Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dirty Cat

At the height of our menagerie, we had three cats and one dog. Even in a 2000+ square foot house, it was crowded. Once we threw two kids into the mix, well, let’s just say that sad as I was to lose one of the cats to cancer, it was nice to be down to only two litter boxes to police. Two months ago we had to put down another beloved cat. That loss was harder, since our kids were older and the 4-year-old was very bonded with her. It turned out to be a nice lesson in life and death for her, and a nice lesson in children’s pragmatism for me. When I finally broke her the tearful news that our sweet Alley was too sick and had died, she pondered this briefly, then said, “But we still have the dirty cat?” (her affectionate nickname for our cat Fish). “Yes,” I assured her. She nodded, “Okay. Can I have a snack?”

So we’re now down to one cat and one dog. The dog is a vizsla, which, if any of you are familiar with the breed, means that at five years old he only sometimes seems like he’s going to burst out of his skin from the sheer excitement of living. The remaining cat is now fifteen and remarkably spry and healthy. He has one flaw that makes him hard to live with, and that earned him that very sweet nickname “dirty cat.” He poops. Everywhere. This began in rebellion a few weeks after our first child was born. He eventually broke the habit, and went back to using the litter box when she was a few months old. Then a year later we had a second child, and he’s never gone back.

We’ve tried a variety of anti-anxiety meds that made him jittery, snoozy, and spacey, but none of them did a thing to curb the poop-everywhere habit. I looked into cat diapers, but decided that having two kids plus one cat in diapers would be more bottom-wiping than I could handle. At some point I resorted to covering the living room floor with newspapers, which he seemed to enjoy, then reduced the amount of newspaper gradually. Now the only newspaper is next to the litter box. Usually, he poops on the paper, folds it carefully over on itself, pees in the litter box, and crawls back inside the couch to snooze his day away. Usually.

I'm in no rush to get rid of the dirty cat, trying as he is. We've been together for 15 years now, which makes this the longest non-family relationship I've had. But on that sad day when he leaves this world, I plan to pack up the litter boxes for a while, and enjoy living in a one-pet household.

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