85: Cat-astrophe Avoided

85: Cat-astrophe Avoided

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Cat-astrophe Avoided

A cat is the only domestic animal I know who toilet trains itself and does a damned impressive job of it.

~Joseph Epstein

Even though my house was very full, with three cats and two large Retrievers, I had just adopted a little kitten. She spent her days exploring her new house and getting into all sorts of trouble. I named her Mouse, because she squeaked instead of meowed, and she would run around in short bursts of energy, just like a mouse.

One day, as I was relaxing after a long day at work, I sat down to watch television and it wouldn’t turn on. After trying various light switches around the house, I realized that half of my house was without electricity. I went outside to flip the breakers, and the moment I did, there was a loud pop sound in the house. I ran back in and smelled smoke, but I couldn’t see any sign of smoke or fire. I couldn’t figure out where the smell was coming from.

Since I couldn’t detect any overt signs of fire, I called the non-emergency number of the fire station to ask what I should do. The dispatcher asked me several questions. I told her all I knew, and she told me the fire engine was already on the way. That’s not what I had expected to happen, and hurried to tell her I didn’t think it was an emergency. She said that’s the normal response on all calls. Then I started panicking.

I grabbed all four cats and stashed them in the back seat of the car, thinking that I’d move my car across the street and away from the house in case it did in fact go up in flames. I figured I’d be able to run to the back yard to get my dogs, but as soon as I parked the car in the street, not one but two big fire engines came roaring down my street followed by the fire marshal’s truck. They had all their lights flashing and sirens blasting, and came to a stop right in front of my house.

As the firemen poured out of the fire engines, I tried to tell them that I hadn’t called for an emergency but had just smelled smoke. They assured me that they’d take care of it. We all crowded into the house, and they scattered all over to find the source of the smoke. The fire marshal called me over and had me walk him through exactly what had happened, so I went over the story again.

As we were talking, one of the firemen walked up to me.

“Do you have a cat?”

I was puzzled but replied, “Yes, I have four cats.”

He told me that they had found the source of the problem and asked me to follow them down into the crawl space under the stairs.

“Can you smell urine?” he asked.

What an odd question, I thought, but I sniffed, and sure enough there was the scent of cat urine. I was very confused, as I knew there was no way the cats could have gotten into the crawl space, since it involved lifting a heavy trap door in a closed closet.

“I do smell it, but I don’t understand where it’s coming from,” I replied.

He grinned and pointed at the ceiling.

“Your cat peed in the outlet.”

My mind boggled.

“Excuse me? My cat did what?”

He laughed, and by this time, some of the other firemen were laughing too.

“Your cat peed in the outlet and shorted out half your house.”

Thoroughly confused and rather mortified, I followed them back upstairs into the living room, where he pointed out the one outlet built into the floor. My coffee table was above it, and he had me kneel down and look underneath the table. He pointed out the large scorch mark on the underside of the coffee table.

“You were really lucky, and I’m not sure how your cat didn’t fry herself, but when she peed in the outlet, a flame would have shot upward and could have destroyed your whole house.”

By this time, the firemen were standing around grinning at me, all of us so relieved that there was no real emergency. They filed outside to their fire engines, and the fire marshal tipped his hat and said goodbye, suggesting that I have an electrician come fix the problem.

I walked outside with them to pull the car back into my garage and realized that every one of my neighbors was standing around watching. I was so embarrassed and couldn’t even get the words out that my cat had peed in the outlet, so I just smiled weakly at them and moved my car.

After I brought the cats back into the house, I checked them all over carefully, but found no marks on any of them. But I knew exactly which cat was the culprit. Silly little Mouse, but she must have learned her lesson, because she never did that again.

~NL Shank

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