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LOTS of problems and no money :(

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
We currently have four indoor-only cats; Kitty, Cuddles, Shadow, and Lucky. Cuddles, Shadow, and Lucky are all sisters and Kitty does not get along with them. We got Kitty about seven years ago. We got the other three cats about four years ago. My dad and grandmother REFUSE to let ANY of the cats go. I, however, only want one of them, Cuddles. I'll explain the problems I'm having with them.

Lucky will often dash behind the furnace, out of sight, to relieve herself. There's currently a mountain of poop back there and nobody with the stomach to clean it. We only have room in the bathroom for 2 litter boxes and we don't have enough room or money to get anymore. How can I stop her from doing this?

All four cats will scratch the support beam. They've scratched the paneling off of it and are currently shaving down the 2x4. Anyway to stop this?

All of the cats refuse to eat off of the floor. They will only eat from their food bowls or drink from there water bowls if they are on the kitchen table. We don't actually use the kitchen table, but I'd like to start using it and them eating off of it is just gross. Is there any way to keep them off the table and get them to start eating off the floor? I heard spraying vinegar on the table will keep them off.

All four cats have fleas bad. The whole house is infested with fleas. My grandmother has a bad back and has to lay down all the time. I can't get her out of the house. Also, we have no way of getting all the cats out of the house. We tried bathing them with dawn, vacuuming the floor, and putting borax/salt on the floors in the one room they're not aloud in (mine). However, the fleas are still really bad.

Cuddles is overweight.

All the cats have razor sharp long claws, but my grandmother refuses to let me cut them because she's afraid they won't be able to defend themselves if they get outside.

One or more has been throwing up lately (usually Kitty). Plus they're all picky about the food we give them and often will not finish it. But we don't have the money to take them to a vet.

Kitty has ear-mites bad and will often scratch at her ears until she gets sores and cuts in them. We can't give her ear drops because she'll either run away at the sight of the bottle or shred us.

I know, we have a lot of problems, but I can't do much about it. I have very little say-so here. It's my grandmother's house, after all. We're also very poor; relying on disability, food stamps, and a part-time job. I'd love to get rid of the cats. Don't get me wrong, I love them to death, but I can't stand to see them suffer in this place and I'm afraid they'll get sick and we won't be able to help. However, my grandmother and father refuse to listen and won't get rid of them.

Any ideas?
post #2 of 17
Wow, this is a challenge. I'm going to have to think on this for a few. But my immediate reactions are:

1) Four cats require more than two litter boxes. It's that simple. The litter boxes that you do have should be scooped at least 3-4x a day if you are not going to add more. Move one of them to behind the furnace.

2) No one has the stomach to clean up the poop? That's just wrong. No one here can give you or anyone in your family courage you don't have. Get a handkerchief, dab some vanilla on it, get some paper towels, put on work gloves - and just clean it up! Your cat is tracking that around with her feet - and you don't want to eat on a kitchen table where the cats eat? Poor thing must be so desperate to even want to go back there!

3) You can't afford another litter box? I've seen rather large ones in stores around here for as low as $5. Do you mean you can't afford the litter for another litter box?

Then it is time to rehome the cats. With fleas and ear mites - they're suffering. And they do require money to meet their needs. ...but that no one (including you) is willing to clean up that mess behind the furnace - or that anyone in the family even let it get that bad... that really says it all.

That said.

Low-cost ways to solve the problems.

1) Clip their claws without asking your grandmother about it. They don't need razor sharp claws to defend themselves should they escape outside.

2) CLEAN UP THE MESS BEHIND THE FURNACE. And it is not just an issue of removing the filth - it is an issue of REMOVING THE SMELL (to the cat). Here is a mixture you can make at home that will work. You will need a lot of it - especially if it is an area that is cement:

3) Put a litterbox back there and keep it clean! Why are the litter boxes only in the bathroom? Can't you put one of them somewhere else? And you don't have to buy "litter boxes" for your cats to use as litter boxes. Buy cheap storage containers on sale somewhere. Four cats should have at least five boxes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (To avoid problems like you are describing).

