Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cats are easy, she said.

When I lived in my first apartment on my own, I desperately wanted a pet. Specifically a dog. But I knew my landlord, whose wife had a yappy little dog my landlord didn't seem to care for, would never go for that. I'd never had a cat before, but my grandma had one. Every time pets came up in our phone calls, she'd repeat the same sentiment: "Cats are easy."

What could be easier than this?

I'll admit that at first I believed her. They don't need to go on walks. You don't have to take them outside. They do a lot of their own grooming. When I asked my landlord if I could have a cat, he asked if it would need to go outside occasionally; when I said no, he said, "What unique little creatures!"

Of the two descriptions, unique has been far more accurate than easy has been.

Don't get me wrong. Soth is my heart. But he is not easy.

This week, I was in Petsmart picking up more recycled paper litter and overheard a man talking to one of the employees about solutions to his cat's potty problems. After several years, his cat quit using the litter box.

Welcome to my world.

I thought about butting into the conversation, but from the tones of the man and of the employee helping him, it was clear the man was frustrated and had already decided he was going to address the situation with a Feliway defuser no matter what the employee suggested. (Been there, done that.) I could hear the conversation from almost every aisle I had to go on. He'd taken the cat to the vet (twice), who couldn't find anything wrong. Nothing had changed in the cat's environment or routine. The food hadn't changed. The litter hadn't changed. The man was clearly at his wit's end. (Been there, too.) By the time I left the store, he was surrounded by 5 different Petsmart employees who were all brainstorming possible causes for avoiding the litter box and possible solutions.

My heart went out to this man. For over a year, I battled the litter box blues every single day, several times a day. Thanks to my wonderfully patient vet, we did find a medical reason for Soth's aversion to his litter box, Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder (FLUTD); unfortunately, it can be impossible to determine the cause of FLUTD, which makes it next to impossible to treat in a way that stops the problem. The only thing we knew for sure was that crystals were forming in Soth's bladder and irritating the lining, so he began to associate his litter box with pain.

From anxiety medicines (pills, liquids, and topical gels that got rubbed in his ears) to pain medicines to creating stress-free zones to a prescription diet to Feliway to water fountains to flushing his bladder out, we've tried it all.

Soth thinks Grandpa has the right idea for a stress-free zone: a whiskey aging kit came in this box.

For a long time, the majority of my day was spent following Soth around with a roll of paper towels and a bottle of whichever odor eliminating spray we were trying out that week. It was not easy. It killed me to know my little fella was in pain constantly. It killed me to have to spend all of my time cleaning pee up.

He's not easy, but he makes me smile.

After the bladder flushing, I started Operation Litter Box. I went out and bought two more litter boxes to up the number of litter boxes in our two-bedroom apartment to 3 and bought three different types of litter to see what he was more inclined to use. I set the new litter boxes in places he had been peeing regularly--the living room and the dining room--and filled all three boxes with a different litter. We're still a three-litter box house hold, but we've narrowed the litter down to two types. It's not easy to have litter boxes on my carpet, especially in the dining room, but it's a heck of a lot better than trying to clean pee out of the carpet regularly.

Over the last year and a half, our problems have been reduced significantly, but I still have to herd Soth towards his litter boxes (or say "Soth, no!" loud enough that Barley gets up and herds him for me) multiple times a day--in fact, I've had to get up twice while typing this to point him in the right direction.

Soth is pretty sure that he's easier than his sister.
It didn't take me long to find out that my grandma had underestimated my cat's ability to be high maintenance. He is not easy and I think the man in Petsmart was beginning to come to the same realization. Despite Barley's reactivity, high energy, separation anxiety, and just general craziness, she is the easy pet.

He's not easy, but he sure is cute.
What about you? Did you overestimate how easy it would be to live with your pet?

We're linking up with Heart Like a Dog and 2 Brown Dawgs for Thursday's Barks and Bytes. Stay tuned for FitDog Friday tomorrow to see if Barley and I made it to 500 miles by June 30!


  1. Yikes, poor Soth. I'm glad you were so patient with him.

    1. I wish I could say I'd always been patient, but there were plenty of days of crying and cursing. I can definitely see why so many cats with bladder issues are surrendered to shelters--it's hard, but he's mine and I couldn't imagine giving him up just because it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be to have a cat.

  2. Thanks for joining the blog hop!!

    Well you know what I'm going through so you know that some things just aren't easy.

    You said you had Soth on a special diet, but you didn't say what. When my daughter was in the Army we ended up with her cat for a couple of years BECAUSE he got very ill at the ex boyfriend's house and when I took him to the vet he had a UTI and crystals in his urine. When I picked him up to bring him home I was told no dry food EVER and no fish. As I said he lived with us for almost two years with no litter box issues. Not sure if you've tried that or not, but if you haven't it's sure worth a shot.

    1. Soth gets very bored with wet food and loves his crunchy stuff, so he's on a Purina prescription dry diet, but only an 1/8 of a cup per day. He refused to eat the prescription wet food and he was scared of the fountain I got him, which made him refuse to drink water at all until I got rid of it, so he eats 3 cans a day of non-prescription wet food to get the extra water. We've got the crystals under control and he only had occasional outbreaks where they show up, but his bladder has so much scar tissue from the year+ of irritation that it can't expand very far, so when he's gotta go, he's gotta go and sometimes he thinks the litter box is just a few steps too far away--until I get up and remind him it's not. It seems that his bladder is healing, though, and even though our flushing procedure wasn't as successful as we'd have liked since his bladder couldn't expand enough for all the fluid to rinse it, the steroids he got in that procedure seem to have helped--it seems like he can hold it just a little bit longer every day.

      It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who has gotten a pet that's more difficult than anticipated! (But I do hope that Sampson's issues are resolved soon so he can get back to all of the things he loves doing!)

  3. The only easy pets are the stuffed or virtual ones.

    1. I've been known to kill a virtual one or two when they banned us from bringing them in middle school.

  4. Still love that Bun! And you're right, he's SO much better! :-)

  5. Thanks so much for joining the hop! Poor Soth and poor you. I am glad that at least you found the problem and were able to treat it. We have two litter boxes for our one kitty. One is quite large. She really likes that one best, (of course it takes the most litter lol).