I slept really badly on the first night we had the cats. It was so hot! I got up halfway through the night and went to the bathroom. At first, I was so sleepy when I opened our bedroom door that I did not realise Charlie was right there as I stepped onto the landing. Luckily he scuttled away as I then tripped over thin air trying to avoid him.
I wandered into the bathroom muttering profanities when both cats pushed past me, Charlie purring like a lunatic and Socks running along the top of the bath until the flush of the loo made her pelt off down the stairs in fear. Charlie stayed with me though and, with the agility of a charging bull, made a run for the opening bedroom door. No! I gently pushed him away with a tickle. He’ll get it eventually. No cats in the bedroom! I shut the door behind me to a crescendo of wailing. I tried to close my eyes and go to sleep. What’s that sound? Scratching? Oh well. I tried not to think about it.
We woke up in the morning to more howling and more scratching. Charlie was hungry! I opened the door and he greeted us with another recital of thunder purrs. I was so happy to see him…. until I saw the carpet directly outside the bedroom door. It was completely pulled out from under the door bar! I had never thought about how his large size might mean that he would be a very strong cat! The result was more destruction than you would get with an ordinary cat. My boyfriend put the carpet back into position and after a quick re-evaluation we decided that maybe we should let them into the bedroom at night time to save further destruction.
I then checked the carpet on the stairs and really started to worry that my boyfriend would be sending them both straight back to the rescue centre. There were ragged patches on the bottom few steps that had obviously been their launch pads when they were chasing each other. I wasn’t sure how we were going to stop them scratching there. Were we going to become one of those families with a load of sellotape on the bottom steps? I had heard that works for some cats, though I was thinking I would need gaffer tape with Charlie!
To add insult to injury, Charlie gave the stairs a good scratch on his way down which led to a gentle but firm telling off and a short flight for him to the scratching post where I put his paws up against it so he knew where he should be scratching. He looked at me as if to say, “yeah it’s fine here Mum but not as fun”. Suddenly I had a brainwave. I remembered the lady from Cats Protection telling me that the cats would show me where things needed to go. I grabbed one of the scratching posts and put it at the top of the stairs. Then I dragged a toy across the top of it. Socks immediately powered up the stairs and climbed right to the top of the post. Charlie chased Socks and ended up scratching the bottom of the post. Success! The stairs were rescued!
It was easy to find the right food bowl location for the cats (anywhere!). We did end up balancing Sock’s food bowl on the slightly raised recycling bin as she seemed to be happier eating higher up, away from Charlie, and it gave us more time to prevent any stealing from her bowl after he had finished his food. I had heard that the main rule about water is that it has to be kept in a separate place from their food. Of course, all cats are different so some may think this is fine! I moved the fountain to the other side of the kitchen which was approved by both cats.
By the end of the first week, I was getting a little nervous about Charlie’s lack of litter tray action. He was only using the litter tray in the kitchen once every three days and didn’t appear to enjoy the experience at all. We didn’t either, as he absolutely stank the house out and produced enough poop to impress a spaniel. I set my boyfriend, the stonger smeller of the two of us, the task of sniffing round the house to check whether he had gone anywhere else. Sure enough, he found that one of the cats had been spraying the front door mat and one had gone in a plant pot. I hoped they were just taking a while to get used to their new litter and litter trays. I had already gone from wood pellets back to clay but I wondered if something else was the matter.
I decided to stop worrying and take Charlie to the vet in case he had constipation. Unfortunately, I had to take him on my own. What Charlie doesn’t have in stealth and intelligence, he has in brute strength. Once I had opened the cage and tried to lift him in, he performed a perfect spread eagle position. Only by tossing a load of treats into the cage, did I get him in. Then he howled for the whole three minute drive to the vet.
Once I got to the reception with the lion’s cage, I was panting with exhaustion. Charlie was looking distinctly unimpressed by the number of times the cage had been clattered against door frames. When we went through, I was surprised to see the vet was very cautious with him when I told her he was neutered late in life and weighed over 6 kg. I reassured her that he is an incredibly friendly cat. During the examination she told me she could not believe how placid he was. I felt compelled to agree with her as I watched her stick a thermometer up Charlie’s behind while he stared casually out the window.
She turned to me and explained that it’s very unusual for a male cat to be this friendly when they have been left unneutered for so long. She had only encountered unneutered males this friendly when they had been kept as a stud. She told me to expect to have some unique problems with him. I should have asked what they would be, but I didn’t. I wasn’t worried. I believed that we would keep Charlie no matter what.
Back to the matter of the constipation, the vet explained that cats are very particular about their litter tray, including the location. The fact he wasn’t using the tray regularly might simply be that he was not satisfied with its current location. Some cats like their litter tray up high (I remember thinking – please no!). He may also signal to us where he wants the tray. She asked me if he is doing anything unusual at the moment.
I thought about it and perhaps shouldn’t have said out loud, “he has started humping our rug in the lounge”. Unfortunately, the very serious vet did not find this funny. It is true though that unneutered male cats or males neutered later in life can display many nuisance behaviours like this. Perhaps I should have done more research before I adopted him – though I am glad I didn’t as I wouldn’t change him for the World now! The vet suggested that these behaviours would settle down in time now he is neutered but if it has become learnt behaviour it could be difficult to stop him. The rug is steadily seeing less action from Charlie over time but he often mounts it when we have guests over. We now have a running joke in our house that Charlie has a preference for long-haired cats.
On the drive back from the vets I suddenly realised what the answer might be! Charlie always tried to follow us into the toilet and he would greet us when we came out with a yowl and a very sincere expression on his face. Maybe he wanted a litter tray in there! As soon as I got home, I moved the litter tray to the bathroom and quickly nipped in to use the loo myself. Charlie somehow managed to squeeze in through the door after me and we ended up going to the toilet in unison.
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