Saturday, July 14, 2012

Heartbroken, not Housebroken

Ellie, in the center, above me.  We are all ready for bed -- Picaboo, Ellie & me, and Mittons.  You can see the plastic on the human bed.

My cat Ellie has been causing a lot of problems in our house lately.  Specifically, she is peeing everywhere.  First, it was on beds.  We started covering beds in plastic during the day (see picture above) -- the kind of plastic you put under your office chair so you can roll on the carpet, but with the pointy sides up.  Then, it was on Sheldon's brand-new Laz-E-Boy recliner (which he handled very well).  Then, her kitty bed.  Then, the couch cushions (which are now ruined, torn and bleached due to my attempts to treat and clean them -- but hey, they don't smell anymore).  She has even peed on the bed with us in it!  Last night, it was my pillows (those weren't covered because she's never done that -- the plastic everywhere else keeps her off). 

This isn't a new thing.  I think it started in Austin; there, the beds and one part of the carpeted hallway were her targets.  I don't remember any peeing issues in Iowa, while Brian was alive.  She has always had issues with #2, but nothing major -- just going right next to the box, or in the middle of the bathroom (hardwood) floor, where it was easy to clean up.  Now, her number one spot for number two is in the bathtub.  Okay, again -- easy enough to clean.  The pee on all things fabric is not.

We are at our wit's end.  I have taken her to the vet repeatedly, enough that I now just have the urine collection kit at home -- plastic, sandy litter, eyedropper syringe, and vial for containing the sample.  Just a month ago, after the couch incidents and her peeing in her own bed, I found out that she is perfectly healthy.  We use prescription food for urinary health just to be on the safe side, as she has had a couple of legitimate UTIs and other urinary issues.  We clean litter boxes daily, and have at least three in different locations throughout the house at all times.  I've tried different styles of boxes, different brands and types of litter, litter additives, special hormone plug-ins and sprays, everything.  I've tried every kind of cleaning product imaginable, even ones you buy from the vet (that one was best at removing smell, but also best at ruining sofa cushions).  In the last two years, it would not be an exaggeration to say I've spent thousands of dollars on this issue -- many vet bills, special foods, new products, litter boxes, an expensive cat tree to make sure she has her own space, linens and dry cleaning galore, stays at the best "kitty spa" in town while we (or sometimes just I) are away or while we have guests (any change in her routine upsets her), pillows, furniture, a "Scat Mat" to keep her off furniture, etc. 

Last night, I realized we are coming close to being at a breaking point.  I don't know what to do, but I also know we can't cover everything in static electricity mats or sharp plastic all the time, and we can't be having all our furniture, bedding, and pillows ruined on a weekly basis.  I am so frustrated that I can't find a solution, despite the inordinate amount of time, energy, thought, and money that has gone into this problem.

I am really thinking that it's time to take an awful, dreaded step.  I am considering taking Ellie to a no-kill shelter or even, I hate to say, putting her down.  I legitimately can't think of anything else to do -- I can't imagine anyone I know would want to take on a cat with these issues, so re-homing her doesn't seem like a viable solution.  I am agonzing over what the most humane course of action is.  If I take her to a shelter, she may or may not be happy there.  She may or may not get adopted, and if she does -- what happens if she pees on some man's recliner who is a raging drunk with a temper, who never wanted a cat in the first place but got talked into it by his wife and kid?  I shudder to think of the possibilities.  (Then I wonder if I'm being overly anxious and pessimistic, or am considering a very real possibility in looking out for her best interest.....thoughts?)  Is it really a good life for her to spend the next 7-8 years in a shelter, caged?  (She is 7 now.)  Some places are good, others not so much.  Or is it best to have her euthanized, knowing her life was short and troubled in the end (obviously, something is wrong), but that she was loved immensely and spoiled ridiculously while she was on this earth?  At least with the latter course of action, she would be with Brian again....and she loved him SO much.  He would want her to go to a shelter; I know he didn't agree with euthanasia for behavioral issues.  He said there was always another solution.  Still, he never went through what I've been dealing with on a daily basis for the last seven hundred-odd days.

I spent hours crying over this last night, on a spare pillow taken from the guest room after most of our nice, temperpedic pillows got taken out to the trash.  Hours of agony and tears, struggling to come across some solution or answer that doesn't seem to exist.  My heart is breaking at any of the "answers" I have thought of, yet I know we can't live like this for another 7-8 years.  We can't have a child and expect to maintain the scrupulously high levels of cleanliness, plasticity, and routine that minimalize (but still don't eliminate) the problem.  As it is, I feel like I am watching her all the time now to make sure she is behaving (or "being have," as Brian would say).

