Close Encounter of the Odorous Kind
Monday nights for me are generally reserved for easy dinners and an hour of one of the only two TV series I watch fairly regularly – Longmire. Sometimes I watch Rizzoli & Isles on Tuesdays. At any rate, on this particular Monday my boyfriend, Mike, was out of town so I resolved to eating leftovers and was excited about watching the season finale of Longmire completely uninterrupted. I had even drawn a foot bath in which to soak my feet during the show for a quick pedicure before bed – a very rare indulgence. After the much awaited finale ended, it was 10 p.m. and close to my bedtime. My cat, Biscuit, was meowing yet again for more treats at the pantry and I decided she needed a meal instead of a “meal of treats”, so I opened a can of food for her in the sunroom before retiring to bed. (The sunroom is a small built-on addition to the house and is the perfect place for Biscuit’s food, water and litter box (and a host of plants, of course!) A doggie door allows her to go from inside the house into the sunroom. There is also a doggie door installed in the exterior door of the sunroom, allowing a pet to go outside. While Biscuit rarely ventures outdoors, my soon-to-be dog will surely take advantage.)
Entering my bedroom, I was considering a quick coat of nail polish on the metatarsals before dozing off. Prior to completing the pedicure, I lied back to take a last look at work email on my iPad when I felt Biscuit jump on the bed and let out a long, drawn-out, gargled meow. I wish I could have smelled the oily scent before she landed on the bed, but it happened oh so fast I think I only began smelling the skunk odor after witnessing Biscuit’s soaking wet, puffy face at only 6 inches from mine.
If any of you have had the pleasure, Ahem, of getting up close and personal with a skunk-sprayed pet, you may be able to recall the caustic fumes that aren’t quite recognizable until they have dissipated a bit. I couldn’t even fathom what Biscuit had gotten into at first. My initial instinct was to pick her up and run to the bathtub and toss water onto, what appeared to be, her melting face. I silently prayed that whatever it was she had gotten into, the water would not make it worse. Of course, she enjoyed this splash bath just about as much as being sprayed by the skunk - so under the bed she fled – taking small pieces of my flesh with her.
Bleeding from the chest, I decided I needed to give chase. Cell phone in hand, I called the emergency animal clinic as I watched Biscuit crouched under the bed attempting to clean her eyes over and over again with licked paws.
The conversation with the emergency clinic went like this:
Me: Hello, I think my cat was just sprayed in the face by a skunk and her eyes are swelling up. Are you on Park Drive? If so, I can be there in a few minutes.
Young Lady: Ma’am, there really isn’t anything we can do for your cat that you couldn’t do yourself.
Me: I think she might be having an allergic reaction. She’s really puffy and looks miserable. Are you on Park Drive?
Young Lady: Is she wheezing?
Me: No, but her eyes are extremely red and puffy.
Young Lady: You need to flush her eyes with saline solution.
Me: I don’t have any of that. I don’t wear contacts. Will saline nasal spray work?
Young Lady: My God – why on earth would you put nose spray in your cat’s eyes!! (Translation: What kind of idiot are you?)
Me: I’m referring to the nasal SALINE packets used for Neti pots. Will that help? I think I really just need to come up there.
Young Lady: No ma’am. Unless your cat is wheezing, she will probably be better soon. (Translation: Why on earth would I want to experience of the odor of your cat?)
Me: (Big sigh of defeat.) I’ll take her elsewhere. Thank you.
Young Lady: Don’t hang up. It’s really not necessary to take your cat to a clinic. What you need to do is go to the grocery store and buy Dawn dishwashing liquid, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and create a bath for your cat.
Me: Um . . . I’m not sure I can give my cat another bath – she is pretty freaked out.
Young Lady: If you at least wash her face with a cloth drenched in the solution, it will help. Be sure and get the original Dawn liquid detergent that they use for oil-slicked penguins – the blue colored liquid.
Me: OK. Thank you. One more question - I think the skunk came in through the doggie door when I was feeding my cat. The skunk may still be inside. Do you know if Animal Control will come out at midnight?
Young Lady: I know they have a recording on their phone after hours.
Me: Hmmm – OK, I’ll figure out a way to coax it outside myself since it is so late.
Young Lady: My God! Do NOT approach a skunk. It could be rabid! (Translation: You ARE an idiot!)
Me: I don’t plan to get near it. I'm pretty sure it is in the sunroom and I’ll just lure it out one door or another.
Young Lady: Ma’am, you cannot approach a skunk! Oh geeze! Let me go ahead and give you the non-emergency police number. Don’t say anything to them about the open doggie door or feeding your cat. Just tell them you discovered a wild animal in your house and you need help right away. (Translation: If you say too much they, too, will think you are a complete idiot!)
Me: Thank you. I appreciate your help. Goodbye.
