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Monday, April 15, 2002

That Dead Cat Smell

As part of my spring cleaning regimen, I decided to remove all the vent covers in our house and spray some disinfectant into the ventilation system. I sprayed A LOT of disinfectant. It's such a pain in the ass to remove all the vent covers, I figured I may as well do the spraying right.

When I finished spraying, I turned on the air conditioner, bent over next to a vent and inhaled what I thought would be the fresh scent of Crisp Linen Lysol. What I got was a WHOLE LOTTA Crisp Linen Lysol, followed by foggy headedness.

I had ONCE AGAIN unintentially huffed aerosol fumes. (The last time was when I did some painting in the garage, with the door down.)

I regained my composure, but what hit me next was a really strange sensation--a flashback, brought on by the intense disinfectant smell, from when I was about 12.

Back then my mother and I detected a faint "bad smell" coming from the vents in our house. Dad didn't notice it, because he has allergies and doesn't smell much.

Of course, bad smells can be tough to pin down. Maybe something INSIDE the house was responsible. Maybe little Jeffrey had another of his bizarre experiments go awry--like the time I set up a hard cider fermentation cellar in my room, then spilled a quart of yeasty product. (My room smelled like a fraternity house until we moved out years later.) Or, maybe one of the cats got tired of fertilizing the houseplants and shit down a vent.

After you check the obvious, there's not a lot you can do in the early stages of tracking down the source of a smell. Mostly you hope it goes away on its own.

All doubt was removed when our elderly neighbor, who tended to shout, came by asking, "IF ANYONE HAS SEEN MY CAT. SHE'S BEEN GONE ABOUT TWO WEEKS AND WAS KINDA SICK BEFORE SHE LEFT."

Dad knew what he had to do. He put on his "working in the dark, dirty crawl space under the house" coveralls, got a flashlight, shovel, box lid for transport of the corpse...and plenty of spray disinfectant.

Sure enough, that cat had died under our house.

Dad held his breath, shoveled the cat into the box lid, pushed it out and emerged from the crawl space gasping for air. The odor got to even him, the man with a limited ability to smell.

Of course, I had to examine the cat. The insects were already going to work on it. And, it looked "deflated," as if someone had removed the guts, but left the fur and bones.

We called our neighbor to break the news, and Dad buried the cat in the yard. Then he went back under the house and sprayed a hell of a lot of disinfectant.

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