I have thought about making her an outside cat, but she doesn't have front claws, so she couldn't defend herself against animals, like the opossum and raccoon that come to our backyard at night.  Besides, with the heat of Texas summers, it's not humane.  She is also a bit too spoiled and just plain weird for that I think.  Maybe I should try it might beat all the other alternatives.

I have identified two no-kill shelters in San Antonio that are options, and I've thought about bringing her back to Des Moines to the shelter where Brian was on the board of directors.  I hate the thought of this option because I feel like I'm abandoning her, that I am shirking my duties as a pet parent.  I don't like the idea of taking on a pet until it's no longer convenient; however, in this case, it is no longer viable.  I'm devastated that we are at this place and completely at a loss for how to best move forward from here.

Readers -- any suggestions???  What would you do? 


  1. Was it around the time you got the 3rd kitty? Maybe she needs a 1 or 2 cat home?

  2. Kay, I am thinking that too. Perhaps if she was re-homed to somewhere she could be the sole kitty, or maybe have one other around, that would be best for everyone. Makes me think the shelter option is more viable, so she could be placed in that situation to see.

  3. I seriously think you should try to get Jackson Galaxy, the cat behavioralist to come and see what he thinks. He's the guy on the show "My Cat From Hell" and when he hears the option is actually having to remove a cat from the home, he will try to help. I wonder if she's just missing Brian...

  4. Have you taken her to a vett!!!??? One of our cats Nikki had a horrible urinary tract infection, twice. She was in pain and couldn't control her bladder, and when the urge came she'd go somewhere we'd notice it so she could get some help. On the bed, in the tub, on chairs, on our pillows. The first time, we tried 4 different antibiotics until one worked. The second time a year later, this spring, she did it again. This time we had xrays done and she had 7 spiky stones the size of pencil erasers in her bladder and one lodged in her urethra. She was in a LOT of pain. We had her taken into surgery that same day and the problem immediately corrected itself. We've also changed her diet, per the vet's recommendations, to change her urine pH and decrease the probability that new stones will form.

    I know what you're going through, but PLEASE take her to a vet. She needs you. You're all she's got.


  5. We had this happen with our precious kitty, Abbie. She was GREAT for the first 6 years and all of a sudden, she started peeing on things. I took her to the vet multiple times and the vet finally said-I know you don't want to accept it but she has behavior issues. We had almost every square inch of our carpet covered in foil (The vet suggested this) and she still found places to pee.
    We got to our breaking point. She was ruining our lives and destroying our home.
    Abbie had been declawed. I didn't want to stick her outside but we didn't have a choice. We took her to my Aunt's farm. I shed many tears and felt like a horrible mama but we knew something had to be done. Abbie has done great on the farm and we still get to go visit her.
    Good Luck, I know how hard it is!!!

  6. Thanks for the feedback, all. I have taken her to the vet many times, Jeff. Nothing is wrong with her physically. It has taken years, multiple vets, multiple exams, etc. to conclude that this behavioral. Pat -- I have thought about Jackson Galaxy. I suppose we could fly him out to check things out....if he would be open to that. I do know we watch the show and have tried implementing all the things he usually tells people -- perches, playtime, etc.

    Right now, I thinking we re-up the efforts. I'm off to buy all new litter (and will try one box in a different kind, there are still a few I haven't tried yet), and going to empty and wash litter boxes again. Going to install a cat door so she can go outside freely, and will have a litter box out there too, in case she wants it. Will continue to cover all beds and furniture all the time. j

    I really feel like she doesn't like having a third cat in the house, as it seems to have all started when Mittons came along. Well, that or when she and Peeks were being watched by my housesitter for the summer a couple years ago and her litter wasn't cleaned often enough the first summer I was in Austin.

  7. Wendy
    Jeff and I had a cat long ago in townhouse days that did the same thing, it peeded on everything. Thankfully I didn't have a relationship with the cat as he only lived with me a short time but we did take him to a shelter as we couldn't afford to continue to replace the couch and beds etc. Your in a much harder place with your relationship but I think you have been more forgiving and have tried more things then the average person would have so I think whatever you decide to do with all the thought you have put into this decision it will be the right one! Jen