So, after having an alarm system just installed at the house due to the increasing number of burglaries in the area, I am being asked to call the police because I have a 4-legged, stinky intruder that I unintentionally lured inside my house with cat food? Not sure I want that reputation just yet. I opt for going to the store to get the goods for Biscuit’s second baptism before I resort to making such a call.
The strong odor snapping me back to reality, I realize I must first see if I can confirm the skunk is in the sunroom and isolate it before leaving for Kroger. Yikes! As I open the interior door to the sunroom I instantly hear a loud and wild hissing sound. I close the door quickly because I can’t see a thing in the shadows and for all I know I am dealing with a rattlesnake, opossum or perhaps a whole band of skunks.
I locate a flashlight in the kitchen and shine it through the glass window of the sunroom’s door. There it is – a somewhat small skunk – hunkered in the corner. I attempt to open the door again, but instead of running out of the sunroom in great fear of me, the little skunk insists on lunging in my direction, ferociously stomping his feet and hissing. OK – I don’t know at this point if the thing can spray more than once during an episode but I sure don’t wish to find out this way!
Through the glass, I look at the small doggie door in which the skunk entered and I have an idea. I run through the garage, into the back yard and quickly open the outside door to the sunroom, propping it with a heavy citronella candle from the patio. Although the skunk entered through the doggie door, I am hoping a wide exit will expedite his departure. I run back into the house. Interior doggie door securely barricaded, I am counting on the skunk leaving out the open door while I complete my midnight run to Kroger. So off to the 24 hour store I go, Biscuit safely under the bed and the skunk hunkered in the corner of the sunroom, now with a more than ample escape path.
I made it to the grocery store in five minutes flat. After locating the needed ingredients quickly, I sailed through the self-check with no problem whatsoever. Why is it self-check stands work seamlessly when no one is in the store, but during the after-work, mad dinner rush when folks are breathing down your neck there are always at least two items in your basket that simply will not scan? Namely, the spray paint you are using for touch ups around the house coupled with a discount bottle of wine - the appearance of which gives you the reputation of planning quite an illicit party!
At any rate, I’m back at the house in record time.
I hurriedly mix up the skunk oil-riddance solution and begin the mission of relocating Biscuit. She is no longer under my bed. I find her wedged behind furniture in another room. I must remove drawers to get to her. I already have my cat-wrapping towel in hand as I do not wish to lose any more flesh. I quickly grab Biscuit and rapidly wrap the towel around her body to where only her head is sticking out. She has morphed into a giant cloth wiggle-worm. I hold her tight and quickly take the wash cloth and wash her face and head repeatedly with the magic solution while she is still in burrito form. She fights and fights and eventually manages to kick out from the towel and take more flesh. I release her as I yell out in anguish. Blood is shed, but mission is accomplished - at least by 75%.
As Biscuit runs off to lick her wounds, I am curious if the skunk has left the premises. Nope, it is still in the exact place it was 30 minutes ago – in the corner of the sunroom under a wire rack. I decide to turn off all the lights in the house and use the small flashlight to monitor its whereabouts. This is when I decide to crack the door ever so slightly and snap the picture above. (Yes, I guess I could be the idiot referred to previously.) Before I left for the store, I mentioned I had barricaded the interior doggie door so the skunk could not possibly enter the main house. Mike has no full set of anything in his house, and thus it isn’t surprising there are no original covers to the doggie doors to be found. I used a handy ottoman as an interior barricade. I decide to sit on it and wait out the skunk.
As I sit patiently on the comfortable barricade, I grab the iPad to get a head start on learning about ways to rid a house of skunk odor. P.S. There aren’t too many ways. However one of the websites I found states to use the same concoction I used on Biscuit’s face, to wash any exposed linens and such. I decide to gather up the throw rugs I knew Biscuit had raced on through the house, the cat burrito towel and the magic washcloth, and I toss them in the washer while they are still ripe. I pour in the left-over Dawn, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide solution from Biscuit’s “bath” and start the machine.
I take another look out of the glass door and hooray, the skunk is on the move. Having been so terribly frightened of Biscuit only an hour earlier, the silly thing now swaggers bravely around the sunroom like John Wayne. He finally walks in a very slow fashion out the propped door. I follow the skunk with my weak flashlight (from behind the glass door) as I watch it finally exit onto the patio.
I swoop into the sunroom (holding my breath), kick the citronella candle away from the propped door and slam it shut. I then proceed to barricade the offending doggie door by using cardboard, paint cans, pool toys, a Hallmark bag, Mike’s flip flops and just about anything else I can find nearby. No original doggie door cover, no problem. The skunk is not coming back in!
Skunk out of the house, my focus goes back to Biscuit. She’s run back behind the furniture, so I take out all the drawers again to get to her and I decide to just leave them out. After all, that particular area is going to need to be aired out anyway. While Biscuit will not let me touch her, I can see she is no longer licking her face constantly and her eyes appear to be de-puffing. I think the Dawn, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide concoction has helped. Whew!
