Life at our house has been really messy lately. After our nice relaxing weekend, things have gone downhill. I am a big ball of stress and anxiety, and I really haven’t felt like writing a single word, or talking to anyone about it. I’ve had things swimming around in my head that I’ve wanted to write about, but I just can’t seem to find any inspiration to do anything right now except work on this problem, and feel upset about it. It’s all just stewing inside of me, so I just need to talk about it I guess.
Our pets are really an important part of our lives, they are our children. We’ve been having some issues with one (two?) of them, and it’s just progressively getting worse right now. The strain from these issues is causing strain on Michael and I individually, and on our relationship. It does not feel good. Nothing right now feels good.
The whole story of our animal children (it is looong): When Michael and I first met, he had 2 cats – Moose and Treble, and I had a dog. He lived in a 3 story condo, and I lived in an apartment with friends. I was working full time at a salaried job, and with commute, plus time spent in the city with Michael, I was not home enough for my dog. I was putting undue burdens on my friends, and I wasn’t giving him the attention he deserved. He did not get along with the cats at first, so bringing him with me during my travels did not work. So, he went to live with my Gram. He still lives with her, and they are both as happy as can be with this arrangement. This was heart wrenching for me, he had been my ally through lots of changes in my life, and I couldn’t imagine life without him. It was only because he went to my grandma that this all worked out. After this all went down, I ended up moving in with Michael, and despite my allergy to cats, fell in love with felines all over again. These two won my heart over, and it was awesome. But, it was an all male household, and I felt we needed to add another girl into the mix. So, we found a little girl kitty with extra digits on her paws who needed a home. Hemi came to live with us, and after a long while she came out of her shell and adapted to life with the boys. She is the sweetest girl ever, and it was a great match. Soon after we found Hemi, we started volunteering with the local cat rescue on weekends. We played with, cleaned up after, hung out with and worked on adoptions of kitties. This was a great thing, except that every week I found a new kitty or three that I wanted to bring home. Some of those stories are just so sad, how could I not want to save them all? To avoid becoming an animal hoarder, Michael (thankfully) had to say no to me on a weekly basis. We have a tiny condo, no more room for cats! This all worked out fine, until one Saturday when we went in to work and there was a teeny little 2 pound Maine Coon staring up at me with wanting eyes. He was a little ball of fuzz with hair sticking out of his whole being, like a pocket sized old man. He immediately melted my heart, and this time Michael couldn’t say no. He came home with us that day, and was named Seymour. He has since weaseled his way into every single nook and cranny of my heart. He is a total momma’s boy, and is my shadow throughout my day. He’s the most affectionate cat I have ever seen and he has the meow of a tiny kitten, even though he’s on his way to 20 lbs. Seymour is definitely not the brightest bulb in the box, but he isn’t maliciously bad. Just aloof.
So here is the problem. He is about 2.5 years old. His older brothers are about 12+ years old. For the last couple of years, Seymour has bonded with his sister the most; they cuddle, and groom each other. The older boys never really took a liking to him. They are annoyed with his energy, and don’t really want him around. They usually keep their distance, but lately, Seymour has been harassing them more and more. Mostly Moose. Treble is the elder cat, and it seems like for the most part, Seymour respects that and leaves him to be. He feels some hierarchical/territorial/compulsive need to constantly challenge Moose. That looks like this: Seymour slowly approaches Moose, and sits down directly in front of him. Moose gets agitated and starts growling. Seymour feels like he should then touch Moose, so he reaches out slowly, and Moose gets louder. Eventually, Seymour will try to tackle Moose and it ends in a LOT of yelling.
For a while, this would happen occasionally. Then it started happening nightly. We would always be awakened by it, and usually would yell at them to stop, and go back to bed. It stresses us both out, because no one likes to be repeatedly woken up, let alone by something we can’t control. We also feel horrible for Moose, because it’s not fair to him, or enjoyable, I’m sure. So, there’s the squirt bottle, spraying them with water will break it up, as will going near them. That leaves our options limited. Getting up every 20 minutes to break up cats is NOT the way to get a good night of sleep. The strain from this was minimal at first, but over the last couple of months, it’s been growing.
