How I solved our horrifying problem with a few of the Panache Cats “thinking outside the box”.
Listen while you read to “I’m On the Run”, a Panache rock piece that we hope to eventually secure sufficient funding to record properly. This live recording was lifted out of a video taken at a concert in June 2011 (and “photoshopped” at the part where I stumbled badly coming out of the solo!).
Martin Luther King Weekend (January 14-16) 2012
In this post I described the history of the horrific problem we’ve had with some of our cats not using their litter boxes and turning whole sections of Panache House into their own personal toilets. This post details how I went about fixing it. The most persistent offender was Jaco, our adult male cat, and rather than do like most people and simply surrender the cat to a shelter where, at least here in metro L.A., he would face a nearly 100% probability of a horribly cruel, inhumane and utterly unnecessary death in the gas chamber, I did everything I possibly could to fix the problem, and did indeed fix it. Where the post linked above left off, even adding additional litter boxes didn’t completely solve the problem, although it greatly helped. Laxmi began using the litter box(es) now that she had other “legal” options available when Gureyo harassed her. However, Jaco continued to pee on the floor and against the wall in Cat Shit Corridor every. single. day., even though he was willing to shit in the litter box, except when we let it get unacceptably dirty and he expressed his disgust by shitting on the floor immediately outside of it instead.
As long as we’ve lived together Chi and my relationship has always been turbulent, and this cat piss issue was becoming a major flashpoint since Chi was of the disastrously mistaken and perverse belief that abusing and starving Jaco would solve the problem. No fucking way. (The astute reader may infer that I find such utter idiocy beyond intolerable.) We tried rigging up a cat urinal for Jaco alongside the wall he habitually pees on, but that didn’t work. He used it with greater or lesser degrees of success for the first few days, but got tired of it and started peeing in the middle of the corridor instead of against the wall since the urinal was in the way. In fact, I wish I’d known it wouldn’t work before I went to the trouble and expense to build him a super-sized one.
Anyway, this continued to perplex me for awhile until it finally registered that the floor in that part of the house had become so totally impregnated with the cat piss smell that Jaco was continuing to pee there because of the smell! That was it! I realized that I had no practical alternative but to find a way to get rid of Chi for a long weekend so I could demolish and restore Cat Piss Corridor as I had intended to do during the Great Demolition Operation last summer, but ran out of time and money. Martin Luther King weekend was coming up, and Chi just happened to find a place in an expedition headed for a several-day hiking trip to Havasupai and decided to go. Hooray!!!!
Well, after extensive research and reading through at least a million product reviews, I ordered a big, rounded-triangular litter box with high sides and no cover to exchange for the Cat Genie (which Jaco never ended up being willing to use, even though the rest of the Panache Cats were) once I finished the operation on Cat Shit Corridor, hoping that would be more enticing to Jaco than the floor and wall. I did some further research on this issue — I’ve read a lot of articles about this over the years — and came across this one that treats the subject with such detail and urgency that it finally got the whole picture through to me. It’s interesting how you can sometimes read something over and over and still fail to pick up on a vitally important detail or two. By this point I was desperate to get this continuous waking nightmare fixed once and for all, so I decided to follow this advice to the letter, right down to the recommended types of boxes and litter.
Since the time frame I had to work within was so tight given the drying time needed for the various treatments I would be applying to the target area (i.e., de-stenching, sealing, repainting, varnishing, etc.), there was absolutely no margin for error, so I worked up an excruciatingly detailed timeline during the week before Chi left in which I planned every single step of the operation, right down to how, where and when I would procure the necessary materials, and included a realistic budget since there is nothing worse than your project getting jacked up by underestimating the cost and running out of money!
Thankfully Chi had been booked almost that entire week on various film and TV jobs that ran well into the evenings, so that greatly reduced my exposure to the increasingly abusive, drug-addled, mentally sick behaviour he was acting out with during that time. He threatened to not go on the trip a few times since he was so exhausted from working 13- 14- 15-hour days all week, but fortunately he ended up going, and since my day job let us out early Friday before the holiday weekend and Chi was working that day/evening, that gave me a good running start.
I was able to get most of the materials and tool procurement done that afternoon and the walls cleaned and both coats of primer on by the time he got home, which somewhat accelerated my time table. However unfortunately my fatigue level and the late arrival of the people who were to pick Chi up on Saturday dragged it down again, so it evened out. Anyway, I set to work on the floor just before noon on Saturday after painting the walls that were now sealed.
Since a lot of the tiles in that part of the house were already starting to lift due to their nearly daily dousing with cat piss and vinegar (that I use to disinfect the cat piss) having already dissolved the adhesive, they came up with practically no resistance. I schlepped all the tiles out bag by bag and dumped them in the trash bin out back, and when I took off my respirator to get a breath of what I thought would be fresh air (at least however “fresh” it ever gets in downtown L.A.), holy. fucking. shit! The stench was unbelievable! The newly exposed cat piss-drenched floorboards stunk at least 10 feet out the door, and the tiles I’d chucked out ponged halfway across the parking lot! I really wasn’t feeling up to a hard, dirty, disgusting job like this, but there was nothing to do but press on if I were to have any remote possibility of finishing this mission-critical task in time.
