Enrichment and Elimination


Kitty separation anxiety: so much less cute than it sounds. I’m working in the Nordstrom fragrance department over the holidays to study the DC perfume shopper, and my unpredictable retail schedule is freaking Zelda out. She cuddles now, you guys. Cuddles! The minute I walk through the door, she plants herself on my collarbone and demands ear scratches. She sleeps by my feet! And only bites them once or twice! Significantly less adorable is her newfound tendency to, as the cat separation anxiety websites euphemistically put it, “eliminate outside of the litter box”. When “eliminating” on the floor three times failed to stop me from leaving the house, the fuzzy little terrorist went for the duvet.

Dr. Google’s recommendations range from kitty prozac (what’s that saying about pets starting to resemble their owners?) to various methods of making Zelda’s environment more stimulating. So far I’ve brought in a cat tower, which she completely ignores, and downloaded some cat-enriching videos. (“Duck Rush Hour” is pretty much cat Game of Thrones.) Then I remembered a favorite Now Smell This post about zookeepers using Calvin Klein Obsession as “enrichment” to keep their tigers mentally stimulated. Inspired, I sprayed four of my most intriguing perfumes and attempted to enrich the elimination away. In the name of science, and an unshat duvet, I present my findings.

Chanel No. 5: Zero sniffing, and Zelda pulled back her head when I moved the paper closer to her. I have raised a deeply uncultured kitteh.
L’Artisan Dzing!: Faint interest. Some sniffing, and one paw at the piece of paper. Zelda has clearly never read the dozens of Dzing! reviews describing it as “animalic”.
CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves: Intense interest! A good fifteen seconds of sniffing, followed by multiple paws at the paper. My hypothesis: Burning Leaves has a salty, meaty aspect that appeals to carnivores.

Displaying the highest contempt for the scientific process, Zelda wandered off before I could test the last fragrance, Gorilla Perfumes The Smell of Weather Turning.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the commission. I’ll expect my research grant shortly.

Notes on method: I sprayed the fragrances on four identical pieces of paper to prevent Zelda from being influenced by packaging. This would have been a lot more impressive if I had remembered to include a control. 

23 thoughts on “Enrichment and Elimination

  1. We have the same problem in our house. I had to go to a retail pet store and buy a scent plug in that helps cats relax. Crazy expensive for something like a scent plug in item, but it stopped all that. Retail work is hard on animals, husbands and children (excluding teenagers).

  2. Oh goodness. We had a bout of problems with Dennison (doggie, though) when we moved to a new apartment last year because apparently he requires a window by the door to look out of all day, and this apartment was in a secured building with no door windows. It drove us nuts. We even took him to a specialist. He destroyed the front door. I know nothing about cats, but good luck! Toys? Food motivation? Is there an equivalent of a Kong for cats that you can stuff food into? LOL. I guess not. Perhaps you can just wear out the kitty?

  3. I don’t have one so know how well it works, but I know they make freestanding automatic laser pointers. I’ve thinking about getting one for kitty’s Christmas stocking (though she seems to be sufficiently entertained with trying to destroy the Christmas tree).

    1. Automatic laser pointers! What a great idea! Can’t even imagine what havoc Zelda would cause if given access to a Christmas tree- she’s definitely not allowed near the menorah.

      1. FWIW, my kitties got really tired of the automatic laser pointer. I think it was too erratic? Either way, I hope you find a solution soon! Poor kitty! And poor you worrying about the kitty!

  4. I’ve seen people try aromatherapy, leaving a radio on, etc. but I think it’s really trial and error to see what works for your particular cat. Maybe when Daisy is done with classes she could come over and kitty sit for a week or two for you? Lol.
    If its any consolation I’m dealing with a depressed parrot. We’re guessing he is grieving over the loss of Greta the poodle. He’s taken to plucking his feathers out. It ain’t pretty. He’s gotten a bit nippy too. He started shortly after she died and I’m trying to figure out what might make him stop before he does permanent damage and I have a bald bird. Ugh.
    Good luck with the kitteh. Is she pooping or peeing? If its pee you might want to have the urine checked for a UTI. Just a thought.

      1. Thanks. I’m happy to hear that someone else had the same problem. When I tell people about it they look at me like I’m nuts. They don’t realize that most of our pets are smarter than we give them credit for and yes, they get emotional and stressed over things.

