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Keyan
11-14-2008, 03:06 PM
In my novel, I have a group of teenagers cleaning out a house that was used for hoarding cats. (The cats have moved out.) Everything's covered in cat hair. There's catshit and pee in the carpet and on beds and sofas, which are ripped by catclaws. The place stinks.

They've got a dumpster set up, and have hauled out all the furniture. Then they've ripped out the carpet. Now they're getting a bucket of bleach solution and are going to use it to mop floors, walls, counters - basically all surfaces but the ceiling (which may be the only clean space in the house).

Is this enough? What else do they need to do? I don't want them to have to do structural stuff like ripping out floors and sheetrock...

Nakhlasmoke
11-14-2008, 03:17 PM
Don't forget the hairballs....

But that sounds good enough to me, tbh. Don't see why they'd need to rip out floorboards.

BarbaraKE
11-14-2008, 03:28 PM
It's probably not enough.

Years before I married my (now ex-) husband, he bought a house in this exact condition. (I won't go into the details but it's actually quite an interesting story.) Anyway, he bought it for quite a bit less than the property value alone because the house would have to be torn down and carted away.

But he was determined to save the house (since quite a bit of local history was involved). And he did it.

Luckily, the cats tended to do their business in one side of the house on the first floor. The urine had soaked through the floor/subfloor and into the dirt underneath. He took the side of the house off (numbering the boards so that they could be put back properly), then brought in a backhoe. They had to take out the floor/subfloor and then the dirt underneath. (That's why that part of the house now has a cellar.)

He also had to remove/replace the floors (and sometimes the subfloors) on the rest of the first story.

Actually - to get back to your story - you might be able to get away without structural work if you set it up so that 1) the cats were confined to one or two rooms and 2) those rooms happened to have been renovated in the past and the carpet had been directly laid over sheet linoleum (or tile, something that won't allow the urine to get into the wood floor/subfloor).

PS - don't forget the mummified bodies of dead cats you might find stuck away in odd corners.

Tornadoboy
11-14-2008, 05:03 PM
Everybody else has pretty much covered this, but for a house formerly owned by a true cat hoarder there would definately be rooms which had to be stripped down to bare frames, including the floors, and even then there may be studs and beams which would have to be replaced.

Don't forget that there would probably be other major problems too, neglected plumbing and wiring, mold, leaking roofs, and infestations with fleas and other insects.

Nope, not a pretty picture.

Maryn
11-14-2008, 05:44 PM
The cats will use one area as a litter box, if there was no actual litter box and they had no access to the outdoors. They do not pee and poop all over the place.

However, wherever they've peed, there is going to be damage beyond what carpet removal and thorough cleaning of what's exposed will cover. The minuscule space between vinyl tiles, the gaps between wooden floorboards, the grout in ceramic tiles--all will have allowed urine to pass through and soak into wooden subfloors and possibly their structural supports, depending on how many cats were there for how long. The ammonia-like smell will be very strong and the kids will need constant moving air.

If your plot requires that they not undertake ripping out floors, the best bet is a secret hole which allowed the cats outdoor access, or a carpeted bathroom which they used in lieu of a litterbox--so long as it had a slab floor of marble tiles, with the grout sealed (which is common enough and might be intact if it was carpeted with bath rugs with a rubber backing).

Maryn, who has had too many cats

Nakhlasmoke
11-14-2008, 05:54 PM
Does the house have an enclosed garden? that might take care of a lot of the problem if the cats were able to go outside to do their business.

Julie Worth
11-14-2008, 06:22 PM
Is this enough? What else do they need to do? I don't want them to have to do structural stuff like ripping out floors and sheetrock...

Is it the expense you're worried about? Because, heck, it's just a novel.

Jersey Chick
11-14-2008, 06:31 PM
Why not talk to someone who does home restoration work? Not the people who fix up historic houses, but companies (both big and small) who come in after fires and floods and things like that. They can tell you just how much structural damage cat pee/poo can cause.

yttar
11-14-2008, 06:53 PM
Bleach probably isn't the best thing to use for cleaning up after cat urine since the chlorine in bleach may mix with the ammonia in cat urine to create mustard gas, which would make you quite sick while cleaning. I'm not positive about this since I'm not a chemist, but it's something to look into, both if the chemical reaction will make mustard gas and the effects of mustard gas on people.

Also, even though a cat's natural instinct is to go in one spot to keep it's area clean, if that one spot gets dirty or isn't cleaned regularly, then the area the cat considers it's one spot will increase. So you could have the cats' one spot be in the basement of the house, but the whole basement would be covered in it if the owners never cleaned up after the cats. Or if their one spot smells bad enough (like it hasn't been cleaned for a while), then that smell can transfer to the rest of the room and, since it all smells the same, the cats will use the whole room as their one spot.

