When Pets Lose Their Marbles

IMG_1344The other night I was sitting on the big, red couch in my TV room, all cozy in my pajamas, watching the most recent episode of ‘Fixer Upper‘ – my latest TV obsession. I was never really much of an HGTV person — but my 17yo totally is –and we wasted a lot of time recently watching ‘Property Brothers’ and ‘Love It or List It’ when she was home sick for a week with the flu.

But our fave home improvement show nowadays is ‘Fixer Upper.’ If you don’t know, ‘Fixer Upper’ features the most adorable couple — Chip and Joanna Gaines – who help other couples find and fix up houses in and around Waco, TX. They have amazing style; it’s all charming, farmhouse-looking remodels with lots of cement countertops and ship lap (I know, I’d never heard of that either).

Even my little guy is hooked on the show. The 12yo told me the other day that when he makes it big as a video gamer (sigh), he’s going to buy a house for us in Waco. What a guy.

We watched so many episodes of ‘Fixer Upper’ while my daughter was recuperating from the flu that we started to feel like Chip and Joanna had become our really good friends. We cheered when Jojo nailed a flip on the trampoline in front of her four little kids in one episode and shook our heads when Chip ate a bug in another. In fact, while we were sitting around in our pajamas one day (obviously I try to spend as much time as possible in my pajamas), my daughter Snapchatted my reaction to Chip plowing through a wall:

So anyway, I was sitting there on the couch when the cat jumped up next to me. She is not a snuggly creature and usually keeps her distance, licking her belly or snoozing for hours on a nearby chair, so I thought, “Oh, how cute. She wants to snuggle.”

I turned my attention back to ‘Fixer Upper’ when suddenly I felt something warm and wet spread across my back.

“Holy shit!” I yelled and jumped up to find the cat urinating on the couch next to me.

Legit peeing, right there on my couch.

She looked up at me, gave her back legs a big stretch, and hopped off the couch like everything was fine-and-dandy.

And since then, I have watched her relieve herself on my couch, a fairly new and nice couch, at least two more times. And while most of my children’s responses to this behavior has been, “Can we please get rid of her now?” the Cat People that I polled suggested she might be struggling with a urinary tract ailment and suggested I take her to the vet.

Okay, some backstory: this cat just appeared one day in my garage in the middle of a snowstorm, a bag of bones and with the side of her face burned. We felt bad and took her in and she set about establishing herself on the family food chain somewhere higher than the dog but lower than me. Her weapon? Pee and poop. She constantly peed on the dog’s bed and pooped once on my side of the bed and whether she succeeded in replacing me as the alpha chick around here is debatable, but she did prove her tenacity.

So the prospect of having to get her into a carrier to get to the vet made me very nervous. I had to have a pal come over and cage her during the Hurricane Sandy aftermath so I could board her until our power was restored and it was like trying to cage the Tasmanian Devil.

I ambushed her one morning last week and wrapped her in a beach towel and dumped her in the crate and headed – with my heart pounding – to the vet.

Three hundred dollars later (more sighing), they drew some blood and told me they could not access her bladder and sent me home with a kit to collect a urine sample myself.

You’re fucking kidding me.

But somehow I managed to trap some pee the other morning and enlisted my 12yo to hold the sample vial while I sucked pee into a syringe CSI-style and dropped if off at my vet.

Good news, I got a call from the vet Saturday morning and everything came back negative. Her blood work seemed normal and her urine was clean.

Which means she’s fucking crazy.

The vet suggested I rethink the type of litter I’m using. She also gave me the name and number of a local woman she calls the “Cat Whisperer.” She’ll come over and assess the situation and help you modify the bad behavior. And it should only cost another $100 or so.

Oh, or I could try putting the cat on Prozac.

And of course, these things only happen at the most inconvenient times, which means I was going away for the weekend and had to go to Home Depot to buy plastic tarps to cover all of our furniture while I was gone.

So that’s pretty much where we stand. I’m headed out to buy a new kitty litter box in the event that the current one is not meeting the cat’s urination standards. And then I’m actually considering hiring the Cat Lady to come over and try to reason with her.

But so far, there’s no moral to this story – as far as I can tell – other than pets are a pain in the ass.

And expensive.

Maybe I should just consider sending her to Waco.

Got any suggestions? By all means, send them my way. As long as it doesn’t cost me any more money. 

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Poop Happens

IMG_0063Today I would like to talk about poop.

Specifically, I would like to discuss animal poop, and even more specifically: my feelings about cat poop.

