I have video evidence of a miracle!
So in my ever-expanding quest to catify the apartment to a) make them happy and b) help ease tensions, I re-did a corner of the living room again, all new and kitteh-like. I moved the stairstep scratcher into the bedroom (its intended purchase was to provide steps to go up to the bed, though it has never been used that way), moved a litter box into that corner, added another wall shelf, cut the Cardboard House of Awesome in half, and added a sky chair.
Wait, why did I cut the Cardboard House of Awesome in half? It has four stories inside made of super industrial cardboard. Well, one of those stories went bye-bye after it was peed upon. Two more have buckled and been clawed to death (btw, yes – considering I’ve had the House for I think a couple of years, that’s durable for them to have lasted this long). They could no longer hop through all the stories up to the rooftop. So I took the inner floor that was still intact and one of the buckling ones that was the least damaged (it wouldn’t matter if it was buckling if it was upside down and on the ground level), and made it a two-story House of Awesome instead. I added a basket with the warming blanket I made them on top, and now they have a salvaged Cardboard House of Awesome!
Now, the sky chair. Have you ever seen those beds that are pillows hung from the ceiling with cloth, like this? I’ve long wanted to get one for my kitties, but I am, alas, but a poor blogger and funds are tight. So, I made a makeshift one of my own!
All I did really was take one of their pillows that my grandmother had made them years ago, and suspended it in a macrame plant hanger. Voilà! Instant kitty sky chair!
So this is what the new-and-improved cat corner looks like:
I hope they like the changes. Yuan has already been in the cup on the stairstep scratcher in the bedroom (I’m hoping its proximity to my pillows will facilitate two – or three – cats sharing bedtime with me with less of an issue, though it has been getting better already anyway). But so far the corner has not been claimed (I just put up the sky chair this afternoon, and was modifying the Cardboard House of Awesome at about three this morning). Maybe I’ll put out some catnip to signal that construction is complete.
Now if only I could mount a sky chair for *me* from the ceiling…
Deidre and Maggie have a heated discussion about exactly who can sit where on the papasan, and when.
And now it’s time for some cute Deidre photos:
Meanwhile, little brother was on the other side of the door, wanting to play:
So first I must share the amazing news: not only are Maggie and Yuan sniffing noses now, but Deidre has reclaimed a bunch of territory and has been super brave! She has joined me on the bed again, including when Yuan was also on the bed, and though a couple of times there were growls and hisses, there were also a couple of times where absolutely nothing happened. The other day, she not only joined Yuan and I on the bed, but she climbed over me to be on the same side where he was, growled at him a little, he gave her kitty kisses/blinky eyes, and she calmed down. Her nose was less than two inches from his foot and both of them were chill. And to boot, she had to cross within inches of Maggie, who has taken to curling up on the floor next to the bed, to hop up and join us in the first place.
So on that note, I give you the latest addition of Things That Have Helped With The Peace Process: Spirit Essences by Jackson Galaxy.
Spirit Essences are holistic remedies that you can give either in food or water, or topically (may I just say I love the topical option? Especially if your kitties are sharing dishes, and/or you’ve got food bullies (*cough*Yuan*cough*), it can be hard to separate who gets what in food sometimes if they need different things. So I can put Peacemaker (which is for everybody) in the water dishes/fountains which everyone drinks out of, and apply the Bully Remedy to Yuan and the Self Esteem to Deidre on their fur).
First of all, I have to say that they must not taste funny, because I’ve been putting Peacemaker in their water for a while now and no one seems to mind in the slightest. At first I tried it in the gravity waterer and not the fountain, figuring if they were going to turn their noses up at the taste, they’d at least have an alternative and not go thirsty – but no one avoided it, so now it’s in both. So that’s a plus from the get-go.
Secondly, the topical option, which not only is great for getting everyone their different needs, is *so easy*. I just drop some drops into my hand, rub it across my palms, and pet them. Especially Yuan, who loves the thorough, full-body pets will get into this, but I think he actually enjoys the essence itself, because he seems to get excited when I say, “It’s good juju stuff time!” …which is what I call Spirit Essences. They are Good Juju Stuff. 😉
But most importantly, they seem to be helping! We’ve made so much progress lately, which sure, you could say is a cumulative process, but the most dramatic changes have aligned pretty nicely with the continued use of Good Juju Stuff.
So – all three kitties and a human agree – Spirit Essences get two paws up!
It’s the little things that make me happy in the Quest For Kitteh Peace, and one of those things is Maggie and Yuan SNIFFING NOSES!
