Return of my problematic cat/roommate situation
November 8, 2018 2:23 PM   Subscribe

My cat has stopped pooping on my roommate's stuff! But my roommate is still understandably angry. Is there anything more I can do?

So, I asked the good people of MetaFilter what to do about my fiancee's cat, which I'm looking after till she gets back from the US in June, pooping all over the flat in the first month of new roommate moving in. I got a really good reality check on how unacceptable the cat was being, and confined him to my room for a month or so. Flatmate felt this was cruel and unfair to him, and wanted him let out into the corridor/bathroom/kitchen if not the lounge/her room. She also found out her asthma was worse than expected - I gave her an air purifier and vacuum the house weekly but she still finds the cat hairs set it off. She is a permitted occupier so not bound to the lease.

I am totally aware I am in the wrong here, but ever since I let him out of the room the cat is pooping totally appropriately - I worked out a scheme of locking him in the bathroom in peace and quiet for 40 minutes in the evening for him to do his business and he doesn't do it elsewhere. But she is unhappy with him having hairballs monthly, says it's unacceptable, says I keep him cruelly by having him as an indoor cat, pushes to let him out on the balcony/outside, pushes me to take him to the vet, and is visibly/loudly angry towards me and the cat regarding his hairballs. She also feels that I can't leave the cat overnight,even with adequate food/water and his bathroom needs taken care of by me the evening before, so I can't visit friends or family right now without trying to arrange cat boarding at the weekend (difficult to do spontaneously).

I groom the cat daily, he was last at the vet two months ago with a clean bill of health, and he has a good diet. I don't think there's anything more I can do. I am a bit passive and conflict-avoidant by nature and feel sick and scared to be at home. My honest feeling is that it doesn't seem like living with an indoor cat is ever going to work for her, and to check if she knows she could just move out if she needs to be somewhere better for her health and needs. But I don't know if that's a nuclear option. I also don't know if my fiancee's sweet but sheddy, hairball-y, furniture scratchy indoor cat is ever gonna be one I can share with a roommate, full stop, but I also can't pay the rent on the place myself.
posted by MarianHalcombe to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get rid of the roommate. Full stop.

Get a new roommate who doesn't hate cats.

says I keep him cruelly by having him as an indoor cat
NOPE. You know what's cruel? Letting a cat onto the balcony, having the cat chase after a bird into the street, getting run over and dying.

Outdoor cats in developed areas are not safe. I say that as someone who grew up with indoor/outdoor cats in a suburban area and 2/3 cats lived to 18+ (the other died young of natural causes). You are keeping the cat safe by having him as an indoor cat, and that is the kind thing to do.

is visibly/loudly angry towards me and the cat
Seriously, get rid of the roommate. While it would be understandable if she was still angry about her clothes getting ruined last month, once-a-month hairballs are part of cats being cats. It sounds like she hates cats, which is probably why she wants the cat gone (outside), and probably why your good, sweet, kitty who we can't see because you didn't post cat tax was pooping all over her shit.
posted by DoubleLune at 2:35 PM on November 8, 2018 [55 favorites]

I myself am not a fan of cats, which is why I don't live with people who have cats. It's just not a good match. The roommate needs to leave.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:42 PM on November 8, 2018 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I think you need to get rid of the roommate, because she doesn't like living with a cat. Cats shed, get hairballs, scratch things, and get weird behavioral issues. That's what they do. You need find someone who can deal with that. There are plenty of cat people in the world.
posted by HotToddy at 2:53 PM on November 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

She also found out her asthma was worse than expected - I gave her an air purifier and vacuum the house weekly but she still finds the cat hairs set it off.

Your cat is making it hard for her to breathe.

Outdoor cats shed some of their hair when they are outside. I've had both and there is markedly less cat dander inside a house where the cat spends some, if not all, of the time outside.

Being cruel is a cover for "you bought a bunch of expensive stuff and it's not working and I don't know how else to deal with that."

