It’s Our Cats’ Home, Really — We Just Live in It


Whenever someone says they don’t have a pet because "it’s too much work," I bristle and get ready to refute. Pets aren’t that much work, I want to say. Besides, the rewards far outweigh the benefits. My pets are easy, I think. Then I mentally begin ticking off the various changes, sacrifices, and workarounds we’ve made for our cats, Romeo and Pugsley, and I quickly shut my mouth.

Here are just a few things we’ve had to, um, adjust for our sweet babies.

We barricade the basement

The carpet in the basement makes that part of the house off-limits to the cats. In our previous home, we devised a number of barricades to keep Romeo out -ÔÇô from baby gates to cardboard "walls" to homemade combinations of foam mat, baby gate, and duct tape. Nothing worked. Luckily in our current house, there’s a foolproof solution: a door.

We suffer through allergies

Most people are surprised to learn that I’m highly allergic to cats. I was surprised myself when I found out a few years ago. Doctors and allergists typically have a list of recommendations for those of us who suffer. At the top of the list? Keep the cats out of the bedroom. Ha! We sleep on four pillows across our bed ÔÇô- cat, human, cat, human. I often awake with my nose nestled into someone’s floofy tail. I’ve learned to love my Neti Pot and regular doses of allergy meds. Sorry, Doc — the cats aren’t leaving the bedroom.

We live without rugs

It’s a good thing we like hardwood floors, because carpeting in our home is impossible. My sweet Romeo pees on carpets … and anything else soft on the floor. He also pees in his litter box. He’s seen numerous vets to rule out medical issues, and he’s stumped behaviorists. He just likes to pee on things, I suppose. So we adjust. We’ve gotten used to vast expanses of hardwood without a throw rug in sight. And, as a bonus, rug-free hardwood means the furballs have nowhere to go or stick to. They just float around like tumbleweeds until I get out my vacuum.

We clean the floors constantly

I suppose one benefit of having a pee cat who targets soft items on the floor is that we must keep our floors always free of clothes, rugs, or towels. This definitely contributes to a tidier home! But I always feel awkward telling houseguests to hang up the bath mat after use and keep their clothes and towels off the floor, lest Romeo happen upon them. My mother-in-law learned this lesson the hard way via her favorite pair of jeans.

We rethink holiday decor

Since we’ve had Romeo, the holidays have been, well, different. We haven’t had an official Christmas tree in seven years because Romeo chews, bats, and otherwise destroys them.

I’ve tried small trees placed way up high where he can’t get to them and chew on them but they end up being so far out of the way that they’re hardly enjoyable. Last year, I resorted to a funky minimalist IKEA "tree" made of twisted metal, decorated with a little tinsel and a few bulbs. Let me tell you, cold metal is just not the same as evergreen.

I’ve given up my green thumb

I’ve stopped trying to keep houseplants happy and alive. Nothing seems to deter Romeo from gnawing on the plant and leaving ragged, ugly-looking leaves and piles of barf in random locations all over the house. I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have any carpets. See above.

We walked on plastic for four months

During a short-term rental stay last year while we were renovating our new home, we were faced with a dilemma: what to do with the plush wall-to-wall carpet. We considered lots of options to prevent Romeo from peeing on and ruining the carpet ÔÇô- from bathroom seclusion to diapers and more. But nothing really seemed like a good solution.

Instead, we covered that place with wall-to-wall plastic movers’ sheeting. It’s sticky on one side so it stayed put on the carpet, and we lived on crinkly plastic for months. But we got our security deposit back!

I scoop like it’s my job

Like many cat owners, finding an ideal place for the litter box is a challenge. There’s really no good location. Due to the wall-to-wall carpet in the basement, that’s not an option.

So we keep one litter box in the rarely used dining room (please don’t tell my infrequent dinner guests!) and the more heavily used boxes in my office. Yes, the office where I spent more than eight hours per day. Suffice it to say, I’m acutely aware of both cats’ business and scoop the boxes at least five times per day. Sometimes while I’m on a business call. Shhhh.

We remove food from counters constantly

Along with a clean floor, clean counters are a must in our house. Because these boys are unpredictable in their tastes, no food is safe. We lost a favorite serving bowl during a cook-out because Romeo decided he had to have the Doritos residing inside. Turkey is never safe, and hamburgers stand no chance of surviving a countersurfing cat attack.

So, yeah, when I think about it, I guess our cats are a bit of work. I mean, as a household of four humans, you’d think we’d be able to take charge, stage an uprising, refuse to be inconvenienced. Instead, we adjust our life and our home to make these furry little family members happy, safe, and comfortable.

And it’s worth it, a million times over.

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