When Roombas Attack

[Original publication date: June 17, 2011]

Let me say, first off, that I love my Roomba. In this scenario, the Roomba was only doing its job, and doing it to the best of its ability. Unfortunately…

Spike, my older cat, ran interference with the Roomba’s daily routine, creating a literal, so incredibly and frustratingly literal, shit storm. First, a little back story: Spike is an asshole. He will respond when you say “douchebag” because he hears it so often when he’s nearby that he thinks it’s his name. He is vengeful and punishes me for any perceived slight, whether perpetuated by me or not. There is some debate in the house about whether he loves me madly and is frustrated because inter-species relationships are not an option, or if he hates me with every fiber of his being and wants me to die. Honestly, it’s impossible to tell. It could really go either way. The most recent abuse we inflicted on him was the addition of two foster kittens into the household. He loved the kittens, snuggled up with them and napped all day, taught them how to drink out of the toilet, and all sorts of other mischievous misdeeds. Unfortunately, even though he adored them, he still saw fit to punish me for having the gall to let them use the litter box. The fact that they had their own separate box? Of no consequence. Spike co-opts anything cat related in the house (and many things that are not), so the mere fact that there was something that he may potentially want to use being used by another animal was totally unacceptable.

My punishment? Daily steaming piles of crap on the bathroom floor*, two feet from his litter box. When I say piles, I mean piles, people. Like, full grown adult male who just got back from a night of boozing and scarfing down greasy food sized piles of feces. It was hard to believe that something that large could come out of a 14 pound cat. Yes, I do have pictures, and no, I won’t subject you all to that. Just trust me on this one. Huge.

So one Friday, at the end of a particularly hellish week in which one of my bosses decided I was his new target for torture and I had to fire a long-time employee, I receive a phone call from husband. I am just pulling out of the parking garage at work, emotionally and physically drained, ready to head to Panda Express for some delicious comfort chow mein. Before I can even say anything, Jon yells, “I HATE YOUR FUCKING CAT!” Now, this is not the first time these words have been spoken in our house; remember, Spike is a total dick. But Jon is not a yeller, so I knew something bad was afoot. What followed were some incoherent jumbles of words, “Shit everywhere… just come home now… smells so bad… *gag* *choke*… fucking asshole…” and so on. I tell him I will be home as soon as I stop to get something to eat, to which he replies, “NO, just come home!” to which I reply, “NO, I’m hungry, don’t yell at me. I’ll be home as soon as possible.” Now I’m kind of pissed that he yelled at me, on top of all the other nonsense going on in my head. I drive the 45 minutes back home, get my food, and head home.

When I open the garage, Jon is standing at the work table with the Roomba in pieces. He is wearing latex gloves, wielding a toothbrush, a bottle of bleach, and a super serious scowl. I ask why he has taken the Roomba (my precious, precious Roomba) apart. He directs me inside. I enter the house only to be slapped in the face with the unmistakable stench of cat asshole. I don’t know what goes on inside the bowels of felines to make their defecation smell like rotting corpses, but it is something that is pure evil. I slowly turn the corner, watching my steps carefully (you only need to step in a fresh, steamy pile once before that becomes second nature) and come face to face with the above mentioned literal shit storm. There is a thin layer of fecal matter covering half the downstairs of the house. The laminate floors, the rug, the tile, all covered in wispy streaks of cat butt. How, you may be wondering, does this even HAPPEN? Well, it seems as though Spike lured another innocent into his web of terrorization- the Roomba.

For those who don’t know, a Roomba is a gift from the gods themselves, a handy dandy little vacuum robot that can be set on a timer to go off every single day and clean your floors while you do other, more productive things, like paint your toenails or take a nap. It works tirelessly for you until it wears itself out, then takes itself back to its docking station to charge up for the next day’s cleaning. Ours was set to start every morning at 9, late enough that everyone was up and about and usually out of the house. This was its schedule for months with no issue. Until that day, that fateful day, that day which will live in infamy. Usually Spike hadn’t worked up enough rage by that early in the morning, but not that day. That day he timed his daily deuce perfectly, pushed the bathroom door open and dropped his turd just before the Roomba went in to clean. On of the things that is awesome about the Roomba is that if it comes upon a big pile of dirt, it will focus itself on that spot, going back and forth, spinning around and doing it’s very best to get every last piece into its belly. Unfortunately, it will also do that when it runs over a hot, steaming, fresh pile of poop from the bowels of a hellcat.

The Roomba ingested copious amounts of crap. It ran over the spot enough times to fully coat all of its brushes with dookie. It spun and turned, creating what is best described as a shit SpiroGraph. Remember that awesome toy? I would spend all day creating awesome, intricate designs with all the fancy little gizmos. So, yeah, just like that, but in dookie.

The Roomba, having at some point satisfied itself with the “cleaning” of the bathroom, proceeded to “clean” the rest of the downstairs, and by “clean,” I mean strew a fine layer of shit everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Even better, this had all happened shortly after we left the house for the day, meaning it had been drying and caking for over 8 hours. This was not a job for some 409 and paper towels. No. This was going to take industrial cleaner and a scraper. On my hands and knees for 2 hours, inch by inch, spraying each spot, reactivating the stench and re-liquefying the crap to make it possible to remove. Slowly, steadily immersing myself in feces. Jon came in at one point to find me in the bathroom, on my knees, crying my eyes out and snotting all over myself but unable to wipe either away because my hands were covered in shit, which just made me cry harder. I make such a fuss about people giving away their animals because they are no longer convenient; I rant on and on about shelters being full of animals that people got on a whim and dumped once they grew bored with them or realized they actually required love and attention, and yet here I was, on my (shit-streaked) knees, at my wits’ end about this damn cat. The thoughts that went through my mind that evening are not ones I am proud of or will I put to paper, but it is safe to assume I was not wishing sparkles and butterflies for my little beast.

The moral of the story, I suppose, besides allowing you all to be thankful you aren’t currently scraping cat poop off your living room floor, is that it’s easy to be an animal lover when they are being adorable and lovey. It is decidedly less simple when they make your house look and smell like the Port Authority bathrooms. It was touch and go there for a few minutes, I will not lie, but of course, I love that little asshole; perhaps, it has been suggested, in an unhealthy, codependent manner, and he is stuck with me as much as I am stuck with him until one of us dies.

Oh, and don’t set your Roomba to clean when you aren’t home if you have animals that crap on your floor.

Woman and cat both dresses in Princess Leia's slave girl costume. The woman is laughing. The cat, not so much.
Yes, that is us in matching Princess Leia slave bikini costumes.
Please note his wig. And I wonder why he hates me.

*Yes, I have taken him to the vet, and no, after hundreds of dollars on tests, it is not a medical issue, unless they someday add “Uber Dick” to the list of diseases. He is really just a jerk.

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