Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Cat-Proofing: An Ongoing Struggle

People who visit my apartment these days keep asking me how I keep it so clean. Well, this is because guests only see our livingroom, which is practically empty at this point. Because the livingroom is cat territory, my fiancee Liz and I are constantly forced to remove more and more personal items, as we catch the cats chewing them or jumping on them. We've removed most of our pictures, little knick-knacks, books, salt shakers, etc. The room is practically bare, and yet the boys keep getting into more and more things.

Are our cats unique in their zeal for exploring, chewing, and destroying objects or are we unique in our zeal for removing such objects? On Saturday night, I was at my sister-in-law Yvette's apartment and she has a ton of knick-knacks, candles, trophies, and other decor in her livingroom. She also has two adult cats who don't climb onto the tables or show any interest in the many objects she has lying around. In fact, Yvette's cats were hiding under the Christmas tree and they didn't mess with the pine needles or the many ribbons on the presents.

I think the difference between our cats and Yvette's may be two-fold. First, our cats are young kittens and both of hers are adults. Second, our cats are just naturally more curious than hers (at least at this point in their lives). Her cats are both extremely shy and spent the entire evening hiding from her guests. When I have guests, my boys can't leave them alone.

Anyhow, I think we should all be more careful about what we leave around. About.com's Franny Syufy has an excellent article on how to keep a cat-safe home. Be sure to read it.


Anonymous said...

Yep, your boys will eventually settle down as they mature, and you will be able to put most of your stuff back in the living room. Isn't it fun while they are kittens, though?

It's good that you have different people over to visit. That will help your boys to remain social and outgoing. Perhaps Yvette's cats weren't exposed to new people and new situations when they were kittens and at the age for learning socialization.

BTW, when you are away for a while and feeling guilty, it helps to remember that cats sleep about 18 hours per day! Tell yourself they are sleeping and enjoying the peace and quiet while you are gone.


Anonymous said...

Avram, it would be nice to say, yes, they'll grow out of it, but it isn't always true. Our deaf cat, Treble, who is 14 years old, is still as destuctive as he was 13 1/2 years ago. He is also a thief, picking up jewelry, tools, kitchen gadgets, etc. It doesn't matter how heavy the object -- he's very muscular and will drag it if he can't carry it. I've been missing a ring and a watch for about 12 years -- we thought we've looked everywhere! He also loves to break things. My husband bought me a beautiful statuette, my favoritist thing in the world, and I thought it would be safe because of its size and weight... Well, I did have it for several years before he destroyed it.

We too are a Jewish/goyim mix. The cats loved to climb the Christmas tree, no matter how old they were, and my husband had to anchor the tree to the wall AND ceiling. When we took in 3 orphaned feral kittens we stopped putting up the tree the following year. I no longer light Chanukah or Shabbat candles (or any other kind) -- I'd be afraid to leave the room even momentarily until they were completely extinguished.

The smarter the cat, the more trouble they get into. Our cat Schmutzie used to terrify me when she was a kitten. She was the smartest cat my vet ever had to deal with. As a kitten she was all over the place, bouncing off walls, climbing curtains, attacking monsters under the covers and carpets. She did calm down as she got older and spent her waking hours successfully training my husband to obey her every whim and command. You didn't have to guess what she was communicating -- she made it painfully clear. And saying goodbye to her was 1 of the 2 hardest thing we ever had to do.

But back to your boys. They may not outgrow some of their chewing habits, especially plants and ribbons, (we keep neither in our house), but they will calm down as they get older. And speaking of plants, have you tried cat grass? Some of our cats loved it, the ones we have now don't really care much about it. It gives them something to chew on without worry.

I start talking about our kits and you just can't shut me up!
May you and Liz have a happy and healthy New Year with your boys and a long and healthy road ahead.

Terri aka FelineFriends

Anonymous said...

Hey Avram,

Yes, your kittens will grow out of it, eventually, in a few years, maybe...you can live in hope :)

The thing with kittens is...your house is no longer your own. Yes, you pay the rent, you do the cleaning, you provide the food, but you have to remember that you do all those things because you are the slave. Kittens are deities, cats live on Olympus, you are someone they tolerate to share their space with.

I think it's great that you take advice on board, so I throw you a piece of my own, as a slave to a two year old, two 1 years old, and 4 13 weeks old ragamuffins...give up. Forget removing the knick knacks, save only the precious ones. You remove the knick knacks, they find something else to get into. You remove the books, they find something else to get into. Leave the things you are not worried about. We have the bottom bookshelf filled with those books you bought at a library sale and never read...and the kittens religiously pull them out, scatter them across the floor, we put them back (I am sure it is expected of us), stir and repeat.

A sterile room with only the toys they are supposed to play with provides no challenge. They know the toys are theirs, what's the point in conquering them. I got a chuckle out of your tidy living room...our house hasn't been "tidy" since we have owned cats. Only you know your kittens, watch them, find out what they are into. At the moment Toffee, Luci, Rumpole and Portia are mad on shredded paper (believe me, I am not, but...). So they have a box full of it, they hide in it, they tear it into smaller pieces, they throw it across the room...they shove it into their next favourite toy, the paper bags! When they get bored with that, they turn sophisticated and play with the bit of string they tore of a picture sitting on the floor, or for some real quality fun they find that bit of scrunched up sticky tape in the rubbish and if you consider your life worth living you won't try taking that away from Toffee!

Our older guys are quite up with pop culture and art...as long as they can destroy it. We have lost countless magazines, comics, and unfortunately bits of a painting my Mum did for us when she last visited, Womble took a shine to the bits of rope she had stuck on it. She was not terribly impressed with his art critic impersonation and I seriously doubt I will ever receive a painting again.

All of this happens when they are running around in a room from where I type now. My Better Half is a grapho, I dabble in web design, so this room is bursting with non-kitty proof computers, and yet we have not lost one cable, had not one near electrocution....it's about providing the alternatives "they" love and watching them like a hawk with a firm "NO" at the ready when they are teething :)

What this all boils down to is priorities. We have the things we truely treasure tucked away safely (in a shoebox), but beyond that what we treasure the most are our munchkins. I know you love those little dudes (I have followed your blog quite avidly), relax a little, you are doing just fine...except for if you need some shredded paper the Mognificent Seven are possibly, maybe, perhaps prepared to share some...then again, they figure how hard can it be for you to find some of your own.

Yours in messiness,

neddles, slave to Max, Womble, Tippex, Portia, Luci, Toffee and Rumpole