his old food which he prefers. It's so hard to know. We will see if his mood seems to improve, and if it doesn't, we will, of course, abandon the toilet training. We just want Booboo to be happy.

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