You may think that’s not a big deal, cats sniff noses all the time… but when they’re at war, they don’t!
Back when it was just the girls and I, one of the first signs of peace and tolerance for each other (which, incidentally, ALSO took about two years to develop) was that Deidre and Maggie would surreptitiously sniff each other. Usually that meant one of them was cuddling with me in the papasan with their tail hanging over the side, and the other would come up and sniff the tail, with the cuddler unawares. Or perhaps I was feeding them in the kitchen, and one would be so fixated on me with the food that they didn’t notice the other come up from behind and sniff their… behind.
Now Yuan and Maggie have been doing the while-they’re-not-looking sniffs, which made me happy in and of itself, but the other day they actually both turned the corner at the same time and sniffed *noses*. No growls, no hisses. Just sweet sniffs!
I am a happy human.
And yes – I’ve had Yuan for a little over two years now. Apparently that is the magic timeframe.
On a little side note, I finally got the water fountain working that had been out of commission for WAY too long (I lost two different parts at two different times when I had taken it apart for washing, and only found them months later, because yes, I think the dryer sock monster sometimes vacations in my kitchen), and Yuan is MYSTIFIED by it. The girls seem to be like, “Oh yeah, the fountain,” but for the first day Yuan was just staring at it, as though he was debating whether he should drink from it or pounce it (he eventually did drink from it, and yes, I still have other water bowls about). Simple kitty amusements.
And finally, the other kitteh news is: Maggie is frisky!!! And playing with TOYS! It’s a miracle!!!
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before that Maggie, historically, generally found toys to be evil. She would growl and hiss at them, and seemed to be stressed out by their presence rather than amused. As she is the fluffiest of the three (though Yuan The Food Bully is doing his darndest to catch up despite all of them being on a diet), I could never figure out how to get her to play so she’d get some exercise and have fun! Then she got some awesome wine cork toys for Christmas from a neighbor friend, and she’d actually chase and play with them in small doses. Previously, the closest we got to play was her rolling around in catnip or licking catnip toys enthusiastically – but she never chased them. These ones she chased!
Then the other day, I couldn’t find the wine corks, so I tossed a feather-ball toy that we’ve had for years and… she actually chased it and attacked it! We’ve had a few play sessions since then, and she’s actually having fun!
*sings the hallelujah chorus*
I have a Deidre curled up leaning on me right now, so I’m going to go and snuggle a kitteh. The peace treaties are working! Yay! 🙂
I will be working on a longer post soon, but just a quickie update to say that yes, the kitties and I are alive and well, and naughty blogger is naughty for not posting in so long. Sorry! As you may have noticed, I tend to blog in waves… a bunch of posts, and then a drought. Another wave of posts, and then another drought. That’s kind of how I function in most areas in my life… to everything, turn, turn, turn…
At this very moment as I type this, I am in my bed with Deidre and Yuan, playing Great Wall of China like I used to do with Maggie and Deidre. AMAZING! Especially since there has been a return of peeing-outside-the-box on the part of the girls as of late: Deidre because Yuan has been intimidating her, and Maggie because she has a boyfriend. But more on the boyfriend later in the longer post. I just repositioned a litter box again tonight – hopefully third time’s the charm on that front! I should buy stock in enzyme cleaners. And puppy peepee pads.
Yes, my cats will use puppy peepee pads when they won’t use the box.
Anyway! I also wanted to mention that as I was looking things over today, I noticed that for some mysterious technology is the spawn of Loki reason, almost all of my embedded YouTube videos on this site have transmogrified to show the last video I uploaded to YouTube – which is a drive down Pikes Peak, instead of the relevant video, such as building cat shelves. I do not know how that happened, but when I am working on the long post tomorrow I will see if it is fixible, or if Loki just wants to laugh at me some more. 😉
Finally, even though I am employing ever-more strategies to help my kitties get along all the time and hoping they will take, y’all know I have been at this for a while (Maggie joined Deidre and I four years ago this December – Yuan will be two years ago this October). For those that don’t know me outside of this blog, I have been slowly working to downsize my massive amounts of clutter – for many reasons, but especially because I have a dream of building/owning my own tiny house.
The kitties already have territory issues in 600-some square feet… going smaller would take some serious progress on the making friends front.
So with that in mind, I saw on Facebook today that My Cat From Hell is now casting.
What do ya’ll think? Should I ask Jackson Galaxy to come and play peace treaty negotiator for my kitties? I’m seriously thinking about it!
