Looking for advice on 'conditioning' cats and my house mate
December 4, 2008 6:20 PM   Subscribe

House mate's cat keeps peeing in my bed; compounded by said house mate's neglectful attitude towards household chores in general. Ideas to keep the cat off my bed (and not just from peeing on it i.e. permanent cat repellent)? and suggestions for addressing the larger issue at hand?

(sorry in advance: I did not mean to write a freaking novel when I first started this post) .... my house mate decided to bring home two cats (female) a few months ago because they were "too cute" (few week old kittens at the time, now about 4-5 months of age), the decision of which I was aware of ahead of time and not opposed to, mainly because I was under the delusion that he would actually pro-actively assist in caring for the animals (and probably also somewhat under the cute spell).

While he does take them to the vet on time, he is horrible about making sure the litter box is clean daily (I currently take the trash out and run the dishes and sweep and vacuum already, and he had originally volunteered to tend the litter box daily when he first brought up the idea of cats), bad about paying bills on time (frequently needs me to remind him), poor fiscal awareness in general, not so good at helping to run the dishwasher and to empty it when necessary, and bad about keeping his mail and clothes from spreading into the communal living room space (leaves laundry undone until no more clean clothes, which I normally wouldn't care about were it not for his habit of shedding and leaving his outer layers of clothes on the couch). It has almost gotten to the point where I'm the only one cleaning the litter box. If I don't, I get cat pee on my bed.

I have learned how to treat the bedsheets/mattress (thanks in part to this and this and this) to make it less appealing in the future, but is there anything I can add to my sheets to make them totally repulsive to the cat (like bitter apple for cords, only for setting off limit areas), so she won't feel inclined to jump on the bed (or counters for that matter) at all? Spray bottles have only taught cat to be more ninja in her undesirable behavior. Some sort of citrus oil to my laundry load? Furthermore, that really won't keep the cat from finding other 'backup' litter areas when the litter box gets too dirty to use.

We had known each other prior to moving in and held each other in relatively high regard. He has fallen in my eyes a bit due to his blatantly inconsiderate behavior, but I would still like to preserve the relationship if possible (i.e. moving out as a statement of objection a last resort since current living arrangement is financially beneficial for me).

My passive aggressive side would like to find a way to lure the cat into using my house mate's bed instead of mine (i.e. somehow capture its urine and sprinkle on bed lightly coupled with a little positive re-enforcing? *evil smirk*) to give house mate more incentive to change his ways, but . He is probably aware of my dissatisfaction of his behavior, but lacks the motivation or willpower to change. He has a history of avoiding things he regards as unpleasant (like cleaning out moldy leftovers, which imho is kind of prissy) and/or situations (thus the counter strike and warcraft instead of doing chores or processing bills).

He is ok about cleaning the litter box or taking out the trash when I explicitly ask him to, but I'd hate to just turn into another parental figure, always nagging him to do crap he doesn't want to do (i suspect he was a single child who was babied a lot, while i, on the other hand had overbearing dictatorial immigrant parents). I have considered perhaps setting aside a day each month for us both to tidy up the place together, which may indirectly impose 'social' pressure for him to start helping out more and perhaps make me less of a parental figure than just telling him to clean the litter box everyday, and help him build a habit of just cleaning up after himself (or end up blowing up in my face), but am uncertain about how to broach the subject/idea.

Please help me gain some perspective on the situation (and things to keep in mind when considering my options. I'm over-analyzing, aren't I?). I don't think I ever really learned proper communication skills when it comes to verbalizing/articulating my personal thoughts and feelings and so I tend to be either a totally bluntly candid person which tends to put off some people who are not prepared for such levels of honesty, or passive aggressive, with little or no middle ground in between.
posted by weakcore to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think you really need to separate the cat issue from the roommate issue to be able to have an objective/rational view on either; otherwise, your frustration will just compound further.

