A CATastrophe, for Sure

14 Apr

I had too many rags anyway. Old t-shirts, unraveling towels, washcloths…

Now about ten of them are in the dumpster…along with two pairs of rubber gloves and about 6 pairs of vinyl ones ‘cause why use one when two will do, the kids figure.

What was the cause of this decidedly un-green moment in our lives? This moment that was the culmination of this day of odors and springtime shenanigans?

Allow me to explain.

Living in the country presents interesting opportunities for us to interact with the local inhabitants…the four-legged ones.
Now that we have a cat, the interactions have become more…intense.

I stare down hawks in nearby trees, suspecting them of nefarious intent.

I warn off the birds that I so love, in hopes that the cat won’t have them for lunch.

And, of course, I dread skunks.

Well, sadly, my worst skunk fears came true. It was a very spring-like day: a little chilly, a little rainy, and, apparently, just perfect for creatures to check out the neighborhood after their long winter’s naps.

It began with the tell-tale skunky smell that reached my nostrils as I ate my Special K. But soon after came another smell. A smell I didn’t recognize.

This new smell was kinda like burning rubber…only it wasn’t so acrid. Mostly what it was, was musky. I couldn’t identify it beyond that. I wandered around the house, sniffing at windows and doors.

Nope. Not my son’s dirty laundry.

Nope, not the smelly organic fertilizer that was the last mystery scent in my house.

Nor was it the kitchen garbage, though admittedly it needed to go out.

Finally, while standing at the deck door and scratching my head at the unidentifiable stench, our cat streaked by like calico lightening, heading around the house toward the open garage.

I opened the door. I sniffed again. Not pleasant.

Puzzled, I followed the cat to the garage where I found her flopping around strangely. She ran to hide beneath my car. I grabbed my trusty Mag-Lite – the kind you could brain a robber with – and shone it on her face, now peering out at me from a cupboard where she’d run to hide.

She was wet, bedraggled, muddy, scared, and her eyes were squeezed almost totally shut. And, the scariest thing, her mouth and chest were covered with foam. In addition, she smelled to high heaven of this unidentifiable musky stench.

Taken about 15 minutes after the horrible event. Still freaked out - and mohawked - and terribly forlorn.

Turns out that the typical scent we identify as “skunk” is kind of the “edge” of the stench, the smell which dissipates into the air and you pass in your car with prayers of thankfulness that it wasn’t you who hit the poor critter.

But when a skunk gets you full on, it smells different. It smells primal. It smelled just like my cat. I could almost see the stench rising in wavy cartoonic lines from her dripping fur.

The poor kitty! She’s been feeling a wee bit cooped up, I think, what with her three-week old kittens and all (what new mom can’t relate?!) and her mouse-catching instincts (she’s a great mouser – always gifting us with the horrid things) were kicking into full gear. I could just hear her train of thought, “This black and white creature must be a strange rabbit!!”

I’m hoping – nay, praying – that she has learned her lesson.

She didn’t give me much time to stare. In an instant of freaked-out-kittyness, she leaped out of the cupboard, back under my car, and into the box where her three kittens waited patiently for their second breakfast.

She looked up at me from slitted eyes, still foaming, still bushy-tailed and mohawked. Never before have I seen such a pitiful creature.

Analysis began. What is this foamy stuff all over her mouth and chin that’s dripping onto the kittens? And why is she so muddy? Is this really skunk? Or is this going to turn out like Old Yeller and am I going to have to consol my unconsolable daughter tonight as we build a wooden cross over freshly-turned dirt and could I possibly write a story about it?

Is she going to leap up in some acrobatic stunt and bite me – or her babies?

Is she injured? No. Just frightened…and stinky!!!!

This has got to be a skunk.

I stayed watching her for a long time to make sure she wasn’t going to turn into an insane monster. She hissed at me, twice, but can you even blame her?

I went inside the house and phoned my husband at work.

“Umm…I’m fine, our children are fine, our cat is not so fine.”

While I waited for him to arrive I researched rabies and distemper on the internet. What would we do without these self-diagnostic tools?

When my husband walked in the house the first words out of his mouth were, “Yep, skunk.” He knew what I did not – that full-in-the-face skunk smells like whatever-it-was that was now wafting through our house due to her proximity to the garage/house door, and that it actually now smelled WORSE in the house than it did outside.

