DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I met my lovely wife over six years ago, she had an extremely ill-tempered cat. (It bit me on our first date.) My wife had recently adopted the cat from a shelter just as it was about to be put to sleep, and she was very protective of it.
Now, six years later, this cat absolutely loves my wife, but no one else in the world.
After six years of feeding her and trying to befriend her, she still hisses and growls at me daily. She will hide on top of furniture at eye level and then attempt to claw me in the eyes when I unsuspectingly walk past. She growls and tries to bite every houseguest we have over.
The worst part of it is that she completely refuses to use a litter box. She does her “business” all over the house (only in carpeted areas), and no amount of coddling or planting of litter-boxes will sway her.
She purposely lies in “choke points” in the house, where the only way to get past her is to step over her. If one is so bold as to attempt this risky maneuver, one risks a pawful of claws in the leg. She has ruined every piece of nice furniture that we have with her constant spraying and clawing.
The upshot of it is that I’m embarrassed to have anyone over because our house reeks of cat urine and shredded furniture. The other day, the cat scratched a child in the eye that had gotten too close to it when no one was looking.
Despite all of this, my wife will absolutely not give the cat away, even though it’s making me miserable. She says that she made a promise to be responsible for the cat when she adopted it, and it’s a promise that she will not break.
I’m at my wits end. I love her enough that I can’t in good conscience tell her that it’s me or the cat, and frankly, I would be saddened to have to witness her heartbreak over losing the animal that she loves so much. But we’ve tried nail caps, behavior modification, drugs (Prozac, believe it or not), even a “pet therapist” whose final diagnosis was, “There’s nothing I can do. Either live with things the way they are or get rid of the cat.”
Her parents have talked about it with her, her friends have talked to her, nothing makes a difference. She is utterly devoted to “honoring” her promise. Please help me. I can’t stand another day in this house with things as they are.
GENTLE READER: Furthermore, you have pronoun trouble.
Miss Manners was quite alarmed at the thought of your wife hiding on top of the furniture and biting the houseguests until she guessed that your “her” might not refer to the last noun mentioned, but to the cat.
So things could be worse. Not much worse, but worse.
The strange thing is that you imagine that the application of etiquette might succeed where drugs and husbandly desperation failed. Etiquette’s power, in addition to whatever moral support it can inspire, is that people are willing to try to get along with one another for the sake of a pleasant living environment. The inhabitants of your house do not appear to be among them.