Got Mongo? Feed On This!"
Become a fan of the STORE on Facebook. Click here.
Become a fan of the BLOG on Facebook. Click Here

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can't You Smell That Smell?

I have four cats and to plagiarize Bill Cosby, "The reason I have four cats is because I do not want five." I love them dearly. Now only one of those four cats are actually there because I wanted them to be. The first one, Oscar, was a stray that my wife rescued outside the back door of my townhouse in 2003. Of course, he had to have a friend, so I agreed to adopt another cat. In November, I checked out the local shelters and adopted Emmy as a playmate. Instead of having a playmate to keep Oscar out of trouble, I now had two cats equally capable of mischief and no way to prove which one is guilty.

Then in 2004, I moved into my house, and my wife, again, rescued more animals. This time it was a set of twins from the farmers' market she worked. Enter in Willow and Lucy. Now, Oscar and I have resigned ourselves to the fact that we are the only men in the family since the addition of my daughter in 2007. We have that bond over the television and eating and generally any chance he can get to come get in my face.

Making up the rest of the clan, Emmy is considered the alpha female and dictates when breakfast and dinner is going to be served. Willow is the shy runt who could rip you a new asshole. She seems very timid, but we really don’t trust her. The last cat is Lucy, the sweet docile one who is in love with Oscar and loves to eat. Since Emmy is such a voracious eater, I have to wait until all the cats are present to put the bowls down or Emmy will be done and move onto everyone else’s bowl. Willow just lays on the floor waiting patiently while Lucy worries that Oscar isn't there yet. He's always the last one to the kitchen. The only reason he shows up is because Lucy goes and rounds him up. She’ll walk into a room and cry at him to come to the kitchen. It's hard to believe that her and Willow are sisters. They couldn’t be more opposite. Willow is quiet and calculating, Lucy is loud and sort of dim. I know all of this by observing them over the last four years. I'm like the Jane Goodall of domestic short hairs. Isn’t my life pathetic. Oh, did I mention I am allergic to cats?

That's right. I am allergic to cats. If I get cat hair near my eyes, they swell up to the point where I look like Benecio Del Toro. I treat with a nasal spray but sometimes the side effects are that my nose dries out and bleeds. Oh well. Still, they are family and I wouldn't get rid of them for the world. That is, until last month. I had recently been in Nashville and apart from a week of cat free breathing I never really noticed that I had cats. Sure, the litter boxes are out in the open, but the house never really smelled like cats lived there. Now, there would be those few occasions where Oscar would come down to the litter box carrying a newspaper under his paw and we knew what that meant. Sometimes, his timing couldn't be worse because my wife would be with someone in the next room and he would forget to cover his mess. Actually, I think he refuses. He's such a priss. Other than that, the house is pretty good. It wasn't until I came home from my trip that I noticed the smell.

I usually go through a brief bout with cold and allergies after a trip. Between travelling in an enclosed plane with that recycled air and being run down, my immune system is off guard. Couple that with being re-exposed to cats and I lose a week of good health as soon as I walk in the door. Usually, it clears up within days. Yet, even with the cold, my senses were in perfect working order. In fact, for some reason, I have an acute sense of smell. My wife thinks I’m nuts. I think I have a good chance at a guest shot on Heroes. I can be working around the house and come upstairs to the living room where my wife and my daughter are sitting and as soon as I top the steps, I catch the scent of a dirty diaper. My wife, who has been not more than a foot from the child is oblivious. I, on the other hand, am standing there with watery eyes.

Super Smell aside, I didn’t quite notice the stench that had taken up residence in my basement/family room/man cave. I didn’t really have time to. Before getting on the plane for home, my wife called me to inform me that they were taking her Mother to the hospital. I was pretty much on baby detail while my wife shuttled between work and the hospital. After she was discharged a week later, my wife was in a wedding and we spent all weekend driving all over creation to a rehearsal dinner on the other side of Pittsburgh, dropping the baby off at my folks, and going back to Pittsburgh for the wedding, and then repeating the whole process again. Since I am at work during the week, I miss out on being downstairs until the weekend. I had noticed the smell, but chalked it up to the litter boxes needing changed. After I did that, I still noticed the smell. I couldn’t figure it out. My wife thought I was crazy because she didn’t smell it. Even upstairs, I could smell the smell of cat urine. Dear God! I have cats!

