Last spring, I moved to a new apartment and, with the blessing of my fabulous landlord, migrated the two outdoor cats I’d been feeding for over a year after they showed up on the eve of a nasty winter ice storm. Over the summer, I noticed that one of them – Alice, a beautiful, medium-haired calico – was hopping around with a significant limp. At first, I thought that she had been hit by a car. A trip to the vet, however, revealed that she had developed an abscess, likely the result of a bite sustained during a skirmish with another outdoor cat.
When we returned home, I settled her on a towel on the narrow steps leading up to my second-floor apartment where she seemed most comfortable and informed my next-door-neighbor of the situation. Not necessarily being a cat person, he was extremely accommodating.
I explained that Alice was on pain medication, that I would continue to keep her medicated until she felt better, and asked him to let me know if her hanging out on the steps ever turned into a problem, in which case I would make other arrangements. I was still new to the property and, having had my own fair share of lousy neighbors, it was especially important for me to demonstrate to him that I wasn’t one.
In spite of the pain medication, or maybe when it was beginning to wear off, Alice understandably became a little crotchety. One early morning, as my neighbor was descending the stairs in the pre-dawn darkness, Alice took a swipe at his pant leg that nearly sent him hurtling down the stairs. Not good! That afternoon when I returned from work, he let me know there was a problem:
Neighbor: “The cat clawed at my pants this morning. I had to grab the railing to keep myself from falling down the stairs. That’s just dangerous; I can’t have that. You’re gonna have to do something.”
Me: “You’re absolutely right. I’m glad you’re okay, and I’m very sorry. Thank you for letting me know. I’ll take care of it; it won’t happen again.”
What the heck am I going to do? I thought. I have a tiny efficiency apartment. I don’t even have a bedroom! Somehow, though, I figured it out. I moved my own cats’ litter box into the main living area and transformed the bathroom into a hospital room for Alice. The first few days, she just lay around doing not much of anything except feeling lousy. Finally, her abscess burst, releasing the painful pressure that had been building for a good week. Understandably, she felt a lot better! She walked all over the bathroom, leaking blood and pus everywhere.
After a couple of days, the drainage had stopped and the holes in her skin began to slowly heal. I could see right through them to the muscles around her bones, and it made me feel queasy! Eventually, the holes closed up, her hair grew back, and Alice had completely recovered, but she continued to be The Bathroom Cat.
Meanwhile, I had made contact with one of my former neighbors who had expressed a strong interest in adopting Alice. She was waiting until she could move some time in October.
Several months passed, I hadn’t heard back from Alice’s prospective new caretaker, and I decided that Alice – a.k.a. Bathroom Cat – needed to expand her horizons. The only problem was that my own cat, Violet, had a tendency to attack Alice any time she had the opportunity.
I love Violet, I really do. But she’s kind of a… Well, you know.
My giant, orange tabby, Geoffrey, on the other hand, behaved like a typical guy. He would approach Alice slowly, mainly out of curiosity or perhaps just to be friendly. She would hiss and growl at him, and he would pad away in search of a nice place to take a nap – his cat version of sticking his hands in his pockets, shrugging his shoulders and walking away.
What was I going to do about Violet and her… ahem… less than gracious behavior? Knowing that much of cat behavior is motivated by scent, I decided to try something: I moved Alice to the main apartment area and put Violet in the bathroom where she could get used to Alice’s scent and, hopefully, be a bit more hospitable once I let her back out.
It worked. Somewhat. After The Bathroom Experiment, a few shots from a water gun and a few more Time Outs in the bathroom, Violet quickly learned that immediately attacking Alice on sight was no longer acceptable behavior. Now, she mostly leaves her alone, but they are far from bosom buddies.
Alice may no longer be Bathroom Cat, but she has now taken up residence under my desk. She has her own food and water dishes close by, her own litter box, her toys…
Bathroom Cat is now Office Cat.