oh no no bo bo!
August 28, 2012 11:09 AM   Subscribe

im finding it hard to balance giving my new cat attention without reinforcing negative behavior. he seems starved for attention, but also shouldn't even be rewarded with even a glance when acting up. the problems seem small enough to nip in the bud. but how? are there any cat whispering techniques?

i apologize for this being all over the place. i have been reading every ask mefi about cats but of course i feel like a snowflake.

details & problems:
i rescued a tiny, very cute and bright eyed cat from the street, got him neutered, named him bo, and brought him home to my open but still not huge loft in brooklyn. he is about a year old. he is a great hunter of mice and flies. he does not bite or scratch. he seems smart.

my roommate isn't a cat person and does not hold a lot of warmness for him but tolerates him and feeds him as our shifted schedules dictate. he works nights and gets home late. i work from home and am trying to negotiate the fact that the cat cant be on my lap or desk. i attempt to remedy this by unceremoniously dumping him on the floor or banishing him to the common area where his food, litterbox, comfy couches are. i also go to a bf's house every weekend (which i guess i am learning isn't the best for giving the cat attention but i assumed a house cat can handle being left without mom for a few days.. especially when roommate is feeding cat.)

trauma from the neutering caused him to pee once on my roommate's (of course) bean bag chair about a week after being in the house. of course he went and peed there three more times after that.. and im either replacing the chair or trying to more permanently deep clean it.

he runs around our loft and is very vocal all day (cute sometimes annoying at night) and claws open all doors and gets on the AC and all this other typical cat stuff that now apparently irks my roommate who thinks its due to me not giving him enough attention. (im so busy working but still scratch and feed the cat, when i can..i mean i am still home all day with him!) i have had cats before but he seems so extra rowdy and needy.

just last night the cat strangely pooped on the roommates bed when he was not home. this may have followed my attempts to punish the cat for knocking a bunch of books down. i banished him to the common room because it was 4am and i needed to sleep.

i guess the real questions here are:

how do i appropriately train him to not be needy by giving him play time but also let him know pooping and crying for attention are bad and not things i give him attention for?

yes i use feliway, keep the litterbox clean, provide him with toys, boxes and treats. i have had the cat one month and the roommate has already suggesting giving him up (after this poop incident).

does this cat truly need my attention so much that i should not shack up at my boyfriend's on the weekend? i thought cats could be low maintenance.

posted by c to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't just provide him with toys...PLAY with him with toys. Cats need to be worn out, and if you aren't interesting or fun enough, they make their own fun.
posted by xingcat at 11:13 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's a very young cat, that was as I gather, basically living on the street before this? So he's used to A LOT OF STIMULATION. Now he's inside and getting less stimulation, and so he's a little nuts.

He's also a cat, and young, and they all usually go through some kind of asshole phase. Ours drove us batty for a good solid year. Agree with the above commenter you need to wear him out, and it would be helpful but not mandatory if your roommate could get on board and be cool, wear the cat out sometimes when you're not around.

Cats are trainable to a degree and the best thing is consistency. So if you don't want him up in your biz when you have a laptop, consistently put him down and then ignore him. Be sure to signal play time (Singsongy high pitched PLAY TIME! is really fine) so that he knows you're about to go nuts with that fishing pole. Cat nip might stone him out (all cats react differently). Ours just took a while to learn, we watch TV together at night, we go to bed, etc. It's a process. Sometimes a long one. Like with a stubborn, manipulative dog that you love.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:17 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

nthing Play Time. Also, needy cat needs attention. Lots of pets and cuddles when not working.

Have you thought about getting him a friend? Our two are littermates and best buds. Eartha kind of bosses Malcolm around, but he's fine with it. They endlessly entertain each other by wrestling, stalking each other and grooming.

I banish kitties at bed time. The way I do this is with schlag. A nice puff of whipped cream on a dish (not a lot, just enough for a treat) gets kitties into the kitchen, and it signals that the humans are now going to sleep, sans kitties.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:21 AM on August 28, 2012

If you're leaving for entire weekends and your roommate isn't scooping the box, the box isn't being kept clean enough. Litterboxes need to be scooped daily, especially when cats are still in that high-energy, high-metabolism, growing-stage (when I adopted my kittens I was utterly astounded at the frequency and magnitude of their pooping...thankfully that leveled off eventually!).

