Keeping the dog out of the cat’s litter box

Sadie Rose, our Cocker Spaniel puppy who just turned one-years-old last week, has fit well into our family. But there are a few reasons she doesn’t have full run of the house yet. When we can’t play with her or watch over her, she stays in the kitchen with a dog door that lets her have free access to the backyard.

One of the reasons she can’t have full run of the house is that she still has that puppy tendency to chew on things – usually the kids’ toys. It is like having a toddler. She finds the smallest pieces of anything – a Lego, a coin, a balloon – and puts it in her mouth. Even when we think we are diligent about picking up, she still finds something – just like a toddler does.

But one of the main reasons she doesn’t have free roam of the house is the cats’ litter boxes. Sadie Rose loves to get “snacks” out of the litter box. Yuck!

We have two litter boxes. One was upstairs in the kids’ bathroom. We had been keeping the door closed when she was upstairs, but sometimes we would forget to close the door or the kids would use the bathroom and then leave the door open. Next thing you know, she is in there searching for a treat.

Our other litter box is downstairs. It used to be in the half-bath across from the pantry but we moved it to the dining room so the cats could reach it without having to go past the puppy. Once we found out that Sadie would eat out of the litter box, we raised it off the ground. This worked until Sadie Rose grew taller.

So my husband and I looked for a solution. Research online said we weren’t likely to break her of this disgusting habit. The suggested solution was to make the litter box unattainable. There were countless sites offering normal-looking furniture that hides a litter box. Some sites even showed you how to create your own. However, I couldn’t fathom adding more furniture to our house – especially anywhere I would want a litter box.

CIMG3291My husband suggested putting the upstairs one under the bathroom cabinet and the downstairs one under some cabinets in our dinette area. But doing this would mean cutting a cat door into the cabinet doors. Now we won’t be in this house forever so I didn’t like the idea of cutting into the doors.

As we discussed our options one evening while sitting in our computer room, I noticed the cabinet we had bought to hold our Pachinko machine. We had already drilled holes to keep the machine upright so it wouldn’t fall on the kids. The inside housed some books. This looked like a good candidate for trying our own hidden litter box.

CIMG3292We bought a new cat box that fit inside and my husband added a cat door. I must say it looks pretty good. The trick was letting the cats know it was there and of course getting them to use it. We kept the door open for a few days (closing it when the dog was upstairs.)

We have had the doors closed for a few weeks, and at least one cat must be using it. Now we just need to decide what to do with the downstairs litter box. Once that one is taken care of and we get Sadie to stop chewing up the toys, she will be ready to have run of the house.

Cats as characters in your novel

Recently, I wrote about dragons in my fantasy writing series. Today, I would like to address using cats as characters. Now, I chose cats because I am a cat-lover. But these same ideas could work just as well if you wanted to use dogs, horses or some other animal. And much of this can be used for other genres besides fantasy.

When developing cats as a character in your novel, one of the first things you must decide is will they be able to communicate or “speak” to other animals as the animals do in Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy mysteries or are they going to be restricted to just cat-like behavior such as the cats Koko and Yum Yum from Lillian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who series.

In my novel, Summoned, one of my main characters, Tosh, is a small grey cat. Since this is a fantasy novel, I had the liberty to have the cats actually communicate telepathically with each other and the human characters. Cats with this ability are actually called STACS.  (Yes, that is just CATS spelled backwards. J)

However, telepathy is not the only method of communication used. A lot of what a cat says is through non-verbal behavior, which provides another outlet for telling the story.  I took many of the behaviors of my own cats and incorporated them into Tosh so that I had a good mix of cat-like behavior and intelligence that I would expect a cat to possess.  Here is an excerpt from Summoned:

A veil of clouds passed in front of the moon casting darkness over the street. Tosh paused a moment, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim light. The air smelled of smoke and cooked meat mixed with the woodsy scent of the nearby forest. The STAC silently crept to the edge of the porch roof and gazed into the night. His eyes passed over the closed shops, their windows dark. No one was about at this late hour except Tosh and the boy.

He had heard the boy sneak out the door a few minutes earlier. Curiosity caused him to leave his warm spot by Lina to see where he was going. Now Tosh spotted the youth as he wandered down the cobblestone street making no effort to conceal his movements. Tosh leapt from the patio roof, his paws hitting the ground soundlessly. Following the boy, he crept down the street sticking to the shadows. Coy confidently strolled down the street, never looking back, never glancing at the buildings surrounding him. As he neared the corner, he suddenly vanished. Tosh blinked. His eyes searched the street, seeking him in the shadows but the boy was gone.

Of course working with animals you are restricted with what they are able to do physically. You have to work around the fact that they can’t open doors or pick up larger items. And if you are going to have them in a major role such as Tosh, you need to develop them just like you would any other character. This goes beyond their physical description. They need a history, their own quirks and problems. But by taking something I know well such as cats and incorporating a little fantasy in there, I was able to produce a very unique character.