Help me decide if keeping this cat is worth it.
November 30, 2011 7:13 AM   Subscribe

How long does one put up with an extremely frustrating cat?

Let me preface this by saying I'm probably biased, because I have my own adorable Cleo, and she behaves. While his cat, Tucker, doesn't do that behaving bit so well. I've never owned cats that act like this, so while it's been months since we've got him, I still don't know if I should be putting up with all of his extremely frustrating cat antics. I don't know if it's 'normal' behavior, or if he really is a lost cause for this house.

Things Tucker does that drive me up the wall:

*Knocks over the trashcan, spilling all the trash, multiple times a month.
*Fights and chases my cat, what seems like all the time. (He is not declawed, she is front declawed)
*Tries to eat anything that we're eating, while we're still eating it. Sometimes causing said food to end up on floor or laps. Also climbing up on any surface that may possibly have food on it.
*Claws couches, beds, feet. I know this one is mostly normal, so bonus points if you want to give an opinion of declawing/other option.
*If not disallowed from bedrooms at night, wakes up occupant by patting face..with claws extended. (Kicking him out would be easier, but I like to let Cleo sleep with me.)
*If not allowed in bedrooms at night, whines til all hours of the morning outside our bedrooms. I'm a heavy sleeper but apparently this bugs the crap out of my brother.

I may have more but that's the main points. He fights with Cleo constantly, and I hate having to either just let it be, or break up fights for hours, or lock a cat in their room. I've been putting up with all of this for almost half a year, but I don't want another few years of this. Will it end? Should we find another home for him?

If it means anything, when I got my cat I was told she didn't like other cats. I didn't really think about it til my brother wanted to get his own, but as foretold, Cleo hates Tucker.
posted by trogdole to Pets & Animals (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Ah, I forgot the first part of this. "I have a cat, and my roommate/brother has a cat." That would help. Also, I realize the cat is his and I can't just get rid of it, I just want advice as to whether I should be up in arms about this or not.
posted by trogdole at 7:21 AM on November 30, 2011

How old are the two cats? Tucker sounds very kitteny, and if he's a kitten (<1>
Get a covered trashcan.

It sounds like he's hungry all the time. He's being fed enough, right? Was he fed enough as a kitten? You need to kick him off the laps and table while you're eating. If he's getting enough food and never getting food from plates he will learn.

Does he have enough scratching posts, and in places he likes? Right near the couches, etc, and possibly sprayed with catnip spray. Also be sure to cut his claws regularly.

What happens if he is locked out of your room overnight (with Cleo inside your room) and allowed in your brother's?
posted by jeather at 7:21 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Granted, I'm a pretty tolerant cat owner, but the only thing that sounds really out of line here is the fighting with your other cat. How does Cleo react? Is there hissing and growling involved, or is it just play-fighting? I would be concerned about her emotional state if he's really attacking her all the time with aggression behind it, but I know lots of people with multiple cats who have hated each other for years, and as long as they're not forced to hang out together they can coexist pretty well.

As far as the other things, they are pretty normal cat behavior, especially if he's young. I have two young cats and we've had to make changes to our household to reduce undesirable behavior - they did the trash can thing, too, so now all our trash cans are in cabinets, for example. And we don't leave food unattended on the kitchen counters because my Banana will be right there to eat it when we aren't paying attention. Do you trim his claws? It may not cut down on the clawing but at least it will be less destructive and painful.
posted by something something at 7:24 AM on November 30, 2011

Argh, html. I meant if he's less than 1 year old, he'll grow out of most of these things.
posted by jeather at 7:25 AM on November 30, 2011

What kind of behavior correction have you tried? Some diligence with a spray bottle might help on some of this.

An interesting note about how the universe works: nothing lives longer than an unwanted pet.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 7:32 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Cleo is around 7 years, and Tucker is about 2 years. We've made a lot of changes to accommodate him, covered trashcan that is usually under the table so he can't pull it down, and we have squirt bottles full of water to spray him if he tries to eat our food or cause a fight. The fighting is still the main thing to me, it really doesn't seem like play fighting. She hisses, yowls, and flees. He'll chase her around the house and bat at her wherever she hides. Granted, she does attack him sometimes when he gets to close (and by attack I mean she pushes him over basically, she isn't very violent), but its usually instigated by him, and long lasting. They get along during the day most of the time, but morning and night, they fight.