Some cats also hate covered boxes and most dislike scented litter (perfumey odors can irritate a cat's sensitive nose). Unscented clumping litter is the way to go, and if at all possible I'd avoid using plastic liners. (Not trying to be judgy or hostile here, mind you, just offering all this up because you seem to be assuming the kitty is acting out for attention; it's well worth ruling out litterbox aversion first -- presuming you've had him checked for urinary-tract issues, of course -- as that can be a very easy problem to solve and will save you and your roomie many headaches down the road).

All that aside, this sounds like a very young cat, and young cats definitely need more attention than older ones. At one year old a cat may be physically mature to an extent, but as far as cognitive development goes, they're still quite kittenish. Which means they need to be actively played with a lot more. Interactive toys (on a string, etc.) are wonderful ways to entertain and wear out active cats. A 10-15 minute playtime with you before bed can be amazingly effective.
posted by aecorwin at 11:23 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you have a laser pointer? That seems like something that you could use to both keep the cat entertained and wear him out from the comfort of your desk while trying to get work done.

Also as your roommate isn't a cat person, perhaps wasn't consulted when you decided to adopt said cat, and to top it all off he (or his stuff) seems to be bearing the brunt of the damage caused by cat's rambunctiousness and/or unhappiness regarding the situation, I don't feel that it's fair that you leave him with cat duty every weekend. Could you bring the cat with you to your boyfriend's so that your roommate can enjoy a cat free weekend at the loft every so often? Alternatively, could your boyfriend come over to your place some weekends? BTW, I am a cat person, but if I had a roommate who left me to take care of their rambunctious, needy kitten every weekend, I wouldn't be happy about the situation, particularly if I worked nights and wanted to sleep in on the weekends.
posted by kaybdc at 11:34 AM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is sort of an aside but in my experience some cats are rather confused by beanbags. I guess they feel vaguely like cat litter/soft dirt? I have had perfectly house-trained cats wee on beanbags.

Cats can certainly be low maintenance but it depends on the cat. Younger cats need heaps of attention and stimulation, and this one has been with you for such a short time. It will take him a while to settle in. My cats are fairly low-maintenance but they have a threshold. Since my son was born two years ago they have received far less attention from me and they make their needs known by jumping on my lap (or right now one is head-butting my arm as I type). Trying to train them out of that wouldn't really work; cats make their demands requirements clear.

I also work from home and have two cats. If I were you I would definitely rethink the "no cats on the desk" thing. My cats sit/sleep on my desk almost all day. They get in my way at times and they get hair on my laptop. But they do love to be close to me and even though I'm often home all day with them, they prefer to be within about a metre of me. If your desk is too small for this or the nature of your work means that it really isn't going to work, perhaps you can set up a special spot close by where Bo feels that he can 'supervise' what you're doing without actually distracting you too much.

There's a simple and cheap toy called a 'Cat Dancer' which is perfect for exhausting younger cats. They have so much energy to burn off! You might want to look into something like that, it's less work for you than dangling a piece of string.
posted by rubbish bin night at 11:44 AM on August 28, 2012

Ah, Ivan Pavlov is your friend. Basically get geared up with a water bottle (or small squirt gun so you can hide it better and not make the cat associate you with conditioning). Use this to deter the cat when he is doing things you do not want him doing (on table surfaces, opening blinds, etc).

The next piece of gear for your pavlovian survival kit is an automated turret. No, not that kind of turret, but rather one that uses compressed air to startle and deter the cat from certain areas (like your roomate's bed when it is left unattended). There's also no-stay and no-scratch sprays you could look into, but I've always found them to be marginally effective. YMMV

Now, all this discipline is fine and dandy, but it's only there to aid you with positive reinforcement (treats when the cat uses the scratch post instead of furniture, and playtime with laser pointers, strings, cardboard boxes). The good news is your cat is only about a year old....usually in the next few months to a year he will hopefully turn into a "cat" and will lay about all day and do nothing but sleep, eat, and wake you up at 5am every morning to let you know the food bowl is empty.
posted by samsara at 12:06 PM on August 28, 2012

Best answer: There is, in fact, a cat whisperer. His name is Jackson Galaxy and he hosts a show called My Cat from Hell. I'd recommend that you watch a few episodes because your expectations feel . . . off.

