How battling cat poop & separation anxiety gave me a mission

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Meet Toby, a.k.a the Tobes Man, the Tobester, America’s Fat Cat and Mr. Man. Toby, my 10-year-old, 15-lb. Maine Coon mix, my problem child, is the reason I’m here at Petfinder.

Toby, a.k.a – America’s Fat Cat, taught me lessons every day, including how to bleach the tub…often.

While I’ve had the honor of caring for many wonderful pets in my life, it’s the one who made things the hardest what turned my life-long passion for animals into a profession.

It all started as my first foray into foster care. I’d recently adopted the sweetest little Domestic Short Hair/Tortie, Kura, and felt the need to help some of the many other homeless cats that I saw at the shelter. So I called the adoption group and arranged to take in a foster for a week: Toby.

Right from the beginning Toby, then one year old, was different. As soon as I got him home he immediately strutted around the house, seeking out people to literally paw for attention. There was no way we could give him up. Thus Toby became my first and only “failed” foster.

It wasn’t until about a week after the adoption that the trouble began. I went back to school.

One morning soon after, I awoke to a nice steaming pile of cat poop waiting for me in the tub.  About a week or so later it happened again.

Like many semi-new pet owners, it didn’t dawn on me that this could be a problem until the umpteenth time it happened. On top of that, other little behaviors started cropping up.

Toby started becoming more and more insistent about attention — even to the point of climbing up
onto the TV to knock off knickknacks (while staring straight at me) and biting anyone who wouldn’t pet him.

Troubled, I turned to the vet, who gave my little man a clean bill of health and suggested that he
might just need more play time and a separate litter box from Kura. But no such luck. While the extra playtime and some training curtailed the biting, the poop continued to pile up. Still, I loved him and was just too stubborn to admit defeat. After all, I could clean the tub (which I did, daily).

A year or so later I began a work-study program with the MSPCA Boston Adoption Center.
Extremely rewarding, it also provided an unforeseen benefit — access to the staff and their massive amount of cat-behavior knowledge.

Over the years I was able to learn and try just about everything any knowledgeable animal lover suggested (except going so far as having a porcelain litter box custom-made). The one thing I wouldn’t listen to
was the commonly held belief that once a cat has formed a bad habit, then that’s that.

Well, after nine years with me, both Tobes and I have tried a lot, learned even more and become thoroughly,
enjoyably entrenched in the animal-welfare field. I never thought that the unexpected side-effect of my quest for a poop-free tub would be finding a purpose and profession, but life’s kind of funny that way.

As for Toby and me — we’ve been trying crate training the last six months and seem to be making the best progress yet. (Controversial, yes, but if it keeps us both happy and healthy, who’s to judge?)
He’s also become my personal mascot for enriching a cat’s environment: Keeping him busy and entertained during the day has virtually eliminated any aggression.

So what about you? Why does helping animals in need pull at your heart strings? Tell me a
little about yourself, how you help and why you care. And, in advance, thank you to Tobes and all the other lovable, crazy-making critters out there who inspire and educate us. You make all the difference.

UPDATE:

Toby passed away in 2012, but his lessons, companionship and downright stubbornness still influence me every day. We did eventually manage to curtail the tub-pooping using the crate-training method and his last few years were spent enjoying lots of cuddles while (behind my back) bossing around the other four-legged members of my household. I’ll forever be thankful to Mr. Tobes for the 13 years he spent with me and the life-long passion for animal welfare that he played a large part instilling in me. Thank you Tobes. You are missed.

Further reading:

Keeping Your Cat From Getting Bored

Help! He’s Not Using the Litterbox!

Resolving Feline Aggression

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