Staying in room that smells like cat pee
December 23, 2017 12:07 AM   Subscribe

Should we get a hotel room because sister in law's room we're staying at smells like cat pee?

Just got into town for the holidays. We are staying at my sister in law's house she recently bought. She's been looking forward to having us stay there. So... I am unable to sleep in the bedroom she has us in because it reeks of cat pee. Its the only spare bedroom in the house. There is a cat litter box in the room. Sister in law is a typical cat lady with multiple cats. I have no problem with cats...we have 2 of them. I didn't expect this to be an issue. But it's so bad I'm having trouble breathing. We could get a hotel room but I'm afraid my sister in law will be catastrophically insulted and it will ruin Christmas for everyone. I don't wanna be the asshole. And I especially don't wanna upset mother in law who was kind enough to contribute money towards plane tickets for us to come out. But the smell is really bad. Wife smells it but not as much as I do. She'll do whatever I want. So should we get a hotel? Or tough it out? We'll be here 3 more nights. Any thoughts or opinions are appreciated.
posted by ljs30 to Human Relations (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Claim allergies to ‘something’ in the room. That it’s a new house makes this even easier as the ‘previous owner must have had something in that room that you’re sensitive to’.

It’s not worth ruining your lungs with ammonia just to make SIL happy.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 12:20 AM on December 23, 2017 [33 favorites]

Have your wife tell her sister that you want more intimate time with one another. Neither of you want to risk waking other people up, nor to wait 3 days until you get back home.
posted by invisible ink at 12:33 AM on December 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

This boggles my mind. Who puts guests in with the cat box? I'm with you, I have a sensitive nose and airways and would never be able to get comfy in a room with a stinky litterbox (or the stink in the carpet/walls from overspray.)

I agree with PorcineWithMe, on claiming that "something" in the room is bothering your allergies and go get a hotel room. Three nights is too long to tough it out just to be polite.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:45 AM on December 23, 2017 [24 favorites]

So should we get a hotel? Or tough it out?

We don't know enough about your family dynamics to really answer this, but in my own family, I would talk to my SIL (or ask my husband to) and gently ask if the litter box can be moved somewhere else, I'd air out the room for a day, and tough it out. It will be much less embarrassing for her to deal with the litter box than to see two guests leave her home, it won't raise issues about money with your MIL (I would be pissed if I helped pay for someone's plane tickets and they chose to go to a hotel), and, if there's a bit of a residual smell in the room, TBH you'll be used to it by the second day.
posted by third word on a random page at 12:49 AM on December 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

Just tell her that the box is giving you allergies and ask her to move it. I can't imagine she'd have a problem with that, it is very odd to put guests in a room with a cat box to start with.
posted by fshgrl at 12:50 AM on December 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

The problem with moving the box is WHAT IF the smell isn’t all from the box and the cats have also urinated on the floors/furnishings? Then what excuse do you come up with? You’ll have boxed yourself into a corner.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:29 AM on December 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

You can't just move a cat box. They are trained that's where the bathroom is. I would say you want some alone time and get a room.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:31 AM on December 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

SIL is giving you a passive-aggressive message. Go hotel.
posted by flabdablet at 1:46 AM on December 23, 2017 [12 favorites]

Ask wife to ask mother in law to pay for a hotel?
Ask wife to ask mother in law to ask sister to remove box and deep clean room? Or hire a cleaner on short notice?
Ask wife to ask mother in law to ask sister to switch bedrooms with you for the duration ?
You lie about an emergency with a friend, you go home and wife stays?
posted by Mistress at 1:52 AM on December 23, 2017

Ugh gross go to a hotel. There's probably piss in the carpets and on the furniture as well, a single litter box would not create smells so bad as to cause breathing problems unless it was unchanged for weeks at a time, which also does not bode well for hygiene purposes. And yes, moving the box will just make the cats shit explosively all over the wall outside your room or wail outside the door all night, or both, simultaneously, as they don't cope well with sudden changes.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:41 AM on December 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

If changed regularly and if adequate for the number of cats using it, a litter box shouldn't smell much and definitely shouldn't stink up and entire room. If you really think the smell is due to the litter box you could try changing the litter and see if that makes a difference, because if it does that's a much easier solution than getting a hotel.