Yttar

waylander
11-14-2008, 07:00 PM
Bleach probably isn't the best thing to use for cleaning up after cat urine since the chlorine in bleach may mix with the ammonia in cat urine to create mustard gas, which would make you quite sick while cleaning. I'm not positive about this since I'm not a chemist, but it's something to look into, both if the chemical reaction will make mustard gas and the effects of mustard gas on people.
Yttar

I am a chemist and bleach + ammonia does not make mustard gas.
What is does make is fairly unpleasant though

Sarpedon
11-14-2008, 07:34 PM
If it were me, I'd replace sheetrock, or if its lathe and plaster, I'd re-plaster it. Possibly one could saw it off at like 3' height and only replace it there, to save effort. You could then install a handsome wainscot. If gyp board is not the special 'water resistant' type, it can become soaked and damaged by water or other liquids. Plaster too.

At the very least I'd take a power sander to the floors, then revarnish (assuming a hardwood floor). Wood bases would get stripped, sanded, and re-varnished. Door frames would also get the same treatment (if wood). They may need to be replaced if used for scratching along with banisters, and other things that cats like to scratch at. Ceilings would get a new coat of paint.

As already pointed out, general neglect would also be a problem, not just effects of cats. Window frames would probably need to be repaired. My mother watches over a (catless) old lady on her street, and one day noticed a bird fly up to a window, and vanish. Turns out the window frame had rotted, and left a hole into the wall cavity that the bird had happily nested in. Gutters would need to be cleaned out--its amazing how many non-cat collecting people neglect that. I've seen many a house with small plants growing in the gutters. A well-blocked gutter might also invite nesting animals.

Wasp nests. Woodchucks or raccoons under the porch.

And don't forget about Mold. Mold can be a serious problem.

Nakhlasmoke
11-14-2008, 07:48 PM
I... I've seen many a house with small plants growing in the gutters.... .

Oh so you've been to my house, have you?

I leave them there for the pigeons. :D

hammerklavier
11-14-2008, 08:15 PM
If the house was built on a slab (of concrete) like many houses in the Southeast then the cat urine would not be able to soak through, they would just have to rip out the carpet, pad and any subfloor that existed over the slab and then clean the slab.

Kathie Freeman
11-14-2008, 08:15 PM
the chlorine in bleach may mix with the ammonia in cat urine to create mustard gas,

Yttar

Not mustard gas, but chlorine gas which is just as deadly. ALL windows and doors have to be open wide or you will have a bunch of dead teenagers.

Also cat pee, especially that of male cats, can be very corrosive. I once had a couple of cats that couldn't be in the house because of spraying so I set up one of those metal sheds in the back yard with a screened-in run for them to get sun and fresh air. Within 2 years their favorite marking spot was completely rusted through.

Jersey Chick
11-14-2008, 08:17 PM
I know pine oil will get rid of cat smell.

IceCreamEmpress
11-14-2008, 10:51 PM
There was an episode of the "Dr. Phil" program on animal hoarding a while back, and people shared their experiences of dealing with animal hoarding on his messageboard. (http://www.drphil.com/messageboard/topic/3645/7/) And the best source of information on animal hoarding is the Tufts Veterinary School Research Consortium on Animal Hoarding. (http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/abthoard.htm)

The book Aftermath, Inc., which is about a crime-scene cleanup firm, also talked about cleaning up after animal hoarders in some detail. Might be worth a look.

Tsu Dho Nimh
11-15-2008, 12:28 AM
Ewwww ... been there, done that.

The ammonia of the cat pee is overwhelming, nearly HAZMAT levels. They will be scrubbing crusted urine off the woodwork, and need to get a laboratory quality deodorant to add to the bleach. And the FLEAS!!!! Must kill the fleas early.

Keyan
11-15-2008, 09:11 AM
If the house was built on a slab (of concrete) like many houses in the Southeast then the cat urine would not be able to soak through, they would just have to rip out the carpet, pad and any subfloor that existed over the slab and then clean the slab.

Hmm. This is in California, but I could have a slab of concrete...maybe it's a converted garage. Thanks!

Keyan
11-15-2008, 09:17 AM
Not mustard gas, but chlorine gas which is just as deadly. ALL windows and doors have to be open wide or you will have a bunch of dead teenagers.

Also cat pee, especially that of male cats, can be very corrosive. I once had a couple of cats that couldn't be in the house because of spraying so I set up one of those metal sheds in the back yard with a screened-in run for them to get sun and fresh air. Within 2 years their favorite marking spot was completely rusted through.

If bleach isn't the right stuff to use, what is? It doesn't have to be pristine, but it has to be clean enough that anyone coming in would consider it acceptable.

Just read about something called AIP (Anti-icky-poo) which is apparently a powerful enzymatic cleanser. Anyone have experience with this? What does it look and smell like?

Keyan
11-15-2008, 09:44 AM
Thanks, everyone.