4) Buy flea collars at the supermarket. Do NOT put them on the cats, they can kill your cats. These will be cut up and put in your vacuum cleaner - it will kill the fleas and eggs you vacuum up. Pick one room of the house - sounds like your bedroom. Clean it THOROUGHLY. Vacuum EVERYTHING. And I mean everything. Vacuum the chair, the bed - whatever is in that room, vacuum it. Wash anything that isn't fabric with soap and water if you can't afford cleaning products. When you are confident there are no fleas or eggs in your room...

5) Do the wash with dawn dish soap again - use a flea comb. The alternative is figuring out a way to come up with $120 - $160 (depending upon how much it costs wherever you are) to buy a treatment of Advantage from a vet office - one treatment for each cat, good for a month. With Advantage, all you have to do is squirt the stuff on their skin inbetween their shoulder blades. It works for a month and gives you the time you need to clean up the house to get rid of the fleas and eggs that are now everywhere. If the cats do not go outside, this should break that cycle, and there should be no more fleas. But... if you can't afford that, then you have to go with the baths and flea comb - and when you're done, put the cats in the clean room. They are going to have to be confined there until you can get the rest of the house cleaned of fleas and eggs - which will require daily vacuuming of all the floor and all the furniture and all the window coverings for at least a week - and giving everything that isn't upholstered a good scrub. Obviously all linens will have to be washed (including the ones in your room before putting the freshly cleaned cats in there). BTW - they may need more than one bath to do the trick. In fact, I assume they'd need several, daily, for at least several days. So continue to vacuum your room every day along with the rest of the house.

6) Once the claws are clipped, there is no further excuse not to get the drops in your cat's ear. Can you imagine having ear mites? How insane would that drive you?

7) Cats scratch. If you don't want them scratching there, give them something TO scratch on - and cover that up with aluminum foil or something in the meantime. But drag in a big sturdy branch you can safely lie down or lean up against something somewhere. They seem to like to scratch on wood. Give them wood that is appropriate to scratch on.

8) Is there another table in the house? Can you find a card table with folding legs at a garage sale somewhere? Can you find enough scraps of wood anywhere to build a "cat feeding table"? Is there a coffee table in the living room no one uses where the cats could be fed instead? The cats are used to eating up on something. It will not be enough to just squirt some smell on there to stop them from going up there - you have to give them an alternative.

If your father won't help you in doing all of this.... then I suggest you actively seek new homes for your cats. It will be very difficult. They are not kittens, they are flea infested, and they may not be in good health. I think you are going to have to buckle down, and just DO some of these things.

The other thing you may want to consider... go to a vet. Talk to them about setting up a payment plan. Have you applied for CareCredit?

My DH and I have a very lumpy income. What we do is whenever we get a payment that allows us to catch up on bills, if we have a little bit left, we go to the vet, make a payment - and leave the credit on the account. Perhaps talk to a vet practice about doing this. Let them know you're concerned about the health of your cats, can't afford care now, but want to build up credit so that you WILL be able to bring one - or some - of the cats in. Take in $5 every week. Or every other week. Whatever it is, just build up a credit there so you can get kitty looked at.

As to cuddles being overweight. Do they free feed on dry food? How do you feed them? And just like with people, the best way to lose weight is exercise - same is true for cats. Actively play with her 15 - 20 minues each morning and evening.

If they free feed - put it up on a shelf somewhere. Make it so they have to climb to get it. This stops "lazy feeders" from over-eating. You don't have a shelf to use? Again - save a little money each week. Those large plastic storage containers are not expensive, it shouldn't take more than a month or two to save up for this. Buy three of them. Stack two on top of each other. Put the food on top of that.

If they free feed - take the food up every morning. Only put it down over night.

I am so sorry about your dad and grandma, and MANY of us are facing real hard times right now. We understand that. But that is no excuse to ignore the needs of your cats - especially when a large part of what is required is just cleaning and attention. Forget what your Dad and Grandma say can or cannot be done. Do what needs to be done.
post #3 of 17
You need several more litterboxes, someone must clean the poop from behind the furnace, as the cat won't stop going there if there's elimination back there.

They need to be treated for fleas before they become anemic & die. You'll need to get flea/tick preventative from the vet & treat them for 3 months straight. Do not use flea collars or OTC flea preventative (like the stuff you find in Wal Mart).

The ear mites need to be treated before they go deaf, or develop other health issues due to untreated ear mites. Revolution will treat ear mites & kill the fleas, however, you'll still have to clean her ears out some.

Clip their nails - I clip my farm cat's nails & they do fine - they live strictly outdoors.

