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Pet World: Give cats space they need to adjust to new home

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

–Dan Smithtown, New York

Dear Dan,

I find a lot of little dog owners allow their dogs to eliminate in the house. These dogs, however, are capable of learning to go outside to relieve themselves and can “hold it,” as you have discovered in reverse when she is outside.

Changing this behavior requires dedication from you. Get a black light (available from most pet stores) to see where she has been eliminating in your home. Then get an enzymatic cleaner from the pet store to clean those areas of the floor or carpet to remove any traces of waste. When you’re not home, restrict her to a bathroom, so she only has one approved place to relieve herself. Then keep that bathroom door closed when you’re home, so she can’t go in there to use it.

Next, start clicker training. Ask her to “sit.” When she does, click (to mark the correct behavior) and give her a treat. Repeat this command and teach her a few more commands, like “down” or “come,” over the next few weeks until you feel she really understands that the clicker means she did something right. When you get to that point, take her outside to relieve herself (after sleeping, playing, or eating). If she eliminates, say “go potty” as she does, then click to mark the behavior, and give her a treat. If she doesn’t eliminate after about 20 minutes, take her back inside. Be ready. As soon as she starts to eliminate in the house, say “no” and take her back outside. If she relieves herself outside, repeat the steps above. If she doesn’t, take her back in the house and repeat the steps above if she starts to eliminate.


It’s a bit exhausting, I know, but if you are consistent and persistent now, you will teach her that she needs to “hold it” in the house and eliminate outside for her remaining years with you.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)




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