I like cats. Lived with six of them at one point. But in the last few years I've gone from being a bit sniffly at times around them to full-on welts on contact, running eyes and a total inability to breathe. This cat is probably making your housemate deeply uncomfortable like, all the time, regardless of your efforts to keep the dander to a minimum.

is visibly/loudly angry towards me and the cat regarding his hairballs.

Cat hair makes it hard for her to breathe. Hairballs are gross. They are gross for your housemate, and they are also making it hard for her to breathe. Hairballs would make be break out in welts, even just touching the spot that they've been on after they'd been cleaned. But it won't kill me.

Asthma kills people.

My honest feeling is that it doesn't seem like living with an indoor cat is ever going to work for her, and to check if she knows she could just move out if she needs to be somewhere better for her health and needs.

It's either her or the cat, mate. You have rather a lot of power in this and you have to pick. I would be righteously pissed if I moved in somewhere and had a cat pop up later, and I quite like cats despite the allergy. I don't know what your arrangement is with her, but this would be a dealbreaker for me and I'd be out the door. You're pretty much kicking her out by feline as it is. At least have the guts to be upfront if you want the cat there more than her.

I don't know if that's a nuclear option.

Yep. It is. But your housemate is never going to be cool with a sheddy indoor cat. Ever. No amount of air purifying or grooming or whatever is going to change that. It's totally her or the cat. You can either find another solution for taking care of your fiancee's cat, or you find another roomate.

. I also don't know if my fiancee's sweet but sheddy, hairball-y, furniture scratchy indoor cat is ever gonna be one I can share with a roommate, full stop. but I also can't pay the rent on the place myself.

Well, the good news is you just have to find someone who isn't asthmatic or allergic to cats. Plenty of people would see a cat as Woo! Bonus pet! especially if they haven't had a cat themselves in a while because they can't find somewhere to live that allows one. Might take a bit of time, though.

Your other option is to find alternate housing for the cat till your fiancee gets back.

The situation as it stands is untenable. Your fiancee's cat could kill your housemate. Like, for real. People get blase about asthma (including a lot of asthmatics) but the fact of the matter is that it can be lethal if it's triggered under the wrong circumstances.
posted by Jilder at 2:58 PM on November 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Hi, Jilder, just to clarify - the cat was here when the housemate moved in. I advertised that the cat was in the flat, introduced her to the cat when she came to visit the flat, and explained that he is an indoor cat. My problem is that she moved in knowing there was this cat, and now (although she could move out at any point) doesn't want to move out but does want me to somehow magic the cat away. I did not impose the cat!
posted by MarianHalcombe at 3:01 PM on November 8, 2018 [39 favorites]

Is the cat doing that hairball cough? Or do you mean actual tumble weeds of hair rolling around the apartment?

For the former, there are meds and you should have the cat’s kidney function checked. For the latter, once a week vacuuming does NOTHING, so of course you have hairball tumbleweeds!

- Vacuum daily.
- Cleaning service bi-weekly to dust.
- Get another air purifier for the lounge/main area of the home.

Also, clean out your vacuum every time. Also, check that your vacuum exhaust blows upwards, most vacuums blow dirt away from the nozzle and just blow junk aound the room. You’d be surprised how many expensive models do this!

You know what works great? A roomba. It’s like not having a cat, the suction is so thorough. I love that thing. I can’t wait until my son is over his lego phase so I can go back to using ours.
posted by jbenben at 3:07 PM on November 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Cat predates roommate. Roommate needs to find a different place to live. As soon as is feasible.

(I would be concerned that her lecturing you about indoor cats might lead to her letting the cat out without your permission or consent, and would monitor the situation carefully, given my past experience with roommates; that combined with the complaining makes me worry that you might arrive home at some point to find the cat has 'escaped'.)
posted by halation at 3:09 PM on November 8, 2018 [31 favorites]

I like cats and I hate roommates, but my sympathies are with your roommate here. From her perspective, your need to catsit for a third party is taking priority over her need to have a comfortable place to live, and it sounds like between the pooping and the allergies, this is making her quite miserable.