But I suspect that there's cat pee in the carpet etc. I used to have a friend who had god knows how many cats - I think maybe 20? it was impossible to count - a really sweet person with a lot of compassion. Her entire house had an overwhelming aroma. I believe that either she never had much of a sense of smell at all or that her nose just kind of got numb.
posted by bunderful at 4:54 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

It doesn't look like there's a solution that will make everybody happy.

Staying there and trying to tough it out will make you sick. If the smell is that strong, it isn't just the litter box. It's everywhere. Half-measures to mitigate the smell will accomplish little to nothing. Your visit will be spoiled by resenting being put in a smelly room.

If you leave, SIL and MIL may be offended.

What I would do is what others suggested - say there is "something" making you sick and, IDK, your doctor is very against you remaining in an area that irritates your allergies, asthma, whatever (to avoid a total lie, something you actually have.) Don't get too specific, otherwise they will want to jump in to move the litterbox, etc, because if those measures don't work or cause additional problems and you still have to leave, things will just be that much more awkward.

What I am trying to say is, in these situations, I believe saying less, gently but firmly, is more. You don't have to be unkind, but you have to be unequivocal, not about your reasons for leaving, but that you have decided to get a hotel room. The more you explain, the more they will try to fix the problem, and the worse everyone will feel. You don't want this to become the visit that revolved around the litter box.

And if they are the types to be super offended, all the more reason to get a room and get some space.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 6:58 AM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

This boggles my mind. Who puts guests in with the cat box?

This is my feeling. My sister has three cats and and equivalent number of litter boxes and pretty much goes out of her way to make sure the house and especially the guestroom is NOT cat smelling before guests come over. So either 1) your S-i-L is negging you by having you sleep in there with the box (rude!) or 2) Your S-i-L is used to cats, doesn't think about this at all and is just sort of clueless to the whole thing.

If it were me, I'd just give her a chance to fix it in a neutralish way "Hey it's great to be here but I think the cat box is making my allergies act up, could we move it to another room while we're here?" If she's within the normal-range her response will be some variety of "yes" from just moving the box to "Oh my gosh, so sorry, let me run a vaccum through there and take care of that!" If she's weird about it then just take yourself to a hotel.

Any family who would put this back on YOU is the person who is having a bad reaction here and you can just put up some decent boundaries and ignore if they star drama. Just be as pleasant and polite (and even apologetic if you think that's warranted) so it's clear you're not starting drama you just want to get some sleep.
posted by jessamyn at 7:20 AM on December 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

I think the key points here are: your wife smells it but doesn’t think it’s that bad, and your MIL paid for the plane tickets.

I would also be enormously pissed if I paid for plane tickets, and then you went and paid for a hotel - I’d feel like “they have enough money for a hotel, why didn’t they put it towards plane tickets?”

I would maybe try opening the window and asking for extra blankets.
posted by corb at 8:19 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

If your MIL would be offended for financial reasons if you left for a hotel, I'd put the skunk on the table. "There's a strong odor of cat urine in the room, possibly due to the litter box, and it's making it difficult for me to breathe. If we can find a way to deal with the odor, that's great. If we can't, we're going to have to get a room at the Motel Six for the next two nights, because I can't sleep like this."

If their response was anything other than apologies and efforts to improve the situation and they instead tried to push me to stay, I'd go into broken record mode. "The room smells of urine. I am not going to spend another night sleeping in a room that smells of urine. We can address the odor problem, or we can sleep elsewhere."