Next, I turned that stretch of freshly stripped floorboards into a river of full-strength bleach that filled most of the house with mind-bogglingly pungent fumes that were even more eye and lung-searing than the cat piss. I decided to go work out in the front garden while the bleach was drying and the fumes were dissipating even though I didn’t feel like it at all, and perhaps because I was so burned out from dealing with Chi’s hysterical asshattery prior to his trip, I took off the respirator and mindlessly went into the office room to print out my garden task list. Indeed, I was so thoroughly battered that it took a few seconds for my brain to register that my eyes and respiratory system were getting incinerated by bleach fumes since for some reason I hadn’t thought to close the door when I poured the bleach. I had however kettled all the cats and locked them down in the bedroom prior to demolishing the floor so they would not suffer the same fate. Shit…now this means a couple weeks of coughing and sneezing, sniffling, raspy throat, teary eyes, etc., as my body repairs the perfectly needless damage I just inflicted on it.
I finally trudged out to the garden with my list in hand, not feeling at all like dealing with the arduous task series ahead of me, and started schlepping heavy bags of soil amendments and garden tools around to the front. I had to take down the rickety fence I had ghetto-rigged into place a couple months earlier when I finally hit my tolerance for the neighborhood cats turning my potager garden into the ‘hood latrine, which has made garden maintenance a much bigger pain in the ass than it was before. When I got too hungry to make any further progress, I went back into the still-bleach fume-filled house and put myself into a coma making and eating a way-too-big burrito with leftover steak and kale and black rice, so I didn’t get anything else done that day. The bleach had dried sufficiently by Sunday morning to begin sanding, but the temperature had plummeted, and I found out why doing this type of project in the dead of winter is a fucking terrible idea: having to keep the doors and windows wide-open to vent off toxic fumes makes it miserably cold and uncomfortable (even here in L.A.), and it takes forever for stuff to dry!
In addition to the deeply entrenched dark cat-piss stains, there was a lot of white-ish residue on the wood, but other than that, the subfloor appeared to be in quite good shape. Having learned my lesson during the Demo Op of last summer, I thoroughly masked off my work area with painters plastic and duct tape before I laid into it with the belt sander after first getting rid of what I could of the surface debris with the floor scraper. Three hours later, most of the grunge was sanded off, but the floor didn’t look notably better than it did before as far as evening out the colour was concerned, so I decided that was enough sanding, took a break for dinner and puttered about for a bit while trying to motivate myself to go through the tedious chore of ridding the corridor of sanding dust and any other remaining crud in preparation for varnishing. I succeeded in getting the last coat of varnish on by around 0100-h, heaved a deep sigh of relief, and packed it in for the night with my arms and shoulders aching.
With the varnish finally on and Monday being a holiday, I now had most of the day available to deal with the garden since I’d got so little done on Saturday. The problem was that it was even colder on Monday than it was on Sunday, so that was a pretty miserable ordeal, but at least I got something accomplished: mostly cleaning and amending, transplanting big plants that had busted out of their pots or were about to, and a little more planting seeds. I also finally cleared the tattered remains of summer out of the southern rim and dumped in a bunch of good, homemade compost in preparation for spring planting for this year.
After the garden overhaul, I made dinner and then set about custom-making a brand-new super-sized litter box for Jaco. He seemed ok with the deep triangular-ish one I had ordered and filled with litter and temporarily placed in the office for him to start getting used to, and I hoped he would like this new one too.
Due to the cold, damp weather slowing down the drying time, I didn’t think the varnish was quite dry enough to put anything back in the corridor yet, so I kept it masked off and strictly off-limits to the Panache Cats for another day. After finishing the restoration works in the living room last summer, as soon as the varnish had sufficiently dried on the floor, I essentially made the floor and walls in the (former) pee zone under where the piano used to be disappear by making it as difficult as I could for the cats to get behind or under the furniture I put in that corner, and by piling a bunch of stuff under the piano in the opposite corner where I relocated it to, just in case anyone got any bright ideas. On Tuesday when I came home from work I did the same thing with the floor and walls in Cat Piss Corridor.
I lightly taped a length of clear contact paper sticky-side-up against the wall and overlapping far enough onto the floor to discourage Jaco from trying to pee against the wall opposite the litter box side as he had heretofore been doing, and then put some odds and ends of household stuff against the wall where the contact paper ended (well past Jaco’s pee zone) just for good measure. I then placed the new super-sized litter boxes in position on the litter box side of the corridor where they have always been, moving one of the old small, covered ones down under the house and relocating one of the remaining ones in the cranny between the kitchen and bathroom doors in the interior corridor and temporarily leaving the other in the main bedroom where I had put them during this operation. I also piled some more household stuff in any remaining empty space on the litter box side of the corridor in case anyone decided to get creative.
Funds were running critically low since this project had cost a bit more than I had anticipated, so I couldn’t buy several bags of the new recommended type of litter and would have to make what I had left of our usual stuff (a clumping type made of wheat) work, even though it wasn’t the right kind and there wasn’t quite enough of it. It would just have to do for now. I then let the Panache Cats out of the bedroom and waited anxiously to see what they would make of the new toilet situation. I called in sick to the day job the next day both because I was genuinely feeling like crap and so that I could closely monitor the situation and deal with any issues that might arise before Chi returned home that evening.
Thankfully, all of the kitties seemed happy with their new “open plan” latrine, and used it readily. All hell broke loose when Chi came home, but it had little to do with my renovation of Cat Shit Corridor. We haven’t had a single inappropriate elimination incident since I eradicated the smell and restored the floors/baseboards/walls in the affected areas, and in fact the crowning irony is that Jaco now regularly uses the small, covered litter box I put in the interior hallway next to the “people” toilet, even though it’s way too small (and smelly because of the cover!) for him! He uses the new giant ones regularly also. The whole saga is rather baffling, but the happy ending is that not only do I get to live in a (relatively) clean, sanitary home now, I still get to snuggle up with this beautiful, exquisitely sweet, wonderful cat purring me to sleep every night!