For the cats: there's a ton of good info on the internet about cats and "inappropriate elimination." Most common causes:

1. A health issues, such as a urinary tract infection that makes it painful for the cat to urinate.
2. Territorial spraying, often solved it the cat is spayed or neutered.
3. Stress or unease because of unfamilliar surroundings, people or animals.
4. Dislike of the litterbox -- too dirty, too small, hooded or enclosed... check the location. Cats sometimes worry about being ambushed or attacked while they eliminate, so they need to be able to monitor surroundings while they go.

For the roommate: well... I'd say the cat problem is a lot easier to solve.
posted by kaudio at 6:53 PM on December 4, 2008

He's fallen in your eyes... a bit? [retrieves jaw from floor]

You have all the perspective you need: this guy doesn't take care of his pets, isn't mortified that his cats are urinating on your bed, and is generally a lousy roommate. You don't need to retrain the cats or subtly but non-parentally hint to your roommate that he should stop being a jerk, you need a new roommate.

I don't have practical advice for the cats, but I do strongly suggest that you either move out or bust out that blunt honesty you talk about. Proper communications skills involve calling people on their crap when they treat you poorly. This guy isn't subtle about treating your living space like it's his garbage can (and his cats' litter box), you're absolutely justified to ditch the subtle approach to getting him to change his behavior and just call him out on it.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:02 PM on December 4, 2008

We've got critters. To automatically restrict access, our doors are bunji-corded so that they close when we go through them.
posted by dragonsi55 at 7:04 PM on December 4, 2008

Is there a reason why closing the door and keeping the cat out of your room is not an option for dealing with the cat?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:09 PM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

I'm guessing the cats aren't fixed? That might help. In my experience, cats pee on beds (is it one or both? Probably just one of them) in order to mark a safe zone for them. Fixing an animal doesn't always help, but it might.

And I'm assuming that closing your bedroom door isn't an option.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:12 PM on December 4, 2008

Keep cats off anything with this handy solution:

Newspapers and mousetraps. Set the traps, a bunch of 'em, then lay the newspapers on top. Kitty jumps up, lots of noise and motion, kitty runs away. Rinse repeat.

Also give your roommate an ultimatum. For realsies.
posted by TomMelee at 7:30 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had a roommate once who was always leaving her dishes in the sink until fruit flies would develop. So I started putting them outside on the back porch. It got my point across and it actually worked. Start putting everything that he leaves out of place for more than a day out in the backyard or back porch. If he asks about it say "well, they don't belong out there but they don't belong strewn about in here either. I'm sick of seeing it."
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:32 PM on December 4, 2008

Keep your bedroom door closed.
posted by fshgrl at 7:55 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

He is probably aware of my dissatisfaction of his behavior, but lacks the motivation or willpower to change.

It sounds like you haven't expressly said you think he's a disgusting slob. Maybe you should, in not so many words, but say something like that. Tell him the cat is pissing on the bed because he's not cleaning out the cat box, and say you are going to ask that he pay for the mattress and new bedthings if it continues. And if it continues, go ahead and dump the piss-covered sheets on HIS bed and ask for payment.
posted by Anonymous at 7:56 PM on December 4, 2008

maybe add another litter box in case this is about territoriality? Someone once told me that there should be one litterbox per cat, plus one.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:16 PM on December 4, 2008

Seconding those who've said to keep your bedroom door closed. That won't solve your underlying issues with your roommate, but it will certainly help keep the cat from peeing on your bed.

Our youngest cat used to routinely pee on my daughter's bedding, even though the litterbox was clean and available. The cat didn't seem to be interested in peeing in anyone else's bed, only my daughter's, so we figured it must be a scent issue (maybe the cat didn't like my daughter's perfume and was trying to "cover it up," who knows?)... We finally gave up on trying to solve the issue and now we simply make sure that the bedroom door is always closed.
posted by amyms at 8:20 PM on December 4, 2008

Yeah, nth-ing "close the door". But, unrelated:
bad about paying bills on time (frequently needs me to remind him), poor fiscal awareness in general
If you can be legally held responsible in any way for these bills, or if lack of or lateness of their payment can negatively impact you, you need to take over doing your shared finances, whether you like it or not.
posted by Flunkie at 9:06 PM on December 4, 2008

Yeah, I'm not sure why "closing the door" isn't an option here. You shouldn't have to, obviously, but it sure seems easier than anything else.
posted by jdroth at 10:40 PM on December 4, 2008

I would tell him that you think you should give the cats away unless proper care is taken of them, and ask him if, since he agreed to clean the litter box, he would like you to help him remember. Requested nagging is not quite as naggy...or can he set up some kind of daily alarm or phone reminder?

