Defending the Indefensible: When Your Cat is a Jerk

A little back story – I adopted Spike from an animal shelter in Southern California when I was in college. I was in a pretty bad place mentally while I was living there and a furry critter was just the thing I needed to brighten my otherwise dreary and jam-packed days. 

He went almost everywhere with me, this little black puffball of love; to work (I was a nanny), to the beach, multiple long car drives back home to Northern California where he would curl up with his head on my lap for the whole four hours. He got along famously with my best friend/roommate’s dog. I had finally achieved my life-long goal of “puppies and kitties living together as best friends!” Yeah, I aim low, sue me. The funk that I was in while living in LA is a long story for another time, but basically, Spike was my beacon of light during a very dark time in my life.

When we moved back home to my parents in Northern California, Spike became an indoor/outdoor country kitty. He would play outside during the day, then come in at night to sleep on my head. One weekend, while I was housesitting for some friends out of town, he didn’t come home Friday night. Not wanting to worry me when I was away and unable to do anything about it, my mom didn’t call to tell me. When I returned home on Sunday, she filled me in that he had been gone but was home now, just tired and a little dirty, and was in my room. When I walked in, I immediately knew something was up. This cat behaves more like a dog than a cat, always running to greet me at the door when I would return from somewhere. This time, I opened the door to my room, he looked up at me, then resumed his prone position on the bed. I picked him up in my arms like a baby, gently poking and prodding at him to check for injuries. I shifted my arms to get a better angle on him, which was when his back leg totally dropped out. It was like the insides were no longer connected. Come to find out, they weren’t. His back leg was broken completely at the hip and the knee.

From what we can surmise, my little 8-month-old kitten had either been kicked by a large farm animal or hit by a car. Since he came in every night, it is safe to assume this happened on Friday. It took him almost two days to get home, but get home he did, because he knew when he got there I would take care of him. Against all the nay-sayers who couldn’t believe I would drop the kind of money on vet bills that I did (particularly because I was a college student with little income and had to take out a personal loan), they were able to rebuild him. One of his nicknames is the $6 Million Cat, thought it wasn’t quite that much. He has an artificial growth plate in his hip and some pins in his legs, neither of which hamper his ability to do anything, from running and jumping to methodically destroying the house room by room.

Which brings me to my point with this article: How do I defend this little bastard against all the havoc he has wreaked upon our house*? I have copious amounts of guilt and affection for him because of our history and co-dependence; my husband does not. Some details to make it clear that my husband is not being heartless: Spike has caused about $20,000 worth of damage to the house, which is probably a low estimate. He has chosen his special spots in the house in which to deposit his nuclear grade piss, eating through carpets, baseboards and molding. I had to tear the carpet out of my closet because he had peed in there so much I couldn’t keep my clothes in it. He has urinated on the stair landings so often that there is no way to get the funk out short of ripping it all up. He’s a crafty little asshole, too; he does his dastardly deeds right after we leave in the morning so they have all day to maximize destructive effects (if you don’t know how I am aware of his excellent timing, please see my article “When Roombas Attack” in the archives). God forbid I be able to clean them up shortly after they occur.

Now that we are at a point where we will probably be moving into another house at some point in the near future, the husband and I need to address the Spike issue. Jon thinks he should be an outdoor cat in order to completely remove his ability to “fuck up a whole new house.” I think Spike should at least be given one chance to prove he isn’t a complete dickbag at a new location. There have been a number of discussions about this situation which have been contentious enough that Jon has taken to activating the voice recorder on his iPhone, which in turn leads me to say, loudly and clearly, directly into the mic, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I never said that. Perhaps you should have started recording me earlier.” I do that because Spike gets his assholeishness from his momma.

The reality is, I don’t want to have another place ruined by cat piss. I don’t want to keep spending money on “miracle” cures for getting rid of the stains and the smell**. It is gross, it is embarrassing, and it is frustrating that it is one issue where I have to admit that my husband is right. I hate that. On the other hand, the cat has proven he is missing the what-is-that-loud-sound-oh-shit-it’s-a-car-I-must-get-out-of-the-road gene, so I don’t want him to be an outside cat, either. Short of having him fitted with a kitty catheter AND colostomy bag so I have complete control of where his bodily fluids go, I really have no ideas. I want to believe he will be different in a new place, but I can want in one hand and let him crap outside the litter box in the other; I’m pretty sure which one will fill up first.

Has anyone out there had to negotiate this with their partner? Does anyone have any ideas for me to try? Any help will be much, much appreciated.

* This is not a medical issue. Trust me. I have spent a ton of time and money at the vet trying to determine if his spraying and pooping were medically related. They are not. He has been diagnosed, by the vet, as an asshole.

