I'll make this brief: How would you handle a large amount of cat poop, some very old, some probably new, most mounded on a layer of coal (covering an area maybe 4x8 ft.) in an unused, unlit corner of a dirt basement?
I'd look in the yellow pages for a firm that cleans up after "disasters." There are people who specialize in this sort of thing--look under "Janitor Services". You can also call your insurance carrier--they will be able to reccommend someone who specializes in 'nasty clean-ups.'
If you want to tackle this yourself--mace certain you wear a respirator--all sorts of nasty stuff can lurk in fecal matter. I'd haul out the offending substances--and then try using one of the products they sell at pet stores for eliminating pet odors.
The local vet may have some suggestions as well.
Below is a link that talks about the appropriate people to call--you'll have to read down a bit.
Here is a link that might be useful: WHo you gonna call? POOPbusters!
I hope (if you decide to do this yourself) that you can dispose of both the coal and the poop in the same place, but I wouldn't be surprized if coal is somehing you can't put out with your regular trash pick-up. It seems like it might be a hazzard in your regular landfill, where methane gas forms under the layers and has to be vented away. Adding coal to an explosive gas sounds like a dangerous recipe.
I would check with the city, municipality, or disposal company before just scooping the whole mess into containers.
Melanie and Nancy, thanks for your help. There was only one promising lead in the yellow pages--an outfit that does "crime scene cleanup" (we figured this qualifies). But they're too far away. After reading the thread linked, I tried calling Service Master several times, but their phone doesn't answer. Not a good sign.
So we checked out respirators. The local medical supply place has masks that block out just about everything. They're used by those treating AIDS patients. I hope this will do it, as we were unable to find anything better. A box of 50 costs $21--a lot less than a cleanup crew, I'm sure, although I must say the thought of professionals coming in is a lot more appealing.
Good point about disposal, Nancy. Actually, I was told years ago that it's not permissable to put cat litter in the garbage either. Speaking of methane, isn't that being produced in the basement by the cat droppings? Ye gods...
Alisande, yes, you are probably right. I clean the yard every week and deposit the droppings of three dogs in the garbage. I hope they never make me stop, as we have clay soil and cannot use those handy "Doggy Dooley" septic systems. Not to mention we are frozen here for at least 3 or 4 months every year and they don't work then. My solution is that we need someone to invent an outdoor pet toilet where we can deposit droppings in and flush. Since I live in a 50 year-old suburb that originally had the downspouts attached to the sewage system, there are all these cement-sealed, connected to the sewage system pipes next to all of our houses. If they could be unsealed, there you go. Now who can invent an outdoor flush system for me (and how do you use it in the winter?)?
If your masks don't block out the smell, too, consider going to the hardware store and getting 3M "Latex Painting Masks" that are kind of gray-felt looking. They filter out odors in their activated charcoal layer. I have asthma that is triggered by hydrocarbon fumes and I use these to filter and warm the air in the winter when I am running my snowblower. Works in air pollution, too, until they get too wet from the sweat!
Actually, I was hoping that the pile of coal did the same as the "Activated Charcoal" and deodorized the mess for you already. Best of luck and hope for cool weather when you have to tackle this chore!
Good to know about those masks. My mother died (at age 38) from inhaling chlorinated hydrocarbons from a rug cleaner she was using in November with the windows closed. I try to be careful about what I breathe.
You know, the coal may have deodorized this mess. Or maybe it's just that so much of it is so old. Or maybe it actually reeks and I've just gotten used to it. :-/
In any case, I'm armed with several bottles of pet odor eliminator.
I have dogs, too, but since we live out in the country I just pitch the stuff into the woods, mumbling, "Good fertilizer" as I do so.
Actually--black plastic garbage bags were invented for small quantities of whatever the landfill thinks is problematic....(kidding.)
Melanie - It works for me!
The mask is a good idea - don't forget to buy a box of latex gloves too.
Here's how I'd handle this rotten project: I'd line a plastic garbage can with the thickest liner I could find. That probably means something for bagging up yard waste. I'd use a medium size square shovel to shovel the coal and poop into the garbage bag. Don't use a regular shovel that's intended for digging because too much poop will spill over the sides and you'll get make the air too dusty. I suggest buying one with a flat front that makes scooping and shoveling easier. A snow shovel is too big and unwieldy for this job. Fill the garbage bag no more than 1/3 full because cat poop and coal are heavy and might break the bag. Tie the bags securely and either take them to the dump or put them in your garbage.
I'd make a funeral pyre of it.
You say you live in the country......shovel it up with a grain scoop....coal poop and all....and deposit it in a central spot and burn it!
The coal will burn so hot, it will kill anything offensive in the cat poop.....and you can all toast marshmallows over the fire!
Seriously....how did that "sea of poop" come to be your problem in that dark corner of a dirt floored basement?
First ... find and block the cat's entry holes to prevent any more pooping. Then bring in some work lights so you can see what you are doing. Medical masks are NOT what you want. Go to Home Depot and get the kind sold for working with concrete.
There's not much in cat poop that can hurt you unless you are pregnant as long as you wash your hands after de-pooping. Just put on a dust mask to keep the coal dust out of your lungs and start scooping into small trash bags. Snow shovels work well. Double-bag it, because it's heavy. Put it into the trash, a couple of bags at a time if you have to. Or burn it, if that's permitted.
When you are down to the basement floor, spread a couple large bags of cheap low-dust, deodorant clay kitty litter over the area to a depth of a couple of inches and leave it several days to absorb any residue, then sweep or shop-vac it out.
The final coop-de-grass would be to soak the area in a strong bleach solution - say a quart of bleach to a gallon of water, applied with a watering can and allowed to soak in.
It's hard to believeÂeven for meÂbut I lived in this house for years without knowing about this mess. The basement is a dungeon...dirt floor, rocks, damp, etc. I would go down focused on my missionÂto rummage in the freezer or whateverÂand deliberately not look around much.
Then recently I had work done down there (oil burner, water tank), and in preparation for workers arriving (and banging their heads on the 6-foot ceiling) I bit the bullet, wrapped a broom in flannel rags, grabbed a flashlight, and went down to rid the place of cobwebs. I found plenty, but to my horror I also found this... um...depository behind the basement stairs.
I remember when we moved in I was pregnant, and we discovered lots of cat turds in the basement at that point. My husband cleaned it out (or so we thought) because of the toxoplasmosis risk. I guess there were plenty more we didn't know about until now.
I think my own cats have added to it. I have their litter boxes in the basement, but two years ago, after my daughter died, I forgot to change the litter for about three weeks. When I finally got to it, the boxes were full and they had started using the dirt floor surrounding the boxes. They may have branched out to that area behind the stairs.
Anyway, I've got to take some action. I so appreciate your advice and support. I didn't expect so many responses to my dirty little question. :-)
If you notice an ammonia scent, several pounds of baking soda scattered thickly on the dirt can help.
Wear eye goggles, too. Don't want any of that in your eyes. Good luck.
See if you can rent "Gray Gardens" for inspiration. It's about two impoverished relatives of Jackie Kennedy's who lived with about 150 cats in a crumbling mansion in the Hamptons. Very spooky.
As the cat stuff is mixed with coal, and you live out in the country like me, why not burn the lot in the aga? Waste disposal, cooking and hot water all sorted out in one.
We have a similar problem.
A word about bleach. We cleaned our tub with bleach and our cat got in there and drank some of it and puked muave foam (not kidding) for the rest of the night and seemed deathly ill. Our vet said that cats are attracted to the smell of bleach. While I'd like to dump it in the basement I wouldn't put it past my cat (or yours) to find a way to eat it.