Otherwise...if two adults can't keep a litter box clean, I think you should give the cats away. (Now. If you need some advice about how to get cats started using a clean litter box again, I can help.)
posted by lemonade at 10:48 PM on December 4, 2008

Piggybacking on the above post: Have the roomie schedule certain days to clean out the litter box, so there is no confusion when or "if" it needs to be done.
posted by artdrectr at 11:04 PM on December 4, 2008

Aluminum foil placed on the bed will keep the cat from pissing on it. A few large strips laid in an "X" pattern usually does the trick. They also make a spray for training cats/dogs to stay off of furniture. I wouldn't spray it directly on your bed, but would find an old blanket or something, spray the hell out of that, and cover your bed with it when you aren't in the bed.

But yeah, I am seconding everyone else. Ultimatum time for your roomie. "Take care of the cat correctly or get rid of it." (If you end up getting rid of it, PLEASE find it a home, no shelters, except as a last resort). Unless the living situation is so beneficial to you as to where you are willing to help care for the cat.

The cat is peeing on the bed because it is letting you know it is unhappy. The cat doesn't know who is responsible for it. It just knows people. Usually once a cat pees somewhere like this, it will continue to do so in the same spot. They are territorial in this way. There may be other issues involved, aside from an unclean litter box.
posted by peewinkle at 1:32 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest keeping the cat and getting rid of the roomie.

Of the two, he pees on you less and can be trained.

Seriously, grow some nuts, buddy. Put the clothes in a hamper and when it's full, take it to the landfill. Move the kitty pan to Roomie's bedroom. On his bed, preferably. Lock the frigging door to yours. Drop any unpaid bill in the shredder after it sits in one place for a week.

Roomie is behaving irresponsibly. You are behaving like a 26-year old male, and this kind of doormat life is not what an adult should aspire to.

Here's a good trick my late wife taught me when it came to dealing with kindergarden age kids (which seems strangely appropriate here!) ...

1) State the rules and relevant sanctions
2) Remind once
3) Apply sanctions

Good luck, amigo. It's hard developing these skills, but you gotta do it now, before you are in a boy/girl dynamic that has an even bigger set of overlaid conflict potential. It's OK to state your needs. It's OK to insist on consideration. As long as you are sensitive to other people's needs and considerate, you are doing the right thing.
posted by FauxScot at 6:10 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've no suggestions as to how to deal with the roomate except to tell him straight about his lack of care of his cats - how it's impacting on you AND the cats. Since this cat is demonstrating stress related behaviour in peeing, I'd think that telling your roomate straight needs to be done quietly. The cat is probably picking up big time on the stresses between the humans in the home.

The peeing cat is stressed. It needs a vet trip to ascertain if it has a urinary tract infection. It needs more and regularly cleaned litter trays (3 trays per 2 cat household in different locations) At least two big water bowls should be provided also spread around the home. Stick up some Feliway diffusers around the house, this will make the cat feel more secure so it doesn't resort to marking stuff with pee. Make sure both cats have safe sleeping places, where they can escape from each other (and the humans). Wash everything the cat has pissed on and keep your bedroom door shut. Don't shout and scream when you find the cat has piddled all over your world yet again, the shouting will make the problem worse.

Overall I'd go along with those who suggest that you kick the roomate and keep the cats or rehome the cats responsibly (not just giving them away on Craiglist please) Failing all that you could get your roomate a book on cat care and behaviour and encourage him to read it. Maybe if you let him know that his lax attitude is affecting his cat's health (it is) this will encourage him to be more responsible?

I wish every one who owned an animal would buy just the one book that tells them about that particular animal's care needs and behaviour.

