The bathroom is disproportionately large in my 900-square-foot condo. I’ve wondered why the builders thought a 9- by 10-foot bathroom a better use of space than, say, a smaller bathroom with more storage.
Now I know why the bathroom is big. It’s so that I can fit a lawn chair in it.
Let me explain.
For more than a week, I spent much of my time sitting in a lawn chair in the bathroom, where I’d locked my cat in an effort to improve her litter box habits.
The veterinarian recommended confining Lizzy. Since she never errs while in the bathroom, it’s impossible to judge when she’s in there how well she’s learning the lesson. The first two times, I relented and let her out after a couple of days. A few days later, she was back in after “accidents.”
A friend suggested consulting a pet behaviorist at the Anti-Cruelty Society. The behaviorist not only reinforced the vet’s advice but said to keep Lizzy locked up for two or three weeks! It takes that long for using the box to become a no-choice habit, the behaviorist said.
There’s much the same advice online. Plus this: you’re supposed to keep the cat from feeling that being locked up is a punishment. Thus, the lawn chair so that she could sit with me. I brought a book into the bathroom two or three times a day. I tried to explain the purpose of tough love as she curled up on my lap: “Lizzy, we’re doing this for your own good. You don’t want a stinky house any more than I do. We can’t let you go on acting like it’s okay to not use your litter box.” Sometimes she deigned to look at me while I spoke, more often not.
Her imprisonment might have been harder on me than on Lizzy. She had her bed and food — and my lap every so often. I had trouble falling asleep the first night without her curling up against my shoulder as she usually does. I actually thought about throwing a sleeping bag in the bathtub and trying to sleep there, but my back was already hurting from sitting in the low lawn chair.
Making the tough love advice especially hard to take is that it came during the same veterinary visit when I found out that Lizzy had lost more than a pound since her last exam 16 months before and is down to four pounds. The vet ordered complete bloodwork, and her numbers on 27 different tests surprisingly came back normal.
Now I’m working on two problems at once: increasing her weight and getting her to use the litter box consistently.
In truth, Lizzy’s litter box habits have never been perfect. They were why her former pet parents gave her up. Their veterinarian blamed stress and thought the problem would resolve in a quieter home. I took her on a three-week trial basis, when she used the box every time. It was after I said yes to keeping her that she relapsed. The search for a solution led to concluding that she has both gastrointestinal problems and anxiety. For the former, she eats a limited ingredient diet, and for the latter, she is on Prozac. Those two tactics kept the litter box problem infrequent and manageable until recently, when she started to pee as well as poop outside the box.
For Christmas we spent two days at my parents’ place, where Lizzy was in the laundry room. That made a total of 12 days of confinement. Enough of this, I thought when we returned home Monday. Whether or not Lizzy could take it anymore, I couldn’t. I missed her constant company. It felt so good to see her basking in the bright sun pouring through the windows on Monday afternoon, the first time she’d been near a window in nearly two weeks.
She’s behaved during the 48 hours since we returned, but that doesn’t prove anything. She always has used the litter box most of the time. If she crosses the line again into too-frequent lapses — well, I’m not thinking ahead.