It’s probably good luck that I’ve never encountered litter box problems before this year. I’ve lived with cats for nearly three decades, and my feline friends have always thoughtfully done their business exactly where they’re told. I guess you could say I’ve taken my cats’ steadfast adherence to the rules of polite society for granted.
My cats Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix — who are 15 and 7 years old, respectively — have moved with me to multiple new homes, and they’ve never had trouble. I’ve used them as test subjects to determine which kinds of natural kitty litter were most effective, and they acted like they didn’t even notice. In fact, if I didn’t have to clean the litter box every other day, I probably would have forgotten they pooped at all. They might as well have been magical pixie beasts who absorbed all of their nutrients through sunlight and air.
Then last summer, Salvador the kitten showed up. Weighing no more than two pounds, the tiny brown tabby pretty much immediately made himself at home the day he appeared on our porch. After he moved in to our house, he wasted no time moving in to my heart — cheesy, but true. The moment he fell asleep purring on my chest, I knew he’d already found his forever home.
The main problem with Salvador’s arrival was his chilly reception by the home’s current occupants, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix. Both well beyond the playful years of their youth, Bubba and Phoenix prefer to nap on a heated blanket for 20 hours each day, not romp around the house “playing” (read: acting out elaborate predator-vs.-prey fantasies regarding the murder of lesser creatures).
My main observations of the feud brewing between my three cats were impossible to miss — that is, I’d be working on my laptop, and suddenly Phoenix would scamper across the living room, hissing and howling with Salvador nipping at her heels, or Bubba would be taking a nap on the ottoman when Salvador would jump on him, resulting in a flurry of growls and flying fur.
Salvador, I figured, just needed to grow up a bit — and perhaps a friendly nudge in the right behavioral direction, provided by the occasional squirt from the disciplinary water gun. If he wouldn’t stop bugging Bubba, I’d spray him. If he jumped on the kitchen counter and hauled an entire loaf of bread to the floor, I’d spray him. Most of the time, he was a sweet, good-natured, loving kitten, so I had no doubt things would settle down.
Then I discovered the less-immediate consequences of bringing a new cat into an established environment. Cats are territorial creatures, and they don’t like to share. This became problematic not only concerning who would get to lounge on the couch with my boyfriend and me, but also, unfortunately, with who would get to use the litter box.
Like I said, my cats have never had litter box issues, so I didn’t immediately notice that a conflict was taking shape. I figured everything was humming along smoothly as usual. Then I came home from work one day and discovered a gleaming pile of poo on top of my Converse All-Stars. I stared at it for several minutes, not moving, unable to process what I was seeing. Had one of my perfect kitties done this?
Well, neither my boyfriend nor I had done it, and there were no other reasonable culprits. I could only assume Salvador was having trouble adjusting to the pooping politics in his new home.
Initially, I was angry — I had to throw away my shoes when I discovered he’d also peed in them, and the shoes were sitting right next to my makeup bag, so I had to toss that as well. I began thinking I’d made a mistake allowing Salvador to move in — like, maybe I hadn’t thought this through. Maybe he would be better off somewhere else.
But I wasn’t about to give up on Salvador without a fight. I went to the pet store, purchased a litter box, and plunked it next to my dresser, right where Salvador had errantly relieved himself. Later that night, I caught him using it.
The next morning, kitty litter was scattered about the floor. While I was sweeping it up — and realizing dealing with this mess would be a daily task from now on — I had a revelation: This is what we do when we love someone. Salvador was family, even when he pooped in my shoes — or perhaps especially when he pooped in my shoes.
Top photo: A cat with a red sneaker by Shutterstock
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.