If I could, I’d have about ten cats and I’d wear sweaters with their faces on them (yeah, i’d be that person). I don’t mind the presents of dead animals, the attacking of curtains at 2am, or even choking on cat hair 24/7. But there’s that one caveat of cat companionship that even those of us with the best trained felines have to deal with at least once: the dreaded smell of cat pee.
There’s no mistaking it. It’s like the love child of a ball park urinal and skunk spray taking a sauna break. Soooo… what do you do about it?
The Art of War – on cat pee
Ok, so let’s start by better understanding what makes that cat pee smell so pungent. There are several different waste chemicals involved, most notably urea, which is a compound found in both human and animal urine. Basically, when environmental bacteria and bacteria within the urine breaks down the urea, ammonia is released. If you’ve ever cleaned with the stuff, you’ll be familiar with its eye-watering side effect.
As time passes and the bacteria continues to multiply, mercaptans are produced. Mercaptans are what causes the smell when a skunk sprays. There’s also felinine, which is a protein that is part of the pheromone system and emits fragrant sulphurs (rotten egg smell) that get stronger as time goes by. This is part of the reason why that cat pee stench doesn’t seem to fade. The main use of all of this is communication. It helps males to mark their territory; cats can also use these aromas to tell if their fellow feline is sick or in heat.
Cause and effect
If your kitty is litter box trained, chances are the smell is pretty well contained due to deodorizing cat litters. But if your cat is a little on the stubborn side and tends to go outside of her box often, it’s important to figure out why. It could be something as simple as a dirty box to something more serious like a urinary tract disease. Your best bet is to go down the list. Make sure the box is kept clean and in a private area. Have you introduced a new animal or family member that might be making your cat jealous? Is your kitty exhibiting any signs of illness such as blood in the urine or frequent urination? If in doubt, don’t hesitate to see your vet.
Once the potential cause is determined and corrected, it’s time to get down to business. First, you’ll need to locate the source of the smell. While this may sound like common sense, you’d be surprised at just how tricky the area can be to locate. The cat pee scent is so strong that it fills the room, making it hard to pinpoint the exact location.This is especially true if the spot has already dried and there isn’t an obvious marking on the floor.
Once you have located the source of the stink, the process for getting the smell out will depend on what the soiled area is made of:
Machine washable fabric – If the item in question is machine washable, consider yourself lucky! Wash in the machine as usual but add a box of baking soda (yes, an entire box) in addition to your detergent. Make sure to wash in cold water and air dry if possible, as heat can cause the smell to set.
Carpet or upholstery (fresh stain) – Let’s say you’re fortunate enough to find the area before it has dried (hopefully not by stepping in it). First, soak up as much of the liquid as possible with towels, newspaper, microfiber cloths, etc. You’ll want to dab the area instead of rubbing so you don’t spread the stain. A hands-off method of doing this is to put down the soaker-upper of your choice and then place something sturdy – like a stack of newspapers – on top of it and then stand on this. Do this several times, replacing the wet soaker-upper with a clean one, until the area is as dry as you can get it.
After this, you’ll need to clean the spot thoroughly. You can either use a wet vac with water, or you could try a homemade recipe. Saturate the area with baking soda and then pour a mixture of ¾ cup of hydrogen peroxide and 1 teaspoon dish detergent over this. You’ll want to work this mixture into the material and let it sit until dry. You might want to do a patch test to ensure that the peroxide won’t discolor your carpet or upholstery. You can then vacuum up the excess.
If DIY isn’t your thing, you can also buy commercial cleaners. Just make sure not to use ammonia… the smell is too similar to urine and might make your kitty want to mark the spot again.
Carpet or upholstery (dry stain) – Dry stains are usually already set, and therefore a lot more stubborn when it comes to removing them. You can use a wet vac and follow up with a high quality pet odor neutralizer.
As a note, neutralizers don’t clean; instead, they’re simply used to neutralize the alkaline smell of the pee, which can help keep repeat offenses from happening. A simple, acidic neutralizer contains one part white vinegar with six parts water; spray this solution on the fabric and let it sit for ten minutes before completely removing it with an absorbent towel.
Whether you use a neutralizer or not, you’ll probably need to hit the spot twice to get the stain out completely. Unfortunately, if the urine has also soaked through to the padding underneath the carpet, you may end up having to replace that area of carpet and padding.
Tile, wood, or laminate floors – If the mess is on wood, laminate, or tile, cleanup is fairly easy, since the liquid doesn’t tend to soak in. Clean up the excess liquid, then follow up by wiping down with ½ cup white vinegar mixed into 1 quart of warm water (or use a commercial product). In the case of hardwood floors, sometimes the chemicals in cat urine can react with the varnish and leave a permanent discoloration; you might need to sand and re-varnish the area.
Think outside the litter box
Teach your cat how to use the toilet. (It can be done.)
What are your favorite cat pee clean up tricks?
Germaine Shock is a pet enthusiast who has an appreciation for everything from Pythons to Parrots. She also has a passion for writing and majored in English from the University of Arkansas with a focus on classic literature.