Jeather: He is getting enough food, he has one scratching post right by the couch, although we should invest in more. I can't lock Cleo in my room overnight, because I don't have a litter box, and nowhere to put one. Last time I tried that method she pottied all over my bed while I was peacefully sleeping. Also, my brother is the one that started kicking Tucker out, because of the whole waking up with claws on the nose.
posted by trogdole at 7:34 AM on November 30, 2011

Bad boy can!

I have a coffee tin with a handful of change in it. When I first used it, I simply made a bit of noise with it while I got angry at the cat. Yelling "Down!" or "No!" or "Cat's Name!" or some combination thereof, while angryily stomping towards him.

He learned that the noise means Dad is angry. Now, I simply bring the can out and put it next to me and that's enough to stop bad behaviour (and he *knows* when he's being bad, believe me).

Ninja still plays the knock-off game, and will try to get at unattended food, but he is a much better behaved little guy.
posted by utsutsu at 7:35 AM on November 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

Does Tucker have scratching posts he's encouraged to use (with praise, treats, catnip)? Some cats have strong preferences for scratching material so you may have to experiment with several. Declawing is a bad idea: he loses any way to defend himself or escape up trees if he gets outside, and inside he's less able to catch himself if he falls off something. And as I found out, you lose the ability to distinguish between "cat is playfully pawing at you with claws sheathed" and "cat is warning you off and about to escalate to biting if you don't quit it" (oww).
posted by nicebookrack at 7:36 AM on November 30, 2011

also, re: fighting. If there's no blood and neither cat is showing signs of being super stressed out, you are probably better off leaving them at it. There is probably a hierarchy / territory dispute, and you need to let them settle it.
posted by utsutsu at 7:37 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

so bonus points if you want to give an opinion of declawing...

Just so you're aware, putting it this way may be asking for trouble. :) Many people feel very strongly that it's inhumane and should be illegal or very restricted. Here's where you can start reading more about it if you're interested.

I agree that it's important to know how old Tucker is, because he sounds naughty but if he's young, he might grow out of it. How do you punish him currently? I find I get decent results with consistently using a squirt bottle and a firm voice, and not giving in (e.g., don't feed him table scraps ever if you don't want to encourage begging). On preview, I see that the spray bottle isn't really working, but whatever you decide to try next, just commit to being vigilant and consistent with him.

Also, I've recommended this spray before and I still maintain that the cats know where they are allowed to scratch and my new couch is not one of those places.

I think the fighting is a little worrisome since your kitty is declawed, so it's unfair, and her response does sound pretty serious. My two battle it out daily, but I rarely/almost never have to intervene because I hear one of them make a noise that no longer sounds playful. Does Tucker have access to lots of toys? Do you guys interact with him a lot? If you or your brother can work in more playtime, especially during the times when he is usually picking fights, maybe he'll sleep better and leave your kitty alone more often. But, knowing cats are assholes, maybe not.

Cute kitties!
posted by juliplease at 7:40 AM on November 30, 2011

I'd reconsider litter box in your room if it's at all possible. It can be smallish, and covered, and under a bookcase or table. I've done this, and it really makes the cat very happy because she has a place she's safe that is hers and not shared. If your brother's cat meowing at your brother's door overnight annoys him but not you this is not a big deal for you.

The fighting doesn't sound that bad to me. It sounds like he wants to play and she doesn't.
posted by jeather at 7:40 AM on November 30, 2011

Have you tried Feliway?
posted by peagood at 7:42 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

They get along during the day most of the time, but morning and night, they fight.

