Dear Annie: A few months ago, I signed a lease on a house with my friend “Bob.” At first, I was excited that Bob has a cat, “Whiskers.” I have always wanted a pet but just can’t commit to taking care of one and can’t really afford one.
However, for the past month or so, Whiskers has been “thinking outside the litter box.” She’s urinated on my bed, on my clothes in the hamper, on my rug. I’ve bought every “miracle” product there is to remove the stains (and Bob reimbursed me for them). For the most part, I’ve been able to remove the stains, but there’s just this vague bad smell throughout a lot of the house that I can’t seem to get rid of.
I’ve asked Bob what the deal is, but he just shrugs. He apologizes but says it’s hard to control a cat. He scoops the litter box every day and changes it out completely once a week, so that’s not the issue.
I am seriously considering moving out and subletting my room to someone else – though I’m not sure who would want to live in a place that smells, with a cat who might ruin their stuff. Any suggestions would be appreciated. – Kitty Conundrum
Dear Kitty Conundrum: It’s not normal for cats to go outside a clean litter box. According to the veterinarians with whom I consulted, this often indicates underlying illness, such as a urinary tract infection, urine crystals or bladder stones, which can be fatal if left untreated. Whiskers is most likely in a great deal of pain right now, even if she doesn’t show it. (Cats are stoic creatures who don’t let on when they’re suffering.) Bob needs to treat this as an emergency and get her to a vet – stat.
Dear Annie: I am responding to “Where Is the Love?” – who wrote about people getting upset about her autistic grandson’s being loud at a restaurant. I am a young adult and, like “JT,” autistic. I thought I’d share my view. JT’s family needs to be aware of legal protections for those with disabilities and be prepared to fight on behalf of JT, especially once he enters school.
Aside from protecting him from illegal discrimination, the most important thing is showing JT love. Events such as what happened at the restaurant can bring a lot of shame into your family or JT himself over time (and yes, autistic kids can notice negativity directed toward them). Supporting JT’s emotions and his needs is key. It may be tempting to try to keep JT from behaving abnormally in public; however, I do not recommend this. If he is not hurting himself or others, minimize how much you try to stop this behavior, as it is a vital way JT communicates, expresses his emotions and personality, and self-regulates emotions and sensory input. Speaking from experience, I know that attempts to stop harmless but odd behavior in autistic kids can lead to frustration, shame and depression and can spur destructive or self-harming behavior in their attempt to receive the emotional outlet and sensory regulation that they were deprived of. I know it can be expensive, but if possible, having the family and/or JT receive help from a therapist could be very beneficial. Occupational therapy helps with many physical aspects of autism, such as speech impediments, fine motor skills and sensory input.
Whatever else, JT needs to know that his home is a safe place to be all of himself, not just the socially accepted parts. I hope people read our letters and consider how well they actually do treat “different” people. – Different and Glad to Be
Dear Different and Glad to Be: Thank you so very much for taking the time to write in. Your perspective is invaluable.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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