Have you looked into things like CareCredit (as Laurie mentioned) or low cost vet care? Have you called local shelters? Local vets? See if anyone can work with you.

If not - I do think you consider re-homing these cats, as hard as it would be.
post #4 of 17
I second everything said above...I completely understand how hard it is to support yourself family and pets on low income Im living off a waitress salary and its hard especially nowadays. As for the fleas I had a bad infestation once and got the cats cleaned up and one room and locked them in there till the rest of the house was cleaned and used Raid Bombs to deflea the rest of the house and that worked in one day. Its appox 9 dollars for a box of three bombs but everyone cats included need to get out of the house for the day and youll have to read the box to figure out how many you need for the size of the house. Also Ive heard using nightlights and a pie pan of water and some dawn placed below the light will help attract the fleas to that and then kill them. That might help also. Ive also had trouble with vet care and affording it but if you do a good net search for vets in your area call each and everyone of them and ask them for help and explain the situation. But IMHO if you cant do any of these or noones willing to help might be best to rehome the cats call your local SPCA or shelter and see what they can do to help. Youve got to do whats best for your family and the cats and sometimes its not always something we want to do!!! I hope everything works out for you and the cats!
post #5 of 17
Everything has been pretty much covered, but a quick question. If no one wants to clean up the poop behind the furnace, how do the litter boxes themselves look? Are they cleaned daily?

If they're not, then it's not the lack of enough boxes making the cats poop back there and adding more boxes won't help. You must set a daily litter box cleaning routine and stick to it.
Practically any plastic box (or even stainless steel dishpans) that's large enough to fit a cat will work, including storage containers. Get them at dollar stores, garage sales even (clean them with bleach and rinse thoroughly).
post #6 of 17
Specific to the scratching issue, I've had good results with the combination of providing appropriate scratching surfaces (their favorite is a catnip-filled cardboard brick kind of can duplicate this cheaply by gluing together cardboard from beat-up boxes, just make sure that a side where you can see into the corrugation layers ends up being the broadest side) and putting double-sided tape down on attractive inappropriate surfaces. I use Sticky Paws brand because it's wide enough but you could use any brand and just make sure that enough to bug them gets onto the surfaces they want to scratch.

Since they've done significant damage to the surface they like, you'll probably have to get it refinished to stop them--being able to see their marks on something seems to encourage them to put more marks on it.

Only way to make a chubby kitty not chubby is for it to eat less and/or move more. Don't let it pig out, and if it's already eating only a normal amount, get a laser pointer and run it back and forth across the room with a flip of your wrist.

In addition to what people have already said about getting rid of fleas, a cut up flea collar in the vacuum bag wouldn't be a bad idea.

And, for whatever's sake, get one of those wide pushable brooms that janitors use and push the poo out from the furnace, if that's what it takes, but get the poo out. That's a health hazard and the poo is telling the cats that that's the place to poo.
post #7 of 17
I wish I could add a million gold stars to LDG's post. All of the advice in it is 100% spot-on, and though it may be hard to read, please know that all the advice you are given here is given in love, for you and for your cats. You are in a very hard situation, but you have the chance now to take a stand and make the quality of life better for your family and for your cats. Good luck!
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 

I came across a third litter box and will be moving that behind the furnace.

I'll try the idea listed earlier for getting rid of the fleas. I just need to come up with the money to get a flea collar and cleaning supplies. I read I can combine olive oil with white vinegar and water to make a paneling cleaner. I'll use that to clean the walls along with vacuuming the floor.

I also found a coupon good for 2 free vet visits. I'll just need to wrap the cats in a towel or something to keep them from clawing us on the 30 minute ride.

My father suggested wrapping the support beam in carpet and letting them scratch that. What do you think?

As for the food bowls, I managed to pack up some stuff on a knick-knack stand and I've placed a couple bowls there. I put a couple more on the bar-counter-thing in the kitchen. Hopefully they'll stop using the table so I can start =)

And unfortunately, re-homing isn't an option. I tried talking with my grandmother, but she refuses to give them up under ANY circumstances. I think she'd rather have dying cats around her than none at all =(

But, I love the cats anyway and don't want to give them up. I'll try my best to make them happy. I'm going to try to save up for Soft Paws so I can bathe the cats and give them ear-mite treatments without them shredding me.

