Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Waste Management

WARNING: Don't read on if you are eating.

People often ask me if it is hard to see my kittens leave after living with them for 12 weeks. The answer is yes and no.

Recently I had ten kittens downstairs in one room. This is a combination of 4 different litters, one litter of four I'm fostering, two singleton litters and another litter of four. They are all within 2 weeks of each other in age with 3 mama cats pitching in so it works. However, 10 little butts create a lot of excrement. I have 3 litter boxes in the room of different sizes, small, medium and large. Most of the kittens know where to go, but there's always one or two who spoil it all by leaving presents elsewhere.

Each morning starts with entering the kitten/computer room and finding the usual mess created over the night. The food dishes are knocked over. The tray under the water dish has a tootsie roll on it. There's a poo poo patty in the corner by Jay's desk. Upon picking up the tray, I find fermenting pee under it, discoloring the hard wood floor below. I arm myself with paper towels, a plastic bag and XO spray. After cleaning for 10 minutes, I made the general announcement that no one else is allowed to poop. Nobody listens, but it creates the illusion that I'm in charge.

The 4 to 6 weeks old kittens can be the messiest stage because this is when they start eating solid food and learning to use the litter box. The mother cat doesn't like to clean up poop that doesn't result from her milk so they are on their own. The kittens are like toddler children who suddenly become aware of the urge to go, but don't know what to do about it. I recognize it in a kitten who cries and wanders over to a corner to squat. I can pick the kitten up and put it in the litter box. If I'm lucky, a light bulb will go off in its little kitten brain "Oh, so this if what this box is for!" If I'm not so lucky, the kitten will disagree with being placed in the litter box, "No, I have to go, not get in the litter box." Then the kitten will climb out of the box and try to go back in the spot it was in before.

Then there are the skid marks, left by a kitten who no doubt freaked out because he couldn't wait until he finished pooping then got frightened because some "scary creature" had a hold of his butt and was following him. Such a kitten will typically run, meowing frantically with poop in tow until he tries to get rid of his companion by dragging his butt on the floor. This may get the bulk of the problem to let go, but it leaves a trail in the effort. I have often thought the kittens were trying to write their names out in cursive with poo. If the sit and drag method doesn't cause the poop to drop off, it will invariably embed it in the kitten's fuzzy butt. Young kittens are known to sit and poop at first instead of hover and poop, resulting in the same kind of rear mess. There have been times too numerous to mention when I'll find a wad of poo stuck over the kitten's entire private area, preventing any subsequent excrement from properly exiting. This is when the butt baths come into play.

When giving a butt bath to a small kitten, don't under estimate the tenacity of those tiny claws or the effect a crying kitten has on the entire household of cats. I will normally try to loosen the crap under warm running water to remove it. Sometimes it's just easier to take the scissors and cut it off like a big crap mat, then wash the little squirming crying fuzzy butt. By this time all the cats have gathered around the sink to offer their advice and express concern to my victim. Occasionally a mother cat will try to rescue her kitten by grabbing it by the neck to keep me from drowning her baby. I chastise such a mom by telling her that if she were doing her job properly by keeping the bottoms clean, I wouldn't have to torture her babies so much. Once I'm finished with the butt bath, the cats will scatter, fearing that I may be in a bath giving mood and they may be next.

The most inventive I ever got was when I had a litter of 4-5 week old kittens in my master bathroom. I had just cleaned up the skid mark cursive writing, bleaching and mopping the entire floor. I finally was able to get in the shower, but had to step out to get more shampoo. As soon as I opened the shower door, I saw more evidence of butt-writing. I knew someone had to have a poopy butt so while dripping water all over the floor, I checked each bottom until I found the culprit. I decided to multi-task and just brought the little guy in the shower with me.

The other gross reality of kitten and cat waste management is our dog, Chardonnay. Chardonnay is a Golden Retriever who considers it her job to clean up messes. If we accidentally drop food on the floor, she's there to clean it up. Likewise, she is the official second step to cleaning food off the dishes after they are loaded in the dishwasher and before the wash cycle is run. I can hear the groans but no, she never licks the clean dishes. The dirty ones are sterilized in the dishwasher.

The problem comes in when a cat or kitten leaves a stinky poop in the litter box (okay, they're all stinky, but some are especially vile). Chardonnay thinks she needs to clean up the poop. For this reason, the litter boxes are kept upstairs and in the basement where the dog doesn't venture. However, there's the kitten room. We have to be careful to close the door or put up the gate if no one is in the room. If I'm in there on the computer (like now) and a cat decides to go, Chardonnay will hover right at the door, waiting for her opportunity. Cat poo is like a special treat for some reason; I've actually seen her drooling in anticipation of grabbing those tasty morsels. I often wonder if I gave Chardonnay a choice of prime rib or cat crap what her decision would be. Bottom line, don't let our dog lick you.


  1. OMG I had to laugh out loud at the image of a kitten thinking that a "scary creature" had a hold of his butt and was following him! Now I finally know what those skid marks were in our mud room!

  2. Bottom line, don't let our dog lick you. Ouch! That's a bad pun.

  3. Love the picture of the wild-eyed kittens with the toilet paper! It reminds me of kittens in my bathroom a few years ago.

    Hey - maybe they were trying to clean up the poo?

  4. I sent a link to your blog to two of my Maine Coon friends, Christie Montgomery and Ginny Padgette. I adore your writing and can relate to poo writing with one of my Maine Coons!