You can train cats, but they're not like dogs. Training is far more successful when it's approached with an understand of the cat's nature. For example, cats are crepuscular--most active at dawn and dusk, hence the dinnertime scramble. They sleep all day because they naturally expect to spend the rest of their time hunting--burning off a tremendous amount of energy in pursuit of prey. Having toys around isn't enough. The play needs to be engaging and challenging. You need to play with your cat, hopefully around the times when he's naturally most active. A tired cat is a good cat.

Cats also like having horizontal spaces high up to hang out in. Think panthers in trees. This is where they feel most secure and why they're drawn to your desk, table, counter, bookshelf, top of the cabinets, etc. If you're banishing your cat from "bad" vertical spaces, you need to create "good" vertical spaces. For example, here's my cat on his cat pedestal, which is there to keep him off my desk while I'm working.

It's also possible your cat isn't happy with the type of litter you're using or the location of the litter box. Try adding another, and make sure to clean both every day.

Finally, there's a cultural myth that cats are very independent creatures and don't give a damn about humans. From my experience with two very vocal, people-attached male cats, this is not at all the case. Ours sleeps between us at night and, if we leave him alone of a day or two, registers his displeasure by peeing on something and acting like a generally clingy pain in the neck for several days after. Cats become attached, and it's really not appropriate to leave yours every single weekend. They don't understand "weekend"--all they know is that their human is gone and no one is playing with them and ohmygod they're bored and lonely.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:10 PM on August 28, 2012 [13 favorites]

IMX cats will pee on beanbag chairs no matter what. Your only option there is to get rid of the beanbag, put it behind a closed door, or hang it up somehow when it is not in use.

Young cats do grow out of this frenetic stage, so don't give up on him. He's still a teenager. He could turn out to be Mr. Mellow in a year or so. Be patient. (This is also why I will probably never get another kitten, though. They are EXHAUSTING.)

Why can't he be in your lap when you're working? I work at home and can work perfectly well with a cat between me and the keyboard. It relieves stress like nothing else, and usually my cat doesn't stay for more than a few minutes (because I don't stop typing, and he gets tired of that). As soon as the little guy finds out that being on you/near you is almost always OK, it will lose the aura of the forbidden, and he might not be so insistent.

The kitten knows your roommate doesn't like him. Cats are amazingly prescient about this. Also, at this age, and this early in your relationship with him, a weekend is a long time to be away from him. Can you take him with you or hang out at your place instead, just until he feels more secure?

You need to enrich his environment, as well as play with him. Another kitten would cut his neediness like nothing else - two cats are actually easier than one, especially when they are young.
posted by caryatid at 12:15 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh! Also, another useful cat behavior tidbit: the reason why cats are drawn to people who ignore them is that cats who are comfortable with one another don't usually look directly at each other, which is aggressive cat behavior. Cats who are buddies will, at most, blink-slowly through half-lidded eyes and look away. You might actually be attracting your cat by "ignoring" your cat.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:16 PM on August 28, 2012

Response by poster: i just bought a new toy dangle-fish-doo-dad. ill play with him more. i took the lid off his booda dome just in case. the lofted areas of my place i had assumed would be neat perches for him but i guess if he cant see me he does not care about going up there. so maybe ill instal a cat shelf or something. my desk is big enough for him to hang out on but he wants to knock over my water, hit buttons that ruin my work, write his own emails and try to pry the ac out of the wall... so for now he needs to be swiped to the floor. if he is on my lap my legs fall asleep. i dangled at him for about 15 mins and for now he is sitting nicely on a catnipped blanket nearby.

hope im not coming across as lazy or distracted.. ive always had cats- but guess ive underestimated being the sole owner of a really rowdy boy that needs to play a lot.

the roommate is going to have to change his attitude maybe a little (which i guess is hard with poo in your bed). i sprayed his bed with feliway. but his vibes are probably stronger..

ill take any more advice if anyone else would like to weigh in! thanks.

oh here is bad boy bo: before and after rescue.
posted by c at 12:40 PM on August 28, 2012

Here's my cat perch, if it's any help. It's just about desk height. In the winter, when the cat wants to sit either on my lap or laptop because "warm!", I put a heating pad on it. Whenever he goes to sit on your desk or lap, put him on the perch and give him a treat. Slather it regularly with catnip, too. He'll get the idea. A perch is better than a blanket on the floor because cats don't like to be underfoot and unable to see what's going on.

