Is my house sick?

reneekDecember 17, 2009

We moved into our current house in 2001. Two months later, our 16 year old cat had a stroke and died. We adopted two more cats in the next two years. Three years after that we adopted our third and final cat. She developed cancer a year later and died. This year, the two remaining cats developed diabetes ( He will be 10 next year) and pancreatitis and high liver values (She will be 9 next year) respectively.

Even though they have experienced different health issues, I canÂt help but think that there could be an environmental component involved. Is there a particular type of company that I can contact to come in and test our house for certain gases/filtration issues? I could be totally off base, but I believe that there may be something to this as I have experienced some medical issues too. Sometimes, I smell something and the scent goes away, I experience headaches and muscle achesÂ.but that could be related to something else too.

Thanks in advance for any advice/help that you can offer.


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The cat thing could be a coincidence, but in your case, your problems are a different situation. Any one else in the house having any problems? Would suggest you have your home checked for carbon monoxide levels. Any older gas system, furnace, water heater, dryer are all capable of producing CM if they are not properly vented. However, CM is odorless.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 12:07PM
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Radon gas?

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 2:17PM
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Is your heat natural gas, hot water heater & dryer?? If so can check the connections around them by taking a few drops of dishwashing liquid soap( like Joy or Dawn) & put the soap in 1/2 cup water & use an old toothbrush to paint the mixture on all the connections. If any are leaking there will be bubbling up & you can mark the spots with a Sharpie pen & get pipes replaced. Check any outside gas connections also. Imagine this would work if you use propane also. Any gas leak would be detected. While you are checking this clean out any lint/dust from under hot water heater & take a thin rag over a yardstick & get dust out from under dryer. Dust/lint is cause of some house fires. I do this couple of times a year!(Take back off dryer & long artist brush & get the lint out too after I've unplugged the thing & turned the gas off. My furnace is natural gas also & I shut it off & take a damp cloth & stick & run the cloth around in the drum to get rid of any dust & take the vent off under it & wipe it out helps with my allergies. Also safer & last longer. As for the cats I hope you didn't give them toys from Dollar Store as the stuff from China can make cats & dogs very sick. Did the cats get cat food or table scraps? They say that table scraps are bad for them. Were the cats all from same breeder, maybe weren't too healthy from inbreeding. But if a cat was laying close to leaking CO2 or gas or propane that would certainly affect their life!! I have carbon Monoxide alarms in my house where I sleep & in kitchen that 1 also detects natural gas(or even room spray like Lysol if someone was sick & I sprayed to kill germs so I didn't get sick- I end up having to unplug it from the wall & take it to another room until the smell is gone.) What about drains in your house. Do you have bathroom you don't use & water is never put down the sink, shower or floor drain in basement, that can make you very ill. My dad was working once & lady was so sick & he told her it was her basement drain, you have to put water down it every few days otherwise sewer gas can come up & it will kill you & your pets. So any unused drains need a qt of water down each every week. Hope this helps!!I get migraines from Barometric pressure changes so I know a storm is coming about 48 hrs before it arrives.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 1:04AM
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16 years seems well within the normal life expectancy of a house cat. I'm not a vet but it seems that lots of things can cause a stroke including, perhaps, stress from the move. Could the health problems with your other two cats be attributed to some kind of adverse condition in your home? Certainly but there are plenty of other causes as well, including just some bad luck. What does your vet say?

Your health problems may or may not be attributable to some kind of environmental problem as well. Or not. What does you doctor say?

As another member mentioned you might want to check carbon monoxide levels. Some of the detectors have a display that shows the actual level. Remember that carbon monoxide only applies if you have appliances that burn -- natural gas, propane, fuel oil, coal.

Mold can cause all kinds of health problems. Might not be a bad idea to take a good look around. If don't want to or don't know what you're looking for, there are companies that will inspect you home. I'd suggest exercising due diligence before hiring one.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 9:18AM
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Question. Are/were you cats 100% indoors?

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 10:10PM
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Thanks for that suggestion about checking CO levels, I have the monitor and I checked to make sure that it was still operational and seemingly, it is. I may just buy a new one anyway since this one came with the house, but we've always changed the battery. I will probably buy the one that also detects natural gas as sunnyca suggests.

We thought about that too. I will have to go buy a kit and get it tested. Thank you!! Thank you for all of those tips! We have natural gas heater and hot water heater. Our dryer is electric. We will test the gas connections as you suggested. The cats do not like to play with toys to my chagrin and they eat canned cat food and some dry cat food. All of the cats were rescued from our local no kill shelter. We use all of our bathrooms too. You've given me so much food for thought.

