Love/Hate relationship with my cat, the root of all evil
September 14, 2007 6:06 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have suggestions on how to deal with a cat that is evil?

I have a cat, Eeyore, who is about 5 years old. She was found by the dorms of the university I attend by the university police. Someone had cut her tail off (the vet agrees with this, as the cut was very clean and not consistent with getting her tail caught in an engine or something). So, being the kind-hearted soul and animal lover that I am, I took her in. I got her wounds fixed, feed her, show her love, etc etc.

She is affectionate 50% of the time. The other 50%, she does things that make me want to rip her fur out (please note, I would NEVER do that, but I think that there are people out there who know what I mean). If I don't give her exactly what she wants, when she wants it, or if I make her mad in any capacity, she finds something of mine and destroys it. She usually will pee on it. Sometimes she will tear it into shreds. She is trying to destroy the wood floors and woodwork in my house.

I have other pets, they all behave. They know there is a feeding schedule. If she decides she wants canned food, and I tell her no, she goes on a path of destruction. People might think that I am giving the cat too much credit for being able to think things out. I am certain that the cat is the root of all evil. One of my friends even saw it, saying that the cat gave him the dirtiest look ever when he told her to get off of the kitchen counter. She throws things on the floor if she gets mad, shreds important papers, punches the blind dog in the get the idea. The urination is the biggest issue for me. She has peed on the floor, the stove, the kitchen counter, homework, the futon, clothing in a laundry basket, my tennis shoes, my piano...anything is fair game to her.

I clean the cat boxes religiously. There are multiple locations. She has been to the vet to be checked for UTIs. I show her love. Nothing is good enough. I did have someone watch her for a month while I was out of the country, and she was an absolute angel. I have thought that if I could find her a home with no other pets that she would be happy. But I would feel very guilty about inflicting evil of this sort on anyone.

Does anyone have any suggestions/tips/tricks? I am trying to improve the value of my home, she is trying to turn it into a giant litterbox. Hivemind, please help! Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
posted by bolognius maximus to Pets & Animals (34 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by kmennie at 6:17 PM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow. And I thought my 18 year old cat's habit of developing diarrhea on random days was a trial. You really have my sympathies.

The aggressive peeing sounds truly malicious (the shredding of important papers, not so much, because this cat may be an evil genius, but I don't think she can read.) Can you see any kind of time patterns for her bad behaviour? A lot of weekends or evenings, or stretches of purely good days followed by purely bad days, or a truly random mixture from hour to hour? Can you chart her behaviour and see if you can associate any of her bad behaviour with other events in your household? Something that seems trivial to you may be setting her off.

Someone will probably be along to suggest Feliway to calm her down. Hell, your vet may even recommend upping her to kitty Prozac. But see if you can find any kind of pattern first.

(On preview: kmennie beats me to Feliway!)

(She "punches the blind dog in the face"? Really? Or is that just a little hyperbole thrown in? Oh God, I am terribly sad and sympathetic about your situation (and feel very badly for your dog), but that really is a bizarrely funny image.)
posted by maudlin at 6:19 PM on September 14, 2007

is she indoor or indoor/outdoor? unless you live in an urban milieu, i recommend the latter, facilitated by a kitty door. my madeline uses her indoor litterbox about once every six months, the rest of the time she does her business out in my pear orchard or against my truck tires.
posted by bruce at 6:19 PM on September 14, 2007

Let her out and hope for the best, man.

(This assumes she's not declawed)
posted by tristeza at 6:22 PM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wait -- she was perfect with someone else for a whole month? That pretty much proves that other pets are not the issue if they were also in the house at this time.

While it's possible that she may look at you as Bad Joan Crawford Mommy and torments only you out of pure malice, is there anything different about your clothes, cologne, diet, or anything else that seems to correspond with her hissyfits?
posted by maudlin at 6:23 PM on September 14, 2007

Response by poster: maudlin-she really does punch the blind dog in the face, when I won't let her outside. I live on a busy corner where she would could very easily become a greasy spot on the road, so I can't let her out. And there is a pattern of sorts-almost always, she does the peeing on things when I'm at school/working in the lab. If I am at home and she gets mad, she'll throw my backpack on the floor and give me a dirty look. Or punch the dog in the face. Maybe I should give her kitty Prozac...
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:25 PM on September 14, 2007

Response by poster: and just to illustrate the malice...she knows how to close the doors in my house. I have no doubt that she shut the blind dog in the bathroom while I was at school once. I can tell she has done something because she will rub up against my legs when I walk in the front door and act all affectionate. I'm fairly sure that the dog is not the source of her ire, because she likes to hang out with the dogs.
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:30 PM on September 14, 2007

I'm sorry for your situation, but your post really made me laugh.