Well, the de-skunking solution worked so well on Biscuit I decide to stop the washing machine mid-wash and let the exposed items soak really good overnight in the active ingredients.
Changing back into my nightgown about 2 a.m., I decide to look again at the various skunk odor remedies on my iPad before drifting off to sleep. I found where ceiling fans and sunlight are beneficial in expediting the odor from your home. In fact, it is recommended that clothing and other fabrics exposed to skunk spray and which are able to be washed, are air-dried outdoors in the sunlight for a few days versus being thrown in the dryer. It is also recommended to change out A/C filters around the house as soon as possible. As I continue to read about remedies and suggestions, I came across an exact “recipe” for the concoction I used on Biscuit. It worked well in the end, but I had not received measurements from the emergency clinic and winged it by sloppily combining ingredients in haste. It seems I may have added a bit more of each ingredient than necessary. Oh well, I think.
Moving on down the recipe webpage I notice where it says, “DANGER: Do not place any of the leftover mixture in a closed container as it will explode.” What? Zing! My brain kicked into gear as I remembered I was soaking the rugs and towels in the washing machine with the lid down – in a much higher concentration of the ingredients! I leapt off the bed and made a beeline to the laundry room. I closed my eyes, quickly threw back the lid of the washer and high-fived the agitator.
Another disaster averted, I relented to sitting on the couch outside the laundry room to wait for the wash cycle to complete. Around 2:30 a.m., I finally made it back to bed – too exhausted to be concerned with where Biscuit had originally landed on the sheets and whether I was imaging the strong skunk odor or if it was really there. I would be showering in the morning, after all.
It has been three days since the encounter yet remnants of the skunk’s visit remain apparent, of course, including the odor. The odor is much weaker, but certainly not gone. Biscuit will again allow me to pet her, but I cannot pick her up for more than a minute just yet. I try often, especially when coaxing her to go back into the dreaded sunroom where she was accosted. Nonetheless, her litter box and food reside there and she must eventually make the effort. Mike, who has been out of town during this entire incident, will arrive on Labor Day weekend to a home complete with an unwelcoming fragrance, every fan in the house on full blast, strewn about furniture and drawers, and rugs and towels adorning every chair on the patio. Hoping to have made a few minor home improvements while he was away, I’ve really only managed to catch up on lost sleep.
Well, that’s not exactly true – I managed to become more educated. As wild and crazy as this incident was, I learned quite a bit from it. Most importantly, I learned about an awesome skunk odor remedy that is safe for pets (other than ye olde tomato juice). You can find the recipe online or at: http://home.earthlink.net/~skunkremedy/home/sk00001.htm (This one states to use Ivory liquid soap, but I bought Dawn like the vet assistant recommended. Either brand appears to work.)
Secondly, I learned additional information about skunks other than the commonly known detail of their defense mechanism. Prior to spraying any perceived predator, a skunk will hiss, spit and stomp at their opponent. This is what I encountered with the critter as I attempted to open the interior door to the sunroom. When these tactics don’t scare away a perceived predator (apparently Biscuit didn’t heed warning), the skunk will then resort to spraying – which usually works very well in fending off any attacker as the oily liquid is extremely irritating at first exposure. I’ve also learned a skunk can spray 5 - 6 times in a row at up to 10 feet in distance before exhausting itself. Good thing I heeded the spit, hiss and stomp warning!
Skunks are native to North America and eat insects (mostly grubs and worms), reptiles, and amphibians as well as some plant matter. However, in cities and suburbs they are not opposed to eating a wide variety of other food via our garbage. A side note about skunks eating grubs and worms - those little divots in your lawn that you may be blaming on squirrels may actually be caused by skunks, especially if you notice they are appearing overnight. Solitary and crepuscular creatures, skunks are usually found alone when scavenging lawns and garbage cans at dusk and during the night.
A very unusual and interesting fact I learned about skunks is that they are considered a primary predator of honeybees. Apparently they will scratch at a beehive to cause a disturbance and then eat the guard bees that come out to protect the hive. A skunk’s thick fur keeps them from being stung. Who would’ve thought?
Lastly, I learned that skunks can’t see well at all – only up to 10 feet in front of them - but they have an incredible sense of smell. Unfortunately, Biscuit and I learned the hard way that canned cat food is one of their favorite aromas and they can smell it a quarter mile away. Although skunks typically shy away from social contact*, once on the path toward a cat food feast, it is simply hard to deter or detour them.
No doubt, I’d say!
Until next time,
*While they are a vector animal for the rabies virus, skunks rarely make unnecessary contact with humans or pets. Of course, all joking aside, rabies is a very serious reason to avoid contact with skunks or any other animal that is unusually brave enough to wander into your garage, basement or house. Although I kept myself behind closed doors and the skunk was relegated to an outdoor sunroom, it is always best to call a professional to remove the animal. Had my propped door- wait it out tactic not worked, I would have resorted to calling the non-emergency police number.