** Do not waste your money on any of the store-bought solutions. The only thing that actually works is 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, one tablespoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of dish soap. This little mixture took out a stain that I had gone at with at least 10 different cleaners and two industrial carpet cleaners. All you do is mix it up, pour it on and let it dry. Amazing.

21 replies on “Defending the Indefensible: When Your Cat is a Jerk”

Okay I have 4 cats in various stages of their lives from getting really old (13 years) to 2 months old. We’ve had our fair share of issues with tearing up carpet and “messing” in the wrong places.

The suggestions about boxes are good – bigger box, and you should have 1 more box than you have cats. I.e. we have 5 boxes. Thankfully, my DH cleans them twice a week.

Also try Cat Attract litter – we can only find it at PetSmart and it’s more expensive than the normal stuff (we blend 1/2 & 1/2 with Tidy Cats) but it is the only thing that keeps our oldest cat peeing in the box and not right next to it.

However, seeing as you have tried a number of these suggestions already I really feel like there is a deeper behavioral issue. Cats are very sensitive to emotions around them. (I know this sounds hokey but I SWEAR it’s true)

Does your cat spend most of it’s time up high, or down low? High cats are more confident and comfortable in their surroundings. Low cats tend to have more behavior issues – they aren’t confident, they don’t feel safe or welcome, etc.

Is it the only pet? Sometimes, spraying, marking, peeing, etc. is an act of defiance – maybe they are lonely. Have you tried a companion pet? I have a cat which we lovingly refer to as a Space Cadet ’cause she’s weird – she loved to sit on top of an aquarium-turned-mouse habitat and just watch the mice crawl around.

Other ideas – there is this guy Jackson Galaxy who I call the Cat Whisperer. He has a show on Animal Planet and it is really awesome. He deals with cats with exactly these types of issues and honestly finds most of the problems are caused by the owners. They are doing casting calls in case you were interested.

Seriously good luck – I hate to see a cat lose it’s home for problems like this.

Thanks so much for all your suggestions, and please, don’t worry about Spike losing his home. My husband knows this is a non-negotiable situation, the cat stays, no matter how much damage he does. Little bastard.

I am seriously considering a kitty shrink. It is pretty much the only thing I haven’t tried. I will try the litter you mentioned as well, though Spike will totally go in the box, he uses it most of the time, he just likes to punish me for any perceived or actual slight. Oy, that cat.

Thanks again!

I have two cats and they are both ass holes in their own way. One of them is small and has been diagnosed as having a developmental disorder that keeps him acting like a kitten though he’s nearly 7 now. The other is big, an attention monger, and continuously tries to get the small one to act like a normal cat. This results in battles that quite literally scare the s*** out of the small cat. It was a huge problem in our last apartment. The big cat also likes to piss on our sheets when we 1. aren’t giving him enough attention and 2. haven’t made the bed.

There are two things that have helped a lot.
1. Nurturecalm collars. This is the same substance that’s in the Felliway, but this is carried around right under their nose 24/7. The plugin didn’t do anything to help with our behavioral issues either, but the collars really made a difference.

2. Moving to a new place. With a change of location, they didn’t have the areas that they’d been using as alternate litter boxes. So there is hope that your little ass hole will behave better in a new place too. Good luck!

I have an asshole dog who’s a little like this. His favorite target is to pee on things that are sitting on the floor, or draped across the back of a chair. For a time all of our coats smelled like dog piss and he got my backpack. I never did get the smell out of it. He also likes to shit on the floor downstairs, especially if I piss him off somehow.

My only suggestion is to make sure you remove as much of his targets as possible. Move into a place/put up doors in your new place on your closet that you can keep him from opening and make sure to always keep your shoes in there. Try to find a place that has less carpeting so you can put down cheaper area mats that are more easily cleaned and less of an issue if he chews on them a bit.

As to the issue where he half pees on the wall behind him, is there any way you could find a way to tack up something absorbent on the wall? Or put it up against some sort of appliance that you can easily clean every few days?

I know none of this actually stops the asshole-ish-ness and if you ever find a cure, I’d love to hear about it. I’m about two incidents short of writing letters begging Cesar Milan to come visit my one highly neurotic dog and one aggressive dog, who likes to taunt the neurotic dog.

Have you talked to your friends and/or families about it? I’ve drifted away from a few pet-owner friends because I couldn’t stand to be in their homes. The smell would completely ruin my appetite and I’d be scared to sit down or touch anything for fear of pee transfer. Are people still comfortable visiting you? It sounds like a minor thing, but whether or not people avoid your house is a really strong indicator of how bad the problem is.

