Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My cat and I moved in with my boyfriend in October. My boyfriend has two male cats, one of whom is obsessive and anxious and doesn’t clean himself very well, so he often has feces stuck to his fur and smears it across the floor. The other cat is territorial and competitive for my boyfriend’s attention; he also steals food and breaks into closets and drawers and sleeps on the clean laundry.
I recently discovered that I’m pregnant, and we’re very excited about the baby. But I’m concerned about the cats. I won’t have time to wash poop off the floor, clean a ton of litter, chase the cat out of the baby’s things, and constantly sweep up cat food. Today, the competitive cat left a 3-inch gash in my wrist while I was bathing my cat! It seems unfair to rehome the cats, but I’m worried about my safety and the baby’s safety. I grew up with tons of animals and I’ve never encountered behavior like this. I don’t know what to do!
Siouxsie: Jenna, there are things you can do to help to solve problems such as clinging poop and closet/drawer invasion, and even to reduce the aggression. However, we think the first thing you should do is have a heart-to-heart talk with your boyfriend.
Thomas: Tell him about your concerns and talk about your options. It’s especially important that you enlist his aid because it sounds like your boyfriend’s cats are the ones acting out.
Dahlia: It would be unfair to demand that your boyfriend get rid of his cats, but if you talk about what’s going on and tell him that you need his help in working toward a resolution, it could be a great step toward building your relationship. It will give you some tools to help deal with issues that you’re going to face as parents, too.
Siouxsie: If the aggression and acting out started when you and your cat moved in, you may need to reintroduce your cat to his cats. If his cats are being aggressive toward you but not your cat, it’s probably a case of redirected aggression (find some ways to deal with redirected aggression here).
Thomas: You may be able to solve the poopy britches problem by changing the cats’ litter box situation. If the boxes are covered, try removing the covers. Keep all the litter boxes clean so Cling-On Cat doesn’t run the risk of squatting in his or someone else’s poo. Clip the hair around his bottom and his rear legs (or have your vet or a groomer do this).
Dahlia: Use baby-proof cabinet latches to keep Space Invader Cat out of the drawers and linen closets. You’ll need them once your baby starts crawling, so just consider it (very) advance preparation.
Siouxsie: Ease the territorial stress by creating more vertical space for your cats. Tall cat towers, window perches, and assorted cat shelves can help each cat feel like he has enough territory that he doesn’t have to fight with his feline roommates over some prime real estate.
Thomas: You might try investing in feline pheromone diffusers to help the cats feel calmer.
Dahlia: Ultimately, however, you and your boyfriend might end up deciding that three cats is too much to deal with when having your first child. If you have to make that choice, it will feel bad — but you need to do what’s right for all of you. Odd as it may seem, it may be right for the cats, too.
Siouxsie: If you can’t keep them, try asking your friends and family if they can adopt them. If you have to take them to a shelter, try to find a well-managed no-kill facility. Be honest about the behavior issues because that will give them the best chance of being rehabilitated and finding a wonderful forever home.
Dahlia: If you decide to keep one or more of the cats, be sure to prepare them for the arrival of the baby. This column from the Paws and Effect archives will provide you with the information you need on introducing cats to a baby.