Saturday, December 11, 2010

Winter... and Romeo

I know that winter doesn't officially start until later in the month, but it is in reality already here.  It was cold and blustery every day last week, and we've already gotten three (light) snowfalls.  I've had to break out the sidewalk salt.  So yeah, it is wintertime, no matter what the calendar says!

That doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things.  Life goes on whether it's freezing cold or swelteringly hot, but there are some changes.

We still take Argos outside for walks and to run around in the yard, but now he has to wear his heavy fleece coat.  I don't think that he appreciates it very much - he tries to shake it off frequently when we're walking.  The yard is a little less fun for him right now; the snow has melted, but the ground refroze.  In all of the spots that I have failed to get grass started, the ground is rough, and since it's frozen, I'm sure those rough spots seem kind of "spikey" to walk across.  I noticed that he doesn't run around as much...  it makes me wish that I'd forced some sod in earlier in the fall, even knowing that it probably would not survive the winter!  Dead grass is still more of a cushion than no grass...

Bit didn't have much to do with me over the summer, probably because she was upset about Romeo being here.  But the cold is enough that she is willing to seek me out.  I might be annoying her by letting Romeo stick around, but I do generate body heat that she can take advantage of!

The cats have remembered that the radiator covers get warm in the wintertime, so it's rare to not have at least one of them perched on top of the radiators.  Sometimes there is one cat per radiator per room!

Winter is not my favorite season, and it never will be.  It is, I admit, made marginally better by having the kitties be more willing to snuggle up with me.  And Argos keeps me honest - I have to take him outside no matter what I feel like, which is keeping me true to my daily walking exercise.  I can guarantee that if he wasn't here, there is no way that I would be dragging myself out for walks, so having him around is clearly good for my health!  (At least, it is until I slip and fall on the ice outside, LOL.)

And now onto the topic of Romeo.

I haven't been talking much about the difficulties that we're having with him because it seems somehow disloyal to talk about a member of our little family... but it is getting frustrating to keep it to myself.

I don't know how many remember the story about how we got Romeo, but to refresh memories with the "short version," he had been surrendered to the animal shelter because he'd stopped using his litter box when a new baby was born in his previous home.  When we first got him to our house, I was pleased to see that he used his litter box regularly.  But as time went on, he started to slip up in his habits now and again.  (It was always with poo.  Thank God he pees in the box faithfully.)  Then it became less of an occasional slip-up and more of a regular habit.  He has good weeks and bad weeks, but unfortunately, it seems like we're having an awful lot of bad weeks.

I am almost positive that this is tied with the OTHER difficulties that we're having.  Not really with Romeo, but it concerns him...  the problems are with Bit.  She is simply NOT accepting him.  We cannot have them in the same room together, because she will single-mindedly try to make his life miserable.

We try to be equitable about giving everybody the same amount of attention, but it's hard.  Romeo stays in our bedroom most of the time now (although he has the entire first floor of the house today.)  It means that to pay attention to Romeo, I have to not pay attention to the other three cats, and sometimes Argos.  But then I feel guilty when I leave him alone to go spend time with the other animals.  I think that I probably still manage to spend more time with my animals that I give myself credit for, and I don't notice anyone "pining" for additional attention, so I'm sure that I'm just guilt-tripping myself here.  I'm bad about that.

I'm pretty sure that Romeo's litter box problems are largely a territorial thing.  We've tried so many other things...  new litter boxes, tall litter boxes, covered litter boxes, low walled litter boxes..  we've tried different kinds of litter:  regular scoopable, pine, clay...  We even bought the expensive Cat Attract stuff which is supposed to be guaranteed to make cats use the litter box.  We've tried placing the litter box in different areas, to give him access to more than one.  We've tried covering the floor around the boxes with newsprint. I've tried ignoring him when he's using the box, I've tried praising him when he uses is properly.  I've tried to build good associations with using the box properly, such as using his favorite brush on him afterward.  But the end result is frequently the same:  he'll poop on the hardwood floor.  Always close to the box, but never in it.

And yet he's become so loving with us.  He usually sleeps with us, using my legs as a pillow.  He is a very affectionate cat, and I think that he really likes us.  He does NOT, however, like the other cats.  And they don't like him.

I don't really know what to do.  I feel like we're failing at giving him an environment in which he can be truly content.  I'm not giving up; I am not the kind of person who abandons an animal just because they're having some difficulty.   My husband and I are both very attached to him, for all that he's making us want to pull our hair out.  We'll do whatever it takes to get him (and Bit) past this...  I just wish that I knew what that was.


