This spring, starting about mid-April, each evening, when my husband I would sit in our favorite chairs to read, write or watch baseball, we could smell cat piss. It is not a pleasant smell. Some days it was strong, others, we could barely smell it at all. In any case, the cat, Blackberry, was in big trouble. We banned him from the house.
My daughter had strict orders to make sure the cat was in the garage or outside before we all left for work and school. She spent an entire afternoon, moving furniture in the family room and spraying each and every spot she could find with carpet cleaner. It didn’t help. In fact, it got worse.
I called the carpet guy. “Yep, I smell it. Definitely a cat,” he said as soon as he entered my house, sniffing repeatedly. He then went on to explain that in order to locate the exact spot that had been sprayed, he needed to use a black light. Apparently, cat piss has crystals in it that light up underneath a black light.
This is one of those tidbits that writers file away. What if someday I decide to write a horror piece with a rabid cat in a disco? I could use that information!
In any case, we now had to make my house dark enough for a black light. It was noon. I don’t live in a disco. I have windows, and since we aren’t currently under any threat of nighttime bombing raids, I don’t have black out curtains. I did, however, have three teenagers at home and a stack of quilts. We proceeded to hold up these in front of the windows until all the blood ran out of our hands while we watched the carpet guy crawl around on the floor shining the black light.
Anytime anything lit up, he’d put his nose right next to the carpet and take a long sniff. “Is that it? Are you finding it?” I kept asking.
“Nope, not it,” he kept replying. This was getting annoying. My arms hurt holding up the heavy quilt, and he just kept crawling and shining. I learned that my carpet looks disgusting under a black light.
Even though he never found the spot, he went ahead and treated the entire carpet with some sort of special really expensive pet piss stuff, and then he cleaned my carpet.
The next day, carpets dry, we moved the furniture back. I sat in my chair and smelled . . . cat piss. What the hell?
My husband then decided the cat must have pissed on the plant that sits behind my chair and that’s what smelled. He moved my lone indoor plant outside to the front porch and guess what? The smell vanished.
I decided to scrub the pot and perhaps clean off the pee. I heaved the plant up, my face buried in its leaves (it’s actually a dwarf tree) and carried it to the sink. By the time I got it across the kitchen, I was gagging. The pot was not the culprit. It was the plant itself. My dwarf fig tree’s leaves smell like cat piss.
It has now been outside for two weeks, and it’s sucking up enough water that I would think it needs to take its own piss. It doesn’t, it just smells like it did already. My kids christened it “the piss plant” and let the cat back in the house.
In fiction, cause and effect are crucial. Events must lead to, well, something, or why have them? Likewise, any effect or event, must have some sort of cause. In this case, the cause of the cat piss smell in my home is . . . not a cat! Of course its not. That would be so . . . predictable. Instead its the lovely leaves on my dwarf fig tree proving, yet again, that life is often stranger than fiction.