If SIL or MIL wants to sleep in a room smelling of urine, they're welcome to. But in my book it's unacceptable to expect a guest in my home to put up with conditions like that.
posted by Lexica at 9:35 AM on December 23, 2017 [37 favorites]

It could be due to SIL's cats, but if the house was recently bought, it's entirely possible that the room's walls and carpet harbor pee odors from years of the previous owner's cats peeing all over. That type of odor can't be cleaned off. A properly maintained cat box shouldn't smell much at all. I'd just be straightforward about the severity of it. Is there a sofabed or other non-traditional solution? Your wife should spearhead this and be firm.
posted by quince at 11:07 AM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

First of all, it is insane that SIL expects you to stay in the litter box room. Who does that?! I have 4 cats and two litter boxes that I scoop daily (and scrub out every couple weeks), but it will still smell after the cats use it, because poop and pee smell. Ask her to move the box, and if she’s embarrassed or insulted, those emotions are not fatal and she will just have to deal with it. You are not being rude by asking for what should be a common-sense accommodation.

As for whether there’s pre-existing pee in that room or not (or elsewhere in the house, for that matter), she can buy a black light on Amazon to check. For cleaning it up, I absolutely swear by this stuff:

This works better than anything else I have ever tried. It is basically a mom-and-pop shop and you have to buy it over the telephone because they don’t do online ordering, but it WILL get rid of pee like nothing else.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:19 AM on December 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you can afford the hotel, get the hotel, and blame it on your allergies keeping you from sleeping, and just be blandly cheerful. Why do the plane tickets matter... it's entirely possible not to be able to afford both, yes?
posted by emjaybee at 11:50 AM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

The only time I would imagine it being okay to have a guest sleep in the same room as a litter box would be if I was in a studio apartment and the whole place was one room. I've got a lot of experience with bad litter box behavior and weirdo cats and my opinion has nothing to do with a personal aversion to cat smell or litter.

I understand that it can be extremely fraught - you're the odd one out as the in-law, you're the one having the problem, it's Christmas, etc. But I think you should summon up the courage to talk to your SIL. Maybe the solution is not moving the litter box but instead moving the mattress into the living room or another space. Maybe she truly can't smell it and thought it would be okay - I still boggle at the idea but everyone's different - and is having anxiety about the new home and family xmas and all that stuff and really truly wants you to have a nice visit. You won't know unless you ask her. I suggest speaking to her alone without the rest of her family there in case there's an element of embarrassment involved. Be matter of fact and upbeat but don't lie and say you can tough it out - Christmas with the inlaws is hard enough, now imagine it without sleep for three nights.

If possible you could have your wife talk to her sister instead, but sometimes it works out better if it's two people who aren't quiet as close to hash out the solution. I wouldn't worry about "ruining Christmas for everyone", if you were staying at a hotel in the first place, you'd be at the house for everything other than sleeping anyway, so if that's what you end up doing, just be sure to show up for breakfast and stay after dinner and act like the hotel is just a bedroom that's farther away than down the hall.
posted by Mizu at 12:20 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Given the MIL's financial gift and the importance to the SIL of being able to host guests, I'd either be the last one up, or sneak out of the catroom after everyone's asleep, and just crash on the couch.
posted by headnsouth at 12:29 PM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes, decamp to a hotel. Only -- this is your wife's family, so she should be the one having the mysterious "allergic reaction."
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:30 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh also, if all the hotels/motels in the area are already booked, you can try overnighting some Nature's Miracle from amazon or similar, it will get rid of the pet smell but IMO the scent of it is kind of overwhelming itself in heavy doses.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:53 PM on December 23, 2017

I'm with being kind but honest. The urine may well be in the carpet from the previous owner's cats, but that's not really the issue. SIL apparently can't smell the urine, or thinks it's inoffensive. You can't breathe. There's another possibility - Why not see if she will offer to switch bedrooms while you're there? No hotel, no insult to MIL, but no cat piss odor for you.

Unless her room smells too, and then you can opt for a hotel with a free conscience.
posted by citygirl at 1:54 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

An enzyme cleaner like Nature's Miracle take days to work appropriately.

