December 22, 2012

Worst holiday scent ever

Our youngest cat is almost fourteen years old. So I’m guessing it won’t be long before all of our cats die peaceful, natural deaths. And then after that, as God is my witness, I’m never going to let a cat in my house again.

I tried to be pro-active this holiday season and avoid feline mishaps. I don’t think anyone benefits from the tender holiday image of me swearing at the cats while wielding a bottle of Urine-off. So I did what I could.

I even moved our Christmas village – wooden buildings that my parents built and painted almost thirty years ago — out from under the tree and up onto a couple of tables by the window. This maneuver was in response to an ugly incident that happened a couple of years ago when Trouble, our aptly-named male cat, directed a blast of urine at the village. (If the village were on fire and he were a character in an eighteenth-century satire, I suppose his action would have been justified. Alas, it was not.)

This year’s incident happened on my husband’s birthday. With the house decorated for Christmas, our youngest in school, and the older kids at the castle, we planned to spend a romantic day home in front of the fire. I’d finished my grading for the semester, my husband had a couple of days off, and snow was beginning to fall. When we woke up that morning, everything was perfect — except for a strong stench that permeated our home.

“Where’s the smell coming from?” my husband asked, picking up a couch cushion and sniffing it. “It’s somewhere in this room.”

“I can’t find a wet spot,” I said. We both began frantically sniffing everything in the room. It wasn’t any of the pillows. It wasn't the Christmas village. I could smell the odor — the whole room stank— but I couldn’t find the exact spot.

We spent hours crawling around on the floor, smelling for a spot on the carpet, a urine-soaked pillow, anything. At least, it felt like hours. Time goes slowly when your living room reeks. Finally I opened the windows to let in fresh air, even though that made the room frigid. By then, I'd pulled sweatpants and a sweatshirt on over the lingerie I was wearing for the occasion. The day was getting less and less romantic with every passing minute.

We gave up and went out to lunch to get a respite from the awful smell and to stop at the pet store to buy more Urine-off. When we returned, the stench was worse than ever. I began moving things out of the room, just to eliminate them from our investigation: the pillows, the chair, stacks of piano music. We even moved the Christmas tree into the middle of the room to check the carpet underneath.

“Maybe the cat peed in the heat duct?” my husband said. “And it fills the room every time the heat goes on?” He went down into the crawlspace to check out the furnace.

I was sitting on the floor next to the Christmas tree, and I leaned over to breathe in the pine scent of the tree. That’s when I figured it out. That strand of garland? Those low branches? A whole section of the tree reeked.

Trouble had peed on the Christmas tree.

I grabbed my pruning shears and chopped off a branch. “I found it!” I yelled to my husband. When he appeared, I made him smell the branch — and the strand of contaminated garland. I started hacking branches off the tree like crazy.

I kept bringing bit of Christmas tree over to my husband, “See? Smell this!”

“Stop making me smell them,” he said finally. “Really, I believe you.”

I hacked a whole section of branches off the tree and tossed them outside. The room, thankfully, began to smell better. My husband began carrying in all the furniture and pillows we’d tossed tossed into the kitchen during our frantic search. I began to feel optimistic. “I’ll just turn this side of the tree to the wall,” I said. “It’ll look fine.”

I yanked the tree across the room, ornaments bouncing onto the carpet as I spun it into place. Then I reached down to plug in the lights. Only the very bottom stand lit: the rest of the tree was dark. I peered in at the branches as an awful thought crossed my mind. Yep, in my eagerness to hack away urine-soaked branches, I’d clipped the strand of Christmas lights with my pruning shears. Damned cats.

Christmas village

Note: The Christmas village — as seen in photo above — was not harmed in this year's holiday cat pee incident.


delagar said...

...girl cats don't do this. Right?


(I'm on my first cat, who so far doesn't. We've been thinking of getting another. Reassure me or warn me, whichever is appropriate!)

jo(e) said...

I don't think I can reassure you. Two of our cats are usually the culprits in these incidents. One is male and one is female. And all of our cats are spayed or neutered. All of them can go outside whenever they want, and we have several litterboxes inside as well.

Of course, the three other cats in the house have never peed on anything.

Michelle said...

I have no voice, but am wheezing with silent laughter at this scene. The cat asleep at my feet, glared once and went back to sleep. It so could be my house...where the best laid plans always go astray!

Silver Fox said...

I haven't had cats for years, for various reasons: one that killed a neighbor's chickens comes to mind.

Lovely Christmas village. :)

hilary said...

Although I hope you never need it again, rather than using your nose to find the spot, you can usually buy or rent black lights from the pet store.


jo(e) said...

Hilary: Thanks! We actually do have a black light just for that purpose. But I didn't want to wait until it got dark to find the spot ....

Elisabeth Kauffman said...

