Austin Chick Signing off

This is Austin Chick signing off. I’ve found running four websites exhausting, so I’ve decided to drop down to just two. To see me, visit either KELPublishing or Chickster.


My cat won’t stop peeing on everything

I’ve come out of retirement to blog about something that I can tell others struggle with from the sheer number of articles and forums I’ve seen while googling hard for a solution: my cat won’t stop peeing on everything. And I mean everything.

Here’s a list of things my cat has peed on (and in) since my husband gave him to me as a Christmas present in 2007:

  • Our toaster
  • Our coffee maker
  • My laptop (yes, the keyboard part)
  • Our refrigerator (while standing atop)
  • Our big screen TV (now gone)
  • Our love seat (now gone)
  • Our easy chair (now gone)
  • A borrowed, expensive book
  • My husband’s laundry basket (dozens of times)
  • My husband’s speakers
  • My husband’s wireless routers
  • My printer
  • My shredder
  • The wall under my computer
  • On and in my backpack (and on the expensive textbooks inside)
  • Our computer chairs
  • The wall on either side of our elliptical
  • The wall behind his litter box (while standing atop)
  • My hair (while sleeping)
  • My pillow
  • The wall behind the bed’s headboard (in 3 separate places)
  • The wall behind my husband’s bedside lamp
  • The wall above my husband’s bedside lamp (We’re talking so many feet in the air, he had to pull some kind of Matrix move to reach it. I admit it. I’m a little impressed by that one.)
  • The new cat tower we bought him (and had to throw away because it was so pee soaked)
  • The new new cat tower we bought him (there’s only a drizzle of pee on it so far, so it’s still here)
  • All of his favorite toys
  • Almost every foot of our bedroom carpet
  • And the list is, apparently, infinite

First you need a little back story. Kiro was the cutest, sweetest kitten ever. And he was very good at using his litter box. But when we moved to a different apartment, things went sour. I now know that moving is a trigger for a cat, especially a kitten (even if he’s neutered). He started coating our entire apartment in pee and never stopped. Hundreds of dollars spent at the vet revealed no bladder infections of any kind. He just had a new and exciting behavioral issue that even kitty Prozac couldn’t help.

After we moved into a rental house, he continued this disgusting habit for two years straight. He peed in the same corner so often that the paint peeled and we had to repaint and lift and clean the carpet, but nothing we did made him stop remarking that spot.

And it wasn’t just one spot. Every day after work, I’d get out my blacklight and wet vac and go on a quest to see what new and exciting thing he had peed on that day. During this time we tried every product on the market to get out pee and discourage remarking (even one that smelled like lion pee; I think it was lion pee.) And I’m very sorry to report that none of them really work (at least not for me), including Feliway (I’ve tried the plug-ins, the wipes and the spray for months at a time, more than once. If anything, it makes him more aggressive and pee more.)

In fact, here’s a list of the things we’ve tried:

  • Nature’s Miracle, Out!, Urine Off, Urine-Away, No mark!, Bissell Enzyme Stain and Odor Remover, etc.
  • Spraying stress-reducing sprays everywhere
  • Cleaning spots with vinegar
  • Cleaning spots with baking soda
  • Adding more vertical space
  • Using barriers to block access to places he likes to pee
  • Putting his toys and his cat bed in places he likes to pee
  • Medication
  • Herbal remedies
  • Outdoor animal repellent
  • A second litter box
  • Scooping litter daily
  • Completely emptying and washing the litter boxes themselves each month with hot water
  • More play time
  • More praise
  • Treats for using his litter box

But after years of researching this issue, trying everything suggested and having every solution be an epic fail; I finally found something that did work, on the Humane Society website. It said the best thing to do when you move a cat to a new environment is isolate him into a smaller space until he feels comfortable. So we isolated Kiro into our large-bedroom/bathroom combo at our rental and the peeing completely stopped for an entire year. I think this is due to both his comfort level and the fact that he was taken away from his own scent (since no cleaner, no matter how it’s advertised, gets cat pee completely out, though the one pictured above is one of the best I’ve found). He had never peed on anything in the bedroom before, so he didn’t feel moved to once he felt a little more homey in isolation.