It's probably a good idea to leave your roommate's door closed when he's gone, if you can.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:46 PM on August 28, 2012

He definitely needs more attention. Lots of good advice above. A bored kitty is one of the main reasons I say that kitties come in pairs.

Re: Bo on your desk. I have a small homemade cat bed on my desk to one side of my monitor. When Oliver decides it's time to spend time on my desk he mostly goes to it on his own. He's also fairly easily directed (nudged) to it if he decides in front of my monitor or on my keyboard is a better place.
posted by deborah at 1:36 PM on August 28, 2012

Some sort of cat climbing/play tree by your desk might help. When he's on your desk or lap, just pick him up calmly and put him on the tree. Expect to do this about three bazillion times before the cat gets the hint as they are pretty stubborn. If he goes onto the tree by himself he gets a treat either food or a quick pat or a quick play with a toy. If he can sit up and see you and what you are doing he should learn that the attention happens when he's in the tree and prefer hanging out there.

Basically your cat is going through puberty right now and is being a typical teenager, there are a huge range electronic cat toys for tiring cats out, some quieter than others, even when you are not home that your roommate can switch on and off to distract the cat as needed. Also you can get auto cat feeders if your cat eats dried food it might help eliminate your roomie having to feed the cat while you are gone, if you have the budget there are even litter trays that scoop themselves.
posted by wwax at 1:56 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a cat like this. He mellowed a LOT when I got him a sister. It sounds crazy but two cats are much easier than one. Something to consider.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:02 PM on August 28, 2012

my roommate isn't a cat person and does not hold a lot of warmness for him but tolerates him and feeds him as our shifted schedules dictate. he works nights and gets home late.

the roommate is going to have to change his attitude maybe a little (which i guess is hard with poo in your bed). i sprayed his bed with feliway. but his vibes are probably stronger..

You brought a cat home. Your roommate, who isn't a cat person, has had to take care of that cat on the weekends. I am willing to bet he is doing a lousy job of it, probably putting out food and water but that's about it, because he never wanted to adopt a cat. The cat resents this, the roommate resents this.

And you have been....well, really unreasonable in your expectations pretty much sums it up. The cat urinated on your roommate's chair and pooped in his bed, and you say he needs to change his attitude a little?! I think you need a wakeup call, frankly.

You took this animal into your home because you felt it needed to be rescued from the street, right? It's really good that you neutered him. Are you sure he wasn't owned before, though? Because normally I would expect a street cat to have a lot of trouble adapting to being an inside cat, and actually, despite the problems you are having, your cat seems to have adapted pretty well. He may well have been an indoor/outdoor cat. He should have been neutered, of course, even so.

Anyway, as far as I can tell Bo has been acting out in a specific way only, which really signals issues with the litter box and the roommate. So the first thing you need to do is make sure you are taking care of the litter box and not leaving it up to the roommate. I honestly would not have the litter box in the "common area" with the comfy couches. Do you have a bathroom you can put the litter box in, or a laundry area? Privacy is better for the cat, and also for the roommate, because the cat is associating negative stuff with the litterbox with your roommate right now. Try moving the box so it isn't in an area your roommate and Bo have to share.

Also, you seem to feel, well, oppressed by the cat being a cat. I get that you need to work! Not allowing the cat on the desk or in your lap at all is probably not really a reasonable goal, though. A cat tree right by you is an excellent suggestion. Rather than banishing Bo, though, I would keep working if he jumped up in my lap, then transfer him to the cat tree (if he doesn't go there himself) and praise, pet and shower him with attention while he is in the tree for a few moments.

Bo WILL walk on your keyboard. I'm sorry, it's annoying and I know it, but cats do this. Set your computer to sleep when you are not at your desk. Pick Bo him up and put him in his tree when you are working and he does that, again petting and praising him. If he knocks over water on your desk, that's a serious problem, because it could ruin your computer or your work. The best solution to that is not to have cups of water on your desk--if you like to have something to drink while you are working (I do, too), just put it in a travel mug or a cup with a lid. Safer for your workplace even if you didn't have a cat around.

In other words, I think you need to consider having to change your habits a bit along with the cat's in order to make this work. That's part of being a pet owner.

