We have three cats.
We used to have four; our old girl Opus died in 2009 at the age of 20. For a long time, Opus was old and poorly. She had lots of health issues, and then when old age set in she began to get a little senile. Kitty alzheimers, if you will. Anyway, we were childless then, and were both working, and we could spend lots of money on vet bills for this and that for Opus’s many problems.
One of those problems was that she peed everywhere. Long-time readers of this blog are more than familiar with The Perils of Opus. It started as a massive infection, a medical issue. But it took us a long time to realize she was doing it, a small cat in a multi-storey house, and so by the time we actually found the problem, found the cause, and treated it — well, the medical problem had become behavioural. We felt horribly guilty, and she was an awesome cat, so we put up with it.
We tried everything and anything to fix the problem. For years, we tried. We cleaned up after her. And then, she got elderly, and there was no fixing the problem by that time. But we could not have her euthanized just because she had gotten old. We kept her, and the problem, contained in her last few years. Also, by that time, we had a baby, and we could not have the two of them together, or have Opus peeing in places the baby might be.
After Opus had died, and we began to clean up the house in preparation for our now-toddler to be roaming around. The damage was extensive. Opus had peed on and destroyed almost everything we had in storage in the basement — books, electronics, you name it. She had destroyed baseboards and carpets in the house, bookshelves and chairs. We purged everything we could, and lived with the stained and damaged but cleaned remnants we could not afford to replace.
And now, we have three cats.
The eldest, Cinnamon, is 15. She is, and always has been, incredibly nervous — the textbook definition of a “‘fraidy cat”. She’s afraid of her own shadow. She is very sweet, and thought of Opus as her mom and protector, and was bereft when she died. After Opus was gone, Cinnamon was reclusive for the better part of two years because of her fear of Stinkerbelle. In recent months, though, she’s gotten braver and more social as Stinkerbelle has gotten older and less noisy and unpredictable. It has been nice to see her.
She used to flee and hide in the basement, but now that she doesn’t and now that Stinkerbelle is older, we decided to make use of our basement space. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve spent lots of time and as little money as possible cleaning, putting down carpet, reorganizing, hanging drapes, and making the basement into a little exercise studio and yoga space. We want to get fit, and so we’ve been spending the time and money to make it a welcoming space to go to work out, someplace we want to be.
We love it. The problem is that Cinnamon most decidedly does NOT.
Cinnamon does not like change. We have moved things and changed things and she has completely freaked. We know this because she was so scared to go down into the new space, she peed. In her beds.
She has two little cat beds on the main floor. Cinnamon is the most dutiful little kitty soul I have ever met. She still, after 15 years, responds to commands we taught her as a kitten. She has in the past been trapped in a closed bedroom for a full day, and rather than pee or poop somewhere on the carpet — because she KNOWS she is not supposed to — she would find a scrap of paper or a bit of kleenex or whatever on the carpet and go on that. She’s THAT good a little girlie.
This is why she peed in her beds. Because she had to go, and she would never go someplace she’s not supposed to go unless she got really desperate. So she picked her beds, her favourite place in all the world, her own space.
I almost cried, I felt so bad for her.
But I almost cried, too, because she is an old girlie, and I had visions of the 10 years of pee we endured with Opus. And honestly? I cannot do that again. We cannot go back to that life again. We love our pets so very, very much, but we just can’t. We haven’t got the money, or the time, or the energy. And, frankly, we are coloured by the experience.
So I saw the pee, and I was so upset. I thought perhaps she might be sick, but she seemed in all other ways healthy and happy. She’s due for a vet check up soon, so we will have to check it out, but I know Cinnamon. I know her M.O. This was desperately avoiding the change occurring in the basement she has known for 12 years.
So I washed the beds, kept her restricted, watched her. She did it again, around the same time the next day — the only time she was alone in the playroom where her beds are, and not coincidentally the same time all three of us were downstairs in the basement doing some organizing and decorating. I also found a poop, in a corner of the kitchen, on a stray piece of tissue paper. That’s how we knew FOR SURE it was her, and probably not a health thing, but a fear thing.
Thus, we decided on some tough love.
Cinnamon has been sequestered in the basement for the last 24 hours, and probably will be until tomorrow evening. We’ve gone down and checked on her, and spent some time visiting with her, and exercised while she is down there. But we want her to be down there and spend some time alone, exploring, and getting used to the changes, and seeing that it’s the same space it always was — just looks a little different. We want her to get more comfortable with it. But most importantly, we want her down there with the NINE litter boxes she has used for most of her life, and to PEE IN THEM.
Not in the playroom, not in my room, nowhere else in the house. In the litter boxes.
Sometimes, we put Duncan and Lucy down there with her to keep her company, so she’s not lonely. Also, they’ll help make the place more familiar, and get their scents and fuzz all over everything so it will not be as scary. They don’t care — THEY’LL lay on the new carpets and roll around and all that. And they’ll use the boxes too.
We’re hoping that after a day or two to get used to things, she won’t be as scared about going down there, and therefore won’t be as scared to go down and use the boxes.
We hope. We hope she will respond, and adjust, and things can go back to normal. We hope we can see our sweet old girlie, who has otherwise never given us a lick of trouble in all her 15 years, back up in the main floor, chattering to us at breakfast times. We hope she will Cat Up, and be brave, and use the litter boxes.
We hope, because we could not bear the alternative. But at this point, as much as we love her, if faced with the alternative… it’s a decision we would be loathe to make. But we’d have to make it.