After I called the vet and my husband rinsed the cat’s eyes with saline as per their advice, I waved goodbye as he drove off to a clean-smelling office and I was left to open every window in the house – some of which hadn’t been opened in years.And of course, this was a day that began with frost on the ground and it wasn’t yet 9a.m….in other words, it got really cold in the house really fast.

The poor wee kitty didn’t settle down to feed her babies for a long time, but they were fine…just a little smelly! She was licking them after about 2 hours, as well as nursing them.

I phoned around for some home-grown wisdom about removing skunk stink from kittys. The upshot: we tried both the vet’s recommended Odor Mute and also a mixture of Dawn dish soap (for the oils in the skunk spray), baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide. We thought that, as she got it FULL IN THE FACE and was literally dripping with liquid stench, she might need more than one bath.

"Oh, what's this? For me? You shouldn't have."

And so we dove in to the bathing process. First, the vet-recommended concoction. I wiped repeatedly at her face with a sponge dripping with the stuff while my husband held her TIGHT in an old roasting pan full of Odor Mute and warm water.

I don’t think that roasting pan had ever held such an unappetizing thing.

Fun times.

She bit me once – and I can’t blame her – but with my trusty kitchen rubber gloves, I was fine. She scratched a wee bit, but then she settled down, resigned, I suppose, to the indignity of it all.

Or, perhaps she knew we were helping her?

Then, after she’d soaked in that for several minutes, we turned to the other mixture of 1 quart hydrogen peroxide, 1 teaspoon liquid Dawn dish detergent, and ½ cup baking soda (thank you, Brian and Jodi!). Only we added too much soap, but I think it was okay!

"Okay...this is REALLy un-fun," says Copernicus.

After that was done, we moved on to the kittens while poor Copernicus (yes, that’s our cat’s name…don’t ask) ran out of the garage, shivering and unhappy. (Why was the door open, you ask? Because it SMELLED in there!!!)
Then we washed the kittens, which went fairly well, considering.

Kitten's turn!

When we were all done, and all the kittens were being cuddled and rubbed dry, my husband sought out Copernicus. He spotted her, huddled beneath the deck, and approached her with very little hope that she’d allow him to pick her up.

She didn’t move a muscle.

One sad kitty.

He brought her in and we wrapped her in a dry towel – then traded that one for yet another – and soon she, like the kittens, was looking less like a bedraggled mess and more like the cat we all knew and loved.

It is now a couple hours after the baths. The excitement has left me worn out. The kittens are warm and dry. Their mama actually smells quite good (we’ll see what we think tomorrow and decide if a second fun-time bath-time is in order) and even the clothes we were wearing have come out of the wash smelling like roses…as opposed to Pepe Le Pew.


I am overwhelmed with smells right now. Air fresheners, soap, even coffee smells bad at this moment in time.
And don’t even get me started on skunk musk.

I need a hot cup of tea. And bed.

Can you tell my sense of humor has fled? Just the facts, ma’am. I’m too tired to crack a smile.

Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we won’t have to bathe her again tomorrow…

My mama told me there’d be days like this. I just didn’t believe her.

Dry and happy in their new digs!

P.S.: Good news! Even though the creek did rise in the night (and a good thing, we needed the rain!), it’s the next day and she still smells nice! Horray! This ordeal may indeed be over.

Please, somebody, tell me that cats are smart enough to learn their lesson that black and white “rabbits” aren’t to be messed with!!


29 Responses to “A CATastrophe, for Sure”

  1. whatimeant2say April 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    Oh, you poor thing! That does not sound fun! But it does make for a great story. I’m glad you took pics throughout the process. Your daughter and the kittens are so darn cute!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

      It was quite the adventure, for sure. I assigned my son to take pictures – couldn’t let the moment pass!

      And thanks for your kind words! Katie LOVES those cats. I keep thinking I should give my family pseudonyms like you do…but can I ever match, “Captain Firepants”? I don’t think so! My husband laughed long and loud when I told him your husband’s “name”!!!

      • whatimeant2say April 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

        I had to hunt far and wide for that name. It’s probably the one that leasts describes his true personality.

  2. Gian Banchero April 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Dogs and skunks, yes; skunks and kittycats, never heard ’bout that… I’m wondering just what Mamma Cat did to provoke Pepe!! Great story & great photos, thanks.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 14, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

      I know! Crazy, yes? I would have liked to have seen it all, too – either she came around a corner and was at the wrong place at the wrong time, or she truly thought she was invincible and could take on this new, weird creature. She’s gotten rabbits before, so perhaps she just thought she was all that! Thanks so much for your comments. Enjoy your day!

