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Pets: Feeling guilt over a cat’s death

Q: One day, a cat came to my door, and from the first day he rubbed against me, we were inseparable. He eventually developed kidney stones and I had him put down in 1987. I just couldn’t afford to pay the medical bill. I miss him so much and feel as if I let him down big time. Is there any way to ask forgiveness?

– C.H., Highland Park, Ill.

A: I have no divine power to extend forgiveness, but I can say I fully understand your anguish. Clearly, you were a wonderful companion to this cat, as he was to you. You’ve written one of the most poignant emails in my 20 years of writing this column, describing the extent of the human/animal bond. What you’re recounting happened 28 years ago, yet you still agonize about it.

Keep in mind that none of us can change the past, and after 28 years, none of us is the same person they once were. What you can do now? If you haven’t already, you can adopt another cat (or even two!). Of course, your relationship might never equal the bond you had with your previous pet, but you could save a life, particularly that of a middle-aged or older cat.


Q: My daughter’s 5-month-old kitten goes from being an angel one minute to being the devil the next. The kitten follows her around all day and is more attached to her than her husband. Every few days, though, the kitten urinates on the carpet and my daughter’s clothing, purse or other belongings.

My daughter and her husband also have a female cat who isn’t a problem. They have limited money are worried that if the kitten keeps urinating outside the litter box, they’ll have to give him up to a shelter. The plan is to have him neutered. Will this will help to solve the problem? Do you have any other advice?

– S.H., Coplay, Pa.

A: Absolutely, your daughter should have the kitten neutered. New York City-based certified cat behavior consultant Beth Adelman notes that many communities have at least one clinic offering low cost spay/neuter (even free to those eligible). Meanwhile, your veterinarian can rule out any contributing medical explanation.

Use an enzymatic cleaning product (not one that merely masks odors) where the kitten has relieved himself on the carpet.

“The two cats may get along fine, as you suggest,” Adelman says. “But with cats, relationships may be fluid and not always as positive as you think, especially if (you ever see) the older cat staring at the younger one or blocking access (to the litter box). In any case, having two or even three litter boxes is ideal. Locate one box where the boy is hanging out, and close to the places he has accidents, if possible. He’s young and may be too intimidated to use the box when the older cat is nearby.”

Your kitten may, or may not, be a tad anxious. Either way, playing with him using an interactive toy for a few minutes a couple of times daily can be a great stress-buster.

Whatever is prompting your kitten to go outside the box, he’s not doing it “on purpose.” He’s merely trying to cope.

If these tips don’t solve the problem, contact your veterinarian or a certified cat-behavior consultant.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Send email to Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated “Steve Dale’s Pet World” and “The Pet Minute.”