Sunday, December 21, 2008

Piss poor

I credit my final, complete recovery from the Great Post-Miscarriage Depression of '06 with the spring '07 arrival of a little kitten, who we named Zev. He was exactly what we needed: a clingy little 3-pound baby in need of lots of lap time and snuggles, who would knead my stomach and purr like a little engine, then curl up and fall asleep. Zev helped me to embrace hope again, turn the corner, and remember what it was like to feel happy.

Zev had a problem, though. Having spent his first three months on the street (my mother-in-law's street, to be exact, where some kindly neighbors fed the local strays), Zev did not take kindly to the litter box. And that's being generous. To get him to use it with any consistency meant changing the litter and scrubbing the box after every use, and with another cat in the house, that was impossible. If he couldn't pee outside (and, mindful of the vet's warnings about life expectancy, we weren't letting him out), Zev preferred to pee inside, specifically on our bed. I've washed our sheets and blankets more times than I've washed my underwear.

To remedy the problem, we tried getting him neutered, tried pheremone sprays, and tried positive reinforcent ("What a good kitty! good kitties get tweats when they use the witter box!"). We tried negative reinforcement (one brief and instantly-regretted attempt to get Zev to associate peeing on the bed with a quick trip to the shower. We both have scars from that bozo idea), and all kinds of special litter brands/types. We brought in a pricey cat psychologist whose advice, as far as I could understand, was that I'd have to quit my job and devote myself to providing a rich, stimulating environment for Zev, with a litterbox in every room in the house.

What we ended up doing is scooping all THREE boxes (one for each floor) every day, and putting the little Zev on Prozac, per one teary, desperate phone call to the vet (and yes, I have often savored the irony of our sweetly matching mommy-kitty SSRI ensembles). We also started letting him go outside during the day -- something we were loathe to do, as we live on a sort of busy street, but which we have come to accept as Zev's only true path to sanity. He's just happier being able to be outdoors. Keeping him inside makes him miserable, and he acts out by attacking our (IMMACULATELY behaved) older cat and, yes, peeing. So he goes out a few times during the day, and sleeps in bed with us at night, and we keep our fingers crossed and pray that he'll continue to show good sense when crossing the street.

And that has worked beautifully until this Great Blizzard of '08 rolled into town and Zev decided he doesn't like getting his paws wet. Or cold. Or something. Our Southern-born cat won't set foot outdoors, and last night, after one of Sam's usual 2am wakeups, I finally dozed off only to wake up sputtering as Zev dumped a couple of bladders-full of piss on my thigh.

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