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Who Done It (Identifying Culprits In Multi-Pet Households)


One of the unique hurdles faced by multi-pet families is identifying which of the animals is the source of abnormal urine or fecal issues. Obviously we need to identify which of our animals is having the problems so we know who needs to visit the veterinarian. It’s vital to get the culprit to the doctor as soon as possible because these things are usually symptoms of medical issues. It’s easy to think that it’s just behavioral because it might happen around the time you take a long vacation or have other routines upset. But stress can cause medical issues that lead to the symptom of pooping and peeing outside the designated area. So medical intervention is crucial.

Using Beads or Crayons

stringing-seed-beadsThe most common tactic for poo problems is to add seed beads or a few shavings from non-toxic crayons to food or treats. (When using crayons, I use a cheese-grater to get small shavings.) Use a different color for each dog or cat, make a note of who got which colors, then just wait for them to have bowel movements. The colorful specks in the feces makes it very easy to identify whose digestive system is out-of-whack.

To make sure everyone eats only the food with just their color of bead or crayon in it, I offer them some kind of special tasty treat, like canned food, if allowed.

Of course, you should run this idea by your vet first in case there are reasons to avoid this tactic.

Using Fluorescein Dye

fluorescein-dyeIf there’s a urine problem instead of a fecal problem, the most common tactic is to get a¬†fluorescein dye from your veterinarians. This dye is added to their food or treats and it shows up in the urine. Unlike the crayon shavings in the poo, there’s only one “color” of fluorescein dye. So you give it to one animal at a time until you discover who has the pee issue. Sometimes it’s dangerous to wait before addressing the issue, so always talk with your vet about how many animals you have and how long it’ll take to identify the culprit.

Combining this tactic with segregation (described below) can speed up the process. For example if you have 6 cats and want to identify the culprit in half the time, you can isolate 3 cats to one area and 3 cats to another area. Then begin your cycle of adding dye to the food of 1 cat in each area at a time. If the first cats are ruled out as the culprit, move on to giving the dye to the next cat in each area.

Segregating Animals

Another common way to figure out which stool belongs to which animal is to segregate the animals so that they each have their own spot to deposit waste, eat, and drink. Of course, this only works in households that have enough space and enough supplies to give each cat and dog their own room. Confining them to their own space changes the social dynamics, so if the urine or feces issues are related to social stresses, you might suddenly see the problem disappear. For example, if someone has diarrhea or is urine marking, they might all have firm solid waste and keep their urine in their box as long as they’re isolated from the rest of the animals.

webcamUsing Video Cameras

The least intrusive way to identify the source of the problem is to catch them in the act by setting up a video camera to catch them in action. These days, most webcams and cameras have settings that enable them to be motion activated so you’ll only get recordings when someone is within view of the camera. This is a great option for people who are technologically savvy.

If this article is helpful & you’re able, please consider sending a thank-you tip/donation. Even small donations will help me keep my business running during the travel industry slump that has brought pet sitting to a screeching halt. Thank you! (FYI, for a sliding scale fee starting at $30, I offer consultations to help people solve their specific cat-related issues. Let me know what I can help you with.)

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