And that means you are also going to need to work out the shacking up issue. I suggest you get a cat sitter to come in (remember, your roommate did NOT volunteer for the job of cat owner! I would not leave my cat alone with a non-cat-person who has a grudge against my cat, especially if said cat likewise holds a grudge!). I think you will only need to do this until Bo is a bit older and more secure in his home; then, yes, he will be low maintenance.

I wish I could get my cat tree to you! I have an extra one, but I think the shipping from FL to NY would be outrageous because of the weight. Please consider either getting one yourself, or, if it is too expensive, a window cat shelf.

Set aside a few minutes every day as designated cat play time. Ideally, it should be before you go to sleep at night, so that Bo will wind down and not disturb you and roommate running around the house at night.

Lastly, if none of this works, you might want to consider letting Bo be an indoor/outdoor cat, and seeing how that works. It's not ideal, but it is still better than having your cat and your roommate hating each other and everyone miserable over it, and you do know that Bo was able to get around on his own before.
posted by misha at 6:23 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, when you rescued Bo, did you have the vet that neutered him check to see if he was microchipped or anything?
posted by misha at 6:26 PM on August 28, 2012

Cute cat!

Agreeing with many of the suggestions here concerning a cat shelf, engaged play, moving the litter box and making sure the roommate's stuff is protected. Frankly, I think you're asking waaaaay too much of your roommate by having them take care of the cat on weekends. I think they've been a saint so far, despite your having overstepped your bounds with regard to the cat's care. They didn't want a cat, but they were gracious enough to let you get one. It's YOUR cat, YOU need to care for it. Take Bo with you to the boyfriend's place. Both of you work on wearing him out. Since he's used to a life on the streets, the added stimulation may please him greatly. At least he'll be out of your roommate's hair and not underfoot so they can have a weekend to relax without the annoyance of the cat.

For the love of dogs, do NOT get another cat!!! Unless you maybe want your roommate to walk out, in which case, please don't post to AskMe that they left you in the lurch.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:35 PM on August 28, 2012

Finally, there's a cultural myth that cats are very independent creatures and don't give a damn about humans.

Yesss. I have a four year old boy and a year old boy and they love love love me, love playing with me, playing with each other, looking at me, looking at each other, looking at the street, running over to me as though to enquire what I think of the street. They are always. doing. something. When I had the one he was always in my face, now with the two they do have each other but it's often two in my face.

I play with them, I've taught them tricks, I'm actually quite happy with the fact that they LOVEMEOMGLOVEMEWHATISHEDOINGISITINTERESTINGLETSLOOKATIT.

They were both street cats in their kittenhood, poor beans, so not sure if that has anything to do with it.
posted by sweetkid at 7:07 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, I have dealt with all of your problems except the roommate, and likely if you deal with the other problems the roommate will get a hell of a lot more resentful.

First, second cat second cat second cat Same age as your first one. I also rescued a kitty off the street, looks the same age as your cat. She was also vocal, needy, and her favorite pastime consisted of knocking shit off high shelves, shredding screens, and destroying things in between trying to wake me up at night. Within a month I got a second cat the same age as her. Suddenly the destruction of the house dropped to a quarter of what it was, despite the fact I now had two cats of the same age. No more whining, no more aggressive neediness, the kittens got rid of their extra energy by play-fighting one another and it worked stupendously. A year later they've both mellowed out, but the company they provided and still provide to one another is invaluable for their well-being and my sanity.

Second, how big is your litter box and how much litter do you use? Some cats need big boxes and lots of litter (like 1''-2'' or more depth). I originally gave my kitten something the size of a washtub. She decided to poop outside it. When I got the second cat I switched to one of those giant Rubbermaid storage bins. Cut a big hole in the side and filled with a good amount of litter. No more poops outside the box, and they're good for a weekend without scooping.

Third, get some places for you cat to climb--shelves bolted into the wall, window seats, tall cat trees.

Fourth, when you're away you can always set out a big bowl of dry food and let the cat graze provide they're not obese.