So Yuan scared the snot out of me the other day. He was sitting in the strawberry pot on the balcony (the strawberries have not sprouted at all, so really, it’s a pot of dirt and trellis at this point), staring intently at something over the ledge. I went out to distract him, because I didn’t want him making a crazy flying leap off the balcony in a moment of blind hunter instinct. Well, he didn’t leap – he snatched.
He then proceeded to carry it in his mouth to the door, like, “OK, I have dinner, let me bring it in now.”
Luckily I close the screen door behind me because I don’t want bugs to get in. But meanwhile, I’m being a silly human screaming as much as the bird is, “OH MY GOD! YUAN, LET IT GO!” …like he’s going to let it go just because I’m screaming and flailing around like a crazy woman. He luckily a moment later turned away from the door to fuss with the bird who was struggling to get free, and I ran inside, fetched a cup of water, and threw said water on Yuan to get him to let go of the bird. He did, and it flew off the side of the balcony (with Yuan in pursuit, but it got away and Yuan watched it go). So I’m pretty sure the bird is OK. But it scared the bejeezus out of me. If I had indoor/outdoor cats, if I let them roam the neighborhood, etc., I might expect that type of thing to happen every now and again. But I have indoor kitties who are allowed on my second floor apartment’s balcony… I don’t expect there to be a whole lot of hunting other than toys and the occasional bug!
Since he was just being a cat and trying to bring me a present (when kitties bring home prey to you, they are bringing you a present – sharing it with you), once I had calmed my silly human self down I gave him treats. That way he got his “hunter noms” and a “thanks for taking care of your family”. Not that I want to encourage him to snatch more birds out of the air (we had a talk about that, but again, he was just doing What Cats Do), but he was being natural. Can’t punish him for that. And I felt bad about dousing him, but I REALLY didn’t want the bird to be hurt. I do think it was OK – it flew off – just scared out of its mind. Yuan wasn’t biting on it hard, just holding it.
So that was my Yuan taking me out of my comfort zone (he’s my teacher man!) once again moment. I’ve been living with cats since I was 11, but they’ve all been indoor cats. So the whole “find a dead something on your porch” thing is alien to me. The closest I came to that was Butterscotch (my first cat – who I got when I was 11) would hunt the occasional mouse that got in the house. He would then leave the dead mouse in front of my bedroom door. Such a sweet boy bringing me a present and hunting mice! But luckily for my mice-made-me-literally-sit-on-the-table-and-scream girlie self, my parents usually found it before I did and got rid of the carcass. Butter was probably very frustrated by this, like, “Why are you throwing away HER PRESENT?!” Us humans are very confusing.
The only other experience that somewhat resonates with this is the time Deidre ate my betta fish after living with him for a year and a half. I came home from work to find his tail on the ground, and all the rest of him gone. I did initially get mad, but afterward I felt bad for it because again – she was just being a cat.
But this is why, though I would like to have fish again, I’m not going to get any until I can get a big tank that can’t be knocked over nor the lid popped off. I can just see it now – one lone betta fish in a giant tank. 😉 He’ll be king of the world!
So lately I’ve been feeding Maggie and Yuan closer and closer together whenever all three of them are getting cat food (Deidre so far is not interested in expanding her territory to the kitchen as of late, which is where the other two eat). But the other day, as I go in there to feed them, Maggie and Yuan meet at the corner of the kitchen, and *almost* sniffed noses. They both kind of hesitantly made moves like they were going to do it, but they were both a little unsure about it, so they didn’t *quite* get there. They were just an inch or so apart, face to face, no growls, no hisses. So I moved their bowls pretty much next to each other to see if they’d go for it.
Litter boxes. They can make or break a multi-cat household. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’ve struggled with inappropriate elimination from the kitties, and have tried several stratagems to remedy the situation. Learn from my experience!
Type of Litter
The type of litter can make the difference on if your kitty uses the box or not. When it was just Deidre and I, I tried experimenting with this a bit. Thankfully, Deidre has always been very patient with me on the litter box front, and endured this silly human trial without ever going outside the box. I had decided to try the “natural” litters on the market, after reading about how clay was mined. First, we tried Feline Pine Scoop. I, the human, loved it. It smelled good, it covered up the icky smells well, and it was super lightweight (since I don’t drive, not having to heft a 40-pound bag on the bus was a definite perk in my book). Deidre, however, wasn’t having it. The reason it was so lightweight was because it had the consistency of hamster shavings (it is my understanding that the non-scoop Feline Pine does not have this problem, but I wanted a scoopable litter). Poor Deids would perch three out of four paws on the edge of the box, only having the fourth in due to the laws of physics, and wouldn’t cover her stuff up when she was done (she ALWAYS covers her stuff when she’s done, but more on that later), because she just didn’t want to touch it. So, cat veto.