Oh, I have no doubt it’s an issue for people, since it is totally an issue for me and I live there and am used to it. I do everything I can to deal with the smell, but I don’t delude myself into thinking nobody notices. It takes every ounce of restraint that I have not to rip the stair carpets up every single time I walk up them. So. Freaking. Frustrating!!! Fortunately, the people I like to come over still do, so I guess there is some comfort in that.

Have you considered actually ripping up carpets? Or, since you said you’re moving, are you looking at places with lots of hardwood and tile? It’ll be easier to clean and won’t absorb smells or show spots like carpet does.

And don’t worry about your friends. If you drift apart over the way your house might smell, they weren’t particularly good friends. If they’re worth keeping and they don’t want to come over, they’ll find other ways to see you.

Ditto on the hardwood and tile. Unless you can resolve this behavior, no carpet for you!

I’m not done reading the comments yet so maybe someone suggested this, but when you move, I would keep him shut in a small area when you can’t watch him, with a litter box of course. When he can be trusted to use the litter box, he can upgrade to bigger areas in the house. Or at least shut all the doors you can and put litter boxes everywhere else, so he can’t pee in bedrooms and closets. You have to build up a high tolerance for meowing, of course, but there are strategies for dealing with whiny cats too (citrus in a squirt bottle, for one). You might have to be willing to wage war and let things get worse before they can get better.

I want to rip the carpet out every day. unfortunately, cost-wise, it just isn’t an option, particularly since the house situation is a nightmare right now, so we don’t want to put any money into it. Any new place we move into will be as carpet-free as possible.

The other issue is that he does use the litter box, most of the time, actually, he just likes to piss in random spots when he feels he’s been slighted. He’s such a jerk.

Thanks for the tips!

Ugh, Kym, I feel for you. One of my (now deceased) cats took it upon herself to ruin every surface she could with her pee in revenge for us moving to a new house and getting dogs. She’d even piss in their water and food dishes. As she was my cat and Slaybeau was not a cat fan, this caused a lot of tension.

I wish I had good advice for you but I don’t really, just commiseration. One thing that did seem to work well for us was one of those cat pheremone plug ins. You can get them online or at Pet Smart — it plugs into the wall like an air freshener unit. Once we started using them, I did notice a real difference in the cats (and dogs — we got one for them too), less anxiety and less peeing, but most of the damage had already been done.

Holy moly, pissing in food and water bowls is taking it to a level of deviousness that even Spike doesn’t possess, which I didn’t realize was possible! That is some crafty business. Luckily for the other animals, Spike takes all his frustrations with them out on me and my belongings, so they get off scott free and I get thousands of dollars worth of ruined shoes. Bastard.

I tried the pheremone plugs awhile back because I had heard such good things about them, but alas, Spike is immune. He took a shit right next to it. But Slay Belle commiseration is one of my favorite things, so thank you!

I can help with this! My cats have all been assholes. Furry, adorable, pissing everywhere assholes.

1. The two best (and as far as I can tell only) products that work against the smell are Anti-Icky Poo and Scoe10-x. The magic enzymes eat the bad smell germs. For getting cat piss out of your laundry, use Borax.

2. Felliway. It looks like an expensive plug-in air freshener, and it emits a happy cat scent only cats can smell. Put one everywhere you don’t want Lil Pisser to do his business.

3. Like Kimberly said below, make him a bigger box out of a rubbermaid container. Clean the box regularly with one of the enzyme cleaners I mentioned above, because plastic will suck up the angry piss smell, so even a box that looks and smells clean to us will still smell like angry piss to the cat.

4. Fixing the damage is tricky, but possible. Once you get rid of the smell, paint your sub-floor with polyurethane, let dry with the windows open for two days. Then paint with the thickest, toughest primer you can find. Killz works great. Let that dry for two days. NO MORE STENCH!

I lost my Since Forever kitty about three weeks ago, she was eighteen, tough as nails and had been through every major life event with me. No matter how much they ruin your stuff, there’s no replacement for that kind of unconditional love. Good luck with Spike, and the husband. : )

First and foremost, I am so sorry for the loss of your little lovey. I am sending you gigantic internet *HUGS*. Even though Spike makes me crazy, I know I will be an absolute mess when he goes, so my heart goes out to you.

Isn’t it fascinating that you can provide animals with the most awesomely comfortable and loving environment imaginable and their repayment is douchebaggery?

Anti-icky Poo didn’t work on my nastiness, but I will definitely give the other brand a try. The hydrogen peroxide mixture really was like a miracle product, so I am going to spend some time this weekend hitting the various locations again.

As I told Slay Belle above, Spike took a crap right next to the plug-in a few days after I put it in. Seriously, if he could, he would have flipped me off while doing it, I know it.