Thankfully this trick continued to work. When we bought and moved into our current house, we instantly isolated Kiro into our large bedroom/bathroom combo (because he’s never ruining one of our houses again), and for the first year we lived here, he did not pee outside his litter boxes.

We thought he was cured. He was just a cute cat again that we loved and were so happy we didn’t surrender to a shelter like we had been tempted to do so many times.

But then, this November for absolutely no reason, he started marking everything again. And I mean everything. (See the above list.) But there had been no change of any kind: no new schedules, no new pets or people, no new furniture…no new nothing.

But here we went again. We took him to the vet where they had to put him under to examine him. (Though he’s normally a sweet Smeagol, he becomes a demonic Gollum at the vet. There’s even a comment comparing him to a “wild raccoon” written on his chart and who knows what else.) We spent hundreds of dollars in thorough testing just to find out there was, again, nothing wrong with him.

Then we re-tried everything because there were no new options: Prozac, as-seen-on-TV enzyme dissolving sprays, more toys, more praise….

I even tried spraying an animal repellent outside both the windows in our bedroom (though he can’t see out of either). This caused him to coat the entire wall in pee in retaliation to whatever animal urine comprised the stuff, so I’m going to go ahead and call that idea one big bust.

Our vet even prescribed him human Xannax, hoping it would calm him down during vet visits and in general. It had a strange effect on him. It made him extra bitey and extra uninhabited/in-your-face, but in an aggressive, and not cute, way. He acted so strangely, we feared he would bite our faces in our sleep. We didn’t let him stay on it for more than three days.

Again, nothing worked. Again we spent hours every day (after 8 hours of work and two hours in Austin traffic) on our knees pointing a blacklight, spraying stuff that’s only a temporary fix and scrubbing hard with a towel, knowing we’d just have to do it all again the next day.

Again, we discussed surrendering him. I even tried deleting all his pictures from my Facebook timeline to see how it would feel.

It felt awful. We’ve had him for seven years, we’ve already put up with a two-year streak of this horrible behavior in the past, and we’ve invested thousands of dollars trying to solve this elusive problem. It just seemed like such a waste. It just seemed too sad. So we decided to tough it out, despite how much he was, honestly, ruining our lives. (That may sound dramatic to someone who hasn’t been through it, but, seriously, watch my cat for a week as he turns everything you care about and need to feel comfortable into an extension of his litter box [which he still uses like crazy by the way!] and see how you feel before you judge.)

And I haven’t even told you the worst part.

I almost drove him directly to Austin Animal Center at 5 a.m. recently, because I woke to him couching over my face, positioning himself to pee on it. Yes. My cat tried to pee on my face. 

It’s a hilarious cocktail story, but in reality, it’s an absolutely horrible feeling to realize that the cat you’ve petted and played with daily, cleaned up after daily (in his litter box and beyond) played mouse-on-a-string with and laser pointer with daily (to make sure he gets enough stimulation and exercise) and loved and cuddled his whole life has decided that the thing he wants to do, is pee on your face.

So what did we do? Something had to be done. I realized that the only thing I had ever tried that worked was isolating him into a smaller room. So while we’re at work, we’ve started barricading the door of the master bath, and only letting him out when we are home and awake.

And he stopped. He hasn’t peed on anything for a week, for the first time in three months. At least for now.

So that, my dear readers, is unfortunately the only solution I’ve ever found. Accept that it will never stop, and put the bad-acting cat in a tiled room. To quote Princess Bride, “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

But maybe I can get Jackson Galaxy to come sing to my cat and make it all better…

30 mins a day: The “lazy” workout

a30minuteworkoutTo reap all the benefits of exercise (which I’ve been reading about recently for a newsletter article), I’ve decided to do at least a moderate amount of physical activity for 30 minutes, daily. No exceptions. Even though getting 150 minutes of exercise a week is supposedly enough to be reasonably healthy, I’m going to aim higher than that. But I’m not going to be picky about what I do, at least not on a daily basis. Some days I’ll be more intense and get on the elliptical or go for a jog (and I’m certainly going to do the recommended 30 minutes of strength training twice a week), but some days I just need to fit something in before my evening plans. That was the situation Friday night, when I invented a new workout, just so I could get in some activity before going out. I’ve named it the “lazy” workout. It basically consisted of me walking circles around my living room during most of an episode of “Gilmore Girls” (now on Netflix in it’s entirety.) I barely broke a sweat, which means I didn’t have to take another shower before going out, and the SparkPeople app says I burned about 90 calories. Not an awesome workout in itself, but if I keep up at least that daily (plus some good real workouts), I should see results and feel healthier. I have seen some since I started working out about twice a week three months ago (though I did hit a snag when I got plantar fasciitis in both feet and had to cool it on the elliptical for a while). I’ve lost 10 pounds, though that’s partially due to not going out to eat much and dieting on mostly Bistro Bowl Salads, Healthy Choice meals, rice cakes, string cheese, apples and bananas. Only 20 more pounds to go before I hit my goal weight!

