At Least Now We Know Where it is Coming From

I do not even know where to start with this post.  Where did this all begin?  Was it when I fixed the Coaxial Cable?   Was it the when we decided to find a new home for our dog?  Was it when we brought the cats home?

WARNING:  This post will not be for the faint of stomachs.  Graphic descriptions and photos will follow.  Reading beyond this point will be at your own risk.

You have been warned.

I’ll start where this post started for me.  For the past month or so, we had not been able to access the “on demand” portion of our cable TV.  

floor_trussesOur laundry room is still unfinished and has access to the utilities (plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc) that runs between the floor of the upstairs and the ceiling of the basement.  There is an (about) two foot gap created by the engineered floor trusses.

(An example of this can be seen in this pirated photo from the web…)

When the house is finished, flooring is placed on top of those trusses, and drywall attached from the bottom to create a ceiling in the basement – leaving that gap for all the “mechanicals” of the house.

I started troubleshooting this problem by accessing the coaxial cable junction point in the ceiling of our laundry room.  It was while I was working on the coaxial cable in that gap that I first noticed… IT.

Jumping back in time….

It was when we first got the cats that we first noticed the gap in the ceiling.  The cats would (from time to time) climb up the wall studs, hop on the spare refrigerator, then hop up to the gap  (or in reverse, to hop down).  Since Garfield (our cat that was killed by a car) was such a “climber” (he climbed up on top of virtually EVERYTHING) that we did not give it a second thought.  In fact, it was when he was jumping down from that gap that he broke his leg.

Fast forward a bit…

One of the several reasons we justified finding a new home for our dog Molly was because of her pooping issues.  We tried for two years to get her housebroken.  Crate training, bell on the door, being leased – all of it.  But no matter what we tried, she did the majority of her pooping in the house.  Not only did she do the majority of her pooping in the house – her pooping was almost exclusively done in #3 of 5’s bedroom.  We never could figure out why, but in the end, for sanitary and safety reasons, we could not deal with it anymore.

Meanwhile, a little closer to today… 

For the past couple of years, when the house would warm up (temp and humidity), or in the stagnant air of the homes during a Minnesota winter, #3 of 5’s room would smell of (animal) poop.  We assumed this came from one of two sources. 

It could have been from when Molly used his bedroom for her potty, or because this bedroom is right across the hall from the laundry room too (where the cat’s litter boxes are located) it was more likely that it was air flow.  The smell from the litter boxes would flow into his bedroom. 

When the smell gets bad, we will open a window to air it out.  That works for a few days.  We have added a ceiling fan to help keep the air in his room circulating.  That has helped some too!  Over the past two years, we have shampooed his carpet several times.  We have tried several specialty cleaners, and have sprinkled baking soda in his room and let it sit (closed) for a couple of days, then go in and vacuum it all up.  Some of these things have worked temporarily.  But in the end the smell just keeps coming back.

Back to the cable repair job…

So, here I was on the edge of the laundry room, with my head in the small gap between the floor and ceiling working on the coaxial cable that I noticed that all too familiar smell that we get in #3 of 5’s room…  It did not surprize me much because a.) his bedroom backs up to the laundry room – so I was overlooking the ceiling of his bedroom, and b.) I was in the laundry room which contains the cat boxes…


It was then that something way in the back of the gap caught my eye… A shadow of a darker area, darker than the already dark abyss. 

I shouted out to the Mother of Five to bring me a light. 

What I saw was more shocking that I could have imagined….

Wait… The camera has a Zoom….



IMG_0694_800x600 IMG_0693_800x600 IMG_0695_800x600


Yup…  Cat poop. 

LOTS of cat poop.





So, I devised a plan using two vacuum cleaner hoses and four vacuum cleaner hose extensions, a stick to control the end of the vacuum hoses and extensions, and lots of duct tape (to hold it all together).  About 15 feet in total.

I spent the better part of one day cleaning just ONE of the three channels I could see.  Every few “kernels” I vacuumed up would clog the hose.  So I’d vacuum for a few minutes, then spend the next 20 minutes taking the hoses and extensions apart, getting the clogged poop out, putting the hoses back together again and starting the whole process over again.Trying to maneuver over to the second channel was difficult (at best) and I can not even imagine how I was going to get over to the third (and possibly more) channels… 

There had to be a better way (that did not involve me ripping the ceilings down completely)…

Looking at the layout of the house, I could see that I could access that area of the ceiling a little easier – but it would mean cutting an access panel in #2 of 5’s bedroom closet (his closet acts as a border between their two bedrooms).

IMG_0701_800x600 IMG_0703_800x600

And (of course) once I removed the panel, the first thing I noticed was that there was cat poop this far too…

I stuck my head in the new hole, and peeked back over #3 of 5’s room.  I thought I was horrified before, but that was nothing compared to what I saw from this angle… (This is overlooking the same area that the first photos were, but this time perpendicular rather than parallel.)

IMG_0704_800x600 IMG_0707_800x600 

It’s a little hard to make out, but there are a total of six channels in this photo.  The furthest one away is the first one I cleaned up from the laundry room.  The second through sixth (working towards you).  Channels #3, #4, and #5 are by far the worst.  Thankfully

Thankfully, from what I am able to see from this access whole, the “mess” tapers off from there… The closest channel in this photo (#6) has much less than the others.  My access is cut in channel #7, and then Channel numbers seem to trail off significantly.