Then I tried Swheat Scoop, which is made out of, of course, wheat. Deidre liked this one just fine; in fact, I think she preferred it. But it got the human veto because it made my apartment smell like a zoo (you know when you walk by an animal enclosure in the zoo and it’s that mix of hay on the floor and poop? That was what it smelled like to me). Next up was World’s Best Cat Litter, which is made out of corn. To be honest, I can’t even remember which one of us vetoed that one, but after that I gave up and went back to Tidy Cats, which was what we had been using before.
Then along came Maggie. In the beginning, poor Maggie was so stressed out by her alpha-cat sister, she’d go outside the box as an anxiety response. So eventually I heard about, and tried, Cat Attract, which has attractant in it to lure the kitties to do their deeds in the box. Viola! Maggie would go in the box (but not cover her stuff up). Deidre was fine with Cat Attract as well, and dutifully covered her business as she always had with the Tidy Cats. I did for a short time (a few months) get Miss Maggie the Senior version of Cat Attract, because I had read it was often preferred by both overweight and declawed cats, and she is both (no, I did not declaw her; she came to me that way). She actually did prefer it, and would cover her stuff when she was done – the ONLY litter she has ever done that with. So it must have felt better on her paws. I tried to endure it for that reason, but eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. That stuff kicked up more dust than you can shake a stick at. Cleaning the box would leave the whole room overtaken by a dust cloud. Even opening the window before I started to try and air it out, I’d have to walk out every couple of minutes to breathe. Just sitting there, it was great; cleaning it was awful. So reluctantly, I gave it the human veto, and we went back to regular Cat Attract. I’d rather deal with occasionally having to go in with the scoop and cover a particularly stinky specimen after Maggie than choke to death on silicone dust (the Senior variety is the “crystal” kind of litter; regular Cat Attract is clay). I imagine an automated box might solve the cleaning problem with the dusty litter, but that’s another story.
Type of Box
I learned really quickly that, either due to her suspected claustrophobia or her fear of being ambushed, that Maggie would not go in the box if it was not open for her to see all around her. I did not have a lidded box to begin with, but I did have one of those “privacy” screens, cat sized, like humans use to divide rooms or provide a private dressing area. If the screen was in the way of her seeing out, she avoided the box. So, the screen went.
Deidre likes to bat litter out of the box onto the carpet and roll around in it like a chicken in dust. So that means I got the kind of boxes with additional raised sides that snap on and off in an attempt to curb her litter-depositing habit – that, and a litter mat under each box. I learned really quickly that the type of litter mat made a difference: the kind with lots of nooks and crannies for the litter to disappear in? Fabulous. The kind that is a smooth surface but ridged? Maggie likes to poop on that better than in the box. Don’t ask me why, but she made a habit of using the mat as her pooping place and the box as her peeing place when I had a smooth mat underneath. I threw that one out before too long, and replaced it with another nooks-and-crannies one, and the problem stopped. Perhaps it’s because Maggie is the only one of the three kitties who does what a friend of mine calls “scooties” – she drags her butt on the carpet after she poops like it’s her personal toilet paper. Usually, nothing shows up on the carpet, but every once in a while… yeah. So maybe she liked the mat like many humans like quilted toilet paper.
After Yuan had joined us, and I had thrown out both old boxes and bought new ones (he came to me with a giardia infection; it was a b**ch and a half to get rid of, and even though I had been disinfecting the boxes, I decided to not chance it after round three of antibiotics and just tossed the old boxes altogether). As I was contemplating where I could put a third box in my little one bedroom apartment (really, you should have one box per cat plus an extra, but in such a small space, I figure they can deal with each having their own box without the spare), my aunt offered me her old automatic litter box. She had had two cats; one of them passed away, and was the only one that had used the automated box – her surviving cat wouldn’t touch it. Not having to scoop every day? Score! So I tried it.
If you have never witnessed an automated box, this was the kind that has a little rake attached to it, and after five minutes or so after your cat has left the box (there’s a motion sensor), it pulls the rake across and deposits the specimens in a disposable container.
It was noisy as hell. Maggie went in it once when it was new, and she hadn’t seen the rake in action yet; after she witnessed it disposing of her business all by itself with a flourish, she wouldn’t go in it again. Deidre never even made the attempt, and this is the girl who gamely dealt with the hamster shavings-esque litter. Yuan however, was cool with it. Okay, as long as one of them used it, I was happy. So, I put it in Yuan Territory.