This was pretty much normal when I had two cats. Cats are very territorial and a lot of it seemed to revolve around defending their "turf" (the rooms they tended to hang out in) or various disputed pieces of furniture. There was one particular time when one of the cats went too far and the other cat was afraid to relax or leave a particular room for days, but in general the nightly chases and fights didn't seem to upset either cat.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:43 AM on November 30, 2011

The fighting doesn't sound that bad to me. It sounds like he wants to play and she doesn't.

I agree with this, especially since they are peacefully coexisting for most of the day. My male cat is more interested in rough play than my female and she often yowls or occasionally hisses when he leaps on top of her, but she doesn't actually dislike him. I've owned cats before between whom there was genuine animosity to the point where I had to give one to a friend, and you would absolutely know it if there was real hatred there. We're talking regular blood being drawn and inability to even be on the same floor of the house together.
posted by something something at 7:43 AM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: Seconding juliplease: does Tucker have toys to play with/chase? Do you or your brother play with him at all? If he doesn't have toys, get him some. He sounds like a chaser, so get him something that will move nicely along your floors, whatever they may be (if hardwood, anything works. If carpet, something slick like plastic). If you guys don't play him, start doing that. Get him good and tired and he won't be bugging Cleo so much.
posted by cooker girl at 7:47 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Tucker also sounds like he's a very active (young?) cat, so he may be fighting with Cleo / yowling at night partially out of boredom. Can you give him a very active workout/playtime (like 20+ min) a couple of times a day? Does he have space to run and jump? Clicker training could help; it shapes behavior and also gives him a "job" to do to keep him busy.

Try giving him attention/praise when he's being quiet (but not all aloof "don't touch me") to weaken his association between "misbehavior=yay, attention!"
posted by nicebookrack at 7:48 AM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: Yes, like others have said, a lot of this behavior is just acting out from boredom. He needs serious playtime: chasing string, laser lights, etc.: something really active that will tire him out! It sounds like he just really wants attention.
posted by Eicats at 7:53 AM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: Nthing that Tucker sounds hella bored. A 2 year old cat is not like a 7 year old cat.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:54 AM on November 30, 2011

Get Tucker a Cat Dancer and get him checked for hyperthyroidism. My boy did worse things than Tucker for years (highlight: knocked over a big tube TV) and clamored incessantly for food. He's literally hyper and now on daily medication.
posted by jgirl at 7:58 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

You have to train Tucker. Three things...spray bottle with water, soda can with coins in it and aluminum foil.

Shake the can and put it on the dinner table to get him down. After a few times, he will associate the can with the noise he doesn't like and will stay off surfaces with the can on.

Put aluminum foil on the furniture you don't want him on. In front of your bedroom door when you go to bed after you bring Cleo in.

When he fights with Cleo, spray him with a water (in a spray bottle) and that will make him stop.

Good luck!!
posted by Yellow at 8:03 AM on November 30, 2011

Cleo looks a bit like our Gatsby, and she is the troublemaker of our pair. Gatsby is four and Eli is seven. Gatsby wants everything we have, she caterwauls, and knocks things over like it's her job. Eli is my husband's cat and Gatsby is mine. Gatsby is most definitely an instigator of trouble with Eli, and when things get out of hand, I simply yell at them in a loud tone of voice. When Gatsby first arrived in our house, there was quite a bit of fur flying between the two of them, and while I didn't like it, we had to let them go at it until they figured out why the other was there. I would just keep at it what you're doing (or should be doing now); throwing them out of your lap, spraying them, and be adamant about Tucker staying away while you sleep (I am the same way with Eli and after 6 years with my husband, Eli knows that my side of the bed is off limits and Gatsby is free to come and go as she pleases). It will take awhile, but they will figure it out. I would also get more scratching posts and the cardboard scratchers they sell at Walmart, Target and the like. More toys. Be firm. They'll get it eventually.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 8:11 AM on November 30, 2011

Where is your litterbox currently? If you don't want to put one in your room (and I wouldn't, personally) can you get another litterbox and put them in separate places, one in a room like a bathroom that can be shut? Then you can lock Tucker in the bathroom at night, which will keep him from clawing your face and if he does whine, the sound will be more muffled and further away. Meanwhile, Cleo will still be able to come in and out of your room to use the second litterbox.

