The Piss Plant – Once Again Life Proves Stranger than Fiction

The Accused

This spring, starting about mid-April, each evening, when my husband I would sit in our favorite chairs to read, write or watch baseball, we could smell cat piss.  It is not a pleasant smell.  Some days it was strong, others, we could barely smell it at all.  In any case, the cat, Blackberry, was in big trouble.  We banned him from the house.

My daughter had strict orders to make sure the cat was in the garage or outside before we all left for work and school.  She spent an entire afternoon, moving furniture in the family room and spraying each and every spot she could find with carpet cleaner. It didn’t help.  In fact, it got worse.

I called the carpet guy. “Yep, I smell it.  Definitely a cat,” he said as soon as he entered my house, sniffing repeatedly.  He then went on to explain that in order to locate the exact spot that had been sprayed, he needed to use a black light.  Apparently, cat piss has crystals in it that light up underneath a black light.

This is one of those tidbits that writers file away.  What if someday I decide to write a horror piece with a rabid cat in a disco?  I could use that information!

In any case, we now had to make my house dark enough for a black light. It was noon.  I don’t live in a disco.  I have windows, and since we aren’t currently under any threat of nighttime bombing raids, I don’t have black out curtains.  I did, however, have three teenagers at home and a stack of quilts.  We proceeded to hold up these in front of the windows until all the blood ran out of our hands while we watched the carpet guy crawl around on the floor shining the black light.

Anytime anything lit up, he’d put his nose right next to the carpet and take a long sniff.  “Is that it? Are you finding it?” I kept asking.

“Nope, not it,” he kept replying.  This was getting annoying.  My arms hurt holding up the heavy quilt, and he just kept crawling and shining.  I learned that my carpet looks disgusting under a black light.

Even though he never found the spot, he went ahead and treated the entire carpet with some sort of special really expensive pet piss stuff, and then he cleaned my carpet.

The Culprit Piss Plant

The next day, carpets dry, we moved the furniture back.  I sat in my chair and smelled . . . cat piss.  What the hell?

My husband then decided the cat must have pissed on the plant that sits behind my chair and that’s what smelled.  He moved my lone indoor plant outside to the front porch and guess what? The smell vanished.

I decided to scrub the pot and perhaps clean off the pee.  I heaved the plant up, my face buried in its leaves (it’s actually a dwarf tree) and carried it to the sink.  By the time I got it across the kitchen, I was gagging.  The pot was not the culprit.  It was the plant itself.  My dwarf fig tree’s leaves smell like cat piss.

It has now been outside for two weeks, and it’s sucking up enough water that I would think it needs to take its own piss.  It doesn’t, it just smells like it did already.  My kids christened it “the piss plant” and let the cat back in the house.

In fiction, cause and effect are crucial.  Events must lead to, well, something, or why have them? 

Likewise,  any effect or event, must have some sort of cause.  In this case, the cause of the cat piss smell in my home is . . . not a cat!  Of course it’s not.  That would be so . . . predictable.  Instead, its the lovely leaves on my dwarf fig tree proving, yet again, that life is often stranger than fiction.


  1. Debra Mae on June 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    This piece about cat piss made me laugh so hard I was in stitches (pun intended!) My husband and I share a bit of a raunchy sense of humor so I am forwarding your post to him for a good giggle.

  2. Sharon Rosse on June 27, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I warms my heart to read that the unjustly accused was exonerated. Let’s hear it for Justice – yay for Blackers! Questions: how can fresh figs taste so good when the plant smells so badly? what’s the moral: tasty comes from stinky?

    • Amy Isaman on June 28, 2011 at 5:07 pm

      I don’t know how figs can be so good! However, this plant has yet to flower. It just has big stinky leaves so maybe its not even a fig tree and the nursery sent me the wrong plant.

  3. hawleywood40 on June 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    At least you got a carpet cleaning out of the deal! You’re right – life is stranger than fiction!

    • Amy Isaman on June 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm

      No kidding! But in looking at my carpet under a black light, I think I need to replace it all with wood or even a lovely linoleum. It was gross!

  4. Barbara C on September 30, 2016 at 5:49 am

    I have 6 fig trees planted in my back yard and I have never had a smell from any of them. I don’t know why yours is smelling so bad.

    • Amy Isaman on October 2, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      I have no idea why it smelled like that. It was awful! As soon as my husband banished it to the yard where it died, the house stopped smelling. I think it was a dwarf fig tree. Maybe that was it?!?

  5. DOTTIE FREE on October 13, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Just bought a fig tree about a month ago and brought it in to sit on my porch where it will get sun all day long. About the same time, I noticed that cat pee odor and was sure the cat had used the fig tree container for his litter box. I transplanted it with all new soil and put a layer of moss on top. Smells like dirt, but I kept smelling the cat pee odor every time I came in the front door. I checked the carpet on the porch. Nope. Wasn’t that. But I did start to wonder whether it was the fig tree leaves. After giving them a sniff, I have concluded it is definitely the leaves. What the heck?! This tree already gave me a very sweet soft juicy fig and there are four more ripening up as I write this. The tree won’t make it through the winter in Phila. What to do? : /

    • Amy Isaman on October 13, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Isn’t that the weirdest thing?! I was so sad as I adore figs. Im glad your tree produced for you. I’m glad you figured it out before bringing it on for the winter and blaming it all in your kitty though. Would it survive in a garage?

  6. Andrew H. Eliason on May 2, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    I am SO glad to read this. Although funny, it relieves me greatly! It seems that our olfactory sense differs from person to person and though I nearly gag from our fig tree others don’t smell it at all. Now I’m edified and the tree can soon be put outside for the summer. Thanks!

    • Amy Isaman on May 2, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      Haha – no you’re not alone. It was a terrible smell! I’m glad this post brought you some peace.

  7. Kahli on October 6, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    It’s definitely the leaves that smell like piss, especially when they start growing back after winter in the spring. Getting closer to the end of summer they aren’t as stinky

    • Amy Isaman on October 7, 2018 at 4:06 pm

      That’s interesting. I had no idea the stink was seasonal! This is seriously a random fact that somehow needs to be in a story.

  8. Rob “Hell2Pay” P. on January 3, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    I have a Chicago Hardy that I got almost 2 years ago, second over winter it’s had. The first season, I didn’t notice much, but it was pretty small.

    This season, its about 5 ft tall, and I brought it in to overwinter it after a frost had it go dormant.

    3 weeks into dormancy, it decided to wake up, and I noticed that my basement smelled really bad of cat piss.

    We haven’t had a cat in a couple years, so I thought maybe some of my plants I brought in got sprayed by a cat or a fox.

    Well, I did some sniffing in the pots, and it all smelled like dirt for the most part, but then I sniffed the fig leaves that are emerging. Told my wife, “Oh shit, it’s the fig leaves!”

    Sure as cat piss stinks, a quick google gave me a plethora of stories about how gross these things stink. Guess we will suffer this winter and find a permanent place to plant it outdoors late spring.

  9. Allen on October 12, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    Someone said that closer to the end of the year the figs stop smelling like cat pee welp that is not the case here in sunny Florida it’s October and mine smell is malodorous as ever…. 🐱🤮

    • Amy Isaman on October 12, 2020 at 4:06 pm

      It’s such an awful stench!!! I’d LOVE to have fresh figs but since I live at 5000 feet where it snows and freezes hard in the winter, it would have to be inside and that’s a hard NO.

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