Cooking Challenge Continued: Much Ado about Seasoning

lentilsSo a fellow Chickster kindly cooks for me when I come over, and I’ve fallen in love with her healthy food. So I made a list of things she’s made me over the last few months to try out. The things I most wanted to try were lentils and pasta with olive oil as dressing.

The pasta wasn’t a problem; I’ve made plenty of pasta in my time. Though I ended up putting way too much olive oil-dressing on it, it was pretty good. But the lentils turned out to be a particular challenge.

I had forgotten to get her recipe and just bought a bag of dried lentils thinking there would be instructions on the bag. There were, but this is what they said: “Place lentils in pot with two cups of water for every cup of lentils, bring to a boil and leave for 20 minutes.” That was it.

I followed the instructions and did exactly that, and presented extremely bland lentils to company that needed a lot of salt…and still weren’t particularly good. I texted my friend to ask what I did wrong.

Her response: “Did you season them?”

Seasoning. That thing that people who cook do.

No, I certainly didn’t do that. I’m not even sure I had ever seasoned anything before.

She suggested adding salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, powder, chili powder and a little cayenne. I went to my pantry and found salt, garlic salt, garlic powder, onion powder, clove powder and Tony Chachere’s, then added a pinch or two of each while I cooked the beans another five minutes.

Now I can’t stop eating them. Apparently it’s important to season things.

My friend was a trooper and suffered through the bland batch of lentils, but when my husband got home, I announced that they had been a disaster, but were now fixed.

He said, “You forgot to season them, didn’t you?”

Why is everyone suddenly a seasoning expert? Where does this knowledge come from when it’s never even occurred to me?

Well, for those seasoned cooks who are laughing at me right now, at least I’m learning. Apparently it’s important to season things.

Cooking Challenge Continued: Brussels Sprouts

Today I cooked the new hipster staple: Brussels sprouts.

Frozen Brussels sprouts
Two teaspoons of “Knor” from the Latin food aisle (chicken or beef)
Garlic salt

Put sprouts in a medium pan and cover in water
Add two teaspoons of Knor and three shakes of garlic salt
Bring to a boil and cook on medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes
Leave sprouts in the broth for serving


Cooking Challenge Continued: Farmer’s Market Trip

Pfarmer's Market

Pflugerville Pfarmers Market

I have a confession. I’ve never been to a farmer’s market, at least not that I can remember. But since I’m trying to eat more vegetables, eat better and learn to cook; I thought it was time I visited one. So I sat down at my computer and did some googling. It turns out they’re everywhere, all the time, especially right now. So I thought I’d share some interesting resources I found.

The Farmer’s Market Online is a very useful, quick listing that has all the markets listed in Texas by city with the wheres, whens, and contact information for each one.

Local Harvest is another great way to find local farmer’s markets, and it also has everything above as well as descriptions (including things like whether there’s live music), reviews and some pictures.

Using these, I easily found that there’s one literally down the street from me, so I went to the Pflugerville Pfarmers Market last Tuesday.

I love that this market is in the Green Red Barn at Heritage Park. It’s a great park and it definitely carries through the whole “farm” vibe. There’s also a great deal of produce and even some meats to pick from, as well as live music every Tuesday. If you’re near this one, I definitely recommend it, but if not there are a least a dozen in the Austin area.

mushroomsSo anyway, I wanted to buy everything, which was overwhelming, so I decided to start small and limit myself to one item to take home and cook. So I bought some mushrooms and sauteed them, which were delicious. Next week I’m going to buy enough vegetables to cook and eat for a week!