I know it's not PC to say that some cats are just evil, but I think they are. My old roommate's cat, when scolded, would run away and scratch up her furniture. Someone who's nicer than I am would probably say something about how the cat was just venting her stress, but it was always specifically her owner's furniture, and she'd turn and give her this "Oh yeah? BRING IT." look. So I really think that some cats are interested in being vindictive and punishing their people for perceived slights.

I'm afraid I don't have any good tips, but: Is it possible for her to be shut in a particular area of the house while you're away? Perhaps something that's easy to clean up?

As always when people mention animal issues, I suggest Karen Pryor's Don't Shoot The Dog. She maintains that it's possible to shape cat behavior, so perhaps it's worth a read for some ideas?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:33 PM on September 14, 2007

Oh, man. If the dog could vote, I'm sure he'd be all for the greasy spot option.

OK, if she's peeing while you're away, that sounds like she's very dependent on you and is angry/scared/punishing you for abandoning her. (On edit: If she likes the dogs, my suggestion that maybe you get another cat to keep her company is probably a bad idea. She'll probably go all good cop/bad cop on it as she does with the dogs.) You could try keeping her -- and a dog or two, so she doesn't feel as if she's being isolated and punished -- in a safe-to-pee place as thehmsbeagle suggests.

And when you are home, she damages things that you value right in front of you to punish you for thwarting her. Damn. Maybe you need to punish her and show her that you're alpha. Just a squirt with the water bottle immediately after she does something evil in front of you.

Or Prozac. Lots of Prozac. And a little for the cat, too.
posted by maudlin at 6:37 PM on September 14, 2007 [4 favorites]

I have a cat with that kind of problem, and it sounds cruel, but I had to crate her when I couldn't be there to supervise her. I just got a great big dog crate (the biggest I could find) put a small litterbox in the back, and food/water up at the front. (Like you, I live at a busy intersection, no way to let her outside safely.)

Of course, there was a lot of protesting at first, but she's acclimated now. My husband complains that I'm cramping her independence, but I point out that she's got a warm and safe home, vet care, and people who want to keep her - lots of cats don't. I take her out whenever I'm home and give her lots of personal attention. I hope to slowly get her used to being out and behaving - it may be a lost cause, because cat nature is so stubborn.

Also, use the spray bottle if she pees/scratches right in front of you. Or an air horn, if you don't have neighbors. :)
posted by Liosliath at 7:02 PM on September 14, 2007

Are you at school at odd times and not on a regular schedule?

That may have something to do with it. If there is no clear routine, she probably thinks she has to do all this crazy stuff to get what she needs. I once was a house sitter for a crazy, crazy cat that had some of this kind of behavior. Even though the owner left out food all the time, and then I think it just got stressed because it was bored and alone.

I discovered that if I didn't leave food out and did things more or less at the same time, it helped - get up, pet kitty, kitty gets food, play a little bit, out the door for the day. When I get home in the evening, come in, pet kitty, kitty gets food, I have dinner. After dinner, play time. If I have to work, I say "NO" and put my hand in front of the cat's face when it's trying to bother me. Oh, and if kitty goes crazy (in this case, running around and yowling) I go in the other room and shut the door behind me and ignore it.

if you google "cat behavioral problems" there are some good sites with advice!
posted by citron at 7:14 PM on September 14, 2007

well, i hate to say it, but you've probably trained her to be like this. i'm serious--she knows by acting up, she gets attention. she was probably also abused, so is screwed up. we adopted a kitty (also an abused stray) who was an absolute demon with his co-pets and owner, but an angel with us. his owner had put up with him for a year before giving him to us.

i imagine the other pets probably play more of a role in psychokitty's behavior than you realize. there is probably some crazy motivated person who is willing to adopt her. put ads out and see what happens.

whoever figures out how to communicate with cats will win a nobel prize. they are mysterious creatures.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:41 PM on September 14, 2007

Does she go out? I let our cat outside when I know she's upset... it seems to help her de-stress.
posted by MiffyCLB at 8:07 PM on September 14, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far. I may try to crate her. I've also thought about diapers...