Your wife needs to have an uncomfortable conversation and work out a solution.
posted by jbenben at 1:59 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Two contradictory thoughts:
  1. If your wife is willing to get a hotel room with you, it doesn't like like she expects the move to catastrophically ruin Christmas (or she's willing to ruin Christmas, which is a entirely different matter). I would trust her prediction of how her mother and sister would react.
  2. If when you say you're having trouble breathing, you mean like, "ew, I don't want to breathe" not literally experiencing physical problems due to the ammonia inhalation (which is possible!) I would stick it out. It's three days and you'll probably be in the bedroom only to sleep.
Also, goodness, please don't let your mother in law pay for your plane ticket and then tell her you're paying for a hotel room so you can have sex with your wife three days earlier.
posted by d. z. wang at 2:49 PM on December 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

You sleep on the couch - and don’t hide why if asked. If it doesn’t bother your wife so much, she can sleep with the litter box. Don’t spend any time in the room, and scour your clothes when you get home.
posted by 41swans at 2:56 PM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, forewarning: if catbox smells lingers on your personal items, when you get home your normally well-behaved cats may find it necessary to scent mark them. I learned this the hard way.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 3:07 PM on December 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

WTF. We have cats, we have catboxes, and I would be so unhappy if a guest thought our spare room smelled like cat urine that I would pay for a hotel myself. That's a completely horrible situation and I think you should just be gently honest: "I am sensitive to the smell of cat urine and can't sleep due to the odor in the room. I want to be cheerful and pleasant for all of you this holiday, so we will get a hotel room."
posted by oneirodynia at 5:13 PM on December 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

That's messed up! Be as kind as possible but go to a hotel. I have cats and before anyone comes over I do a very thorough cleaning and wouldn't think of leaving guests in a room with little boxes. Say you have allergies or some kind of reaction to something in the room.
posted by mokeydraws at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2017

Is your SIL very young or otherwise inexperienced at hosting? I think your wife should insist to her sister that hey, yeah, putting guests with the litter box is gross and so you're going to have to sleep in there while we sleep in your room, or we're moving down the road. If I were hosting you I'd be mortified if you were uncomfortable and would immediately offer you another room in the house or would at least offer to pay half of the hotel cost.
posted by vignettist at 8:45 PM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I will jump in again and re-emphasize: a smell that strong can make you sick. No amount of money for plane tickets is worth the week or more of illness or allergies that may follow these three days once you get home. Ask me how I know.... And I also agree, just because you can pay for a (cheap, presumably) hotel, doesn't mean you can also afford plane tickets. Say it's from an emergency fund if neccessary, and emphasize the health reasons. But please, don't subject your lungs, and your wife's for that matter, to ammonia for three days, just because it's expected/more polite/whatever.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 5:14 AM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

SIL is giving you a passive-aggressive message. Go hotel.

Definitely the message here. No one is that nose blind.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:22 AM on December 24, 2017

I’d blame allergies and decamp to a motel. If MIL protests tell her privately about the stink (if you don’t think she’ll tell everyone, otherwise, stick to the allergies story). Lots of people can tolerate cats but can’t sleep in room they frequent, so it’s a plausible excuse.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 12:04 PM on December 24, 2017

If you want to stay in the room, try nilodor. You should be able to get a bottle at the grocery store and a couple of drops should do it. I rent a house where one bedroom had a serious odor issue-- my guess is cat pee, which can sink into a subfloor and be insanely hard to mask. I tried coffee grounds, sprays, nature's miracle (which I use for my own cat's messes, but she doesn't urinate inappropriately), a deodorizer for hockey bags and finally the nilodor. 2 drops of nilodor did what all those others couldn't and I put it in the room occasionally and the odor is gone. It might be a fast and inexpensive way of dealing with the issue; you could try that before going to a hotel.
posted by thatminx at 4:49 PM on December 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Update? What did you do?
posted by 41swans at 11:08 AM on December 26, 2017 [9 favorites]

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