Zipper and Zoom: My Cat History

May 1, 2020 at 12:02 am (Cat pics)

I have had five cats in my life (not including some cat-sitting).

When I was seven, my family got a kitten. A wee ginger. Unfortunately she was run over and died only a few weeks later. We replaced her with a black cat, who lived for eleven years (dying when I was sixteen). I still love black cats.

My parents let me get another cat around the same time, who I named Indah (Indonesian for ‘scenic’). She died of old age when I was pregnant with TJ (technically she was euthanised for various health conditions, but she was nineteen years old so… old age).

I tried and failed to find a picture of her. She was a grey and white tabby.

When I was twenty-four or so, I decided it was time to begin embracing my likely future as a crazy cat lady, and I bought the first cat I’d ever adopted as an adult: Ana. She’s named after the main character in The Princess and the Pirate. Seriously.

Ana lived to thirteen (again, euthanised for major health problems), and basically taught TJ what it means to have a cat. Here he is at around two years of age (Ana looks scowly but I swear she was happy). It astonishes me now that TJ was only three when we bought Zipper. There’s no way we could have pulled that off without years of teaching him how to gently pat Ana and how to interpret her moods and stay away if she didn’t want him close by.

TJ remains adorably hilarious with cats. Ever since we got Zipper, he often gets down flat on the ground to socialise with cats (having absorbed the information that he is big and scary to a cat). He tries to get Zipper to play with his toys, has attempted to feed her crackers, and today he asked me if baby cats, like humans, like to play Peek-A-Boo. A very intelligent question! (The answer is yes, especially when playing, but ideally have a toy appearing and disappearing rather than a hand or face because otherwise she may attack you—and never yell “Boo!” or anything else near a cat; their hearing is way more sensitive than ours.)

After she died, our house was empty of cats for over a month. It was the longest I’d been without a household cat in nearly thirty years. And probably the longest I’ll ever go without a household cat, too. Knowing we’d get another cat definitely helped me let go of Ana.

Here she Zipper as a kitten (she was three months old when we got her; Zoom is only two months old).

And then of course there was Zoom. Here are some pics from yesterday:

I like the diamond on her back, and that oh-so-innocent expression.

So, the question that I’m sure is on absolutely everyone’s lips right now: why didn’t Zoom poo in her litter tray?

Here are all the possible reasons:

1. Some of the litter got wet when it was stored in our laundry, so it may have felt ‘wrong’. I also didn’t ask the previous owner what kind of litter she used. It doesn’t usually matter, but perhaps it would have helped here while she has so much to get used to all at once.

2. It was placed in the shower in my ensuite, with the food and water next to the sink. Many cats would find that too close; they are very aware of hygiene. (Which I knew, but I was using the ensuite to make sure she and Zipper couldn’t ‘meet’ under the door of the master bedroom.)

3. The shower/bathroom is too exposed. Most cats hate anyone being within visual range when they go to the bathroom.

I had noticed she was going into the darkest corners of our walk-in wardrobe and meowing, which made me suspect she wasn’t comfortable with the kitty litter set-up (and I made sure the cupboard was closed when I wasn’t in there, so she didn’t poo on Chris’s shirts).

I’d also been warned that it was a “good idea” for me to place her on the litter after she’d eaten, which I knew meant she wasn’t 100% reliable.

When she pooed, she did it inside the cat carrier, on the towel that I had in there. That is, she did it in the most private and respectful (to our stuff) place that she possibly could. At that stage, I moved the poo to the litter (leaving it there as an example for her). I also moved her food and water into the main bedroom. I did not punish her for the poo. First, because it was my fault and not hers. Secondly, because the right time to grab her (and move her to the litter tray) was before/during the poo. Animals have very short memories so if I punished her after she’d finished the poo and walked off she’d have no idea what it was about. If she was older, reliably trained, and pooed in a bad location for any reason other than intense and immediate terror, I would take her to the poo, put her face close to it (but not touching) and then say, “No” firmly and tap her with one finger on the nose. Then I’d take her straight to the litter, put her in it, and move her paws in a digging/scratching way. That’s a good way to train a cat to use a litter box (or to stop pooing in your bed if that’s happening).

Later, she went into the walk-in wardrobe and meowed several times, while sniffing around in the corners, then went into the bathroom and paced here and there behind the toilet, making scratching motions on the tiles. Both big clues that she needed to use the litter but didn’t feel sure about where to go. I picked her up and placed her in the litter box (and Louisette and I very carefully averted our gaze) and she used it. I’m going to get new litter asap, but in the meantime I’ll remove both poos because I’m fairly confident we’ve solved this.

Another fun litter fact: A lot of cats play with their litter—when it’s clean. Since digging is a part of the process, it’s extremely difficult to train a cat out of that habit. Most will just get less playful and grow out of it in time. You may need to get a more expensive box that has high sides or a roof. You don’t technically need to get them from a pet shop aisle; any plastic container filled with litter would work… but I’ve never stumbled across something the right size and shape that wasn’t specifically designed for cats.

Some kittens struggle to find their litter tray, so always make sure to introduce it to them immediately (sometimes several times). And to keep their range small (like 1-3 rooms), especially at the beginning or at night.

Oh, and although most cats like privacy, some of them REALLY like company. It turns out Zoom is most definitely one of them: when I go to the bathroom, so does she. In every sense.

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