I agree, 16 years is a long time, I just wondered about the timing of the incident....I could be over thinking it though. My vet said that he couldn't rule out environmental factors and suggested that I look into some filtration solutions. I suspect mold could be a problem underneath the house in the crawlspace which is pretty much clay dirt. There is some plastic covering it to keep the gases down, but some clay was exposed and I noticed that some of it was wet, but we recently had severe rainfall which flooded parts of Atlanta recently including my area. The clay right next to the concrete blocked wall looked greenish to me. Thanks for your response!

All are housecats, but one loves to sneak outside when we come in and aren't looking. She enjoys eating the grass and rolling around in the dirt. Another cat will get the urge to go out once a year and the other has no interest. I've been wondering if maybe Bonnie got into something outside. She is the sickest and will be fitted with a feeding tube on Monday because she won't eat and can barely hold down the clavamox medicine. Thanks for your reply, I truly appreciate it.

Can anyone suggest the type of professional that I should call to come inspect the house? I was thinking of calling a home inspector since they conduct similar tests when one is trying to buy a home......

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 10:56PM
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Without an expensive and extensive autopsy it would be difficult for a vet to rule out anything. Even then, the results may not be conclusive. Do your symptoms lessen in milder weather when you would have the windows open? If so, that might point to some kind of localized environmental problem.

Most home inspectors only have very generalized knowledge so I'm not sure that would be your best choice. Perhaps a company that specializes in indoor air quality or a mold remediation company. Although care should be exercised there, as an unscrupulous company might create a fictitious problem to generate business.

It could be that you've just had some bad luck. Animals do get sick.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 2:21PM
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If you really want to in-depth information and analysis, look at hiring an (IH) Industrial Hygienist. An IH will inspect and analyze conditions of the home or workplace for potential health hazards. This could cost one or two thousand dollars for a home inspection but if itÂs a competent IH, they should find the problem if there is one.

I have seen mostly false alarms when people have a heightened awareness to environmental issues like this. It usually pops up when they see something on TV or in the newspapers or get bad advice from ill-informed people in the community. DonÂt get me wrong, there are plenty of sick buildings out there and I have seen many of them. The problem is too many look to building issues when nothing can be seen and ignore obvious issues that are glaring.

Not trying to be a smart ass but your catÂs age is a glaring one IMO. Now if all your cats were four and five yearÂs old, different story. Also if your cats were adopted, who knows what they were exposed to in their early years and these diseases can take many years to develop.

My favorite example of ignoring the obvious was an office building in DC where all twelve floors of the HVAC system had to be cleaned because one office worker started a panic about everyone working in a sick building. The woman was in her 50Âs and was complaining of severe headaches and joint pains after being in the office all day for her new job.

The woman smoked two packs a day, was over 350 pounds and supposedly had a drinking problem but she still insisted the building was causing her symptoms. The HVAC system was dirty and needed to be cleaned anyway but the womanÂs symptoms didnÂt go away after the building was cleaned. DUUUUUHHHHH????

Ed McMahon was one of the most notorious to start the "toxic mold killed my pet" lawsuit which turned into mass hysteria about mold and pets. Ed McMahon sued his insurance company for 20 million dollars because a contractor apparently didnÂt clean up a broken pipe in his house properly. Mold developed and EdÂs dog died soon afterwards and nobody had an ounce of evidence the dog didnÂt die from natural causes. Ed settled out of court for 7.2 million dollars and itÂs well known that Ed probably did it because he was broke, not because his dog died.

In my experience, the list of false alarms is far, far longer than the list of legitimate sick buildings. Look to obvious answers first such as diet, life style and use of chemicals around the home. Address the basics first because they are usually the problem. Then look at gas operated systems as they are an easy fix if not functioning properly. After all that, if you still have problems, dig deeper for mold, radon or other environmental issues.

If you want peace of mind, find a good IH but itÂs going to cost you. After he/she is done however, I wager youÂll need to start at square one anyway because the IH didnÂt find much.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 12:48PM
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Several years ago when we had a parakete, my wife used an amoniated cleaner. Next morning the bird was dead. Just never know how cats will respond to different chemicals.

Have you been to the doctor to discuss your symtoms?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 9:53AM
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Renee, I would absolutely have the house checked, if only to give you peace of mind.

However, as a long-time cat owner, I've have two very clear groups of cats: the ones that last forever, and the ones that barely make it to 10. It's horrible when they go, no matter when it is, and it sounds like you've had a terrible run lately. Definitely check out the house, but keep in mind your experiences with your cats is unfortunately not all that unusual.

I'm very sorry you're going through this.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 12:26PM
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