The plot needs the house to be an appalling mess, but the kids have one day in which to clean it out, and part of that is going to be spent on a dangerous encounter. They don't have the time or the resources to rip out floors and walls and lay floors and hang sheetrock. The result doesn't have to be perfect, but it has to be good enough that anyone going in would consider it clean.

How about a concrete slab floor under the carpet and pad, (so the carpet and pad can be tossed), wainscoting on the walls that they could pry off and discard, and then scrub everything [not with bleach but with what? Pinesol? AIP?] with the windows wide open.

Would that work?

Linda Adams
11-15-2008, 04:31 PM
How about a concrete slab floor under the carpet and pad, (so the carpet and pad can be tossed), wainscoting on the walls that they could pry off and discard, and then scrub everything [not with bleach but with what? Pinesol? AIP?] with the windows wide open.

My grandmother used to do a landlord-tenants column, and she got a letter from landlord about problems he had with a couple of his tenants. They'd kept a couple of dogs in the house and allowed them to urinate on the floor. He'd evicted the tenants for it, but the damage was done. Not only had the urine gotten into the floor, it had gone all the way through and gotten into the concrete. He was in for extensive repairs just to get the smell out.

Kathie Freeman
11-15-2008, 08:05 PM
Enzyme cleaners work pretty well, and the smell isn't half bad, but they are not instantaneous like cleaning agents. They can take several hours to do their job. It's a clear liquid that you can spray on or use with a mop, doesn't foam much, smells kind of musty. These teenagers are going to have to work fast if they are also going to have a dangerous encounter.

Keyan
11-15-2008, 11:35 PM
Thanks! So they can mop it on and then just leave it? Does it need to be washed off afterward? I'm thinking that maybe they can apply it before the dangerous encounter. Does it have a characteristic smell or a perfume applied on top like they do with detergents?

comradebunny
11-16-2008, 03:29 AM
I don't have anything to add except that you are being very mean to your characters. I shudder to think what they have to do. This will probably make it a great read.

Snowstorm
11-16-2008, 10:38 AM
If the house was built on a slab (of concrete) like many houses in the Southeast then the cat urine would not be able to soak through, they would just have to rip out the carpet, pad and any subfloor that existed over the slab and then clean the slab.

And to take it a step further, I'd recommend rolling Kilz on the concrete slab. Kilz is like a thick white paint that's a sealant. It reeks to high heaven until it dries.

I bought a house that had been rented to irresponsible pet owners. After the carpet and pad were ripped out and cleaned, every room in the house was "Kilzed."

Kathie Freeman
11-16-2008, 08:39 PM
Thanks! So they can mop it on and then just leave it? Does it need to be washed off afterward? I'm thinking that maybe they can apply it before the dangerous encounter. Does it have a characteristic smell or a perfume applied on top like they do with detergents?

It's best not to wash it off, just damp mop semi-dry. There is kind of a fruiti-ness to the smell, not at all perfumey. Have them mop it on just before the dangerous encouter. The slab floor will be rough enough that it will not be too slick to walk on (unless you want a Keystone cops effect, in which case say they don't have time to finish the mopping up). I don't think Kilz would work, it takes forever to dry and would need several coats for something like this.

Tsu Dho Nimh
11-16-2008, 11:44 PM
Scale the grossness and effort according to what your plot needs. If you want it to be a short episode ... make it just one room or a sleeping porch.

dclary
11-17-2008, 02:53 AM
They were selling a house like that here in Fresno when I first moved here. THe ad in the paper just read "Cat House, 3/2, $50,000"

It was a $200,000 house, selling for $50,000.

We didn't buy it. The house would have needed every wall replastered, the entire floor removed. It was awful. Not even a fixer-upper. You may as well have just destroyed it and rebuilt it, it needed so much replacing.

HeronW
11-17-2008, 03:10 AM
There's actually an urine odor remover in a syringe that you can inject into fabris to remove unpleasant pet waste smells.

It's a tad toxic--a friend dropped a full one on her bare foot and was rushed to the hospital. Can't remember the name.

Years of cat pee in one spot will necessitate the removal of the wood at that juncture. I've had to replace a heavy plastic bin used as a litterbox after 2 years because I stopped using liners of any sort and the bottom had gotten icky.

If you're doing a supernatural theme, you might even have the ghosts of cats walking about. :}

If there had been any dry cat food that had gotten wet--we're talking a humungous mold growth medium--dry catfood is mostly carbs--perfect for spores.

Soccer Mom
11-19-2008, 09:57 AM
Don't forget the fleas. You've focused on poo, pee, and hair. But don't foreget the liklihood of a flea infestation (and ticks if your story takes place in that sort of climate). Plus cats will make their own scratching posts of the door jambs and walls if they don't have good alternatives (and sometimes even if you buy them a freakin' expensive cat tree covered in upholstery!!!!)