Upgrading the facilities

cats mumblings

Last weekend, work on our downstairs toilet finished. There are various parts of our house that we haven’t really touched (other than painting walls) since we moved in about 7 years ago. The kitchen is really in need of being refitted1, and the bathroom could really do with being updated and having an extractor fan fitted2. We really want to get all of these things done in time, but the money required and upheaval involved has been holding us back. Our hand was forced, however, by the downstairs toilet. It was in a poor state of decoration, and the toilet had always been a temperamental flusher. It was one of those toilets that you have ‘take by surprise’ when you flush it, and required a bit of a knack. We always told visitors to use the one upstairs in the bathroom, because there’s nothing worse than an unfamiliar and temperamental flush when you’re in someone else’s house. Added to that, one of the tap heads in the basin had a habit of falling off. If visitors did venture in there, you’d hear a muffled clunk and an intake of breath, and you’d have to call out, “Don’t worry — it’s always doing that! We’ll put it back on.”

House repair procrastinators that we are, we delayed doing anything until the flush handle finally broke off, and we took it as a sign. We’re lucky that one of our neighbours has a plumbing and bathroom fitting business, so we got him to do the job. There was a certain amount of inevitable upheaval (the cats were not pleased about being confined to the living room and conservatory during the day while the work went on), but he did a fantastic job. We had dithered a bit about whether to just get our neighbour to do the plumbing in of the new toilet, basin and towel rail radiator, and do the tiling ourselves, but I’m really glad we didn’t. We try our best, but I know we could never have achieved such a crisp, professional finish. He tiled the floor and the walls all round to half the height, and I did the painting of the ceiling and walls, replacing the last bit of beige with bright white. That was a pretty awkward job because it’s such a tiny room, that you can’t place step-ladders where you need them, and have to twist around at awkward angles to reach every surface. I did end up with quite a bit of the paint on me, but none on the new fittings or tiles, which was a bit of a miracle.

When it was all done, the transformation was remarkable. It looks so modern, clean and bright now. And you can actually flush the toilet! I keep opening the door and looking in, because it’s so lovely. The problem now is that it puts the rest of our house to shame. In future (at least until we’ve done the kitchen and upstairs bathroom), visitors will only be allowed to view the downstairs toilet.

Since the human members of our household had new toilet facilities, we thought it was only fair that the feline members got an upgrade too. Our old litter box was extremely scruffy and had a broken lid, and since it was a traditional front-entry style, we had the perennial problem of the cats tracking litter about. I had been considering getting a Modkat litter box for them for a while, but was baulking at it because of the price, until I found one in a sale with a good reduction. Having had it for a week now, I don’t think I would get a normal style litter box again. The Modkat actually looks quite nice in situ (we have the glossy black one), and doesn’t immediately shout the fact that it is a cat toilet. The main difference is that it is top-entry. The perforated lid acts as a kind of integrated walk-off mat, so that most of the litter stays on the lid or drops back into the box. We’ve had much less tracking of litter which is great. The smaller surface area but greater depth means that you can have a deeper layer of litter, which works much better with our clumping litter. It’s also very cleverly made and well-designed, from the tarpaulin liner to the integrated scoop and brush. I don’t think we’ll ever need to buy another litter box.

Introducing the new litter box was a bit of nerve-wracking process, though. Bianca went straight into the box to explore it as soon as I had got it out of the packing materials because she adores any kind of box, but then she didn’t seem so keen once I had put litter in it. We made sure that we placed the box in the same location as their old one, and added a couple of scoops of litter from the old box so that it smelled familiar to them. Then we waited.

That was a tense day. Every time one of the cats wandered off into a corner, I was hovering over them just to check that they weren’t making their own arrangements. I tried to encourage them to jump on top of the new box and look in, but they were fairly disdainful of this ploy. Of course, you’re never sure whether they actually need to use the box yet, so the fact that they were not using it didn’t necessarily mean that they wouldn’t when they needed to. By early evening, I felt like yelling, “I can’t stand the tension, will somebody please just pee in the box!”. Thankfully, it all worked out OK. Both cats calmly jumped inside the box when then needed to, and things have gone very smoothly since. They seem to like the new box, and use it with their heads sticking out of the hole, as if they are concentrating on piloting a cuboid spaceship.


  1. It’s pretty badly built. For example, a drawer has been fitted so close to the fridge that you have to force it open and closed, scraping the door of the fridge in the process.
  2. It’s so poorly ventilated that we have a recurrent problem with mould.
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