Problem: Yuan is fairly notorious for making a stink now and again that makes me want to pick up my guitar for a rousing rendition of “Smelly Cat” by Phoebe on Friends. Five minutes is not adequate time for the litter to absorb what it needs to absorb to cover that odor, and raking it out from beneath the litter and into a little box, covered or not, made the situation such that I wanted to stick a hazardous waste decal on the wall above the box. I tried lining the little box with litter, but that was still under the raked specimens, not on top, so it didn’t do much good. Likewise baking soda. Add to this the fact that you have to keep the litter really shallow in order to not stall the rake, and there just wasn’t much smell control at all. After several months, I gave up on the auto-box and bought another high-sided box to match the girls’ boxes.
Number of Boxes
As I’ve already said, the “rule” is, one box per cat plus a spare. In my small space, I went with one box per cat without a spare. For a really long time, they each had their own box, nobody shared, and everyone was happy. As is ever the case though, territories are shifting again and now they are sharing. Well, Yuan is using every box in the house. Deidre is using two, I think, and Maggie is using one (unless she’s using the one that used to be just Yuan’s in stealth mode and I just haven’t caught her yet, which may be the case as she is hanging out in that room a lot as of late). I understand not wanting to have litter boxes everywhere, but which would you rather have: a litter box in your living room or pee on your carpet?
When Accidents Happen
At varying times, depending on the territory shift and how well they were getting along (two steps forward, one step back), there have been accidents to varying degrees. It hasn’t been litter box aversion since I got the Cat Attract so much as it’s been aggressor-cat-was-in-between-them-and-the-litter-box, and whoever had the accident didn’t want to cross their path. At first, Maggie was the one having accidents. When Maggie goes someplace inappropriate, it’s usually in the open. For instance, for a while there, she was going just inside my front door. THAT was a great smell to greet you as soon as you walked in. When Deidre does it, it’s hidden away in a corner, under some furniture… someplace you won’t find it until and unless the smell is really strong. Which she does her best to mask by covering it up with whatever’s available. You got that right: she’s so good about covering up her business, even if she’s not in a litter box, she’ll drag something over to cover it up when she’s done. At one point, this was my not-worn-too-often shoes that I kept stashed under a chair (yes, I had to throw some out when I discovered it). At another, it was magazines that were stacked nearby. You get the idea.
I have used many cleaners trying to deal with these areas, and here’s what I found:
Enzyme-based cleaners, my favorite being Nature’s Miracle (there’s specifically a cat urine version) work the best to get the smell out and deter them from re-using the area. When Maggie was going in front of the front door, I tried all sorts of cleaners and remedies, and she’d always go right back to the same spot until I got the enzyme cleaner. It’s kind of expensive and you’ll use a lot of it per spot, but it’s totally worth it.
Baking soda covers the smell pretty well but somehow would attract Maggie to pee on top of it when I’d leave it down for a while to soak up smells so I could vacuum it later. I’d go back with the vacuum only to find yellow, caked-on baking soda. I don’t recommend this (unless it doesn’t attract your kitty the way it does Maggie).
Using a steam cleaner is wonderful, especially if you get a pet-specific cleaning solution in there. Holy cow you do not want to know what that dirty water smells like after you’ve cleaned a particularly soiled spot, but it’s better that than in your carpet!
And finally, buy yourself a black light! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve smelled something but couldn’t find the source until I whipped out the black light and found the glowing spot. If you have litter box issues, black lights are worth their weight in gold.
Until I had the Kitteh Territorial Disputes like I’ve had with these three, I never knew how easy I had it when it came to the litter box. I had kitties that would use the box even when it was dirty; would tolerate me experimenting with different litter; would share a box with other cats; would use a box with a lid and even inside an under-sink cabinet at my parents’ house. When you’re used to that kind of tolerance on the cats’ part, it’s easy to become frustrated when things start to go awry. Litter box issues are one of the main things that lead to cats being left at shelters, from what I’ve read. But all is not lost! Try these tips, change things around, give cats vertical space if it’s a territory issue, and don’t give up hope. Litter box problems can be solved. It may take some time, but it can happen. Experiment to find what works – and don’t be afraid to leave a litter box smack in the middle of your living room (seriously, I’ve done it more than once). Once they are using it there, you can gradually move it to a less-exhibitionist area. Good luck!
I finally made a video on YouTube explaining how to make kitty shelves like I have. Please check it out and share pictures if you make some! 🙂