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The Flaw Beneath My Feet

The first sign that a cat has peed or pooed on your carpet is the scratching noise she makes as she frantically tries to cover what she has done by piling the rest of the carpet on top of it.

When you go to investigate the disturbing sound, you find that urine soaked carpet squishes interestingly beneath bare feet. If the carpet is sufficiently saturated, small squirts will gush between the toes as you walk. However it is not advisable to walk over faeces. They disintegrate distressingly and lodge beneath the toe nails.

After a few weeks of this, I began to resign myself to coming home each day to a house redolent with the odours of well matured cat urine mingled with feline faecal fragrances. Visitors would sniff appreciatively.

"Been cooking curry again, Alan?"

The incontinent cat in question is Ginger. She is fourteen years old and she has always been perfectly house trained in the past. Furthermore, she has a cat door which means that she can come and go as she pleases (it just doesn’t please her to come and go any more). For both of these reasons, I decided that a trip to the vet was called for in case these were the first symptoms of something more serious. The vet was non-committal.

"Behavioural problems like these are often more psychological than physical," he said. "Cats will only pee and poo where they feel secure. Perhaps she has had a bad fright outside. Have any new cats moved into the neighbourhood? Is she being bullied?"

"No," I said. "Quite the reverse. I’ve seen her chase a German Shepherd dog off the property. There used to be a rottweiler called Fluffy who lived two doors down. It was scared stiff of her."

"Well," said the vet, "all I can suggest is that you try to discourage her by putting food down where she is doing it. Cats are very fastidious creatures. They won’t pee or poo near their food supply."

"That’s a good idea. It might start costing a fortune in cat biscuits though; her brother is bound to pig out on whatever he finds lying around."

Ginger’s brother Milo is a cat with only one binary brain cell. When it is on he eats; when it is off he sleeps. Extra sources of food would merely turn his brain cell on a bit more often than usual.

"One trick I read about," said the vet, "was someone who cured their cat of this habit by putting a food bowl down in every spot the cat used. And in the bowl was a single, solitary cat biscuit superglued to the bottom!"

Oh! The frustration!

We bought some more food bowls and put some biscuits and water beneath the stairs. Both cats enjoyed this and we would lie in bed at night soothed by intermittant crunching sounds and the occasional slurp. Ginger never peed there again. She did it round the corner, out of sight of the food.

A hurried clean up, another bowl of biscuits. She peed all over the carpet in front of the right hand stereo speaker. I curbed my felinocidal tendencies. Wreaking grievous bodily harm on the cat is at best a temporary palliative. I made a mental note to refrain from asking visitors to check out the balance of my stereo. It wasn’t a good idea to squat down near the speaker. It brought the carpet too close to the nostrils.

Perhaps the internet would provide some help. I felt rather odd typing "carpet cat urine" into There were a depressingly large number of hits. I was obviously not alone in the world. One document spoke of the delights of a house filled with eau de pussy which is quite a clever multi-lingual pun. But one and all they agreed that there was no cure. When cats pee on carpets it is forever.

"So what’s under the carpet?" asked Robin, thinking outside the square. "Why can’t we just take it up and live on bare boards? It’s a horrible carpet anyway."

Cautious investigation revealed that the carpet was stapled to a wooden floor. Lifting the edges showed nicely polished planks of unidentifiable wood. There was, of course, no guarantee that this continued all the way across the floor. Many misdemeanours could be concealed beneath the vast expanses of carpet covering the rest of the room and the hallway.

"Let’s do it over Christmas," said Robin.

So we did.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day are holidays and by mutual agreement carpet lifting is illegal. The next day, however, we girded our loins and began.

"Let’s start over here," said Robin. "There isn’t much furniture. We’ll just move it over to the other half of the room, do this half and then move everything from the other half of the room over here and do the other half."

"Why not move everything out the room into the bedroom and then do the room as a whole?" I suggested.

Robin didn’t think much of that idea.

"You are wrong!" she explained convincingly.

I couldn’t argue with the logic and so we began in the front half of the lounge. We ripped up the carpet. Clouds of dust arose and covered us from head to toe. We rolled up the carpet and the underlay and carried it into the laundry out of the way. Stretching half way across the lounge were beautifully varnished, though very dirty, wooden planks. We brushed up the worst of the dust. Much of the detritus consisted of an inordinately large number of insect parts – mandibles, legs etc. All the chitin-covered, inedible sections. I knew my cats had caught a lot of insects over the years, but only now was I starting to realise just how many!

On hands and knees, I crawled across the floor armed only with a pair of pincers. I pulled out hundreds of staples. In some sections the person with the staple gun had gone completely berserk and there were staples every quarter of an inch or so. Then we washed and scrubbed the boards. They positively glowed. It was a satisfying moment.

Then we moved all the furniture from the still carpeted section of the room over on to the boards we had just finished and repeated the exercise.

For many years, a mysterious lump in the carpet had puzzled me. This was now revealed to be an unsanded, unvarnished piece of tatty wood about three feet long and an inch wide nailed, for no readily apparent reason, to the middle of the floor. Removing the wood revealed the only piece of floor in poor condition. There was no varnish on the planks and several half inch diameter holes gave a lovely view beneath the house. Either Avondale has very large borer to go with its very large spiders, or some long-forgotten project had once required half inch holes. Being an SF fan, I am reluctant to discard the idea of woodworms that can chew out half inch holes. Doubtless the cats will soon hunt one down and bring it home for me to admire.

We covered this manky bit with a rug so that nobody will know it is there and retired to bed tired, dusty but very pleased with the beautiful floor in the lounge. Tomorrow the hallway!

The next day we arose achingly from our bed and admired the floor in the lounge as we breakfasted. Then we attacked the hall. It has several unique characteristics that distinguish it from the lounge. It is much narrower and therefore smellier and the stairs that come down from the upper storey proved to have been installed on top of the carpet which presented us with a very knotty problem. Robin spent several very fiddly hours with a very sharp knife trimming the immoveable carpet chunks to the shape of the stairs.

I repeated my staple removing marathon. Along the way I trod on one I’d missed and bled copiously over the bare boards. I suppose these kinds of things always require a libation to the gods.

I also had to purchase brass carpet trim and use it to tidy the edges of the carpet in all the rooms that lead off from the hall. I cut my finger on one of these and made another blood sacrifice.

By now it was very late in the day. The hall has a much smaller surface area than the lounge but it took us the same amount of time to clear and it was much harder work. Tired but happy we went to bed.

The following day was a day of rest. We ached all over. Indeed I am convinced that not only was I aching in places I didn’t know I had, I was also aching in places I hadn’t got at all! But it was worth it. The floor looks beautiful. It isn’t perfect; there are areas that need attention. However as Robin rightly says, everybody’s wooden floor has places that need attention. Almost by definition they are imperfect, for it doesn’t take much to scratch and gouge.

In the twilight the wooden floor glows golden brown and warm. Why would anyone have wanted to cover such beauty with carpet?

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