Pulitzer: My problem child
October 10, 2011 4 Comments
In every multiple cat family, there’s one who can be fingered as a “problem child.” Maybe he’s a bully and picks on the youngest or the most timid. Or maybe she’s the picky eater. Or a door darter.
Or the hoser.
Pulitzer. I’m talkin’ ‘bout you, boy.
Pulitzer was adopted as the office kitty when I was working for the Shore Line Times, a local weekly newspaper. He was the last available kitty at a local adoption event. Estimated at about a year old, he was an orange tabby with white socks and a white “bikini.” The name on the cage was “Tilt.” It
was explained to us that he had had a bad case of ear mites that resulted in a head tilt. We knew that name had to go.
Because of the round-the-clock nature of the business, he had constant company. We held a contest to name him and received around 80 entries, which was pretty amazing for a small paper. There were lots of good suggestions, but he picked his own name. We each chose two names that we liked and put them on the floor; the first one he stepped on was his name. Pulitzer. It was a name he had to grow into.
He loved the attention of the office. His tendency to shred paper led to a clean desk policy. He would yowl loudly when we left the room. He was a bit clumsy. Later, after watching his gait, my vet believed he has a mid case of cerebellar hypoplasia. Even though he used the litter box, his habits were a little hit or miss even back then.
After a year or so, our office relocated and the set-up was not suitable for an office kitty.
Being the cat woman of the group, he came home with me – much to the chagrin of my Russian Blue boy, Yuri. Pully was close in age, so Yuri, princely in nature, saw him as competition. Thus the hosing contests began. In retrospect, the problem was a combination of Yuri’s marking and urinary problem, plus Pulitzer’s innate clumsiness.
After a few years, Yuri went to the Rainbow Bridge. As sad as it was, it became an opportunity to delve more into Pulitzer’s purrsonality.
Yes, he continues to yowl – for no apparent reason. I mean a yowl that comes from the tip of his tail and the bottoms of his feet. Often it’s when he’s in a room by himself.
His vision seems to be a bit off. He doesn’t see the “finger greeting,” usually accepted by cats, and doesn’t chase fishing-pole toys or objects that are tossed.
He paces. A lot. In circles, moving to the left. Often in the living room, he’ll do his pacing thing, stop, and look at me. Repeatedly. It usually takes place when I’ve finished some work and have finally settled down.
This is where Pulitzer’s litter box habits (or lack thereof) come into play.
First of all, he’s a vertical pee’er. That means he positions himself with his two front feet outside the box, sticks his butt in the air and lets it rip. To accommodate him, I’ve positioned the covers of the litter boxes on their ends, acting as a shield.
Second, while he’s a sloppy pee’er, he hates a dirty litter box. I’ve seen him leap out of a box if there’s anything in it. And, he’ll go outside the box overnight, if the boxes have been used (even though scooping them is the last thing I do before bedtime and the first thing in the morning).
Third, along with his cerebellar hypoplasia, he’s a bit ADD. If he wants to be fed (he’s very food obsessed), but has to use the box, he’ll just … go. On the other hand he’s been known to walk in the living room, circle around, and pee … even before I have a chance to herd him to the box.
It’s the erratic nature of his litter box habits that I find so frustrating. He’ll be good for days or even weeks, then miss.
When I counsel people about problem behaviors, I’ve said two things: sometimes you have to pick your battles (that usually applies to countertops) and sometimes you just have to live with it (in Pulitzer’s case).
So how are we living with it? (Without a doubt, this does not earn points with my husband.)
As mentioned above, I keep the litter box scooped, religiously.
I use a Feliway diffuser in the area he favors and he wears a Sergeant’s calming collar.
I use a really good cleaner – Wee Cleaner – to clean up his accidents.
I know his schedule and watch him accordingly. I check the first thing in the morning to see that he’s used the box. Check when I come home from work. Make sure he uses the box before bedtime. Note his “pacing.” If he hasn’t gone in a while, I herd him into the LB zone and he usually goes, but not before he hops in and out of the various boxes too many times to count. If he hasn’t gone in a while and should have gone, I do a pee patrol.
Once he’s done his business I praise him effusively and give a treat or a bit of food. Of course, he’s gotten to expect the treat in conjunction with the
effusive “what a good boy!” So have the other cats. Yes, the operative word here is “effusive.”
In his favor, he is brimming with affection. He’ll stand on the kitchen table and greet me with a silent meow. He’ll give affectionate lovenips. He serves as my weekday alarm clock at just the right time – once Pulitzer is awake, I don’t have a prayer of oversleeping. Naturally, I have to get up to make sure he’s done his business in the proper location. He gets along really well with the other cats. He and Dusty are good buds and nap side by side in the sunny front window, and he plays well with Tekla and Mollie.
Pulitzer is a really funny cat. He sleeps and dreams very intensely, occasionally hurling himself out of his bed. And he does have a dog-like devotion.
I figure he’s now 11 years old and there isn’t a whole lot I can do to “fix” his problem though I’ve gotten pretty good at managing it. As with human behavior, perfection is unattainable. In the world of cat behavior, if it isn’t one thing, it’s another.
What are the behavioral quirks you live with?