Nevertheless, asking her to move out may be the most practical solution for you. Just warn the next roommate that the cat is a rogue pooper (things may be under control now, but that could change if a new, unfamiliar person moves in) and very allergenic.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:11 PM on November 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

i agree. the cat came first, therefore, the problem lies with the roommate, and she should find another place. help her out as much as possible finding a place (but don't offer money, that's where shit gets weird). good luck.
posted by koroshiya at 3:13 PM on November 8, 2018 [10 favorites]

No, it's not a nuclear option to tell her she has to move out. The cat was there when she moved in, and she knew about it. She shouldn't be living there. Take care of your girlfriend's cat.
posted by sockermom at 3:13 PM on November 8, 2018 [33 favorites]

That doesn't change the base problem here: The two of them are incompatible, and like all of this sounds like passive aggressive ways she's using to try and get more space from the cat.

It really reads to me like she underestimated how much contact she'd have with the cat. It happens. Some cats are also worse in terms of allergies than others. My shorthair cats were eh, for my allergies. I moved in with a cat that was allegedly short haired but who was like, super dense, and it was a totally different thing, but I wouldn't have known that from a visit.

Honestly you need to sit down with her and repeat the terms of her residency. The cat is here, the cat stays and is an indoor cat. You've done a fair bit to try and minimize the impact here, but the cat is more important to you than her.

I mean that sounds brutal, doesn't it? It's pretty much what it is here. The pragmatic part of this is whether you can live without her contribution to the rent. If you can't live without her rent then the cat needs to be rehoused, because this shit isn't going to magically go away. She's angry with the cat because he's making it hard for her to breathe. You can't change that. If you can find a way to cover your rent or sort out a new housemate quickly enough that you won't wind up homeless then do that.

But those are your two choices. There's no gentle way of doing this. Either she goes or the cat does. You're the one on the lease and the owner of the cat so you have to be the one to pull the trigger on the situation, one way or another.
posted by Jilder at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

One grooming thing that might help: wiping the cat down with a warm damp washcloth every night. It seems to remove more loose hair, and it addresses the real allergen, which is the cat's saliva on the fur.

Once the cat gets used to it, it can even be enjoyable.

Just don't over-restrain the cat while doing this.
posted by amtho at 3:27 PM on November 8, 2018

Asthma probably makes this impossible in the long run. In the meantime, you could step up your game re cat hair.

I've had cats for most of my adult life and during those years about the only time the vacuum was "put away" was when company was expected, i.e., I vacuumed daily, moreso, if I noticed hair on any surface. Also, there was virtually always one of those sticky clothes brushes within arm's reach.

I have near zero tolerance for pet hair—or stray human hair, for that matter, even though I love cats and dogs and don't have allergies or asthma.
posted by she's not there at 3:52 PM on November 8, 2018

What does your fiancee think about all this? I mean, sure, you're engaged, but it sounds like it was her cat before you got together and I find it odd that you don't say anything about any ideas from her. She should at least be trying to help you cover costs if/when you're having trouble paying rent partly because of cat issues.
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:54 PM on November 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

What?! No. +1 dump the roommate. They need to take *some* responsibility here, ya know? They knew there was a cat when they moved in!!

Your cat sounds like a totally normal cat doing normal cat things. Your roommate is understandably upset because of their allergies, but you have pretty generously accommodated them, and if they’re still upset they need to just move. I would be very concerned they might let your cat outside btw.
posted by shalom at 5:10 PM on November 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Nthing dumping the roommate. The cat is not horking hairballs on purpose to annoy her . It's a cat. That's what they do. And letting outside is a terrible idea, for a whole lot of reasons. Cat was here first, roommate knew about cat -- roommate needs to go.
posted by sarcasticah at 5:52 PM on November 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

The cat sounds totally normal, doing normal cat things that any cat person would understand and have no problem tolerating (now that it isn't pooping everywhere). What you are describing is simply life with a cat.

A roommate who loves cats isn't a totally rare kind of person and would have no problem with what you describe. I lived with roommates and their cat for a few years. I loved that cat and would gladly take care of it when they went on vacation.

