Sunday, December 13, 2009
Why I clean the Cat Box
It is Starbuck (the black cat)'s birth month. I'm not really sure when she was born because she was feral kitty. A friend of ours found her and her two sisters outside their house. She was a catch and release cat because you could tell that she had been fixed (her belly was shaved and her ear was nicked). We took her to the vet who said she was about 3 months old based on her teeth and her size. This means that December is her birth month.
Starbuck still lacks some belly hair and she isn't a very big cat. My mother's male cats are huge compared to her and Shade is also bigger (our other cat). But Shade is skinny compared to Starbuck; she just hides it because she's a long haired cat and Starbuck isn't.
Starbuck is still very playful. She is also a Houdini. She has figured out how to open the door to our bedroom both ways. She pushes against it hard enough to get in and pulls it with her paw to get out (under the door). And she purrs super loud.
I'll upload a picture of her when we got her. She wasn't very friendly; she spat, scratched, and bit. She was very timid of humans and hated the carrier. She rubbed her nose so hard to get out that she cut into it. We ended up winning her trust by separating her from Shade and feeding her canned wet food in our hands. Now you'd have no idea that she was never around humans.
Anyway...Shade did not like Starbuck. At first we had to separate them. Cats are very territorial and they have a hierarchy. Eventually we would switch spaces so that Starbuck could explore the house and smell Shade's scent and so Shade could smell Starbucks. We also would feed Shade next to the door were Starbuck was kept. She did not like this, but we kept inching the bowl closer til she grew comfortable. Within a month they were tolerable of each other enough to eat out of the same bowl.
The cat box on the other hand was a different story. Shade would use a cat box. Starbuck knew how to use a cat box also (something that not all feral cats automatically do). But trying to get Shade to use a cat box when Starbuck would use it was impossible. So we tried everything. We'd punish Shade. We'd reward her if we saw her use the box. We even bought several different boxes. Shade would still poop on the floor or the mat outside the box. Then she began to pee outside the box. If you ever had to clean cat urine from the carpet, you know that is extremely annoying. For my husband, that was the very last straw. He was all for giving Shade away, but I wasn't completely convinced. I grew up with cats and I can tell you that they are stubborn and territorial. So even though I was pregnant, I bought a pair of dish gloves and took over.
First I locked Shade up in a different part of the house. She did not like this. I gave her her own box. I tried cat litter but she still was not cooperating so I tried newspaper. Eurica! She pooped on the newspaper. She however did not like peeing on newspaper so I put out an additional box with cat litter. After a while we opened up the house. She continued to use the two boxes successfully. However, this room was to be the baby's room and I knew that she couldn't keep using it as her personal space so I moved one of the boxes down stairs. So there were three boxes downstairs and one upstairs. Shade did not like this so I moved the other one downstairs and then there were four boxes. Our house was looking like a cat lady's house. I took away a box. Some protesting but eventually she conceded to just three boxes. Then I took another box out and moved the remaining two boxes into the kitchen. There was some protesting, but so far she is handling the two boxes.
Shade is still rather picky about the boxes. She will pee and poop in the newspaper box and Starbuck uses the one with cat litter. If I don't clean Shade's cat box every other day, she will still poop out of the box, but because it is in the kitchen she won't poop on the carpet. It's a lot easier to clean linoleum.
My husband tells me that I am such a patient person because believe it or not this whole process has taken me about 8 or 9 months. Like I said cats are stubborn. I suppose you could say this is my mother training. You have to be extremely patient with children when it comes to trying new foods and toilet training. Having a stubborn cat is a great practice.
Now my next challenge will be to introduce the baby to the cats. Cats have a hierarchy and they view their owners as part of it. We are the high end of the totem pole because we care for them. If your cat doesn't think that, you know because they will show that they are in charge. Therefore in order to protect the baby, you have to get the cats to understand that there is a new "cat" and that he is higher on the pole. And cats are sensitive to smells (hence the pooping outside the box). Fortunately babies poop, pee, spit up, etc. So if you introduce your cat to those smells, they usually get the point. You just have to be careful that the baby doesn't provoke the cat's defense when the baby grabs the cat. So you have to teach toddlers cat etiquette.
Dogs on the other hand are very much a needy pet. They often get jealous when owners devote more time to the baby. Cats care a little but they are more independent and so that's how they will treat kids. Some dogs do adjust well, but you have to be more patient with the dog and you have to make more time to play with the dog. I've had dogs as pets over the years, but cats are easier. You don't have to walk them or devote endless time to them. That's why I'm a cat person. It's easy maintenance.
Thought it's funny but I just now caught Shade and Starbuck hanging out together in a chair. For such an unhappy cat with the cat box, Shade seems okay with Starbuck always being around her.
Oh and we took Starbuck instead of one of the other cats because Starbuck showed that she couldn't be separated from her sisters very well. My friend thought it would be better to place her in a home with another cat already. Starbuck has always liked Shade but Shade has never been too sure of Starbuck.