Turf Wars

The battle for supremacy moves to the litter box.
By Caitlin Crawshaw, November 2009
From the moment Maggie bursts through the front door, the leggy Terrier-X is five feet off the floor, chasing Truman, my burly Shep-X, around the house and luring him into endless games of bitey-face.
My sister-in-law’s dog visits at least twice a month, often for days at a time. As soon as the cats hear her car in the driveway, they scatter: Jay heads for the bedroom to pout in the closet and Lester heads to his nylon tube in anticipation of playing with his favorite canine. Despite the cat-dog language barrier, Lester is committed to befriending Maggie, often rubbing his black tail against her, or touching noses when Maggie shows interest in him, or occasionally attempting a game of chase. Lester will even tolerate a paw in the head when Maggie play-bows and misjudges the distance between her mile-long paws and Lester’s ears.
But there is one issue between them: the litter box. Just as I have to clean out all the garbage cans to prevent Maggie from indoor dumpster-diving, I have to keep the litter box immaculate to avoid her sneaking a crunchy snack, to the cats’ mutual horror.
The cats had begrudgingly adjusted to Maggie’s violations until, last month, when she did something even weirder.
One day, as I walked past the box, debating whether I needed to clean it, I noticed an unusually large log on top, completely uncovered by litter. But my cats always cover up their feces—it’s the classy thing to do, in a cat’s mind. And, after four years, I’m quite familiar with the size of their poop. This didn’t look right at all. I also know that Truman, at a hefty 70 pounds, couldn’t possibly squeeze into the litter box. At only 30 pounds, Maggie could.
I didn’t have to scour the Internet to find a dog-litter connection. It turns out that people actually train their dogs to use litter boxes (not just faux-grass poo-pads). This is not the stuff of eccentric Internet entrepreneurs, either. Purina makes Secondnature Dog Litter
Many own small dogs in apartments and work 8-hour days, so perhaps it’s not unreasonable for them to demand a convenience busy cat owners have always enjoyed. But…it strikes me as weird. Perhaps I’ve lived with cats too, long, but it seems to me that the litter box shouldn’t be the domain of dogs. Despite the happy-looking Yorkie on the Purina litter package, I’m just not convinced canines—I mean, other than Maggie—would really appreciate the convenience of litter.
I told my sister-in-law about the poo situation when she came to pick up her pup, and we shared a giggle. But Maggie’s always been a bit of a @#$%-disturber, so she wasn’t shocked. As long as her dog isn’t rolling in decaying fish (as she did at my in-law’s farm a while back) or opening bags of garbage, Maggie’s quirkiness is wholly accepted—and expected.
As long as the cats don’t start pooping elsewhere in protest (as felines sometimes do), I’m happy enough that Maggie’s figured out the power of litter. I wouldn’t go out of my way to train a dog to do this, but it’s handy on days when I’m out and about. But, it’s easy for me to say—I’m not the one who has to share a toilet that doesn’t flush with several other pooping creatures. I’m expecting that on Maggie’s next visit the cats will have something to say about her frequent visits to their loo. Inevitably the fur (and hopefully nothing more) will fly as everyone adjusts to this new scatological development.

Caitlin Crawshaw is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer and animal lover, whose articles have appeared online and in newspapers and magazines across North America.

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