The roommate sounds legitimately miserable and should move to a non-cat household.
posted by wondermouse at 6:37 PM on November 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

So I went back and skimmed the previous question and although I understand that you want to stay in THIS apartment, I don't think that's feasible because you need to have a roommate and it's not super likely you are going to find a roommate who is okay with drive-by cat pooing. IThe cat sounds pretty stressed out and yet another roommate is likely going to result in a repeat of this behavior.

You mentioned that you could possibly move into a studio with the cat and I think you should strongly consider that option -- I'm not sure why you think it'd be "worse" for the cat (per your previous question, perhaps you are associated more space with the cat behaving differently, but it's possible there are other reasons). Yes, it'd be more change for the cat and may result in a return of the behavior. But I think it's either that or a new roommate.
posted by sm1tten at 6:38 PM on November 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

The roommate made the wrong choice. They can’t live with a cat, yet chose to live with a cat. The roommate simply made a wrong choice. It doesn’t work for them. That’s ok. They made a mistake and should leave. No drama more than that is necessary.
posted by MountainDaisy at 7:29 PM on November 8, 2018 [11 favorites]

The roommate made the wrong choice. They can’t live with a cat, yet chose to live with a cat.

I came here to say exactly this, and found that MountainDaisy had beaten me to it.

One of the best pieces of advice I've received over the years is "you need to keep the monkey on the right back." An athsmatic person who hates cats chose to move into an apartment with a cat. That's their problem, and dealing with it is their responsibility.

You've been more than kind to date.
posted by rpfields at 8:33 PM on November 8, 2018 [10 favorites]

Nothing the roommate elected to share a home with a cat and is now finding it does not work for them so they get to move and you get to find a roommate who likes living with cats. This does not change just because your cat used to misbehave. No reasonable roommate would have put up with that, cat lovers included. But the cat is now doing normal cat things and it cannot stop doing normal cat things and even if you started to vacuum daily your roommate would find things that make them unhappy about the situation.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:20 AM on November 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

The problem is no longer the cat, it is the roommate.

Have one last conversation with the roommate about:
-It is an *opinion* that is it cruel to keep a cat indoors while many *facts* point to it being much safer and healthier for cats to remain indoors. You are not going to change the cat's indoor status or make any other changes in accommodations.
-The cat was in the flat before she moved in.
-You're very sorry about her asthma and perhaps *if you are willing* you will vacuum 2x a week. (More work for you, but probably less work than looking for a new roommate/covering rent alone while looking, etc.)
-No more conversations about the cat.

**2 posts about the cat and no pics?????** (That I could find in a really quick perusal of the posts, sorry if I missed it!)
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 6:22 AM on November 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think a lot of people here have addressed the roommate issue pretty well, but I thought I might be able to add something to the worries you seem to be having in both questions about the cat's quality of life:

It is not cruel to keep a cat, especially one who has been indoors his whole life, indoors.

It is not cruel to keep an indoor cat, especially one with a lifelong problem of litterbox issues, in a confined space, as long as he has adequate food, water, hiding spaces, toys, attention etc. It's not cruel to live with said cat in a studio, especially if said studio has a nice window to look out of. Plenty of cats live this way happily.

What cats do not like and do not respond to well, generally, is lots of change. New people coming in and out. Lifetime owner leaving (as far as cat knows forever). Moving across continents and through lots of places. Even this isn't cruel - it's part of life - but it is a stressor and it does affect his quality of life. Even good natured cats, like your little guy, are going to be affected by this - it sounds like that's where his bathroom issues arose in the first place. If in the course of figuring out this particular roommate situation you are still worried about what is the best thing for the cat, the best thing for the cat is going to be a quiet, consistent space (of whatever size makes it comfortable for both you and him) where he knows where things are and has a safe, consistent litterbox. If it were my choice to make, I would go for the studio and possibly ask a vet about a Xanax prescription for Mr. Fuzzy Lumpkins. But it's not my choice or your roommate's, it's yours.
posted by theweasel at 6:50 AM on November 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

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