I am going to try the bigger litter box, for sure, and thanks for the tips on the home improvements! This holiday weekend is going to allow me some time to deal with this situation, so these are great ideas.

Is Spike neutered? If he’s not, there’s extra devil in his piss. If that’s the case, he’s not pissing so much as spraying. Even if he is fixed, it sounds more like he’s marking his territory than anything. (The pooping is marking behavior, it can also be political, for especially clever cats, a fear response or a call for help if kitty is sick.)

Could it be the house you live in had been previously sullied by cats? We’re immune to most of the stink, because mother nature is kind, but if there was residual smell, Spike could be marking his territory to fight what he can smell. Go through your new place with a blacklight before you move in and see if there’s any residual kitty love and treat it before you take Spike there. You can also get packs of disposable Chux (abosorbant pads with a plastic backing, used under leaky sick people.) at any Walgreens. Line the areas he normally hits with Chux. Cat Faeries makes a reusable one that is like heaven and will hold a shocking amount of liquid, but it’s expensive. ($19.99 each.) You can sew, though, right? It’s two layers of thick cotton machine quilted over an absorbent layer (flannel, maybe?) and then stitched to a piece of vinyl, a little thicker than those cheap flannel-backed plastic tablecloths you can buy at the dollar store. I wash mine in Borax when they’re befouled. Artemis kitty slept on one under the Felliway dispenser for the last two years. When she was so sick, at the end, I had them everywhere, with a fresh stack and a load in the wash. The disposable Chux may be more practical if Spike is prolific. Line the whole damn carpet at the new house with Chux, then keep a supply on hand for the places he decides to desecrate.

They are weird little fuckers. The one remaining kitty I have will poop on any bathmat he can find. The litter box can be so fresh it smells like unicorn giggles, he has all his physical and emotional needs met, he eats the expensive cat food, yet he can’t help but shit on a bathmat. So we hang them up on a towel rack when they aren’t being used. I can’t have an inside door mat or kitchen ruglet. They might as well be painted with a target.

My coworker is currently dealing with something of the same issue. One of the three cats was peeing everywhere, but especially in places where he’d peed before.

They ended up putting tile down in the basement where he was doing his worst, but also taking him to a cat psychologist. (She winced when she explained what she was doing and promised to let us know if the tiny couch was microfibre or leather.)

One of the recommendations was the litter box. Change the litter back to clay, throw it out once a week (luckily where we live takes clay litter in the city compost) and, most importantly, there is no litter box big enough for some cats. She recommended a cheap, rubbermaid, underbed storage container the length of two litter boxes placed end to end.

This has been working. Well, there was a recent accident, but he has another bladder infection. Gonna have to switch out the water for cranberry juice.

It’s a bit of a stretch, but maybe if you implement changes as you are moving into the house, he won’t be in the habit of peeing in the new locations?

Oh, and use an orange based cleaner on the places where he chews. Cats detest orange. (I think I heard about someone with cat issues who was using citrus cleaner on the litter box. This did not go well.)

I am going to implement the bigger litter box this weekend, that is an excellent idea! I need to figure out some kind of barrier method, though, because he loves to stand in the corner of the box to pee, which usually results in him peeing half in the box, half on the floor or wall. Even when he uses the damn box, he still manages to mess things up.

I have seriously considered a cat therapist, I hesitantly admit. I really am at my wits end, so I might as well, right? I will, however, require a leather mini couch, especially at the rates they charge.

I have a friend who has a cat who started peeing on things after an illness cleared up.

She ended up going to an “animal communicator” who said that she and the cat had known each other in a past life, and the cat did have feelings of resentment and fear about the illness and how it was cleared up (I think it was a bed kidney infection that took a long time to diagnose properly, lots of meds and trips to the vet to cure.)

I’m definitely the type to be skeptical about stuff like this, especially once they go into the “past lives” stuff, but the communicator was allegedly able to tell the cat that it was all done for its health and my friend was really sorry about all the stress and just wanted things to be better between them.

Well, it worked and the cat hasn’t peed on anything since then- it’s like it just wanted to know someone knew how it felt.

My go-to source for cat info is the forums on The Cat Site. The people are friendly and knowledgeable.

Good luck!

re: peeing on the wall by the box – oh, I know about that. Mine used to do that all the time. He’d start in a low squat by the corner and raise up into an upward fountain of pee, all the time. A bigger box has helped curb the behavior, but before the bigger box, I had other solutions. I looked into high-walled boxes (not completely enclosed, but with attached walls- there are some on amazon) but ended up using a sort of shower curtain- that is, disposable plastic that I taped to the wall and hung into the box. I buried the end in litter to hold it in place, and it kept all liquid going where it was supposed to.

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