Because even though I’ve been a reluctant cat owner for, like, four years or something, I still haven’t been able to get a handle on all the poop she makes and just the whole kitty litter box thing in general.

It’s gross.

And right now, it’s become my fucking problem since her real mother—my oldest daughter who carried on about keeping it when we found the half-dead cat in our garage one snowy night—is away at school, leaving me to deal with the little turds that pile up in a plastic box on a daily basis in our upstairs bathroom.

Again, gross.

And then there’s all the litter she kicks up onto the tiled floor after she’s done her business. One of my kids actually refuses to use that bathroom – dubbed the “kids’ bathroom” – because of the specks of grey litter scattered across the floor, and uses my bathroom instead.

In fact, since the litter box was set up in the kids’ bathroom a few years ago, no one really uses that latrine any more. I often come upstairs to use my own bathroom to find the door locked, Z100 blaring on the portable radio next to the sink while my 11 year old stands in the shower for 20 minutes before exiting sans soap or shampoo and leaving a towel on the floor in his wake.

And then there’s my concern about all that weird dust that gets stirred up while I’m scooping things out of said plastic box. The lavender-scented dust floats in the air right in front of my face, which I thus inhale, and I am convinced the matter will be the cause a decade from now of my mesothelioma diagnosis.

How can this be good for my lungs?

What I’d like to know is: how do people have more than one cat?  I can’t even imagine the type of waste maintenance involved in such an endeavor. One of my daughter’s friends recently mentioned his family had four cats and all I could think was, “How does that even work?” I can’t even go there.

I didn’t really grow up with cats, I mean, my mom had acquired one while I was away at college, but I was never involved in any of her upkeep and so still don’t really feel like I know what I’m doing with mine.

But I am no stranger to poop.

Cleaning the litter box is a good reminder of my desire to get off the waste management crew around here for a while. Between the four kids, two now-gone large dogs and the ever-present kitty cat, I have been dealing with other creatures’ poop for two decades. Oh, and let’s not forget the guinea pig, mice, numerous fish and two hermit crabs I’ve cleaned up after – or yelled at people to clean up after – along the way. (Wait, do hermit crabs poop? I don’t remember.)

My ex-husband actually dealt with a lot of the dog poop over the years, so I have to give him that. He’d dutifully walk our first dog to the dog park in Hoboken early in the morning and again after work to do his business and later, he’d go out into the backyard to pick up all the giant piles left by our giant dog.

He also helped out with our kids’ poop management but I probably handled the bulk of the diaper changing. The accidental poops in big boy and girl panties. The poops I’d find floating in the tub after my toddler would sit down and the water acted like a giant enema, freeing waste from little bowels.

When my ex moved out, our golden retriever Rudy was so traumatized by the split he started bypassing the backyard and just pooping on the family room carpet. Super, totally disgusting. The vet actually suggested putting the guy on anti-depressants to help him cope.

Please, I was upset, too, but you didn’t see me pooping on his dog bed. Then again, dogs can’t drink wine.

Aside from the fact that he pooped, that golden was a pretty amazing dog and I miss having him constantly underfoot. At the time though, it drove me crazy when I found all 90 pounds of him stuffed under my desk while I worked or jammed under the kitchen stool while I drank my morning coffee. But he made for excellent company and only needed a scratch on the head in return for his allegiance.

Rudy would shove himself under my desk while I worked rather than stretching out on his giant bed about five feet away.

Rudy would shove himself under my desk while I worked rather than stretching out on his giant bed about five feet away.

It gets tempting when I hear that someone just got a new puppy or see some sad Facebook post about a mutt looking for a forever home, but then I remember all the poop and hold my ground.

I went out with a girlfriend Saturday night who I spent many mornings with walking through wooded trails or along sandy beachfronts while our two dogs raced joyously ahead, free of leashes and fences. They’d always loop back around to check in with us, looking up with great big smiles on their furry faces before taking off again through the brush.

My girlfriend lost her guy not long ago and already has a new dog – albeit an old rescue mutt – to keep her company. “I can’t believe you haven’t gotten another dog,” she said to me over glasses of Chardonnay.

“Well,” I said, “I still have a pet.”

She may not be the most playful creature and her idea of hanging out consists of sitting five feet away and staring at me, but my cat somehow fills the void left when we had to put Rudy down almost two years ago. She’s not exactly fun but I get a kick out of her and she’s enough of a pet right now.

And at least her poops are a lot smaller.