Finally, it isn't fair for you to expect the roommate to take care of the cat. But most grown cats ARE good for a weekend, provided you have the litter, food, and environment set up for them in a way they like. Not for much longer, since cats are a lot more social than people give them credit for. However, younger cats have more energy and thus need either a sitter to play with them or a companion while you're gone.
posted by Anonymous at 7:20 PM on August 28, 2012

Second cat (about the same age). Active play time. Box/cat bed on your desk. Are there options other than you leaving your cat alone every weekend? (Bring him? Boyfriend visit you?) This cat, at this age, needs more attention. A lot more attention.
posted by jeather at 7:56 PM on August 28, 2012

Best answer: I, too, have an almost-desk-height cat tree—in fact, I have a pair of them, because I have two cats. When both cats are wanting my attention as I'm trying to work, I park a cat tree on each side of my desk chair, then park a cat in each cat tree. If a cat tries to walk across my desk or crawl onto my lap, I gently move him or her back to the cat tree. I pet them periodically as long as they stay in the cat trees. No petting on the desk. They seem to accept this compromise, mostly.

A one-year-old cat will have tons of energy. I agree with everyone else who has advised you to play actively with Bo. My six-year-old troublemaker cat needs one vigorous ten-to-fifteen-minute play session per day to burn off excess energy and quell his urge to knock stuff off tables and shelves. Bo probably needs several daily sessions. I suggest you make a routine of playing with him for about 10-15 minutes at a time at certain times of the day (e.g. after breakfast, before lunch, before bedtime). Buy a variety of cat toys and figure out which ones especially engage his interest. Cats, like young children, are drawn to novelty. If Bo seems to lose interest in a formerly-favorite toy, it's good to have something else at hand that he hasn't seen for a while. I leave a few balls and catnip mice out for my cats to play with if they feel like it, but I keep several other toys, especially the fishing-pole type, stashed in a closet so that they don't become old hat to the cats. (As soon as they hear me rattle the Go Cat Cat Catcher as I take it out of storage, my cats both go bonkers.) If Bo will chase a laser pointer dot—most cats will, but some won't—you can easily use it to run him up and down your apartment for a few minutes to expend energy.

When my cats do something that exasperates me (walking on the keyboard, knocking stuff off tables, eliminating somewhere outside the litter box) I try to think from their point of view: what feline instinct or need are they acting on? For instance, with knocking stuff off tables, I think cats have an instinctual fascination with small moving objects (because motion = potential prey!), and their paws are articulated in a way that enables them to bat stuff around and create that motion if they're not seeing enough of it in their environment already. So then I think, "How can I fulfill this instinct or need in a way that's more convenient for me?" In the case of knocking stuff off tables, that's a combination of providing more play time for the cats (wherein I move fake prey for them to chase) and cat-proofing my living space by putting small, cat-paw-battable items out of reach of the cats.

You asked, "how do i appropriately train him to not be needy by giving him play time but also let him know pooping and crying for attention are bad and not things i give him attention for?" First of all, reward good behavior; make sure you're paying lots of attention to him when he's doing what you want him to do. Yes, cats can be low-maintenance, but there's variation among individuals, and cats as young as Bo tend to have a lot of energy combined with instincts to PLAY! HUNT! EXPLORE! all the time. Secondly, as I described above, try to figure out what needs he's expressing when he does stuff that bothers you, and then try to meet those needs more appropriately on an ongoing, daily basis. My example in the previous paragraph doesn't mean that as soon as Bo knocks something off a table you should immediately start playing with him, then stop ten minutes later and consider the problem solved. You should play with him every day, several times a day, before he gets around to knocking anything off a table.
posted by Orinda at 9:07 PM on August 28, 2012

p.s. Foraging games are a good way to give cats mental stimulation and exercise some of their their hunting instincts so that they don't invent their own ways to satisfy those instincts. I use this "toy box" to create puzzles for my cats and besides occupying them for ten or fifteen minutes, it seems to give them a real sense of satisfaction once they solve the puzzles. When I say "puzzles" I mean I'll hide a few treats inside the box (sometimes at random, sometimes tucked into the corners) and then I'll block some of the side openings with soft cat toys, block some of the top openings with larger balls, place small balls and toys inside the box, etc; and sometimes to increase the difficulty I'll wedge the box in a corner, stopping them from easily accessing two sides of it. There are various cat toys on the market that will dispense kibble or treats if your cat rolls them around persistently enough; I use the SlimCat with my cats, but you can try the other products or make your own toy out of a small, food-safe container with holes punched in it.
posted by Orinda at 9:16 PM on August 28, 2012

I am in roughly your roommate's position, though I get along somewhat better with my sister's kitten, and we don't have litterbox issues, just scratching ones. If you had your own place, getting a second cat might be fine, but in this situation, it'd be a surefire way to really piss off your roommate. You're already kind of neglecting one animal, getting another might solve one problem, but it will make others much worse.

