Consider this our audition for My Cat From Hell

Lilo being cute in her cat tree
This is Lilo.

I found her in the parking lot when she was a scrawny kitten of about three months old. She was darting back and forth under the cars, chasing a ground squirrel.

The annual leases in the neighboring apartment complex had just let up, so my best guess was that someone dumped her when they moved. I put up signs that she had been found and let the Humane Society know that an adorable black kitten had been found, but no one ever claimed her.

Lilo is charming and cute. She chirps like a dragon-bird when she’s excited. She gets so excited at meal times that, left to her own devices, all her rubbing against my legs and purring in my face and trying to help me pour the food in the bowl would make it difficult to feed her. So when she was still young, I ended up training her to sit on top of her scratching post as I get her food ready. She continues to do that (usually without prompting) to this day:


Also, she likes to wrap herself in blankets and make herself into kitty burrito filling.

Lilo wrapped in a duvet with just her head sticking out

If you don’t think that’s cute, I have to wonder if you hate joy and rainbows, too.

Lilo is practically the perfect companion, as you can see.

There’s just one problem. Her appetite isn’t limited to food. She also likes to eat:

The edges of pillow cases
The middles of pillowcases
The middles of pillowcases
The corners of cat-themed living room pillows that my mother sewed for me, and the corners of many living room pillows that I made myself but don’t have pictured here either because (1) I’ve already repaired them or (2) I relegated them to the scrap pile so long ago that they are now living on as pieces of baby quilts
tea towel with two 4-inch holes eaten out of the center
Tea towels

wpid-20141118_191623Fleece jackets, front … and back
Neck gaiters
Neck gaiters
Quilts (and if you're wondering where the batting went ... well, she ate it)
Quilts (and if you’re wondering where the batting went … well, she ate it)
Merino wool camisoles (It was on the floor when she got it; it's on the form because I was trying to figure out how to fix it)
Merino wool camisoles (it was on the floor when she got it; it’s on the form because I was trying to figure out how to fix it)

But most of all, she loves socks. If she has a choice, she prefers wool. And fancy that, so do I.

Sock massacre
She’s a serial sock murderer. I think she was particularly proud of the job she did on the gray one. Almost 50 percent eaten before the authorities discovered her crime.
Sometimes I take two of the socks she’s killed and Frankenstein them together, because that’s how frugal I am. In case there’s any confusion: That’s my foot in the center, hers on the left.

To be clear, she actually eats – as in chews up, swallows, and digests – the fabric she tears off. I suppose she’s like me and hates seeing things go to waste. If she’s killed the fabric, she might as well eat it!

When she was a kitten, my old vet thought it might be abandonment anxiety and that she’d eventually get over it.

It did start to get better, but that could be because I no longer leave dirty clothes on the floor, store all my couch pillows inside the ottoman/coffeetable, keep my sewing behind a closed door, and don’t let her anywhere near my bed unattended (which usually works, though last month I woke up to the sound of someone chewing on my pillowcase – hint: it wasn’t me).

I also grow lots of edible houseplants and wheatgrass so she always has something acceptable to chew.

But since my other cat died a few months ago, and a very persistent outdoor cat has begun making daily visits to the kitchen window despite Lilo’s vociferous protests, she’s been starting to eat types of fabric that were previously safe from her sharp little teeth – like the tea towel above.

There are a lot of theories about why some cats do this: they were weaned too early, they didn’t stay with their litter long enough, they have a screw loose in their heads. Wool-eating (as it’s apparently called in veterinary parlance) is classified as a compulsive anxiety disorder, like OCD in humans.

Maybe that’s why she found me in the parking lot that day long ago. I know all about compulsive anxiety disorders! (If anyone who knew me in fourth grade through middle school reads this and had not figured that out yet – frankly, I’m shocked, given how proud I was of my hand-washing routine.)

My current vet and I have talked about whether Lilo should go on anti-anxiety meds, because if she keeps this up she could end up with an intestinal obstruction – and given her affinity for polyester fleece, it’s sort of surprising she hasn’t had one yet.

Last week after discovering the tea towel (and finally admitting that she’s been growing increasingly neurotic for months in some of her other behaviors as well), I called the vet to make an appointment.

We went today. She got a physical and her blood drawn to rule out hormonal problems and tumors. In a few days, the vet will call with his recommendations.

The good news is that he can get anti-anxiety meds in beef-liver flavor. So in the likely event that she needs them, I shouldn’t have any problem giving them to her. She was always jealous of my other cat when he would get his beef-liver flavored medicine.

The only thing that Lilo would enjoy more than that is, well, wool.

Update Feb. 14, 2016: Since writing this blog, Lilo has started medication for compulsive behavior and is doing a lot better, though I still need to keep socks and pillowcases away from her.  This month, she was featured in an essay I wrote for the Chicken Soup for the Soul book  My Very Good Very Bad Cat, which you can find out more about here.

6 thoughts on “Consider this our audition for My Cat From Hell”

  1. This is an hysterical post. I would have laughed harder but then I got a little frightened. Lucy has been chewing on a lampshade, but the water spray bottle is beginning to work. I’ve also been spraying when they get under the computer – so much so I’m afraid I’m going to destroy the computer and/or blow a fuse. People eat odd things, and sometimes it’s because of a deficiency in a mineral instead of a deficiency in their cognitive capacity. Do they do those kinds of tests on cats? I wonder.

    Thanks for following my blog.

    • Do they chew the cords under the computer? Covering it with tape (sticky side out) or bitter grapefruit spray (at petstores) can help. Interesting about the lampshade. What is it made of? Does she just chew it, or actually eat it?

      In cats it’s more common to be from hormonal issues than nutritional deficiencies, but the vet tested for everything just in case. She’s just a smart, healthy kitty who really enjoys eating fabric when most cats will stop at chewing. 🙂


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