Meet Duchess, or, as we her subjects call her, Dutch. She has been both the bane and boon of my existence for nearly 15 years. It is amazing really, that one small creature can so dictate the way one orders and arranges one's life. When she came to us she was such an adorable, tiny, innocuous seeming piece of fluff. How could we have possibly known how our lives would be upended? Just look at her perched so innocently on the shoulder of my youngest son as he did his homework.
We rescued her from the animal shelter shortly after Russ and I married and purchased our home, and perhaps that answers why I have put up with her all these years. I always imagined that her circumstances of abandonment linked us somehow. That she, too, was slightly broken by traumatic beginnings, but still deserving of love and a security. It was only on our most recent visit to the veterinarian that he informed me that some cats are just temperamentally inclined to be single household pets. Dutch joined Lucky, the yellow tom cat who moved back to Price with me from Phoenix following my divorce, and the two buff cocker spaniels Russ and I brought together into our blended family. In the "Yours, mine, and ours" scenario, Dutch was the "ours."
Had I known then that some animals just are not suited to multiple pet homes and demonstrate their nervousness though their elimination habits, I would have returned her immediately so she could have been placed in a more suitable home, but I was afraid that returning her because she wouldn't use the litter box would be a death sentence, so I set about correcting the habit. Fifteen years later we live in a lock down facility where every bedroom door is always shut because beds are her litter box of choice; where bathroom rugs have been done away with, and where all accessible flooring has been changed from carpet to wood. When she then switched to the furniture I was at wits end and literally on my way to the animal shelter after eight years of trying everything I could think of to accommodate this cat with only intermittent success when my sister called. She suggested that I call the vet instead.
When the vet asked me what was going on in the life of my cat that was new and could be causing her stress I was completely taken aback. She's a cat! She eats, she sleeps...a lot, and she pees on my furniture! He then asked if there had been any new animals introduced, of if we had gone on vacation and left her in the care of someone else. When I couldn't think of anything new in her life, he then asked about mine. Was there anything going on in my life, or in that of other family members that was creating stress. I felt like asking if he was kidding! My husband and I both worked full time, we had 3 teenagers still living at home, and my sister and best friend was taking my nieces and nephew and moving to Phoenix! Have you been upset about your sister moving, he asked. I gotta tell ya, I was more than a little confused to be taking my cat to the vet for peeing on the furniture only to be getting therapy. I couldn't wait to get home and tell my sister that thanks to her moving, my cat was going on Prozac! Apparently our pets, particularly the sensitive, diva sort like the Duchess, pick up on our emotions and react to them, again exhibited by their toilet habits.
So the Prozac did the trick until my husband went and switched jobs to one that has him leaving town for 2 weeks at a time. Dutch was my cat for the longest time, until her fur started to mat, and naturally I was the one responsible for grooming her, which I would do every time she jumped on my lap. She hated it, and so she switched laps and became my husband's cat. His cat, DC, which was originally meant to stand for Devil Cat since she is all black, but which came to stand for Damn Cat, which can arguably be said to be the same thing, also a rescue kitty since we don't seem to learn our lessons very well, is now my cat and constant scrap-booking companion. More on DC at some later date.
So Dutch became Russ's cat and then Russ began leaving town for weeks at a time and you can see where this is leading, though I didn't. Rather than peeing on the furniture, she developed a god-awful case of diarrhea, and rather than using her litter box, we have 3, (one for each cat) she was going directly in front of it on the floor. So back to the vet we went and it turns out this too is a sign of kitty cat anxiety, which increases with age, and now we have a new prescription of Valium which is delivered in a dropper of foul smelling flavored liquid that cats are supposed to like since Dutch cannot be made to swallow a pill. The liquid makes cats foam at the mouth and drool. Arthur, the yellow tom cat who replaced Lucky when he died of old age almost 10 years ago, is also taking Valium, because, as it turns out, cats moods, just like people's, are heavily influenced by the other cats they hang out with. When I explained to the vet that having been neutered as a kitten and having gone for 8 years without marking, Arthur had suddenly grown a pair of imaginary balls and begun marking his territory, he laid the responsibility directly at the feet of the nervous Duchess. It was then that he relayed that most important bit of information that I wish I had been in possession of 15 years ago: some cats just don't play well with others.
Which reminds me of the story of her first hair cut, something I will try to remember and share another time.