Cat psychology is an interesting thing. I have a 1 year old cat that is on some kind of personal journey right now. He’s our little black rescue named Arturo.
We lived with a family of three cats before in our 20’s and mid 30’s. One of Eddie’s art school friends found a female stray behind a rock’n’roll club one night called Stache’s. I mean, literally in the alley. Just a kitten. Eddie put up a struggle but lost to how cute the kitten was and how persistent Carrie was being. Thus it was that the Mighty Samson came to live with Eddie. I entered the picture a few months later as Eddie and I started dating. Well, not really at that time. This was “sex date” phase. As the years rolled along we ended up living together.
One night Samson got out of the house and we just assumed that she was gone. But no, our neighbor Ted Rau found her with a Tom cat flagrantly doing the nasty on our doormat. So she was returned, deflowered to our home. Shortly thereafter she ended up having two male kittens who we kept and named Utah and Giesela. For whatever reason the names suited them. And with the exception of the time when we moved to Clintonville where there were raccoons, opossums and probably lesbian bears on the loose because of our proximity to the ravine… they never had an issue with marking territory.
Life is short for everyone and after about 15 to 17 years these cats died in quick succession, teaching us lessons about letting go at the right time along the way. We waited for a year before adopting a male cat named Monkey when we lived in downtown Dallas from the SPCA. A year later we got him a sister named Princess Helen Sophia from a co worker who had been displaced from New Orleans post-Katrina.
We moved back home to Ohio and after about two years. Helen and Monkey had turned six, you see they are the same age offset by a couple months, I started looking at shelter cats again. Three. The number just had such a good ring to it. Pretty quickly, this little fluff of a cat with beady eyes and fur as dark as the night came to my attention. And so it was that tiny little Arturo came to join the fold.
Over the first year, we noticed some odd behaviors and skittishness, a seemingly unanchored territory in the house and so on. But they all got along famously, playing, cuddling, evolving and enjoying the life we could provide them. Some of the odd, albeit gross, acting out came in the form of marking my bathroom sink. Which was “fine” because I could bleach it. Or the time when Eddie threw a black jacket on the floor in a strange place only to be marked later by Arturo. Or this mid century modern love seat which he became bizarrely drawn toward. Thank goodness for enzymatic cleaners, but I will get to that in a moment.
Things got worse in a short period of time. I had been meditating on an increasingly frequent schedule and finally took the dive into meditation pillows. They were awesome. One big flat square base and a round one to fit on top for my butt. Within hours Arturo had marked them. WTF?!?!
At this point, I was still not using the water bottle to spray or otherwise punish him. Not because I had any instruction regarding that but because I just didn’t have the heart to do it. That all changed however when I was working at my desk one night and heard a scratching. He was on my bed seemingly trying to find a spot for a nap. Then he squatted. OMG… he’s pissing on my bed I thought. I leaped up, scooped him up and sure as fuck, there was a wet puddle. Ripping off the sheets and pad I got to it before it stained the mattress. Needless to say Arturo was scolded, shouted at and sprayed down with our water bottle. He hid for the rest of the day.
We got anti odor stuff and kept a close watch on him from there on out. He marked a few more things but it was not until I woke up one morning with a wet spot between my feet on my mattress that I cracked. I pitched the mattress out to the dumpster and started sleeping on my camping gear or on the sofa. I did some Googling. It told me to not punish him as that would only aggravate the situation. It could be nerves. Shouting and water bottles would only serve to reinforce those feelings. I also discovered that there might be a physiological problem with him so a vet visit was in order. Additionally, it told about having more than one litter box per cat in the house. We had two for three cats. So I made my vet appointment and went out and bought the third box.
While my sleep suffered the marking was dramatically reduced. When I got to the vet I learned that he checked out as very healthy. She was encouraged that his marking had abated with the third litter box and then gave me some key advice. There’s a thing called FeliAway that mimics a mother cat’s pheromones which in turn relax and encourage cats, not to scratch or mark. So we got an emergency diffuser and some refills at carpet baggers price locally and then, after noticing that it 100% stopped the behavior for over two weeks now, two more at a helluva a better price on Amazon. The last thing was the introduction of enzymatic cleaners which completely break down cat urine at the chemical level to where no trace is left behind. We are using one by Nature’s Miracle.
Another resource our vet left us with was a site dedicated to indoor pets, both dogs and cats, in Spanish and English, that OSU runs. The Indoor Pet Initiative. And let me confess when I had a moment of weak resolve that If I could not “control” Arturo that I would have to let him go… resources like this are massive because Arturo is part of our home now. He’s part of our family. I don’t give up a fight like that easily. Resources that help us all live together in harmony are everything during those times.
In the end, I bought a Casper mattress, a bed frame, an area rug and a weight bench mat… all of which I didn’t have before. I think I wanted to mark my own space with as much of a minimal but functional flair as I could afford for myself and to create a space of comfort for everyone around me in the process.
I’m grateful for the advice I got from the vet. So far, complicated 1-year-old cat not withstanding, things are going well. Is he a handful? Yes. But he is making Helen playful. Monkey is 200% more interactive and it just feels right in the house. That does not mean I will not have a pheromone diffuser in each room long term, a bottle of enzymatic cleaner and piss proof mattress pads, handy at all times to totally erase the effects of bad behavior.
While cats are not comparable to the deep psychology of human children, they are little mental furry mysteries of nature. Giving an armful of them a better life experience while Eddie & I are alive has been pretty rewarding. Both on the give and take. Sometimes it’s easy, other times, well, it takes outside help and a little resolve to not give up on the cat.