It has a name

i’ve always been a ‘dog person’, but finally succumbed to the allure of an adorable cat with an irresistible name.  Last fall, the orange cat, Huey Newtonarrived, and has been a pleasant addition to the household – although we are still waiting for the “cat-dog hijinks”. 
When cohabitating with critters, as hard as you try, there will always be some degree of “pet smell” – sort of like having a houseful of sk8rboyz.   Both types of funk can be managed to some degree with regular vacuuming and the magic of Febreze.
Last Friday night, as i began to drift off to sleep, i picked up the faint whiff of ammonia – and immediately blamed the cat.  The next morning, the olfactory forensics began in earnest – sniffing under the bed, in the corners.  Couldn’t exactly geo-locate the offending smell, and oddly enough, it seemed to be popping up randomly throughout my house.  In the kitchen, by my chair in the living room, back under the bed…
Enlisting the help of family and friends, i went full out by Sunday.  Forcing them to sniff this corner, or that pillow.  There was no doubt in my mind that something was amiss – but i was the only one who could smell it.   Packing up for a three-day road trip Sunday night, i vowed to shampoo all carpets and fumigate the place when i returned from the road.
It wasn’t until i was settling into my seat on the plane Monday morning that i realized the smell o’ catpiss had managed to follow me on board.  Sniffing my sweater?  i had just laundered it.  Didn’t keep me from sleeping, but when i continued to smell it in the rental car, i was forced to ask my travel buddy if he could smell it, too.
Nope.  Just me…
Finally got a break from the meeting late that afternoon, and hit the interwebz to see if i was completely losing my marbles.  Turns out?  It has a name:  Phantosmia.  After a brief tour down “i’ve got a brain tumor” alley, i decided that it was probably due to a recent battle with allergies, or possibly a migraine aura*.
The flashes of olfactory hallucinations became less frequent, and are now almost completely gone.  The brain is an amazing thing, isn’t it?  Damn good thing i didn’t shoot the cat…

* i used to get migraines, but some bashing with hard drugs cleared it up and re-wired my neurons.  The day i was really over-whelmed with the ammonia smell, i felt as though a migraine was lurking behind my eye.  Turned out the lights, drank some bourbon, went to bed early, and apparently staved it off…

35 thoughts on “It has a name

  1. Thank goodness someone has this same problem. Every couple months I have this horrible smell sensation. I am suddenly on the look out for any “accidents” the crazy, just turned 2 puppy may have hidden. (nothing every found) I just laundered my comforter and sheets yesterday even though I just did them last week because I could smell that musty, old piss smell. Hubby didn’t smell it and as I put it in the washer, I couldn’t either anymore. but what the hell..wont hurt to be extra clean.
    great..just what I more odd, neurological imbalance.

  2. i had no idea, sugar! for some reason, thanks to my allergies i can smell everything and it is a real downer. hand to gawd, i think miss daisy finds every off smelling hair product in the fucking world and tries them out at the same damn time! she finally stopped taking a bath in her perfume when i had an asthma attack in front of her! xoxoxo

    (jaysus, kick me and make me stop whining!)

  3. well i’m glad your okay.

    i’ve heard that smelling something burning can indicate a stroke. one day i was doing some cleaning.. i lit a candle turned on my good cleaning music and got psyched up to make the house shine… (makes for good cleaning time for me) i had a headache and in about two hours i began smelling something burning…so i went to sit down as i dont want to take any chances since i have a family history of stroke. a couple of hours later i felt better and the buring smell went away.

    later that night i went into the bedroom (where i had originally lit the candle) and saw a huge poster i had balanced on my dresser burned to ashes and a huge burn hole into the top of my dresser!!!

    worst part was explaining to rip that i smelled it burning and went in to sit down. (true)

  4. Went the brain tumour route myself a few years ago when I smelt wet charcoal everywhere – just like that putting-out-a-campfire smell. Most expensive nose-hallucination ever. But I found that I have a hole in my sinus – from when I stuck a plastic peg up my nose when I was a wee tot – and have an extra-sensory hooter as a result. I might have stepped in charcoal and thus it followed me around. Plus I’d just given up smoking so everything smelt, MORE.

    Now? I can’t even drink omega-3 fortified milk because it smells like fish to me….

  5. Phantosmia, huh? Well that explains a lot — every once in a while I catch an unexplainable whiff that I can’t lose for several days. For a while I was convinced that Penfold had absolutely no sense of smell at all … not unlike Daddy Bravo’s very convenient selective loss of hearing.