In my situation, I'm the one who's home working most of the day, so here's what I've found works. If you can't manage a cat tree by the desk, a chair next to yours with a cushion will often do. Hiss at the cat when she gets on the desk, but pet her and play with her a bit from time to time when she's on the chair- she'll get the hint.

There are plenty of cat toys on the market right now, but LuLu's favorite is a plain old bottle cap from a juice carton. It skids around floors very nicely, makes tons of noise when it rolls downstairs, it's too big for her to swallow, but small enough to carry around in her mouth (and keeps her from using my eye shadows for a similar purpose!)

Instead of telling your roommate to adjust his attitude, I'd work on finding ways for he and the cat to live comfortably, and probably do something extra nice for him, when the cat uses his stuff as a litterbox to make it up to him. Otherwise, that's going to be a very unpleasant place to live.
posted by peppermind at 4:26 AM on August 29, 2012

Best answer: If the reason you can't keep your cat on your desk is their tendency to sprawl, I use a cardboard box for my dude to hang out in. This allows him to be near me and get the occasional head-pat without interfering too much with my work. When I get up to stretch my legs and get a glass of water I try to throw a toy for a few minutes and engage with him so he doesn't feel the need to demand attention when I can least provide it. I also get up about 20 minutes earlier in the morning to give him 1:1 time. Focused attention keeps down the demands for attention throughout the rest of the day, and if you keep a routine they will come to expect/demand :) it.

Punishing animals (and small children) generally doesn't work as well as reinforcing good behavior. And pretty much has to happen immediately, 100% of the time to be effective. I'd set up a time where you and your roommate together can play with your cat. Wear him out and build a better relationship with the roommate. Even if he doesn't like cats, ten minutes a day would be worth it for a better relationship. My roommate and I would tire my cat out before we went to sleep by playing monkey in the middle with a few toys so that he'd let us sleep the night through.

In the case that your cat is stressed somehow, try using Composure Cat treats, which I have found extremely useful in mellowing out my rather high-strung, prone to UTI problem kitty. They looked kind of weird when I bought them but I've seen them work with my and many other pets now.

Also, google search "clicker training". This might be a fun way for you to train your cat, wear down some of his energy, and get him to respond to some commands. Cats are often less consistent than dogs, but my cat will now come when called about 80% of the time, which is better than some kids I've worked with.
posted by gilsonal at 7:01 AM on August 29, 2012

I loved getting a second monster, but I don't agree that two cats are easier than one. More hair, more poop, more ripped/scratched/chewed things, more meowing, oh yeah, and the little one likes to knock things off counters for chuckles. One more animal is one more animal, cats or anything else.

If your roommate is already annoyed by the kitty it's not a good idea to get a second cat.
posted by sweetkid at 7:37 AM on August 29, 2012

Response by poster: i cant get a second cat. i am not gone every night every weekend. i am not neglecting the cat. thanks for the good advice. i will play with him more.
posted by c at 7:55 AM on August 29, 2012

I can't help with techniques for occupying your (adorable) cat, because I'm allergic and can't own cats, even though I like them. But, um, I DO want to comment on your attitude towards your roommate in all this.

You adopted this cat, correct? It wasn't a joint "let's get the cute kitty for the house!" sort of thing, right? Ok, so Bo is your cat. Yours. The responsibility for all the cat's needs is yours alone. All feedings are your responsibility. Not half of them, or even most of them. ALL of them. Your roommate shouldn't ever have to feed your cat, play with your cat, clean up after your cat, etc. Yes, y'all live together, so it's going to happen that every so often you'll be running too late to get home in time to feed the cat and you'll text your roommate asking if he can do it, but it shouldn't something that's required of him regularly. He's not a cat owner, YOU are. You are Bo's mommy, your roommate is just some dude who lives with you and your furry child.

Your roommate is not required to care for your cat in any way.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 11:16 PM on August 29, 2012

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