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old catMy husband and I have a better after 50 problem. It’s our better after 15 cat.

The story has its beginning when we took in a kitten that had been found on the streets in lower east side NYC. I now know the kitten’s first weeks must have been spent in a duffle bag or near one. More on that later. We named the cat Harpur after the college where my husband and I met, and the cat joined us and our two youngsters in suburban Westchester. Idyllic right?

Wrong. Little did we know the cat would take on the habit of urinating in duffle bags. On chairs. In suitcases. And on coats. Luckily, never in our beds.

It is not a physical ailment. We have had her checked out and the prognosis is that it is behavioral, plain and simple.  She is either lazy or making some rebellious statement. Either way, I can attest that there is no miracle cleaning product to make the smell disappear. It’s something you learn to live with as do our guests who often comment on the odd scent in the air when they come to visit .

Don’t get me wrong.  Harpur has many good qualities too. She loves to cuddle with you when you watch tv or read. She playfully climbs on the computer keyboard as I type. In her younger days, she would bring me gifts of birds and chipmunks — sometimes alive, sometimes not.  She ask for very little. She wants someone to keep her company when she eats. She wants to be scratched behind her ears and brushed regularly. And sometimes she uses the litter box or goes outdoors.

But many times she doesn’t. She is particularly fond of peeing in my husband’s gym bag. He found that out when he was on the treadmill one morning and everyone was staying far away from him. He quickly realized the cat had left her scent on his running shorts!

I thought the solution would be to make sure we didn’t leave the gym bag (or suitcase, jacket or laundry) on the floor as an invitation to Harpur that it was there to be shared with her. But as my husband is just as set in his ways, it has become a battle of wits. He doesn’t think it’s his job to put his belongings away in safe keeping so Harpur assumes it’s fair game. I wander around the house constantly clearing anything that might be an attraction for Harpur and her hobby.

I took control of the situation a year ago when I set up a baby gate to cordon off the den and living room and trained my husband to shut all bedroom doors when we weren’t home. That leaves Harpur with free access to the basement and garage and kitchen. No harm to be done, right?

Wrong again. Harpur has now decided that my husband’s sneakers and shoes are open for business.  So the new battle lines have been drawn. Either my husband puts his shoes away or they become littler boxes.

Here is the problem (as if staying one step ahead of a cats relieving herself wasn’t enough). My husband and I are moving to a new condo apartment.  We have a year until the apartment is ready. We cannot take Harpur with us because frankly we just cannot deal with the mobile litter box situation in a new home. Also, too many of our friends and family complain about allergies when they visit and in a smaller apartment it would be worse.

My husband’s solution is to pay someone to be a foster parent for the cat.  He thinks someone would be willing to take in the cat as a border if he paid, for instance, paid their college tuition.  Here, too, the problem is that if we fully disclose the situation, it might be hard to find someone to agree to share living space with an errant cat.

Anyone have experience with pet diapers?

I tried to get my 80 year old mother to adopt Harpur but she is wise to Harpur’s “issue” and has refused even though she does love the cat from afar.  A close and supportive friend with three dogs offered to take her saying she wouldn’t notice one extra pet. But I am worried Harpur might not manage three very aggressive barking dogs well.

So my solution is to wait it out. After all, no one said we had to sell the house when we move to the new apartment. Why not keep the house for Harpur.  We can keep her favorite chair and my husbands gym bag there and come daily to feed her and give her some TLC.  My husband agrees to pay the taxes on the house for a while, but refuses to keep the gardener or housekeeper.

Any other ideas?  She is remarkably robust and seems to have a while to go before her proverbial quitting time.

I thought being Better After 50 meant my husband and I would be empty nesters, downsizing and enjoying our leisure and liberty.  What I didn’t count on was a cat willing to hang in there, marking her time literally and figuratively for an undetermined tenure ahead.   At least I still get a snuggle pal.  But someone please tell my husband to keep his sneakers in the closet.

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