How often should I bathe the cats with Dawn to kill the fleas? The vet said they should only be bathed once a week. But around here, it's hard to trust anyone in the medical profession. At least at our budget, it is.

Bug bombing is out of the question, unfortunately. Not only can we not afford them, but we have no way of getting my grandmother and the cats out of the house. My grandmother has four herniated discs in her spine and just wants to die at this point. She says she's waiting to die, anyway. Point is, I can't get her to leave the couch, let alone the house. She hasn't bathed, changed her clothes, or left the house in years. =(

Thanks for all your help! You guys are great =)
post #9 of 17
If you're going to get the cats to a vet, I would really recommend finding at least a sturdy cardboard box (per cat) in which to transport them. Cats with sharp claws can easily escape during transport, and you don't want that to happen.

If you have any questions about using the Soft Paws, there are a number of people on the site who use them, and you can either start a new thread or search for existing ones in the Care & Grooming forum.

As to wrapping the beam with a carpet remnant - it's a great idea.

Remember - the flea collar is not for the cats, it is for the vacuum cleaner bag. This way the fleas and eggs that get vacuumed up will be killed.

I don't know how often the cats should be washed with dawn. I know we don't want their skin to dry out, because that will cause different problems - especially if the fleas aren't all gone. I do know you can use the flea comb as often as you want - and you should use it as often as you can.

The most important thing is to keep the cats confined to one clean room while you rid the rest of the house of the fleas.

Thank you, again, for wanting to do the right thing for your kitties.
post #10 of 17
I started a thread in the Care & Grooming forum about the flea infestation: Bad flea infestation - need info and help I think you'll get some answers - and perhaps better ideas - there.
post #11 of 17
I've always heard that cats shouldn't be bathed more than once a week. I'm not sure whether that holds true when using Dawn - it seems more likely to dry out their skin than shampoo. You might start with once a week baths and daily flea combing, then do it less often as you get the fleas under control.
post #12 of 17
With my 2 older males I have a sargents flea shampoo I got at Walmart (about 6 dollars a bottle) and it has lasted me quite a while. It says I can bathe them every 2 weeks with it but I only need to do it once a month if that just as a preventative because my dog goes outside. I dont know if this is an option I know you wouldnt be able to use it more than the 2 weeks but maybe you can try that inbetween dawn washings to help with ridding them of fleas!
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
I'll have to save up for a while before I can get flea shampoo. I'll be treating the whole house this Thursday as my father will be driving my grandmother to the doctor and my grandfather will be at his garage. This way I can have the whole house to myself and can easily move the cats around and treat different rooms without having to worry about people inhaling or touching the stuff or accidentally letting the cats out of a room.

Again, thanks for all the help! =)

If you have any more advice, please feel free to post, I could always use it ^_^
post #14 of 17
You are so sweet to take care of things. You know, if you have an old big pot you could use that as a litter box. just try to find what you can around the house. You have your hands full and I know it's hard when you aren't an adult, but I think you are doing the best you can, and that is better then what was going on. Hang in there.

post #15 of 17
I agree about having cat boxes for transport. You can look on craigslist or freecycle for people in your area who no longer need cat carriers. You can also post your own ad that you need a carriers for the cats (one for each) and need them for free. It may take some time but people are always getting rid of things and its a great way to get what you need free.
post #16 of 17
Or post that you need to borrow some carriers.

Good luck.
post #17 of 17
Originally Posted by 3CatsN1Dog View Post
With my 2 older males I have a sargents flea shampoo I got at Walmart (about 6 dollars a bottle) and it has lasted me quite a while. It says I can bathe them every 2 weeks with it but I only need to do it once a month if that just as a preventative because my dog goes outside. I dont know if this is an option I know you wouldnt be able to use it more than the 2 weeks but maybe you can try that inbetween dawn washings to help with ridding them of fleas!
Please, please, please do not follow this advice and use Sargents or Hartz flea products that are sold over-the-counter on your cat.

It is much safer to use Dawn for bathing, comb out the fleas and sprinkle some Diatomaceous Earth around your home. DE is usually available at garden centres (some folks have gotten it at farm feed outlets as some farmers add it to the feed for internal parasite, or online). It is not expensive and lasts a long time. I bought a litre sized container 2 years ago, have given some to my daughter, and I still have over half a container left.
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