  1. We have some issues too, what with 13 kitties in the house. How many boxes do you have? Are they in different spots? Bit can't watch all of them, all the time. Romeo may need some alone time in your room to establish a safe spot for himself, and to relearn some good box habits. Don't stress; remember a bedroom is far better than a cage!
    pee ess: We have a neutered boy who still sprays almost daily, than goodness for tiled floors!

  2. What you're describing is the reason we'll never have another cat. It was an issue that never went away, until both of our cats passed away. They got along alright, but the litter box issue was the deal breaker. They died within two weeks of each other, and we agreed that we'd just had enough.

  3. I'm really sorry to hear about the issues with Romeo and Bit. He sounds like a really lovely cat - and I'm not even a cat person, but he sounds like the kind that I would like! I'm with you though, I've never given up an animal due to issues like that, but it sure would be a lot easier and more peaceful for everyone if you didn't have that to worry about.

    Hope things start going back to more "good weeks"!

  4. I've seen amazing results with giving the one with the "problem" their own room (bedroom), complete with food, litter box, scratch post and toys (and of course bed). Sometimes, they're just too intimidated by one of the other ones. You may even be able to slowly reintroduce him into the rest of the house, and the other kitties, once he's calmed down from his fears.

    The other possibility, which includes available boxes, is that some just don't like to poop in a box that's not really, really clean. I had an only cat once who would go poop in the bathtub, if we weren't home and she'd already gone in her box once! And our Bo goes right next to the box on the floor if he deems the box not clean enough. Of course, if Bit antagonizes Romeo, then chances are he's spooked him away from the box, too.
    Good luck! There are always solutions, it just takes time to figure out what works!

  5. Hope you can get the situation sorted with Romeo.

  6. Thanks for the commiserations and kind words, all. :) Cleanliness is part of the issue... like Cindy Lu's cat, Romeo refuses to go in a box that he's already used once. But of course that's almost impossible for us to stay on top of, since he tends to use it while we're at work. Cleanliness isn't the entire issue, though, because he has ignored pristine litter in a brand new box as well. Sometimes it would be nice if we could just read their minds. :)

  7. Thanks for your answer about how the cats get along with your dog, but it seems like you have issues within the "cat society" itself.

    The clean box idea reminds me of my rabbit, who was very well behaved and used her sand box, but when I didn't have time to change the sand, she'd just use the floor.

    I really don't know what advice to give you, since I'm not too familiar with cats. My aunt just let them run around in the garden and use whatever "sandbox" they found there.

    Giving Romeo a place only to himself, where he can feel safe, would be a good idea.

    If it's any comfort, maybe they will get friendlier with time. The two cats that my future mom-in-law has used to fight a lot. Now they are nice to each other and even took up each other's personality traits.

    Good luck and I hope the cat conflicts will stop.

  8. If I didn't have my dog around who desperately needs daily exercise, I would be a gigantic couch potato all winter. Sometimes she is the only thing getting me up on a cold morning.

    I wish I could help you with Romeo. But I've only ever lived with one cat. It sounds like others have offered some great advice - I really hope you all can sort things out so Romeo can stay. That is a tough call for sure and one I do not envy. Best wishes.

  9. The whole situation sounds so stressful. :( I hope that it gets better.

  10. Having read through all the comments, i don't think this has been mentioned... but we had a box and spraying problem with one of our cats. It was worse seasonally but would happen year round to an extent. We were at our wits end (having tried everything you mentioned).

    As a dog person I knew about DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) so I searched for a CAP (cat appeasing pheromone)... and found Feliway ( Like DAP it seems to either work or not. We got two of the wall plug-ins and after a month of the pheromones the spraying almost completely stopped and the litter box mistakes stopped. After two years of using it, the spraying is 100% stopped during most of the year and it's only minimal during the spring (when he used to spray multiple times a day)--along with no box mistakes.

    Just another thing to took some time to see the difference but it has worked for us.

  11. Thanks for the suggestion of the Feliway. I keep hearing about it from people over and over again, so I guess I'm just going to have to swallow hard, unclench my fist, and force myself to spend the money on a couple of plug-ins to see if it works. I started to get one the other day, but it was really easy to talk myself out of it when I saw the pricetag...

    However, can one really put a pricetag on not having to clean poop off of hardwood floor? No, no I don't think you can. ;)

  12. Thankfully we've never had any litter box issues here, but we've known friends who have. The rule is at least one box per cat plus one, plus at least one box on every floor of the house. Have you considered talking to your vet about a prescription for amytriptaline?