Now, while I knew that there was a smell in the house, my wife didn't believe me until she found the evidence. She reached for a music book that was sitting on the floor up against a filing cabinet next to the piano. The bottom third of the book was warped, discolored, and wet. Besides that, the smell of ammonia nearly knocked her off the piano bench. We now had proof that a cat was peeing on the carpet. We just didn’t have a suspect. My wife immediately blamed the boy, Oscar. I told her I wasn’t convinced but in my house, if you have a Y chromosome, you are guilty until proven partially to blame. Short of making Oscar wear an outfit with yellow P on the front, my wife gave him the cold shoulder. Meanwhile, I spent the evening using our carpet scrubber to get the carpet cleaned in that spot. But anyone who has owned a cat will tell you, that will not fix the problem. As I said, I lost a whole weekend due to the wedding so, we missed the next two or three acts. We still had no real suspect, just my wife’s intuition. It wasn’t until my wife was standing downstairs, attending to some bills, after the hustle and bustle died down that she actually had her suspect nailed. She heard this sound like water hitting fabric and was knew she had her suspect. She had finally caught Oscar, or so she thought. There, underneath her piano with an earnest look on her face was Lucy, the most docile of all four cats, peeing on the carpet.

We couldn’t understand it. Why Lucy? Oscar was an immediate suspect because he is a male. While he is the only boy cat, he’s worse than a woman when it comes to litter box hygiene. He prefers to wait until I clean out the box to use it. He hates getting litter on his paws. Sometimes, it sounds like he’s building an addition in the litter box because of the noise of his paws scratching on the sides. He’ll do this for five minutes. He was also innocent of the accusation and my wife apologized profusely. Now, that we had our cat, we had to solve our problem. We had two spots identified where urine was soaked into the carpet. Soon, two became four as I found another spot right at the corner of our bar as well as a throw pillow upstairs in our living room. Until that point, I had been laying on it at night while we watched our usual 11 O'Clock News, Family Guy, and HGTV shows before bed. That was an easy fix. In the wash it went. The bigger problem was how to get that smell out of the carpet. However, we first needed to understand what was wrong with Lucy.

We took her to the vet and there was no obvious physical reason why she would be going on the carpet. We had to obtain a sample, but with four cats it’s hard to know exactly where and when she’ll go since we both work. The vet seemed to think that it was behavioral and that perhaps Lucy was being bullied and blocked from the litter box by one of the other cats. Immediately, I thought of Emmy. She is the alpha female and has been known to chase the other females and run them down in the hallway. Still, her and Lucy don’t have much beef towards each other. They are both big eaters and overtake Willow and Oscar’s dish when they leave. Here, I was now guilty of accusing a cat before all the evidence was in on the issue. We confined all the cats to the upstairs and kept a litter box within sight. So, we either have it smell like urine downstairs or worse upstairs. Let me tell you I am not happy at all about this situation. Anyway, we kept on eye on the cats habits and noticed that Lucy would still not want to go in the litter box. She seemed afraid. She ended up going right outside of it which gave us our sample. The results came back that there was no conclusive evidence that she had anything wrong with her. In order to deal with this fear we removed the lid to the litter box and she began to use it. At this time, we are now on day three of using the litter box exclusively. Unfortunately, since Oscar is prissy when it comes to the litter he manages to get litter everywhere when he scratches. Another thing I hate because I usually do not wear shoes around the house, socks most of the time, but even still I hate seeing it on the floor.

With Lucy on the road to rehabilitation, I began turning my attention to salvaging the downstairs. My wife has already begun teaching on the road at her students’ homes but we are still confining the cats to the upstairs. By now, a lot of the urine has dried which makes it ten times worse because the crystals are more pungent than the liquid form. I first moved the piano to the garage since it had soaked up some of the urine and now smelled. With that gone, I could concentrate of removing the smell from the carpet, if I could. I began using our carpet steamer in hopes that I could liquefy and suck up the offending particles. Unfortunately, all that did was soak the carpet and allow for mold. I have a dehumidifier running most of the time to help. Since the issue went into the padding and backing, I knew I had to figure out a way to dissolve the particles.