Best of luck.
posted by Arqa at 6:36 AM on December 5, 2008

I had this happen many years ago, in an apartment where my room did not have a door. My roommate didn't/wouldn't do anything about it. I solved the problem (or at least the issue of me doing tons of laundry) by putting a giant piece of plastic over my bed as soon as I got up. The cat would still pee sometimes, but at least it was easier to clean up. During the fifth month of living there, my grandmother died. I was packing for the funeral, and had my clothes (dresses, suits, etc) in a stack on the bed. I left to get my suitcase, and when I came back I found the cat had peed on my clothes. That was the last straw. After calling a dry cleaner in tears, I was able to get everything cleaned in one hour. I left the bill (about $85 bucks) for my roommate and told her I was moving out.

I have cats of my own now, but I could never forgive myself if they were plaguing a roommate in such a manner.
posted by kimdog at 7:13 AM on December 5, 2008

Move the litterbox into his room? That way you won't have to see/smell it.
posted by saucysault at 7:28 AM on December 5, 2008

Move. Seriously. There are other roommates out there. If you're contemplating getting the cat to pee in your roommate's bed, your relationship will only benefit from a little distance. Plus, all the material problems you cite will go away.
posted by adamrice at 8:08 AM on December 5, 2008

If your beds are the same size, I totally agree with the first poster who suggested switching mattresses in a sort of stealth-ninja attack way.

The only way to keep the cat off the bed is to close the door to your room. Period. Cats can be "trained" to an extent, but they're also huge jerks.

I also agree with whoever suggested to just throw the guy's stuff out when he leaves it laying around. Preferably do this *AFTER* discussing with him that it's gotten to the point where you feel like your quality of living has gone down several notches. If you've had this kind of chat and he hasn't responded - well, get your own dishes. When his are dirty and leaves them lying around - throw them away. When his clothes are dirty and lying around - throw them away. Don't tell him you're doing this.

When he confronts you, explain that you got tired of dealing with it and you're totally not his mom. If he doesn't want to clean up, he's more than welcome to move out, but this is your house and the foot has come down.

(I totally wish I had done something like this with a horrible slob roommate I had. At some point "staying friends" didn't seem like reason enough NOT to dump all of his empty beer cans into the tub.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:00 PM on December 5, 2008

Response by poster: =====================I am the original poster=======================

Thanks for all the helpful advice .... are there resources (books, websites) anybody has found useful that I can tap to learn how 'not to be a doormat' in more detail? It almost seems like most of the advice I find is akin to telling a depressed person just not to be depressed anymore, though I realize a lot of it depends on the situation/person. Unless I have spend a considerable amount of time thinking about my thoughts/feelings regarding something, I have a hard time articulating my thoughts when my fight/flight response kicks in (and I usually end up choosing the flight before I even know it) because I am hypersensitive about just letting out my angry feelings unfiltered. I am looking for a life coach or counselor of some sort just so I can bounce ideas around with another human being (parents don't understand due to culture/language barrier), though have not had much luck finding a good match (advice on finding those welcome too!!).

I do plan to confront him on the issue soon and will probably use moving out as one of the ultimatums (currently researching other places to live), but I like my current arrangement with not having to sign a lease, the rent is very nice, and moving is such a pain the ass (more stress than I currently need). He had originally found the house b/c his grandmother's gentleman caller is the landlord (though she no longer actively entertains said caller's advances), so kicking him out is probably not going to work well. We also have a lot of mutual friends so it may lead to awkwardness some times.

I do close the door when I go to sleep to keep the cats out, but I think it sends the wrong signals (especially when there are people over) to have it closed all the time, plus it makes my room stuffy.

I forgot to mention; about the cat peeing, I'm almost certain that the reason she pees is because of the litter box (though now that she had gotten away with it a couple times I will probably also have to train her that peeing on bed is bad) because I have caught her in mid-pee, then scooped the litter box, and she has gone in the litter box afterwards, or seen her jump on the bed, shoo-ed her off (water squirt to face), cleaned out the litter box and she has properly eliminated.

The mattress is one that was left to me by the previous occupant/house mate who moved away to go to school so I don't care that much about it, as long as it's not soaked in cat pee : )
posted by weakcore at 5:01 PM on December 5, 2008

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