I have a fairly regular school schedule, and I usually come home for lunch and to pay attention to everyone, give them lunch, let them out.

Any other suggestions are welcome.
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:40 PM on September 14, 2007

I'm a little put off that you attribute the cat's behaviour to being simply evil when you have stated first and foremost that the cat had its tail cut off by someone and was found on the streets. It never occurred to you that this cat would require extra patience and care and wouldn't just be a simple fluffy bundle of love?

If the cat is peeing outside the box and is in good health then it's trying to tell you something. I recommend you get some literature on understanding cat behaviour in this area, if you're willing to put in a little work to understand what is going on and caring for it. If you're not interested in caring for a special-needs cat then consider trying to find someone who is.
posted by loiseau at 10:16 PM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Put the cat down.
posted by LarryC at 10:57 PM on September 14, 2007

I did have someone watch her for a month while I was out of the country, and she was an absolute angel.

Seconding Maudlin and thinkingwoman on their assessments; cats are smart enough to know what they can do to get the attention they desire. It's actually pretty typical for a pet owner to accidentally teach their pet to do bad things; we still can't figure out how we taught one of our dogs to attack anyone who comes to the door, but I am certain we did it.

Think about how you're describing your behavior towards your cat. You say "I tell her no", but cats don't understand you (no matter how much you think they do, they're not dogs; they pick up on nonverbal cues, not verbal ones.) I strongly advise you start researching cat behavior and training, and start teaching yourself to be a better cat owner.

Am I saying you're a bad pet owner? No no no. It's just that even the best pet owner needs training and help when dealing with an animal that's been abused, and this one absolutely qualifies. A good place to start might be to set up a camera and tape yourself interacting with your cat for a few hours, then do the same thing but leave your cat alone with that person who babysat -- then watch the tapes back-to-back and be brutally honest with yourself about what you see.

Good luck, and troubles aside, you're a good person for taking this cat in.
posted by davejay at 11:00 PM on September 14, 2007

Try to ignore the sunk cost and weigh the pros and cons of continuing in the future? Is this animal worth this much effort?
posted by meehawl at 11:38 PM on September 14, 2007

Loiseau, I'm sorry, but I think your response is almost ludicrously over the top. Just because your pet drives you crazy doesn't mean you don't love it and want the best for it: the fact that this person took it in and is asking for help in managing its behavior should tell you that.

Good lord.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:52 PM on September 14, 2007

I moved into a group house right after college. One roommate brought his cat, whom he adopted in the dorms. This cat had a similarly messed up history. Claire was raised on smuggled Cheerios from the dining hall, forced to take who-knows-what drugs at dorm room parties, he was hidden in boxes during dorm room inspections, left alone for days during vacations. My roommate was a saint for taking responsibility for this poor animal, and the two became inseparable.

When the rest of moved in to this house, we decided to adopt another adorable abandoned kitten, fawning over him all the time. Of course, Claire flipped out. Late one night, we were all congregating in the kitchen while my roommate made a sandwich, when suddenly there was a drip...drip...drip from above, followed by a steady stream, which landed directly on the freshly peanut-buttered bread my roommate had prepared. We all looked up to discover Claire had climbed above the kitchen cabinets to take her revenge on my roommate for allowing this little kitten to invade her personal space.

Eventually Claire made life so insufferable for everyone that the kitten ran away and she lived the next 10 years peacefully, the lone feline in a very large home, of which she was firmly in control.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:59 PM on September 14, 2007

(and maybe a mild anti-depressant).
posted by archae at 12:13 AM on September 15, 2007

How wounded was she when she came to you? Is it possible that she has associated you with the pain of losing a tail and the discomfort of having to learn to function without one?

I suggest trying to find her a new home, while telling the prospective new parents that you will take her back if she turns evil with them. It sounds like you really want what is best for the cat, and being angry 50% of the time can't be good for her.
posted by happyturtle at 1:18 AM on September 15, 2007

When one of my cats "turned evil" after we moved house, he did similar things, and like you, I'm sure he was being malicious about it. I used to have a tendency to let my cats get away with pretty much anything (hi, crazy cat lady!) but it got too much.

