I Trained My Husband to Change the Litter, and So Can You!

I Trained My Husband to Change the Litter, and So Can You!

My husband and I have been married for almost six years, and in that half decade, we've only had 2.5 actual fights.

The first serious squabble between me and Chris obviously concerned the thermostat. The second battle focused on his inability to use basic grammar and punctuation. The most recent ruckus involved determining who had to collect the mushy gifts deposited by our cats in their bathroom box.

Our first two altercations hit all the high points: crying, screaming, silent treatments, and couch-sleeping. So, when the Feline Feces Feud first began, I quickly surmised that our marriage couldn't handle another fisticuff.

I know some of y'all are like, "Bekah, it's just litter. What's the big deal?"



Sure, they appear angelic here, but do not let my fur babies hoodwink you! These walking turd robots lay loafs putrid enough to gag a goat.

And look at that fat fuck on the left. That tuxedo kitty? Mycroft? Yeah, he weighed 17.5 pounds at his recent exam. The vet was so surprised, she weighed him twice. He's only a year old, y'all. He's not even close to being done growing. For reference, the calico, Khaleesi, is only 9 pounds, and she's several months older.

Now, again, you might be like, "Bekah, he's a big cat. So what?"

Um... he's 17.5 pounds of big cat. I once read on a weight loss forum that losing 18 pounds is equivalent to shedding a karaoke machine. So, my cat takes karaoke-machine-sized shits. Would YOU want to clean up after a pooping karaoke machine that moved its bowels three times a day on an alarmingly regular schedule?

Yeah, I thought not.

So, Chris and I needed to get this shit worked out (pun intended), and as the unemployed college student who misplaced our pre-nup, I had the most to lose if the Bekah-Chris Civil War divided our once great union. (Seriously, y'all, I can't risk my access to that sweet, sweet nectar that is my man's paychecks.)

Still, I couldn't simply concede. That's not how marriage works. The first lesson in Spousing 101 is to never do for yourself what your partner is capable of doing for you. I understand that he can't menstruate for me, birth our children, or properly fold a towel, but he sure as shit can pick up our animals' ass apples.

Except he wasn't.

I tried ignoring the kitty crap. I tried handing out "you get sex if you empty the cat litter" coupons. I even got so desperate that I tried scooping it myself, but I absolutely hated that deal. Like I said, I didn't get married so I could do my own chores.

So, I trained my husband to change the litter.

No, seriously, I did.


With science, of course.

When I'm not blogging about random shenanery, I'm working in a research lab and eyeing a PhD in psychology. I recently enrolled in Advanced Psychology of Learning, which is all about the higher order aspects of such wonderful concepts as classical and operant conditioning. Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? He's the dude who figured out how to get dogs to drool every time he emitted a certain sound.

Well, I was sitting at my desk shortly after the Feline Feces Feud began, and I was drawing a diagram contrasting Thorndike's Law of Effect with Skinner's Theory of Selection by Consequences, and I realized that my husband could be the slobbering mutt to my rendition of Dr. Pavlov.

(Dear Psychology Buffs: Yes, I know that colloquially comparing classical conditioning to operant conditioning is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. But fuck off, okay? If it matters that much to you, maybe you should be reading a scholarly journal instead of a blog that discusses vibrators, mold growing in fat folds, and cat shit.)

Once I determined that I could and * should * train Chris, the only remaining question was whether I should apply a contingency of reinforcement or a contingency of punishment. In other words, carrot or stick?

Chris is a wee bit of a chubster, so luring him to do something with the promise of vegetables seemed unlikely. And the last time I tried spanking him, the night abruptly ended well for him, while I remained unsatisfied.

In order to both maintain ethical research standards and to ensure the highest chance of success, I visited my psychology professor during his office hours to discuss potential parameters for my project.

"Simple," he said, clearly excited that a student actually paid attention to his lectures. "You need to determine which operant behaviors warrant a consequence. Personally, I'd recommend that you proceed using only reinforcing stimuli. Furthermore, I think the goal should be to establish intrinsic reinforcement rather than extrinsic. Whether you want your reinforcement schedule to be continuous or intermittent is solely dependent upon your ability to consistently monitor the subject."

In other words: figure out what you want Chris to do, reward him for doing it, make him think he's doing said task for his own benefit, and reward him as often as I can when he does the desired chore.

And that was that.

I was off.

Day 1: I didn't scoop the litter box. I did, however, mention to Chris that the litter smelled particularly ripe and made a big show of lighting a candle.

Day 2: I still didn't scoop the litter box. Again, I subtly brought Chris's attention to the increasing odor.

Day 3: I began my efforts to directly place Chris in contact with the smell. That meant that Chris needed to use the guest bathroom (where the litter box is) as often as possible. To accomplish this, I had to come up with every excuse in the book for preventing Chris from using our bathroom. Whenever I saw him heading to the loo, I'd intervene, saying such things as, "Oh, could you use the other bathroom? I was just about to go..." or "I was just going to take a bath. Could you use the guest bathroom?" or "I'm sorry. I just put Draino in the sink, so there are a lot of chemicals in our bathroom. You can use the guest bathroom instead."

Day 4: I peed, bathed, and poured Draino like a motherfucker.

Day 5: Still did all that, still didn't scoop the damn litter box, and still kept casually addressing the unpleasant scent.

Day 6: Chris got up out of bed, ignored the bathroom five feet to his left, exited the bedroom, and walked the entire length of the apartment to use the guest bathroom --- WITHOUT PROMPTING! As he used the toilet, I raced to my e-mail and shot off the following message to my professor: "Subject C has entered Phase 2 of Project Litter Box."

Day 7: I "spontaneously" asked Chris (who does not drive) if he would like me to run to the liquor store for his favorite adult beverage (of which he was out, as a result of me incrementally pouring it out.) He responded affirmatively, and I politely asked if he wouldn't mind changing the litter while I was out. He acquiesced, and I got his alcohol. I returned from the liquor run to offer nothing but praise for the fresh litter.

Day 8: I blabber on about how wonderful it smells in the house since Chris changed the litter. While doing so, I bring him another beer and tell him that he should play video games with his friends.

Day 9: Chris scoops the litter with no prompting. I bring him more beer, encourage him to play more video games, and give him a blow job.

Day 10: Rinse and repeat.

Day 11: Chris is now exclusively using the guest bathroom. He has not used our bathroom for three days.

Day 12: He again scoops the litter, I again pamper him, and he says to me that he really feels good about how much more fresh the apartment smells when we keep the litter scooped.

Um, did you catch that?

He's not only not leaving the seat up in my bathroom, but he's also scooping the damn litter box regularly and giving us shared credit for completing the chore.

And that, folks, is how you use science to save your marriage.



True story: Life would be super swell if we all embraced our OMG side instead of living a Facebook-friendly existence. So, let it out. What has been the biggest fight you and yours have ever encountered? How much would you be willing to pay for me to teach you how to train your significant other like a rat? What is the most annoying thing your partner does? Feel free to disclose details. You're safe here.