Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 01.17.13
Stanstead, Quebec


CSI: Cat Stink Investigation

This time, I have no one to blame but myself. I could blame the cat, I suppose, but there's no point in blaming something that doesn't understand remorse. Or how to use a little box.

Deb's the crazy cat lady, I'm not -- not crazy and not a lady. At one point we had five cats but lost two in quick succession a year ago, possibly due to predators, possibly due to better offers. Down to three, I foolishly brought a fourth one home; a colleague had to leave the country in a hurry (work-related, not felonious) and didn't feel his 10-year-old cat would survive the trauma of travel and quarantine.

"My wife would kill me if she found out you had to put him down and I knew about it" I said, "so if you don't find anyone, we'll take him." I'm pretty sure this overture immediately ended my colleague's search for a new home.

The cat came from a French household and had a French name that I at best managed to mangle, something that sounded like one of those bug zappers: DSSST! Instead, we called him The Dude, not that he would respond in either language because -- and let's just get this out of the way -- cats are stupid, stupid, stupid. This cat wouldn't flinch if you yelled, "You're fat and you have horrific dandruff," which, coincidentally, is also one of the worst fortune cookie messages I've ever read.

For the first four months, The Dude hid in the basement. On the rare occasions he ventured up the stairs, he would immediately be chased back down by the dog (did I mention the dog?). Eventually, though, The Dude conducted night maneuvers to establish safe outposts on the main floors, and before long, he was making himself tentatively at home. Even the dog ignored him. We were one big, happy, fur-filled family.

But then, just before Christmas:

"It smells like cat pee in here."

There is no mistaking cat pee. It's the Axe Body Spray of the animal world. In fact, it actually might be Axe Body Spray. As strong as it is, though, it's hard to trace, which is why we spent a couple of days crawling around on the floor sniffing carpets, upholstery and chairs. On the plus side, I found a quarter.

Then Deb discovered a dried puddle of pee on the boot mat. Over the next days and weeks, we found a succession of pee pools all over the house: on carpets, the Christmas tree skirt, mittens left on the floor. There's nothing worse than putting on your tuque and discovering it reeks of cat urine, although, after learning his basketball shoes had been fouled (get it?), my son might disagree.

The pee-pisodes kept occurring. Yet we couldn't catch a cat in the act.

"It's got to be The Dude," said Deb, who seemed to have a knack for tracking down the urine (a urinary track!). "Something must have happened."

The only thing that had "happened" recently was that The Dude and one of the other cats had begun acting aggressively towards each other. Maybe there was a territorial skirmish going on. Or maybe The Dude was just old and gross.

"I read that stress is one of the top reasons for cats peeing," said Deb, who became the resident researcher on this matter, learning all about cat urine and the removal thereof.

The last straw was the settee. Deb discovered a huge wet spot right where The Dude had been lying minutes before. "Aha!" And "Yuck!" She dragged the settee out to the back porch, coated it with baking soda to draw out the urine and replaced it with an armchair from another room. At this point, the cat was no longer stinking up the house, he was redecorating it.

But then, while she was out on the porch trying to salvage the settee, Deb discovered a pair of shoes had been peed on there as well. But The Dude never goes on the porch! The Dude was being framed! By one of the other cats! Did I say "stupid?" I meant "evil genius."

Of course, this still hasn't solved the problem. Deb, who loves the cats and loves her house, is taking it the hardest -- constantly eyeballing the beasts to see what their bladders are up to, shutting them in the basement at night, undertaking the de-scenting of shoes, clothes, and furnishing. I just hope she doesn't get too stressed or we're in really big trouble.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at