Anyone who has visited my apartment in the past few years must have noticed the odor of cat urine as they walked in. For my Wicca group and other spiritual visitors, I’d light incense to mask the smell. For everyone else… well, they may be too polite to mention it, but there’s a reason why my apartment was not a popular place for game night.
The principle reason for that odor was the placement of Shadow’s litter box. As I mentioned in his eulogy, a few years ago he decided that he would no longer use the litter box if were located in my bathroom. I responded by moving the litter box to whatever section of the carpet he started using to express his displeasure with the location.
Gradually that litter box moved further down my short hallway until it was completely crossing the threshold from the hallway into my main room. In the couple of weeks before he passed away, I purchased giant litter mats from Amazon to coat the carpet outside that litter box. A few days prior to his passing, I moved the litter box until it was just outside the steps leading to his ottoman.
Shadow is gone, and I miss him. But I think there are better ways to remember him than to let the odor of urine linger in the apartment. I started a project to clean up whatever I could.
I purchased a carpet cleaner from Amazon. I had six carpets to shampoo. Since the carpet cleaner was noisy, I decided to stick to cleaning one carpet per day. Gradually I got them done.
I wasn’t finished. Remember that hallway? If I were honest with myself, that’s where most of the odor of the years was coming from. I cleaned up after Shadows in those years when I caught him going outside the litter box, but there’s only so much you can do with carpet, and I know I didn’t catch all the times he decided that cat litter scented with Febreze was not satisfactory.
If you’ve been to my place, you’ve seen the gray wall-to-wall carpet. I had it installed in 1988, just before I moved into the apartment. I thought having the carpet would protect the hardwood floor from cat claws. I was wrong. Over the years, my cats clawed at the fringes and seams, leaving “scars” in the carpet. I masked the holes with small area rungs; those were among the rugs I cleaned this past week. With 20/20 hindsight, I realize that I would have been better off getting cheap area rugs. If the cats chewed and clawed at them, area rugs are easy to replace while wall-to-wall is not.
So today I cut out and pulled the wall-to-wall carpeting from that hallway. I was indeed greeted with more urine odors from the carpet, the liner, and padding I pulled up. I also pulled up as many carpet tack strips as I could (why risk stepping on nails with my bad feet?) and most of the staples that held the padding to the floor.
As I did so, I found another gift from Shadow, and probably other cats as well: cat litter. Despite years of vacuuming, I never knew that the litter was ground around the edges of the carpet and worked its way underneath. There were small mountains of the stuff, especially around the baseboards.
The seeping cat urine also loosened the small wood planks that made up the hardwood floors. I didn’t mind. I know the super won’t mind; he told me that as he has had to replace the apartments’ flooring for whatever the reason, he’s been using tile instead of hardwood. That might bother some, but it’s irrelevant to me; I never see my bare floors and tile would be easier to clean anyway. In a way, that simplified things: instead of trying to clean the hardwood floor of the urine smell, I just threw away any loose flooring.
After pulling the stuff out and vacuuming the bare floors (did you know that if you run a vacuum over carpet padding that’s stuck to the floor, it shreds and clogs the vacuum cleaner?), I finally covered the entire hallway with the carpets I’d cleaned.
Only time will tell if I’ve gotten the last of Shadow’s gifts out of the apartment. I probably won’t know for sure until I have guests here after the pandemic is over.
Edit: After someone asked me a question about what I’d done, I realized that this might be one of the those cases where a picture is worth a thousand words:
Underneath those carpets are the sins of my attempt at removing the wall-to-wall carpet:
When I talk about a “carpet scar,” this is what I mean. The damage to the hallway carpet was far worse than this, so removing it is no great loss. By the way, this scar was made by Shadow over many years, as he gnawed on the carpet fibers the way normal cats eat grass. I’m not going to remove this carpet, I’ll just cover it with an area rug.