The only thing that helped was keeping him in a routine, feeding him at certain times, taking his food bowl away from him after ten minutes regardless of whether he'd eaten or not (that was one of the problems we were having), and also "scruffing" him when we caught him scratching and peeing inappropriately. Just grab her by the scruff of the neck for a few moments— it doesn't hurt, it stops what they are doing, and it also asserts dominance.

It's something mothercats do with kittens, and it really worked well with my boy. Perhaps he felt more secure because he was being treated like a baby and therefore knew he had a parent so became less insecure, or perhaps he just liked the routine we set up for him (which eventually went by the wayside), but either way, that's my two cents!

Good luck with this. Friends of mine have had great success with kitty meds and Feliway, as others have mentioned.
posted by indienial at 3:15 AM on September 15, 2007

The word evil is needlessly pejorative. Try thinking of her as 'goodness-deficient'. We've had several cats like this, two queens and a tom, and they were the most intelligent cats we ever had. Think of your cat as a mentally ill child. Cats and children train us even as we try to train them. Examine your interactions and try to see how you are reinforcing this behavior. Every time she misbehaves and you give her what she wants you are teaching her to misbehave again.
posted by RussHy at 5:46 AM on September 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to all of the responses. While I can appreciate that some feel 'evil' is an unwarranted label, I can assure you that the cat thinks things out and then cleverly executes her plans. (although 'goodness-deficient' is a good term). I don't think that the cat associates me with the hurt that she felt before, because if she did she probably wouldn't be as lovey towards me.

An example of behavior that I can't control: she is not allowed to sleep in my room because she punches the blind dog and starts fights when we are trying to sleep. (btw-the blind dog doesn't fight back, she is just confused about where the paws of fury are coming from). So I shut the bedroom door. This morning, like so many others, when I come out I am greeted with the smell of cat urine on the dining room table (damage control=vinyl tablecloth).

loiseau-I can appreciate your concern for the cat. Working with abused animals is something I am all-to-familiar with. So, no, I did not expect a fluffy bundle of love, but I didn't expect a raging brat. I am an extremely patient person, the cat has been pushing my buttons for a long time. My other animal companions past and present have been special needs, so I don't think that my willingness to put effort into understanding the cat should be called into question. I have tried, how I have tried to work with this cat.

DaveJay-thanks. I don't have a video camera, but I do try to be aware of how I interact w/ her. I will be more congnizant of how I act towards her.

indienal- i will give the idea more consideration, but I don't think it works with her. I know I have scruffed her before, and it just makes her more angry. Maybe if I hold her like that a little longer...and she has meds...and a crate...

I think I will have to combine many of these ideas. I just fear the cat will push me down the stairs one day....
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:46 AM on September 15, 2007

Regarding important papers, what about getting a filing cabinet?
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:27 AM on September 15, 2007

Loving this thread. I have a boy cat who is somewhat "behaviorally challenged" but not at this level. I balk at the use of the word "evil" also but I know my cats are intelligent enough to do manipulative and deliberately destructive things in response to something they didn't get from me (like food when they want it).

Also, I disagree with what one poster said about cats not responding to verbal cues. I had a boy cat who would come running from anywhere in the house if I yelled out "bug" or "out". He certainly did know when to arrive looking for me pointing at a cricket for him to eat or when to run to the door to be let out.

I think your cat has somehow associated their painful past experiences with you, the current giver of food and cleaner of litter box. I vote for giving the cat "time outs" where they are crated or otherwise isolated for an extended period of time, if that's possible. I also vote for showing the cat a lot of affection, an amount that might seem ridiculously excessive, and if possible, away from the other animals. I've also found it effective to praise cats a lot when they do something or are behaving in a way that you like and want to continue. They do understand if you say "good kitty" while rubbing their head. My cats pretty much respond behaviorally to "no" or "good kitty" in an appropriate manner, especially if you say their name.

I think your cat is still suffering from their prior bad treatment and desperately wants reassurance of their place and value in your life. She is fortunate to be with someone now who cares so much.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:25 AM on September 15, 2007

While my cat doesn't act out the same way yours does (holy crap!), she's verrry neurotic and demanding and, uh, kind of violent. And also a former stray, who was in bad shape when the shelter found her.

