When crawling around crawlspaces is part of your job, it's not that unusual to find dead rats — and even the occasional dead cat. Truly bizarre encounters happen once...

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When crawling around crawlspaces is part of your job, it’s not that unusual to find dead rats — and even the occasional dead cat.

Truly bizarre encounters happen once in a while, too. The craziest? Several years ago, I stumbled upon a guy living beneath a home still under construction. He had disconnected a heat pipe and was living large down there, with clothes and toiletries spread over the plastic on the ground. After everyone left work in the afternoon, he had the house, the Jacuzzi and the view all to himself.

But animal encounters such as rats, ants, cats and the ensuing evidence (feces and carnage) are limited to older houses. A home under construction never has animals beneath, simply because animals can’t get in. The vent screens are intact, no child has left an access hatch open, there are rarely water leaks and no cable TV guy has cut holes anywhere.

Never say never, I learned last week in Marysville.

Glancing around inside a very tall crawlspace (a “standspace”?), I noticed the black plastic sheeting on the ground ruffle. The first ruffle could have been my feet. But then it ruffled again. Immediately after the third ruffle, I saw a cute but scared black-and-white cat running full tilt for one corner of the foundation.

Knowing the crawlspace would be kitty’s coffin if I didn’t get him out, I gave chase, hoping to grab him or get him to jump up and out via the ladder I had used to enter.

After chasing him into three different corners, up onto the sill plate and around and around, I went up to get the builder for help. The homebuyer, the builder and several of his sons and I looked through the crawlspace trying to find that cat. But the cat hid too well. We looked under the insulation near the exterior walls, under and over the heat ducts, under all the plastic. We could not find that cat!

During our search, I asked the builder how the cat could have gotten into the crawlspace, since it was sealed so well. He remembered that about a week earlier he had taken off the screened air vents at one end of the house to install faux stone siding. The cat likely got in then and had been stuck since without food or water.

If a cat (or another animal) spends time in a crawlspace with a source of food and/or water, a good-size mess is left. While this cat left no mess, he still could outrun and outsmart all of us — especially yours truly, who has been spending way too much quality time at Taco Del Mar.

We eventually gave up and went home. The builder thought the cat might have gotten into an inaccessible area beneath the master bathroom tub.

The builder’s wife planned to set up a baited trap from an animal-services organization. We all hope kitty makes it.

Resolution to this cat tale will follow in a later column …

Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages rental properties. Send questions to dhay@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies.