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Tue, 01 Jul 2008

Appropriate use of the word "shit"

Lola, the demon-spawned cat from Hell

So, my daughter finally convinced me to let her have a cat (which we adopted from the local Humane Society, an eight-ish gray cat with a white breast and white socks, who would be adorable except for a problem, which I'll get to in a moment); but it turns out that it was Jan's idea all along and she's the one who's been taking care of it. At least, she was until she took the kids and drove to California early in June to visit the family out there, including both her father (who came home from the hospital after knee replacement surgery the day Jan arrived) and stepmother, her mother, my parents (who are in-country in between foreign affairs and are leaving for 18 months in Kiev, Ukraine, at the end of August), and most of my sisters and their husbands and children. Which is to say that I've been the one looking after the cat for most of June.

You see, the cat -- normally a well-behaved, friendly, cuddly, short-haired, mostly quiet, good-tempered beast -- started pooping around the house the week before Jan left.

At first, Jan was afraid to mention it to me; but I think she figured that if it happened again while she was gone, she wouldn't be able to play ignorant. So she told me, and I said, "that's not acceptable" (I really, as a general rule, despise cats, but was willing to compromise since it meant so much to both daughter and wife.), which she understood. Jan advised me that I should keep newspaper on the sofa where Lola (that's the cat's name) was prone to shit, so that if Lola shat there again, it wouldn't be difficult to clean up. I responded that I was unwilling to put portions of the house out of use for the benefit of a cat and that I would damn well sit on my $1200 leather sofa, and refused to cover it.

This proved to be a mistake, and on the first Saturday after Jan had left with the kids I discovered exactly how serious a mistake it was.

Given that I knew Jan and the kids were going to be gone, and that I have a tremendous number of projects in the works at the hospital, in the garage, in the basement, and upstairs, I didn't actually go into the living room until that Saturday, after I'd mowed the lawn, cleaned up the kitchen, done the laundry, and cleaned the litter box. I thought the litter box was particularly easy -- there seemed to be almost nothing in it, compared to the week before when I'd cleaned it! So I went into the living room after all these chores so that I could unwind at the piano, when I discovered them.

In the precise center of each of the three seat cushions of the leather sofa, Lola had left a little surprise for me. Also, she left me one surprise on the carpet at the corner of the leather loveseat. Now the reason for the surprisingly clean litter box was obvious to me.

Oh, so obvious.

I shut Lola in the laundry room, cleaned up the mess, and called my wife. "Look up how to deal with it on the Internet," she said.

"No", I said. "This is your cat. We agreed that she was your and Melody's responsibility. I am doing you a favor by watching her while you go off and play. I will not research her behavioral problems."

I was livid.

"You must tell me exactly what to do about it. This is your problem, and you need to fix it. Now," I said.

Jan told me to leave Lola in the laundry room. And to cover the sofa. "That would be pointless," I said. "If she's in the laundry room, she can't shit on the sofa." Jan agreed that this was true. "I can't leave her in the laundry room indefinitely, that would be cruel," I said. "I'll keep her in there for a day or two, then let her out to see if she's learned anything."

As you may guess, there were no incidents for almost a week, before Lola shat on my sofa again, between the time I got up at 6:00 a.m. and fed her, and 6:30 when I came down from my shower.

After rounding up Lola, putting her nose in her shit and proclaiming, "No! No! No!", I threw Lola back in the laundry room and cleaned up the mess.

Then I texted my wife. "Cat did it again. She goes or I go."

Again, the advice: cover the sofa with newspaper. Put the cat in the laundry room. Already halfway there...

So I left Lola in the laundry room all day and overnight to stew, and covered the sofa with newspaper. I let her out while I got ready for work the next morning, but shut her back in before I left. When I came home from work that evening, I let her out. She was aloof, but had clearly used the litter box again. I praised her, fed her some dry food, and went through my evening routine. Just before I went to bed at about 10:30, I shut her back in the laundry room. In the morning, I let her out while I grabbed some breakfast, but shut her in the laundry room while I went to work.

Again, I let her out when I came home, again praising her for using the litter box, and gave her food. Then overnight I let her stay wherever she wanted on the main floor of the house. All good. In the morning, no mess. I praised her, and gave her a dab of wet food with her breakfast before I left for work.

When I came home, no shit. Instead, pee. On my sofa.

Strictly speaking, it was pee on my newspaper, but the principle is the same. Back in the laundry room Lola went, post nose-to-pee, "nonononononono!"

I texted my wife again, "Newspaper didn't work. She peed this time. Find a shelter, or I'll have her put down."

When we talked a bit later, Jan accepted that if there were any further incidents, she would support my decision to send Lola back to the Humane Society, and back me up with the kids.

I am such a soft touch. I should have sent Lola back right then.

But, no, I was going to be flying out to California to be with Jan, the kids, and extended family for five days, and had to get ready for that, and had a zillion things going on at work that needed my attention, and didn't have time to deal with Lola.

Mostly, though, I didn't want my daughter to cry about Lola. The last time Melody went to California, her pet rat was dead when she returned (that's a story in itself, and to be reserved for another time). She'd never leave the house again if her cat was gone after this trip...

So, I didn't take Lola back to the Humane Society. Instead, I re-covered the sofa, left Lola in the laundry room overnight, and gave her another chance. There were no further incidents before I flew out of Saint Louis to Sacramento via Los Angeles. The evening before I left, I called a neighbor, whom Jan had convinced to watch Lola while I was gone, and disclosed the situation. She has three cats (who apparently have never shat on her furniture), so she was comfortable with care and feeding. I told her to call me or Jan if there were any similar events while we were both gone, but never heard from her.

As of this moment, I still haven't spoken with our neighbor, although the day after I returned home I did leave her a voice message thanking her for her service.

However, it has become clear to me that Lola peed on the sofa in my absence, as this morning when I did my now habitual visual inspection of the living room, I noted that some of the newspaper had turned yellow overnight, as though cat urea had chemically altered the cellulose fibers over a period of several days, finally having visible results. Since I had let Lola wander the house freely for the previous 48 hours, It was not really useful to do the nose-to-pee negative reinforcement thing. Instead, I changed the newspaper and went to work. Lola had free rein in the house.

That was another mistake.

While I was at work today, Lola shat on the sofa again. This time, the newspaper caught the mess, which made it much easier to clean up. Before I did so, I grabbed Lola, put her nose in her shit, exclaimed "No! No! No! No! No!", and shut her back in the laundry room.

Which is where she is now, meowing plaintively (Lola is very good at plaintive).

I called Jan (she and the kids are at Mount Rushmore today). She didn't answer, so I left her a voicemail... She's supposed to be back tomorrow night, very late. She's going to have to deal with Lola's return to the Humane Society on Thursday. In the meantime, Lola stays in the laundry room.

Sucks to be me. I should never have agreed to adopt an animal that can't be kept in a cage all the time, like such previous pets as snakes and rats. Damn me for a fool.

posted at: 19:53 |

Marc Elliot Hall St. Peters, Missouri 

Page created: 21 January 2002
Page modified: 14 November 2006

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