Incontinent pets and the joy of the Surveillance State

For the last few months, we’ve been greeted most mornings by a little Puddle of Joy in the middle of our living room. If we’re really lucky, the Puddle of Joy is complimented with a side-dish of Happiness Sausages.

As you might imagine, this was becoming tiresome. No-one wants to deal with an incontinent pet; particularly not at 6am when you’re still feeling quite delicate and a hungry four-year-old with no understanding of “indoor voice” is demanding her breakfast.

We have three cats and a dog. One of them was to blame. But which one?

The dog is an undersized terrier, so we couldn’t really identify the suspect by quantity of serving … they all have approximately the same size sphincters. And I have no intention of investigating in more detail than that. I know that bullets can be matched to the guns that fired them by comparing distinctive markings on the inside of the barrel … but I’m not planning a project where I try and compare a turd’s rifling against pets arses.

Everybody thinks they know what cat-pee smells like. But do you really? Could you honestly tell the difference between cat and dog? Sniffing it at close-quarters to try and discern for certain is just … weird. Like some pompous wine-snob who has become bored with Merlot. “Ah, yes, I’m getting distinct notes of vanilla mixed with James Welbeloved’s Meaty Chunks for The Younger Cat”. There is some appeal to the idea of giving a glass of it to one of my pompous wine-friends and inviting them to swill it around their palate and identify the vineyard, but there’s a good chance they wouldn’t see the funny side.

So identifying the culprit via forensic investigation is out.

Our cats never look guilty. Cats just don’t, really. I suspect that even if I caught one in the act of logging-out in the middle of the rug and it maintained eye-contact with me while doing so, that cat’s expression would still be one of innocence and denial. Gaslighting by a defecating cat.

The dog, meanwhile, looks guilty all the time. Even regarding stuff she couldn’t possibly have done. You stare at her and say “Was this you?” and she’ll slink off to her bed, ashamed … doesn’t matter whether the topic of conversation is puddles of urine, or the war in Ukraine. And whilst “but she looks guilty” might be enough to issue an Arrest Warrant if you’re an officer in the Met, here in the House of Oddbloke we like to think we need more evidence.

So I’m not going to get any answers by pointing at a puddle and shouting “WHO DID THIS?”. But neither do I accept that my future for the next decade or so includes a morning ritual of mopping-up animal excreta. This isn’t a smallholding.

Also: we have a catflap. Now, I can’t imagine that any other cat is visiting our house (you’d think that three cats and a dog should be enough to dissuade any night-visitors) but it’s still possible.

And lastly … there’s always the chance that I’ve been sleep-walking and taking a dump in my own living room. It’s unlikely, but knowing myself as I do, it’s not completely impossible. I add this as an option for those readers who like to place bets on the long-odds horse.

I needed actual evidence, and because I’m a geek, it seemed obvious to use technology.

A few years ago I bought and installed a CCTV system. It came with eight cameras, but I didn’t use them all. So I found two more (plus cabling), pointed one at “ground zero” and the other at our catflap. I spent an enjoyable evening pushing cabling under doors and clipping it to skirting. The cameras themselves were gaffer-taped to whatever was close and convenient.

Like one of those “found-footage” horror movies … but more scatological.

Bathing in the glow of my own genius, I went to bed that night looking forward to what sewage the morning would bring. I was more excited about making a video recording of a defecating animal than any sane adult really should be – apart from perhaps Chris Packham or Katie Humble, I suppose.

And nothing happened for four days. Nary puddle nor pebble. The laminate remained completely piss-free. Which annoyed my wife, because there’s cabling running across all the floors and a gaffer-taped camera recording our quiet evenings on the sofa. Her friends already think I’m odd. But I’m not going to put it away before I get a hit, am I?

But then the morning came when I opened the living room door and my nostrils were assaulted by the pungent waft … OF SUCCESS.

Like a genuine CSI pro, I worked my way through gigabytes of genuine high-def video footage, dragged boxes over tiny areas of images and clicked on some mysterious buttons marked “ENHANCE” and “CROSS-REFERENCE FROM INTERPOL DATABASE”. At one point (carried away by the drama of it all) I grabbed my phone and shouted “OPS! GIVE ME OPS! STAT!” into it … even though I’ve already had many ops, and I don’t have a clue what “stat” actually means.

Here is a summary of that footage.

Not long after we went to bed, a neighbour’s cat let itself in through the catflap. It settled on a chair in our living room, where it would remain for nearly four hours.

One hour into this, our dog enters the room, sees the cat, and then sits alert on the sofa opposite … just staring. But shaking so much that the recorder (which looks for movement) recorded the entire thing. No barking, just staring and shaking.

About half an hour later, our own cats wander through, and see the visitor on the chair. They greet him with whatever the cat equivalent is to “alright Dave?” and keep walking. Not bothered in the slightest. Dave is clearly a regular.

At the end of the four hour rest, Dave stands up and stretches. He then wanders back through the kitchen and out through the catflap.

The dog gives the cat just enough of a head start to ensure that there’s no way she’ll catch him, before she starts running to follow him, barking loudly. She follows him through the catflap and into the garden, barking at a cat that is now long gone.

The dog then re-enters through the catflap, returns to the living room, sniffs all around the vacated chair … and then crouches down and defecates on the floor. Yeah! That’ll show him!

So anyway … would anyone like a free dog? Cute, but bloody useless. Will swap for locking catflap.

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posted in Family, Geekery, Pets by Oddbloke

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