Cats, instincts, and golf clubs

We have two cats here on Planet Feingarden.  Those of you who are “dog people” can save time and simply start laughing at us now, because the rest of this post is just more ammunition for you and you probably have enough already.

You intrepid readers now have the joy of learning that one of our cats is male and has started the charming, cuddly habit of “spraying” things around our house to mark his territory.  If you’re unfamiliar with cat ownership, “spraying” is the polite term that cat owners use when they don’t want to admit to themselves that their cat is pissing on things.  The curtains are a popular target, but he doesn’t limit himself to those.  Any object is fair game – doorframes, hope chests, the sofa, baskets of clothes in the laundry room (both dirty and previously clean), even the corner of our new 40-inch TV.  He’s not shy about this, either, and he’ll walk into the room, pick a target, turn around and let fly no matter who’s watching.  He sprayed a chair that I was sitting in.  Heck, a couple of years ago before this became a habit for him he even walked into the living room and fired off a shot right onto one of the Feingarden children.  On Christmas Day, no less.

I have no patience for this sort of behavior, and my reaction is every bit as instinctive as his need to spray in the first place.  I go ape-shit.  I yell, chase the cat, and if I catch him I toss him outside no matter how cold it is (the colder the better, actually), using all my inner strength not to smack him upside the head.  The spraying is bad enough, and the cleanup is no treat, but the part that really burns into my soul is the siege mentality of the whole thing.  My clean clothes are stored in an open-front cabinet.  No doors.  I have to smell every item of clothing before I put it on to make sure that I don’t leave the house smelling like cat urine.  When the cat walks into the room, I’m on edge and if he turns his back to something I’m already into my backswing.  The sheer uncertainty of it all is making me crazy.

Fortunately, several simple solutions are available.  First, I can just keep a spare golf club nearby, ready for the next brazen shot to be fired, then WHAM!  If I manage the velocity properly then the cat learns a valuable lesson.  If I haven’t, well, then I guess we’ll be interviewing for the position of “youngest cat” in the family.  Either way I get to start to relax.  Unfortunately, Planet Feingarden is a democracy and the other voters are not impressed with this solution.  My other solutions all tend to share the same “that cat doesn’t live here anymore” theme (with the “here” part being quite optional) and all are equally unpopular.

My wife, being far more calm and rational about the whole thing (or else not realizing that OUR THINGS ARE BEING PEED ON), got on the interwebs and started doing a bit of research.  When she told me that she’d found some interesting solutions, my first question was whether any of them involved the use of a golf club.  Sadly, this was not the case.  She told me that cats do this when they’re stressed, and that my reaction was probably part of the problem.  I was stunned.   So I’m supposed to pet the little creep after he takes a shot at the chair I’m sitting in?  That’s too much to ask, that is.  There’s no way in hell that I’ll be able to change my natural reaction upon seeing him spray the couch into something like, “Oh, you poor misunderstood kitty, do you need more snuggles?”  Good lord, if that’s the way the world works, maybe I should start to pee on the furniture myself to see if the family snuggles me more, plays more games with me, and generally makes a huge effort to reduce my stress.

Another interesting solution that she found was basically a plug-in air freshener that emits “happy cat” pheromones.  This device costs $40, covers one (1) room, and lasts for 60 days before a refill is required.  I’m powerfully skeptical that this will make a difference, but we bought one and I plugged it in.  He promptly sprayed a doorway 25 feet from the dispenser, though technically in another room.

Another solution is to remove the sources of stress, but what causes stress in an animal that sleeps 20 hours a day and only wakes up to eat and use the litter box?  Well, it’s pretty darn likely that one of the sources of stress around here is the (dum dum DUMMMMM) Phantom Cat From Hell (PCFH for short).  This cat has been spending an inordinate amount of his or her spare time under our back porch meowing piteously like it’s throat was being cut.  At first, when it was -25C outside, this caused some concern but my wife has actually seen the PCFH and assures me it is not a stray and looks well cared-for.  It’s not dying, it’s not freezing, it’s not starving.  It just happens to have an unholy fondness for hanging around our place and pissing our cats off.  Literally.  There really isn’t anything we can do to drive this *%^$&#(* cat away until it gets warm enough for me to limber up the hose and station super-soakers at every door (or get out the spare golf club), so for now we have to put up with it.

There isn’t an ending to this story yet, happy or otherwise.  Things have settled into an uneasy stalemate.  All doors are closed at all times.  Nothing stays unattended on the floor.  PCFH continues to haunt our house.  The cat continues to randomly spray.  And I’ve been reduced to a babbling mess, my left eye twitches involuntarily, and most of my idle time is spent following the cat around with the spray bottle of cleaner, waiting for him to take his next shot, and muttering about golf clubs and oppressed minorities.  This can NOT last forever, so stay tuned…


4 thoughts on “Cats, instincts, and golf clubs

  1. Heather

    I feel your pain. No, really. And I have the pet-odor- cleaning-products to show for it. Bailey gets all wigged out because the neighbor cat comes over and sits on the step outside of the sliding glass door. And stares at him through the door. Grrrr. Even though they can’t smell each other, or even reach each other, they still snarl and growl and sing at each through the door–pretty horrible at 2 am. Within 5-10 minutes I have caught Bailey lifting his tail somewhere other than in the litter box. I have found that when the cat shows up, THAT is the time to pick up, pet, talk to, otherwise comfort your stressed cat (when the cat is actively lifting its tail, that is when you tag it with the spray bottle). So far it seems to be making a world of difference (and no, you don’t throw the entire spray bottle, just spritz junior with a little lemon or vinegar tainted water). I don’t know if your plaintively wailing kitty shows up when you are there, but it might help just to reassure your insecure furball at that time. Good luck!

  2. Heather

    Sorry, you are higher on the food chain, so you have to suck it up and use higher mental processes. Besides, you love your family and really, really would not be at all popular if you acted on your “instincts.”

  3. John DeAngeli

    Nice to know that other people have acronyms for their cats. I refer to Oscar (the cat who owns me it seems, rather than the other way around) as EDS (Evil Demon Spawn) for his daily habit of yowling at me at 2 AM – only on work days, of course.

    He’s an old man and thankfully is pretty mellow otherwise. No spraying, but he does have an equally disgusting habit. A few times a week he will hork up a furball with assorted disgusting ingredients, and rarely picks a hard floor on which to do it. His preference is carpeted areas, or is he’s especially lucky, the inside of my shoes.

    When I hear the horking sound, I’m never near enough to the kitchen to grab a dish, so my only option is to dive across the floor to where he is, cup my hands under his head, and…

    On the bright side, if I’m ever near a shooting, I’ll be really good at diving for cover!


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