We trim our kitten's claws, giving him a blunt edge. He will still occasionally try to climb our legs or bat at something on our person, which we are working on, but the good news is that when he does make contact it hurts way, way less.

Unfortunately I don't know any better ways of training cats, but I think some creative problem solving could remove some of the major annoyances.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 8:15 AM on November 30, 2011

This sounds like one of those DIAGNOSIS: CAT thing. Congratulations, you have a cat. How long do you have to put up with him? Well, for life, more or less. I'm surprised he's not deterred by the spray bottle of water when you're eating -- are you using it consistently? Are you spraying him RIGHT IN THE FACE? Be firm, be consistent, and keep using that spray bottle of icy cold water.
posted by kate blank at 8:17 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

To answer: I will deal with my extremely frustrating cat until he dies (he's currently 3, & is a total dick) b/c I wouldn't feel right passing him off on someone else (& b/c, shockingly, my toddler LOVES him (& I guess I love him, too)). My less frustrating cat is an elderly (~14yo) female, & he terrorized her forever & still chases her occasionally, but it really died down once we started trying to wear him out more -- if you try something like that, you might not be dealing with the hissing & the chasing & the rowring & the midnight scrambles FOREVER. But FWIW, I tried literally EVERYTHING with this dude -- can of pennies, water spritzes, Feliway, etc, etc, etc -- & nothing worked. He's just a dick. (Who is only capable of being nice in the middle of the night when he sleeps on my pillow with a paw on my head ... & then bites me if I move.)
posted by oh really at 8:24 AM on November 30, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah, he's probably bored. I don't know why I never considered that as the problem, he does have a massive abundance of energy. I'll be going to get some toys and scratch posts soon.
posted by trogdole at 8:52 AM on November 30, 2011

If the clawing is incessant and destructive, consider SoftPaws. They're noninvasive, colorful claw caps. Painless for both cat and owner. I've used them with great success.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:59 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a data point, our cat Hubble is defiant in the face of the spray bottle. She knows perfectly well when she's doing something she shouldn't be doing (she'll respond to NO! stop, look at you, and then do it anyway if she feels like it) and spraying her in the face gets you nothing more than a glare.

But she's still young and has all the energy in the world. She's very, very, very good about being claws in (unless she wants to climb you, then you're shit outta luck). She knocks over the trashcan because there's interesting things in the trashcan, like smelly food and paper and rustling plastic bags. She sleeps on my face starting at around 5 am, which is adorable but not particularly practical. She yowls if you lock her out of a room, in fact, it's the only form of punishment that will work. I work from home, she's around me 99.9% of the time. If she's a pest, I toss her out of my office and you better believe that she cries her face off after about five minutes and is real, real sorry about whatever she was doing, mom, I'll never do it again, let me innnnn I looooooove you. All of which results in ten minutes of intense purring and cuddles when I let her back in and then she goes right back to being a pest. But that's life with cats.

Which is to say, your cat sounds like a regular, curious, young cat who is very very bored. Hubbs will bring me toys when she wants to play and indulging her makes her a very happy, affectionate, tired cat. You want a happy, affectionate, tired cat. Wear him out with love and things should be easier (but he'll still probably knock the trash over).
posted by lydhre at 9:17 AM on November 30, 2011

If he likes to chase, definintely get a laser pointer. You can tease him for a long time from the comfort of your couch.
posted by lizbunny at 10:47 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I use double sided tape on areas the cats are not allowed. This includes areas they shouldn't scratch. They are creeped out by something clinging to them. Works like a charm.
posted by annsunny at 11:21 AM on November 30, 2011

To stop him from crying at your door at night, take a vacuum and put it right up against your side of the door. When he cries, turn it on. Repeat as necessary.
posted by cosmic osmo at 11:37 AM on November 30, 2011

Better yet get an extension cord and put the vacuum in the hallway. He will stop coming near the door.
posted by fshgrl at 1:32 PM on November 30, 2011

Sounds like a bored kitty. My two cats like to wrestle in the evening after feeding and unfortunately after its bed time. I've found Calming Moments, 30 minutes before bed time, gets my cats to calm down. As such, I don't find the need to use the spray bottle as much as night when they like to rough house.