  6. kyknoord – during the first day of the meeting, the ammonia smell trumped the corporate bullshit smell… and kept me awake. they make smelling salts out of that shit for a reason.

    uncle keith – the phantasmia is usually with unpleasant smells, apparently. i would have liked chocolate chip cookies… nursemyra is right, it was gnarly to smell constantly for about 3 days.

    hisqueen – search “olfactory hallucinations”. there’s some very interesting stuff out there… and the key is to see if anyone else can smell it.

    gnukid – hallucinogens? moi? mothers little helpers take AWAY stimulation and brain function, not enhance it!

    savannah – elderly lady smells are perhaps the worst part of going to funerals for me. yep. worse than dead bodies and grieving. i’d be having attacks right there with ya!

    lynn – *snort* that’s a great story. i was gonna say that at least you weren’t imagining things, but i think burning down the house is probably a bit worse…

    mine – yep. if it had continued, i was going to go to the doc to get it all checked out, but since it vaporized, i figure i’ll wait til the next one. apparently when the neurons re-wire somehow, it’s hard to shake up the mis-firing smells… really strange stuff!

    renalfailure – i was just glad that i’d stopped at the liquor store with my travel mate en route to the meeting. plenty of medicine on hand…

    tNb – i truly thought i might be going nuts. no one else could smell it, and they were all looking at me ‘like that’, as if i’d gone off my nut… it was real. in my brain, i know i smelled it…

    rubytwoshoes – gives me a much better appreciation for what it’s like to be schizophrenic. the voices they hear must be absolutely real. scary stuff…

    dolce – i had my poor friend smelling the sweater to make sure. besides, it was a rare occasion when the sweater went straight from the dryer to hanging in the closet. if the cat hit it all the way up there? he deserves a medal…

  7. The real punchline is in your tags. I hope people are reading those. I love cats. Had two Siamese for 14 years. They outlived many, many girlfriends. The women would come and go but those cats were always there for me when I got home. Too bad about the smell, though.

  8. You should have been a doctor, migraine coming on? bourbon and sleep, feeling a little nauseous? try a few bong hits. Sick of reality? have these mushrooms.

  9. chris – that would have been worse, but at least i’d have stayed in the kitchen to look for it!

    unbearable banishment – the smell is gone. very, very strange, but i feel a thousand times better just knowing it has a name, that i’m not the only one to trip into it and all that…

    kono – the booze probably causes more medical problems than it solves, but i find i just don’t give a shit. works for me!

    stephanie – may be better to wait a few months before attempting to drown your migraine in booze…

  10. I WISH I had a neurological disorder! I smell dog piss all the time and it’s because my dog pisses on E.VER.Y.THING.

  11. When I was a young field biologist in college, I used to spend time in stagnant ponds. The smells that got dredged up would often show up days later in my dreams and wake me up.

  12. my BiL got into my car after hours with a chain saw (i am sure it was trees). my car smelt as if a smelly dog had been in it, for days. no hallucinations for sure

  13. I can relate to the “phantom odours” and “brain tumour” connection. Had that worry a time or two myself. I’ve never checked it out but I decided just not to worry. Some people will think you’re nuts, though.

  14. girly – teddy? oh, dear… good thing he’s cute, or he’d have been out working the alleys for slim jims a few years ago!

    uncle keith – at risk of showing my true geek nature, the thought of ‘uncle keith, young field biologist’ is just flat out sexy. the smells? my amateur work in the scummy ponds of my youth triggered some olfactory gnarliness, but nothing that got lodged in my smell-bank…

    Bb – a BiL with a smelly chainsaw? guess i’d have let him in the car, too. hard to say ‘no’ to a man with a chainsaw…

    rob – people already think i’m nuts, so it’s no surprise when i start yammering on about hallucinatory cat piss…

    syncopated eyeball – it was strange. glad it’s got a name. and it’s gone… weird as hell…

  15. Thanks, it’s good to know that my craziness has a name. Every once in a while I will wake up in the middle of the night and smell fresh brewed coffee. Mind you we are all still in bed and coffee is indeed NOT brewing in or near our house.
    I have some pleasant thought about my dad and his coffee drinking and go back to sleep.

  16. Working in the ice cream business, our plant has nearly 80,000 gallons of ammonia on-site, used for refrigeration purposes. I know ammonia when I smell it, and I usually run . . .

  17. The thing is, cats are real bastards. You devote yourself too them, feed them, give them somewhere warm to spread hair over and then they mess with your head.

    It think that it wasn’t phantosmia: it was almost certainly “cat evil” (felianus Satan). And even if it wasn’t, I’d shoot the cat anyway. Better safe than sorry. He’ll find out where you keep the sissors if not. You or him.

  18. carlae – there is comfort in knowing that someone else has had it, and that medical professionals have spent some time sorting it out. coffee would be much nicer than cat pee…

    tysdaddy – it’ll burn your noseholes, won’t it? it was real. it made my eyes water a bit, too (that or the allergies at work. hard to tell at this point!)

    jon – i take it you are also a dog person? this is a pretty cool cat. i’ve encountered satanic cats in the past, however, and believe there is a reason pioneers believed cats sucked the breath out of human babies…

    • I was a cat person. Had cats most of my life. When we emigrated from the UK we exported our cat at vast expense (vets stuff – about $600), but after she shuffled off this mortal coil I suddenly found myself hankering for something more responsive. Like kids, only pleased to see me.

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