Most people like either dogs or cats. I’m a cat person.
That’s probably because when I was growing up, our dog, Max, an amicable cockapoo, routinely gobbled feminine products out of the garbage and used the braided rug in our living room as a city park.
At least once a week I’d come running in, barefoot, to watch Half-Pint give Nellie Oleson a piece of her mind on TV, before feeling the unmistakable squish between my toes and gagging off to the bathroom.
Max was also a barker. He barked at the mail man, the neighbors, the septic tank. It was like he was rehearsing to cut one of those doggie Christmas albums in a single take, including “Jingle Bells” and “Good King Wenceslas.”
It’s no wonder that as an adult, I prefer the quiet, non-tampon eating, poop-in-a-box, sort of pet.
When our kids were little, we adopted Spooky, a sweet cat, whose only fault was frequent hairballs. One time she vomited directly into my open jewelry box, requiring a massive, Exxon-Valdez cleanup effort if I ever planned to wear my earrings again.
To keep Spooky company we added Daisy, a stray kitten. A few years after that came Buddy, a rescue cat, in a need of a home.
First of all, anyone who says that there’s no difference between owning two cats and three is lying.
Effective immediately, our relatively peaceful home was transformed into a 24-hour animal shelter, with multiple litter boxes, bowls of stinky food pebbles and hissing cats everywhere.
The new couches we’d saved years for, were repurposed into walnut-beige scratching posts, something I can only assume Pottery Barn didn’t take into account when they upholstered them with delicate, special order linen.
And no one left the house without looking like they’d first pulled their coat out of a barbershop trash can.
The bigger problem, however, was that Buddy and Daisy didn’t seem to get along.
My first clue was discovering that over the course of a couple months, they had systematically peed on every rug, in every single room of our house.
For good measure, they also hit a few bookshelves, the front door, coffee table, shower curtain, bath towels, most radiators and a laundry basket full of my favorite clothes in some epic, feline territory war.
Though I knew something smelled off, my husband insisted that it was just his coffee, leading me to wonder if he was spooning in ammonia instead of Splenda, which, at least, would explain why he couldn’t tell the difference.
It’s been seven years since The War of the Cats began. Spooky has since retired to the great litter box in the sky, leaving Buddy and Daisy behind to continue their festering urine feud.
As a result, we’ve divided our house into two separate cat zones to ensure that we don’t have to burn it down when we move out.
The upstairs belongs to Daisy, the more frequent urinator, and the downstairs, Buddy.
Since cats don’t really respect invisible boundaries, we’ve been forced to employ drastic measures to make it work.
Hours of searching the internet produced the Scat Mat solution. It apparently teaches your pet to “avoid areas that you want to protect,” by using a “gentle,” static impulse.
Though the cats have been largely unfazed by the introduction of electroshock therapy, the rest of us have stepped on it enough times to be terrified of going upstairs for anything other than an obvious emergency.
Because the mat wasn’t effective, we also set up a tall, iron gate, creating an East-West Berlin situation in the middle of our hallway.
Simple things like doing laundry require strategizing, considering that the washer is located across the border. And guests who want to come upstairs must first pass through Checkpoint Charlie, displaying proper credentials and agreeing not to pee in any of the bedrooms before being allowed in.
Even so, the cats still fight through the slats of the gate.
Short of installing a drawbridge and moat, there’s not much else we can do besides wait it out.
Once they’ve used up what’s left of their nine lives, it’s unlikely that I will ever be convinced to get replacements, because come to think of it, I’m not a cat person after all.