    1. Oh my goodness, the thought of a depressed parrot is both tragic and hilarious. Hoping you both feel better soon. Zelda definitely noticed when Galadrial The Turtle was gone, but I think she was less depressed about the loss than that she never got a taste. Clearly your parrot is a more sensitive type.

  5. Sorry to hear Zelda’s acting out. There is a plug-in diffuser that works with some cats — it’s called Feliway, is readily available and has calmed the skittish cat of a friend of mine. There is also a “kong” type toy for cats that you can put treats in and they then have to work at it to get the treats out. Many kitties are not fond of citrus scents so you may want to spritz your bed, and other places, to discourage her. Catnip filled little cuddle toys can help and sometimes just a stuffed toy to snuggle with.
    Hope she settles down and figures out you will be back each day.
    Meanwhile, that photo of her is going give Rusty a run for his money.

    Anybody buying those sets of Hermes minis yet?

    1. So many great ideas! Thank you, Lindaloo! I will follow Undina and Rusty’s tradition of giving the kitteh a treat for every compliment 🙂

      I managed to sell ONE Hermes mini set to a sweet but funny customer- she didn’t care what they smelled like, she just wanted minis! So she took the Hermes set and a No. 5 parfum, too, purely for the small size.

  6. Does she like catnip? You can try buying some fresh catnip and rubbing it on the cat tree – sometimes that stimulates interest. Good luck!

    1. Thank you, Patty! Zelda has actually never tried catnip- my thinking was that she was wild enough without getting stoned. Maybe I need to rethink my position!

  7. I wonder if there is a catnip fragrance? 😀 By the way, my cat got so crazy and showed keen interest in Valerian tea. When I took them out of my shopping bag, he ran towards me, grabbed the the bags, ran away to his “corner” and chewed them happily for about an hour… What a sight it was. I really miss him.

  8. Aw poor Zelda. I second the Feliway idea too. I used to use them with my older cat because he has a tendency to be hostile to anyone who’s not me, and he hated my (now-ex-) boyfriend when we moved in together (he was fine with him before the move.. after, not so much). The plugin did seem to help curb my cat’s aggressive behavior toward the (n-e-)bf. We noticed a difference pretty quickly, and when the plugin ran out it seemed to get worse again.

    I also have a cat tree (that I ended up getting for free because someone had just put it out on the curb), and it took a little bit for my cats to do much with it. They scratch and climb on it now, which is good. I just got new living room furniture last month, so I’m trying to make sure the cats don’t scratch up my new couch.

    I also made my own catnip spray, and it seems to work pretty well. I took a bag of catnip that I’d had in my pantry for a while, put it in a jar with alcohol (vodka or the like would do) and let it sit and tincture for about a week. Then I put it in an empty spray bottle that I got at the grocery store, diluted to fill the bottle with distilled water. It is pretty dark green, but so far I haven’t noticed staining being an issue just misting it. I spray it on the cat tree, and they rub all over it.

  9. ‘Enrich the elimination away’ – sorry, but this post is so funny if it didn’t highlight an important issue – what was known during the Troubles in Northern Ireland as ‘a dirty protest’ – by prisoners in this case protesting about their conditions or the fact they were incarcerated at all. I once had a cat who staged a sustained dirty protest against a BF she took against, elminating in his briefcase and on the keys of his beloved piano. She was eventually rehomed with my vet’s granny, but even she gave her back smartish, possibly due to further dirty protesting.

  10. Sorry, I know this is an old post, but I was browsing your Chanel tag and came across it and it’s just such an interesting topic!

    We had a cat who got very clingy and stressed after the death of his kitty sister, and one of the things we did to try to ease his anxiety while we were off at school/work was spraying our usual cologne + perfume on a few pillows and throw blankets and things. Then we would come home to him curled up on top of the “mom smell” or “dad smell” items in the evenings.

    That sweet old boy has since passed away, but we recently brought home 2 teenager kittens — they’re a real handful and one of them is really having trouble figuring out what exactly he’s allowed to scratch/climb on. I’m going to try the DIY sprayable catnip tip that Jennifer posted above, because a coworker just gave me a baggy of loose dried catnip that her own feline doesn’t care about and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it….

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