  3. Shirley Dykstra April 14, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I see a new occupation on the frontier-Pepe Le Pew deodorizer extraordinaire. Bravo.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Well, it’s not an occupation I’d relish…but I can do it without falling apart!

  4. Valerie Fletcher Adolph April 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    Oh Gretchen, what a day! At least you didn’t have vet bills. My old tom argued with a coyote and you should have seen the vet bills. At least he came out of it alive, which is pretty rare.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      I know, at least there’s that! I’m so glad your cat survived – that is rare indeed. I’ve heard coyotes out here…but never actually seen one…and that’s fine with me!

  5. Just A Smidgen April 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Wow.. that was such an ordeal, I couldn’t even imagine! Your poor kitty’s eyes.. and that foaming would be so alarming as well! Thank goodness you’re (almost?) back to normal now!!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

      Yes, just a mild lingering aroma! The kittens are almost climbing out of their box and I’m just so glad they they’re not motherless!

  6. ceciliag April 14, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    Oh no poor you.. and next time, get BioGreenClean, it cleans dogs that have been hit by skunk.. I hate to advertise but it does work.,. I clean everything with it including the animals who have met other animals/.. poor wee kitty! great story tho.. c

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 14, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

      OH, good advice! Thanks! Yes, I know what you mean about advertising, but when something works it’s maybe a kindness to let us know! I should have thought of you as someone who would have good animal ideas!

  7. cravesadventure April 14, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    OMG – been there done that – not a fun experience! My cat growing up got it full in the face and then decided to roll in the pig manure – ewwww! Those poor kitties in having a stinky mommie – love your pics.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 15, 2012 at 7:25 am #

      I am not surprised that you remember your experience so well – it’s not one I’ll be likely to forget in a hurry…or ever! But at least we didn’t have to deal with pig issues, too! Can’t imagine having to get all that out!

  8. rutheh April 15, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    Wow, what a day. Loved the glove count as an indication of the degree of seriousness of the problem. P U is right! The kittens are too cute! Glad all is well with your cat family.

  9. hotlyspiced April 15, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    We don’t have skunks in Australia so I can guess as to what the stench must be like. But that is terrible about your poor cat! And the poor thing having that bath. They hate water don’t they? Great you were able to get rid of that smell with that recipe of yours. And the kittens are so cute! xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 15, 2012 at 7:31 am #

      WOW! I did NOT know that you don’t have skunks there – lucky!!! No, cats definitely don’t like getting wet…I hope that somehow, inside, she understood that it was going to help! Yes, the recipe worked great – thankfully!

  10. JennyMae April 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    Oh my goodness! Your poor little Copernicus! I hope that everyone is doing much better and I’m glad that horrible smell came out! L<3ve to you all!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 15, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

      Thanks, JennyMae! I know, it was quite a trial for her, that’s for sure. Glad that there is stuff available to fix our problem!

  11. Minnesota Prairie Roots April 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    Oh, those sweet little kitten faces…how can you resist? That said, this is quite the story. The only remedy I’ve ever heard is soaking in tomato juice to get rid of the skunk smell. That would require a lot of tomato juice.

    Here’s another skunk story: My brother-in-law, when he was little, picked up a baby skunk, calling it a “kitty.” I think that’s how the story went…

    Great post title.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 15, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

      Oh, that would NOT be good for your brother-in-law…or for his parents! Yes, I’ve heard the tomato juice thing, too – heard both that it works and that it’s an Old Wive’s Tale…we didn’t want to learn which was the truth!

  12. prairiewisdom April 16, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Wow, what an ordeal. Who knew what drama could unfold in our own homes?

  13. sweetridgesisters April 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Oh dear. What an ordeal, brilliantly shared. Glad you all came out smelling like roses. -kate

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your nice words! Yes, we’re so glad it all worked out fairly well – if it had to happen, at least it could have been worse!


  1. A Very Good Day in a Busy Week – and a Rustic Peach Tart that will Make Your Day Even Better | A fine day for an epiphany - July 30, 2013

    […] Copernicus, (as blogged about here  in her skunk vrs. cat cat-astrophe and here when she was expecting her kittens and a couple weeks […]

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