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.
Our 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….
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).
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.)
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??