I totally feel you... except... my youngest cat is 3... I have 4... and the oldest male (14 yrs) has pee issues. I have closed so many rooms of our tiny house and put litter boxes in strategic places. Sigh. I've sworn off cats after this batch, too. We'll see if that will hold.

susan said...

I've never had a cat pee on the tree, but I have so been there, crawling around a room, looking for where the scent is coming from. That part of cat ownership is

Anonymous said...

My random cat tips: I find the male cats start the trouble, and then the female cats follow suit. Once you have one pee spot, it's all down hill from there. I've found that raising the kittens in a smaller space (like one room for the first few months) with a litter box rather than letting them roam free through a big house gets them used to peeing in only one spot. And then as they grow and can comfortably traverse the house quickly (and grow some bladder control and bigger brains) they will never pee outside the litter box unless they're sick.

Heidi said...

LOVE the village.

Anonymous said...

I love the village wow so beautiful so inticate looks like london or the ponds something so precious and loving from ur parents a gift to be forrever treasured and passed on to your own ...oh the gifts our parents give us first birth then childhood the good bad and ugly then grandparenthood new memories made and then we become those who shall ultimately parent ouf parents tough descions and sll

kathy a. said...

my senior cat poops and sometimes pees in the bathtub. that's all good with me, because if a cat is going to act out, why not in a place that is easily cleaned?

but we have not had presents under the tree for i don't know how many years, at least 10. because senior decided that flat boxes under the tree were the perfect place to pee. seriously, it is not good to be running the present from grandma through the washer before re-wrapping.

this cat intends to be around for Ever. she adores the equipment in my office. she wants wants wants to be sleeping fully on top of me at night. if she wasn't so cute.... well, we do not go there. we put the presents in an upright position, away from the tree. we wash the bathtub as often as needed. i have bookends behind my keyboard, and pretend i have no idea about all those fur marks on faxes i send. what can you do?

Contingent Cassandra said...

Pee and pine are, indeed, not a good combination. The former brings out the underlying muskiness in the latter, I suspect. And cats do like Christmas trees, and peeing around same. One of these days I will get around to removing the lovely sequinned felt cutouts from the felt tree skirts my grandmother made, and affixing them (probably with velcro) to new, washable skirts, the better to cope with this problem (come to think of it, maybe I should use that rubber-backed flannel sold for use in cribs and under invalids as a base, for exactly this reason).

Despite the above, I still miss my last cat, who died 2 Christmas eves ago, and plan for her to have a successor some day (once I get my own environment organized enough that a new, younger cat won't spell complete disaster -- and/or have me hunting through far too many bits and pieces on the floor trying to find the wet spot).

Nik said...

Oh peeing cats. You are giving your comrades bad press. I too once had 4 cats and now have zero. But I am looking forward to my brain forgetting about the smell of cat urine and getting at least one.

rented life said...

Hilarious, but I think only because my cats have never done this. Last year though, we left for the holidays and were gone 2 and a half days. The cats had promptly thrown up everywhere--the couch, the bed, several places on the floors. It was annoying.

The worst I've ever had to deal with was cats who ate tinsel off the tree and then would have tinsel hanging out their butss. (Normal event of my childhood.) Once my husband heard that story, he decided no tinsel ever.

Zhoen said...

Our Moby has a thing about throw rugs, irresistible to him. Otherwise, he's been very good. So, we have a few sacrificial throw rugs. In the last apartment, it was the carpet near the front door, managed somewhat with a rubber boot mat with a throw rug on top. Hydrogen peroxide, followed by rubbing alcohol is very effective on cloth, though probably not on christmas trees.

If you do find yourself with another cat (because these things happen) a professional cleaning is essential. Or the new cat will just find all the old spots and think, well, this is where to pee.

jo(e) said...

Rented Life: Oh, that image has ruined tinsel for me forever!

jo(e) said...

Zhoen: Yeah, we can't use throw rugs or bathmats in this house. I loved the youtube clip of the big cats playing with the Christmas trees! I think that's what my little cats really want to do.

kathy a. said...

love the video!

it is something of a relief that other people have issues with bathmats and such -- although seriously, that's much better than the carpet.

when #2 cat died a couple of years ago, after a long struggle with incontinence and my inadequate efforts to deal using a carpet shampooer in the stricken central hallway, i had the hall carpet pulled and replaced immediately. carpet replacement does not normally happen immediately, so i chose an industrial-grade remnant that the carpet store had on hand, leading my wise-ass son to ask when we would be installing cubicles. ok, so i don't care as much about style as about utility; sue me.

Anonymous said...

I laughed at this. With sympathy, of course ....


Sarah Sometimes said...

"And then after that, as God is my witness, I’m never going to let a cat in my house again."

Amen, sister. Love, your friend with the allergies.