Get some toys or play furniture to help her burn up that energy. My first cat started calming down at around 2.5 years-old. Our second 1.5 year-old is a supernova of energy and needs constant play and behavior 'correction'.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:42 PM on November 30, 2011

You need to learn how to speak Cat: HISS. Pay attention to how the cats hiss at each other, and do exactly that (immediately) whenever he does something you don't want him to do, like touch your face with his claws, or get in your food. This is their language, and they understand it.

It would also be helpful to figure out a scent that he doesn't like (citrus? peppermint? Scotch?) and put it on or near areas where you don't want him to scratch or mess around. Try different smells, and when you find one that causes him to make a squinchy face and back up, you've got a good training tool.
posted by Corvid at 1:52 PM on November 30, 2011

Sometimes cats can take over a year to get used to each other. After a few months, it's still too early to predict how they will get along in the future. I'm going to second Feliway (you can buy the spray or a plug in diffuser) and the Soft Paws. If you can't get Tucker to cooperate when applying the Soft Paws (it takes practice), the vet can do it for a fee (around 20 dollars I think) and they last for months.

Sometimes cats like a vertical and a horizontal scratch surface. So in addition to the scratching posts, get one that lays on the floor. My cats actually prefer the horizontal ones, especially when I cover it in catnip. Something like this. I also have this which sounds ideal for your situation because he can play with the ball part himself (my cats love that thing). You can buy the circular cardboard replacements so you aren't wasting a bunch of plastic.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:20 PM on November 30, 2011

Was tucker an outside cat or a stray taken in? His behaviors indicate that he was. If you guys want this to work, you have to make accommodations, put the trash in a pantry or cupboard.

talk to a vet about getting the cat fixed and de-clawed if he is a male and he isn't fixed he may start spraying and make your life even more hellish. once he is fixed and de-clawed he will have a more low key attitude and more docile behaviors so the story goes.

I'm not big on de-clawing but with you having another cat with no front claws and the furniture being a scratching post it sounds necessary.

If he was a stray they are insane about food because they are programmed to believe they must fight for their food at every opportunity. A vet or on line site may help you with a better way to feed the cat to get him balanced.

Good luck.
posted by gypseefire at 2:38 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not big on de-clawing but with you having another cat with no front claws and the furniture being a scratching post it sounds necessary.

I have a declawed cat (he came that way) and three with claws. It isn't necessary. It's illegal in some areas and a lot of vets won't preform the surgery for a reason. It's a form of mutilation and it's inhumane. It can also cause behavioral problems and health problems later on in life.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:45 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm gonna second the Soft Paws. PetSmart has a generic version (I think they are called "Kitty Caps") and not only are they about $8 cheaper than Soft Paws / Soft Claws, I find they actually work better.

At my house, Kitty scratches to her heart's delight and I sit and laugh at her pathetic little plastic-covered attempts.

They would save your furniture and make any cat fighting less dangerous for Miss Cleo.
posted by missjenny at 3:23 PM on November 30, 2011

If Tucker is just playing, he's probably not bothering with claws. You would notice if you had bits of fur and blood already.

I also suffer from younger cat/older cat dynamic, and unfortunately the older cat has never gotten over the pitiful yowls and hissing when they play. But I've seen her instigate play enough to realize that Older Cat just likes to complain.

If Miss Cleo is genuinely distressed, the secret is exercise. You'll need a huge variety of toys. I have a big bucket that I'll rotate through. But the heavy duty feather chasers for twenty minutes is always a hit. A solid twenty minutes in the evening until he is panting guarantees he'll let us sleep through the night.

Every cat is different when it comes to toys. But until you find the right one, a crumpled paper bag or cardboard has almost universal appeal.
posted by politikitty at 3:36 PM on December 2, 2011

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