I have spent a ton of time researching what could be done, and honestly, there isn’t much that I’ve found. The solution most cat trainers recommend is clicker training, or operant conditioning. I’ve been working on this with Seymour. He’s doing very well at it, but honestly, so far it does not help him to stop pursuing his victim, and I’m not sure HOW it’s supposed to help him. The thing that works best is when I can get him to lie in bed with me at night, but since he is a cat, this is a challenge. I usually wake up as soon as I hear him moving, and beg him to come back to bed with me. The minute I hear them start to growl, my stomach tightens, and I tear up. I know that Michael is going to be stressed and upset, and I know that we are getting closer to a point that I don’t want to reach. Every time I hear Michael wake up or get mad at the cats, the knot in my stomach tightens. We have even more challenges with this, in that our condo doesn’t have any doors except bathrooms. I can’t very well keep a cat in a bathroom all night in good conscience. Basically, we’ve been having a lot of sleepless nights. I don’t like to punish, or even use the squirt bottle really, and while reading about this training, it advices against these actions. So, I have stopped doing anything about it when it happens, except asking him to come to me instead. It seems like this is making it worse, and it’s reached a point where we can’t take anymore. I don’t think not doing anything is helping, so maybe a squirt bottle is helping to at least keep it tamed more.
Solutions: In my research I found that cats do a lot better with sorting this stuff out if they have vertical territory to work with. We don’t have much to offer in that area, so we’ve ordered a nice 6 foot tall cat tree. We’ll get another one if this helps at all. Also, we are playing with them more, so that Seymour is not as inclined to expend his energy on chasing his brother, and, more likely to be tuckered out. Our toys have all broken, because apparently our cats are beasts, so we had to order a bunch of new ones. As mentioned, I am working on clicker training him. He’s doing great with it, but right now we are working on sitting. There is a long road ahead before I can expect him to sit, and stay, and ignore the lure of his brother (I’m not even sure if I can expect that to happen). Since we don’t have doors, my solution was to put up 2 baby gates (stacked) so that he would be separate from his siblings at night. Michael was reluctant to try this, because it would be a pain to deal with every day. We tried this approach last night, and I must say, it was not ideal. I felt so sad and trapped when we put those 2 gates up, and so did my little furry friend. I set him up with a litter box, food and water, but he was not thrilled. He was pacing, and whimpering, and wondering why the hell I was holding him captive. Not to mention the other cats were not happy about it. Moose stood by the gates and yelled for a long time last night. Eventually Moose became quiet and Seymour calmed down and slept by my side, but I know it was not fun for him. He’s nocturnal, he doesn’t want to be trapped in a room all night. I feel sad that I had to do it, and when I fed them all breakfast, everyone was sullen and quiet. This is not a long term solution, and I didn’t really get any more rest. But there was no fighting.
I have been searching for a good animal behaviorist, but haven’t found too many people that work with cats. I called our vet, because they say they do work with behavior issues. Well apparently they don’t think that cats’ behavioral issues are solvable. Which I think is total crap. Our vet’s office put me on the phone with a nurse who would ‘be able to help’. She told me that Seymour is just trying to push Moose’s buttons, and dominate him. Duh. She said to put them in separate rooms, and when I said we actually don’t have rooms, she told me to make him an outdoor cat, or find him a new home. I told her that her solutions were REALLY crappy, and I started sobbing. I have basically been crying for 2 days straight, and it doesn’t feel very good. This is my baby, and I honestly don’t think I am capable of giving him away. What does that mean for us right now? It means that Michael and I have been fighting for the last 2 days. It means that everything is a struggle. It means that I’m getting no sleep, and barely functioning, let alone taking care of myself. I don’t know what the future holds. I feel like someone is stomping my heart into pieces.
So that is my life right now. Searching high and low, for any possible solution to this issue. Watching the toll this is taking on my relationship with Michael. My heart is sinking, my stomach is tight, and I feel like I’m lost. I’m scared, I’m exhausted and I’m sad. I’m eating horribly, and not working out enough. I’m not enjoying this right now, and really hoping we can figure it out soon. If we can’t, I don’t know if I can handle saying goodbye to my little man. I hope it never comes to that. Right now it’s tough to get perspective, all I can see is exhaustion and frustration. I also feel a huge amount of guilt and self-blame. I was the one who wanted another cat even though I knew we didn’t have much room. I brought this on, and now I feel like I must make it better.
If anyone has ANY suggestions about this matter, please send them my way. This guy and his humans would appreciate it: