Dead Catfish Under a House


05.12.2005 - I got a standard call for a bad smell in a house. When I arrived, I knew that I was dealing with a dead animal, but the smell was slightly different than the usual rats, opossums, squirrels, and such that I deal with. Still, odors do vary depending on several factors, such as state of decay, temperature, ambient odors, and so on. I searched and searched, and could not find the source. I went under the home as usual, and finally I found the dead animal. It was not, as I usually find under a house, an opossum or cat.

Well, actually it was a cat - a cat fish. This is the first time I've found a dead fish under a house. I began to think about the most unlikely question to enter anyone's mind upon finding a dead catfish under a house - how did it get there? Yes, believe it or not, this is what I started to wonder. I figured that a catfish was swimming in the nearby lake, and an osprey swooped down and caught the catfish in its talons, and then dropped it on land, and then a raccoon found it and brought it under the house to eat it, and then did eat it, but then later another catfish tried to evolve and started to walk out of the lake to become a land-dwelling animal, and it made it as far as under this house, and then realized that it didn't have lungs, and it died, and that's where I found it. Too bad that evolution failed in this case, but I give kudos to the catfish for trying. I took the above photo and bagged the carcass and told the homeowner about my theory, but it was rejected. Still I got my money, which is the most important thing to me, the most important thing in the whole wide world.

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Infestations and prowling critters are pretty standard. Groundhogs, opossums, mice, rats, and even raccoons are usually the creatures responsible for dying inside your property and causing a big stink. Literally. Dead animals cause several problems, including attracting other creatures, spreading disease and parasites such as fleas and ticks. But the biggest problem is usually the terrible foul smell. As we have already stated, usually an opossum, a raccoon or a rat is to blame for the stench. But sometimes it can be something a little different; dead catfish under your house. A dead catfish under my house?! Yep, it can and has happened.

Why do dead animals smell?

All living creatures contain a very small amount of sulfur, when we say small we mean about 0.85% sulfur. As an animal decomposes, a series of chemical reactions produce an odor that's not only terribly unpleasant but harmful too.

Bacteria floods a carcass and starts breaking down the chemical components inside the animal. These bacteria cause the body to produce over 400 compounds like hydrogen sulfide, methanethiol, and benzene derivatives. Together these create the unmistakable stench of death.

Why it's so important to remove dead animals ASAP

An animal that starts to decay is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria that are released into the air and can cause headaches and nausea in humans in the best-case scenario and make people seriously ill if the dead animal was a carrier of some disease. They also attract numerous creatures that can make us very ill such as fleas and ticks. Apart from the health problems, dead animals will start to smell bad, real bad. The biggest health concern that we're worried about with dead animals is the concern of toxins from the body leaching into water supplies. People or pets who drink contaminated water can become seriously ill. Not to mention that maggots will infest the body and flies will spread diseases.

So you want to get rid of the body.

How do I find the source of the stench?

In order to remove the dead animal, you need to find where it is located. Larger animals like opossums or raccoons actually leave a big damp stain patch but smaller animals don't. Catfish are smaller animals FYI. Normally, you would follow your nose, sniffing along walls and ceilings until you find the spot where the smell is the strongest. You should also look for a concentration of flies and/or maggots. If the smell is coming from under your house, it's going to be very tricky to find the spot and you don't want to damage your home in the hunt. Your best option is to call a professional wildlife removal expert. How and why does a catfish make its way under your house? If you live near a stream or underground water source, they could have swum out and gotten stranded. Or they were snatched up by an osprey and dropped near your house and they slithered under the foundation.

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