Do I suspect there is some poop in the rest of the ceiling (areas I can not get to from my access panel)?  I do.  But from what I am able to ascertain from my vantage point, it is SIGNIFICANTLY less..  The “mess” seems to be concentrated directly above #3 of 5’s bedroom (channel numbers 1-6).

I am now wondering how much of this had to do with Molly’s (our former dog) insistence on using #3 of 5’s bedroom as her bathroom..  I suspect that she could smell this long before we could, and since she smelled poop there, assumed that is where she was supposed to go…

Clean up has been much easier from the access panel I cut in #2 of 5’s closet, but that only intensifies the need to unclog the vacuum hose – which slows things down.  I have been using my shop vac – but I only have the 1 1/4 in attachments.  I picked up a 2 1/2 inch hose, and tried it out for a few minutes last night.  This seems to keep the hose from getting clogged at all, but the hose is not long enough – so I am going to have to pick up another length of it to reach back as far as I need to, in order to clean up this mess.

As of now, I have about 1/3 of the “mess” cleaned.  I suspect the cleaning will go much faster once I utilize the larger shop vac hose, but before I can do that, I need to find a way to block off the areas the cats are getting access to the ceiling.  Once the mess can not be “added to” I can finish up cleaning this disaster. 

The good news in all this?  At least now we know where the smell is coming from – and how to stop it.

I have my hands full for the rest of today (and I suspect several days in the future too) – that’s for sure!

And, this is all being done in hope that I do not have to replace the whole ceiling in his room – although I am beginning to suspect that that may have been the easier way to go from the beginning…  We will start with the least intrusive method (cleaning) and if that does not clear up the smell in his room, it’s on to “Operation New Ceiling”….

Well, it’s been fun posting about this, now it’s time to get back to the nightmare of CLEANING it. 

Anyone want a couple (or three) slightly used cats??


  1. Wow, you must have been able to go for Weeks without changing the litter box. It's gross, but pee would have been worse. Get rid of the poop, the smell goes away, but pee soaks in.

    so what are you going to do to keep them out of there from now on? makes me wonder about my attic space. Yuck

  2. WOW. I am going to stop complaining about my cat right now!

  3. You have my deep sympathy and profound admiration.

    Although, I fear, Anonymous, that where there is poop there is probably pee.

    How's your fire insurance?

  4. How is Mother of 5 holding up through all this?? Cat excrement is the worst! we have 3 outside cats and they are outside for a reason! Have you checked with your homeowners to see if it would be covered under "Natural Disaster" doesn't hurt..

  5. IdahoNegomir - Mother of Five is doing well! She's a real trooper, and I am lucky to have her in my life!

    No, I did not check with homeowners - I don't want to make a claim for this - I have spent about $50.00 so far on the fix, and worse case scenerio is having to replace 12 feet of ceiling drywall, taping, mudding, and texturizing that 12 foot section - maybe a hundred bucks or so - several days of my time would be the worst part of it all...

    I don't know if you can see my Facebook updates, but now that I have the right tools for the job, it's going (knock on wood) amazingly well!

    My goal is by tonight (when I go to bed) that the access the cats HAD is just that... Something they HAD (and no longer have)...

    Before I seal up the area, I am making an attack at the mess with the updated tools!!

  6. This is beyond "holy" - I think it touches on the realm of "saintly" or even "divine"!!

  7. Mike already took my line!

    What else can you say to that? Maybe... better you than me!

  8. That really stinks! What a crappy thing to happen. That job will probably leave you pooped. Oh well, s*** happens.
    Sorry, feces always makes me

  9. Wow! Just Wow! I would have just moved...

  10. David,
    If I read your post correctly, you equate cat droppings with the drop outs on your cable/on-demand service? Does on-demand work now?
    Do you care? Or, are you so exhausted the TV remains "off"?

    Well, from the look of things, at least you won't have to spend any money on "little smokies" at the grocery store for quite some time!
    Another reason I have a dog that only "goes" OUTSIDE the house!
    Enjoy your taping,sanding and ceiling spray projects.
    Hopefully, Mother of Five doesn't find your spot in the garage . . .

  11. Oh. My. Gosh. I see why people keep poisoning cats, although I cannot condone it in any way. Maybe throttling, except they're just being their own, independent selves.

    Good luck with that. I would have sat down and cried for a long time.

  12. David,
    Scott County Child Protective Services called . . . I told them you and the family were out of town . . . out of state for the next week. Then they mentioned something about "children need to be in school" . . I just kept putting them on hold, hoping they would go away. So, heads-up. Oh, and someone from A&E "Hoarders" called about an upcoming series on
    people with too many pets and problems they can cause. Yes, I am kicking you while you are down. Sorry, but I had to. Besides, The King of Clubs most certainly would - and I don't wear boots!


Did you reach the Bottom of this blog?

If you have read down to here and are interested in reading more, be sure to click here, click on the "Older Posts" link to your right, or use the "Archive" tool on the right sidebar. Thanks for visiting!