Authored By: Lauren Boles
Q: My cat peed outside of his litter box. How can I get cat urine smell out?
A: Believe me, we have been where you are, and it’s not fun. You get that first faint whiff as you walk by the offending area and think “huh, maybe I’m imagining it”. Then, you bend down for a good, close-up sniff and confirm your worst fear. Whatever you were on your way to accomplish has been put on hold – you are now going to deal with cat pee clean-up.
Cat urine is particularly hard to remove because it contains a type of protein that other animal urine does not. Urea, the main compound in cat urine, is what leaves that distinctive ammonia smell that is so difficult to get rid of (by the way, never use an ammonia-based cleaner to remove cat urine – it only compounds the issue).
The topic of how to handle cats who urinate outside of a litter box definitely deserves its own (long) article, but a couple of quick and common sense tips might prove helpful before going into how to remove the odor. If your cat repeatedly goes outside of the litter box, make sure you are doing your job. Clean the litter box at least once per day, and a good rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat in your house, plus one extra. Bring your cat to the vet to rule out any physiological issue, such as a bladder infection, that might be causing the behavior. If neither of these help, you will need to treat the problem as a behavioral issue. Visit the ASPCA for more information on the causes.
To most effectively treat the offending area, remove the urine as soon as possible. The longer it lingers, the worse the problem will get. No matter what remedy you select, blot the area dry with a clean, white rag first. And ALWAYS spot test any cleaning method you use in a discreet area of the carpet or upholstery, to make sure it will not stain. You may find that you have to repeat the cleaning method a couple (or even a few) times before the odor is completely eliminated.
Below are a few methods you may want to consider. You will certainly hear many opinions from many cat parents on which works best, so consider this list a start – but ask other cat lovers what has worked for them, as you will pick up great ideas this way, too.
• Home remedies. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, there are various methods you can try that use items you are likely to already have on-hand. A combination of vinegar and baking soda is a popular choice. Vinegar is said to be particularly effective at removing the odor, and can be safe on various surfaces such as wood floors. Some people dilute the vinegar solution (half vinegar, half water) and others claim it works better to use straight vinegar. You may also consider using baking soda, as it neutralizes odors. Baking soda can either be used on its own, or in conjunction with the vinegar treatment, after the affected area is blotted dry. Vacuum the area once the area is dry, to remove the baking soda. But, again, spot test first!!!
• Store-bought cleaners. Cat urine is immune to most common household cleaners. You will need to purchase cleaners made specifically for this purpose. One example of these, is Nature’s Miracle, which works well on carpets. You can also find other cat-specific cleaners on sites such as Doctors Foster & Smith. In our experience, these store-bought cleaners remove the vast majority of the smell, but there can occasionally still be a faint lingering odor on certain items, depending on what you are applying it (like pillows or upholstery).
• Professional carpet cleaning. If you find that none of the above have quite cleared up the odor, it might be time to call in the big guns – a professional service. One service for example is Chem Dry, which has a pet urine treatment option. Read more at this link: http://www.chemdry.com/services/professional-carpet-cleaning/pet-urine-odor-removal
• Wash or dry clean it. If the item is smaller and will fit into a washing machine, such as a throw pillow (our cat’s favorite occasional and unconventional litter box) or a comforter, consider throwing it in the washer on hot or warm water (if the cleaning instructions allow), or pony up and take it to the dry cleaner. This has been an effective way to remove the odor, in our experience.
Best of luck in your urine removal adventures – we hope one of these methods proves useful. Tell us your favorite tricks by posting a comment!
Photo: Courtesy of Tom Thai via Flickr (CC by 2.0)