For a while she was swiping and biting me quite a bit, whenever she wanted anything, and these were mean, semi-going-for-it attacks, breaking the skin. She got a loud "No!" and spray from the water bottle whenever she acted out, and that improved things some. Now the batting is almost all claws-in with very, very few bites. And the bites are pretty gentle, more play bites. Like "Hey, can we freakin' have some food or what?" rather than "I hate you, die!"

So the "No!' plus squirting helped with the severity, some. Now I'm trying a Phase Two of sorts, which is "No!", then grabbing her by the scruff (gently), and putting her in the bathroom for about a minute. My theory is that this serves as a Kitty Time Out, so that some day she'll get into her head that swiping and yowling for attention equals the exact opposite of attention. But this means that you have to catch her doing it. And I've read that scruffing does piss some cats off, but I've also read that some alone-time will chill them out.

And on preview I see that fuse theorem is also specifically suggesting time outs. So I'll nth the water squirt and time out suggestions.
posted by lillygog at 9:01 AM on September 15, 2007

Also, and maybe I shouldn't admit this, but while I don't call my kitty "evil", I have been known to call her "My Little A-hole". With love.
posted by lillygog at 9:07 AM on September 15, 2007

bolognius, I just want to say that my hat is off to you for sticking with this cat. Wow. Don't let the "oh but the poor kitty isn't evil" brigade get you down. Some cats can just be jerks (a friend of mine calls them "lemons" -- it sounds like you've got a lemon) and it's hard to know what to do if you are a kind person who wants the best for the cat and the other housemates. Crating, pills etc, sense of humor, and maybe consider trying to find someone who will take her to see if she might be calmer in another home. Good luck.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:10 AM on September 15, 2007

didn't preview others answers just answering to say I feel your pain and believe you. the kitten i adopted ended up being the cat from hell and i had fleeting, non-serious but very vivid thoughts about chucking it out the window some days, if I hadn't known it was microchipped and would certainly be returned to me haha. I did find the kitten a suitable home with more people around as what it needed was more attention than I could give it. it is now thriving, but jeezly crow when it was acting out -- watch out! it was hell for 2 weeks.
posted by Soulbee at 10:45 AM on September 15, 2007

Concerning evil, see the Wikipedia entry on privatio boni, basically the idea is that evil is only the absence (or possibly misuse) of something good: it isn't anything in itself. This is the basic idea in most orthodox Christianity. I think the idea is that a good God couldn't create something evil. Now seriously, is your cat the spawn of Satan? Maybe an exorcism would help. ;)
posted by RussHy at 4:54 PM on September 15, 2007

Mmm I'm thinking Miss Kitty has 'alot of balls.' It also seemed she was intolerant of ANY type of confinement. (The adverse reaction to scruffing would support that theory, though disregard if she hadn't spent enough time with her mum??)

As someone mentioned, her tail was cut off, but my take on that is I'm doubtful she was cherished and then one day out of the blue... (Btw cats are quite clever and those who can't see that are fools). I know myself any deep scars not immediately apparent are displayed *think peacock tail if someone stumbles upon the trigger. You would know whether she's just being a shit or if this is payment for the sins of another...

She's fond of you, quite likes the dogs *read King of the dogs. She's a nice girl, just a bit jaded. Who isn't? Also if she's made it past 5 maybe you could trust her? We both know that if it came down to it she'd rather go with her boots on than be inside/safe taking her foul mood out on her dogs *read subjects.

And just quietly, she's got alot of balls *tip hat and nod*.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:47 PM on September 17, 2007

Hello again. SO and I were chatting last night and I immediately thought of you. Our conversation was about meowing at dinner time. I feed them almost as a rule. They meow and meow and meow. He WILL she may not but without fail pipes up just before her dish goes down. It shits me to tears. As of yesterday he'd (SO) finally had enough data to be able to say conclusively that they don't make a peep if I'm not there! what?

All that fucking meowing is for Hairy bastards, I hate them I hate them all!

So yeah, trust me I know this is absolutely no help. I would say, but it is interesting though, except that would be a lie. Hairy Bastards...
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:53 PM on September 23, 2007

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