I bought some stuff called Simple Solution which has a money back guarantee. I poured a bunch on the spots and allowed it to soak for 10 minutes then sucked it up. The smell stuck. Then, I did the unmanly thing. I read the directions, fully. I had to allow the solution to soak into the carpet for ten minutes and then use a towel to suck up excess moisture. Then allow the solution to dry on its own. Within 12 hours, the carpet and the entire downstairs smelled ten times better. I thought the battle was won. However, after 24 more hours the smell returned and the spots that had smelled better were now just as bad as they were before. By now, I’ve used almost a gallon of the solution and at $21.99 a pop, I’m not buying more if it won’t work. I’m returning it for a refund.

We’ve both come to the conclusion that we need to replace the carpet. It was something that was always on our radar, but after four years, we never found the time or the extra money to start renovations of our downstairs. We also had originally planned to replace all of the carpet, but now, we’ve decided to put carpet on one side and tile on the other. The garage is our main entrance for us and company so we figured it would be better to have tile that can be cleaned easily if anyone tracks in water or dirt. That way they don’t track it into any new carpet. I also wanted to do a faux hard wood flooring but I’ve been told that moisture, especially cat urine, can destroy it. I just have to convince my wife to get something that is durable and will also be a final solution, meaning neutral in color. Yeah, it may not match the paneling or the rest of the carpet, but the walls are eventually going to be replaced with drywall and the rest of the carpet will be a burgundy color with some ceramic or slate tile in front of the wood burner at the other end of the basement where the carpet will remain.

It’s a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of head ache for two people who had hoped to slow down the pace of things after our daughter’s first birthday. With a wedding, a mother in the hospital, and now this right before the holiday season, I don’t see us slowing down anytime soon. Some people have said to me, “Just get rid of the cat.” I know we’re three cats short of the “Crazy Cat …” label but I’ve become attached to them. They are part of the family and I love them just as much as anyone else. I couldn’t bear to put them outside and wonder if they have a warm soft place to sleep or are they getting enough food and shelter, let alone are they safe from other animals or the busy street that runs past our house. Call me a Tree Hugging, Animal Loving, Hippie if you want but that’s how I roll. I slow down for animals on the road, flash the headlights at oncoming drivers, and occasionally honk in areas of deer crossing traffic. While, I do not condone what Lucy did, I can’t help but think that she really has a problem and it’s my job to try and fix it, not just get rid of her. She deserves the same rights as we do as long as she’s not infringing on others. It’s an inconvenience but it’s something that can be fixed, somehow. If anything, my wife isn’t unforgiving about her pissing on the carpet. She just wishes she would have pissed on the couches. She’s been after me for a couple years to get new ones and I haven’t pulled the trigger, yet.

How could you not love this face?

For those of you who love cats in general, go here. I Can Has Cheezburger: LOLCATS
I love this site.

1 comment:

Diane T said...

Oh, Mongo, do I feel your pain. I have three cats, and one of them (at least I hope it's only one) persists in peeing outside the litterbox. In our case, she did pee on our sofas, which, unfortunately, still had some good use to them. (Since when we ditched the big one, someone took it before the garbage truck could get to it, they obviously agreed, and don't mind the smell of cat pee.)

She also pees on throw rugs (but only in the front room), so we've removed them. She has peed on piles of paper on my desk. She has peed inside my gym bag and my flute bag and my son's backpack. (New house rule: don't leave a bag/luggage open on the floor.)

Still, I can't bring myself to get rid of her. It must be something we were doing. Since she was peeing near the front room, I put a new litter box there. The vet says that you should have as many litter boxes as you have cats, plus one. I draw the line at four litter boxes, but I do now have three, just in case.

Now the cat is being ornery, because I want her to pee on the floor so I can get a urine sample, but she won't do it. The vet says if her health is clear, we could try kitty anti-depressants. (Actually, they're people anti-depressants, but they work for kitties, too.) I've replaced the cloth sofa with attractive cushions with a couple of cheap Ikea chairs. Maybe I'll get a vinyl loveseat to replace the other pee-soaked sofa. But I definitely feel your pain, brother. I'll keep trying to get her better, but in the meantime I'm running through a lot of anti-PetStain spray.

Shredded Tweets