Great moments in building history: Two inspectors recount a tale of a home damaged by a couple of furry houseguests
Animals,” I called over my shoulder. “Lots of them.” My partner and I were about to begin a house inspection and had opened the door just enough to put our equipment inside. The animal odor was powerful.
Over the years, Ken and I have come up with our own shorthand comments while doing home inspections. There’s a lot to see as well as touch, smell, and listen to, and we notify each other of significant items. When one of us says “Pets,” the message is clear. But a report of “Animals” takes things to a whole new level.
We always start outside the house. Things were pretty typical for a home of this age and construction until we discovered a raised deck in back. Surrounded by turkey wire, the deck was about 6 ft. off the ground and seemed to be functioning as a pen. The whole thing had the feel of a zoo aviary for large birds—except for the big branches, the substantial size of the scat, and the steplike structure leading to a plank that ended at a pet door to the basement.
Indoors, there were some good-size snakes (I think 3 in. in dia. is good size) in aquariums and birds in cages. On several walls, there were dirt marks as high as 7 ft. up. Proceeding down to the lower level, we found a room with a windowed door containing safety wire. A sign on the window read, “Please don’t let the cats out.”
I went into the cat room, making sure that I closed the door behind me. Some interior finish work needed repair, and the couch was a bit scratched up. At the back wall was the pet door to the exterior, and on the floor, there was a collection of decapitated stuffed animals. But no cats.
While we were finalizing the report, the homebuyer’s father said he had heard that there were two big cats on the premises and that he wanted to see them. I told him I wasn’t sure the cats were home but to be sure to keep the door closed.
Dad went downstairs, and things were initially quiet. Then we heard, “Uh oh, one got out,” quickly followed by, “Two got out.” We didn’t really need him to tell us. We could hear the thumping sound, similar to a padded baseball bat hitting the walls.
Before we could get to the steps, there was a blur passing by, ricocheting off the walls. The source of the blur finally paused for about three seconds on the seat of the bay window and looked at us. There, sitting on its haunches, was a largeeared, long-legged, blackspotted feline that looked like a small cheetah.
Dad raced up the stairs, shouting, “Man, those are big cats!” This spooked the cat, and it was off again, followed by a fair amount of yelling before it was captured in a lower-level bedroom. Meanwhile, the second cat had gotten into the drop ceiling and was making noise like someone beating a bass drum as it romped around.
With both cats now somewhat contained, calm was restored in the house. Those mud smears 7 ft. up on the walls were paw prints. Later, we did some research and determined that these two furry rascals were probably servals. Now we think of this little adventure as home inspection, safari style.
Illustration by: Jackie Rogers