Few odors are as pervasive as the smell of cat urine – or as seemingly hard to obliterate. Here are some simple ways to get your house smelling good again.
As a recovering slob with a few too many cats, I’m now earning a PhD from the University of Reality. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is how to successfully get rid of the hardcore smell of cat urine.
If your cat sprays or urinates outside his litter box, it’s important to first have your vet examine him and tackle any physical or behavioral issues that may be causing the problem. Without addressing the root cause, it’ll just keep happening and all your clean-up work will be in vain. Even if there’s nothing wrong with your cat, you need to immediately address the urine smell, because it will only encourage him to keep spraying or urinating outside the box.
“Not removing the pheromones will cause cats to re-soil the house.”
What makes it smell so strong?
“The proteins cats eat are converted to ammonium, which is odorless,” says Dr. Paul Maza, BioMedical Science Lecturer at Cornell University. But after the urine, which is a sterile chemical, comes out of the cat, “it converts to ammonia, for two reasons – bacteria and heat.” Cats are attracted to the smell of ammonia, and try to dominate it with their own urine, which only adds to the odor and staining and creates a vicious circle.
One of the best ways to avoid odor is to prevent your cat from urinating inappropriately in the first place.
- Always start by taking your cat to the vet for a medical checkup.
- Spay or neuter your cat if you haven’t already; it’ll prevent most from spraying.
- Make sure your cat has the right litter box. You may have to experiment with different litters, trays and locations to find out what he likes best. Be patient and persevere.
- Scoop the litter at least once a day, change the litter as often as the manufacturer recommends, and wash the box regularly. Wash your hands thoroughly before you return the box to its home.
Cleaning up the traditional way
- An “old wives” remedy for getting rid of cat urine suggests first blotting the stain (if it’s fresh) with a cloth. Never press down to rub a stain – it grinds dirt and odor in permanently. Next, wash the stain or area with a cleaner and lots of water, repeat with a different cleaner if necessary, and so on. “A combination of cleaners with water works well, but a lot has to do with the repetition of water,” says Dr. Maza. At the end of the process, pour baking soda or powder detergent on the stain or area and let it sit overnight. Let it dry so it smells fresh, then vacuum.
- If possible, avoid the use of bleach. If I had to do my own cleaning over again, I wouldn’t use it. It works but it’s hard on your lungs, and your cat’s. If you do use bleach, it should be diluted – at least 30 parts water with one part bleach.
- Never use ammonia to clean ammonia – it’s too attractive a scent for cats.
- It’s important to use cold water. Urine smells more as it’s heated. Dr Maza says that when he studies urine in Cornell’s labs, the samples are refrigerated.
- Don’t mix bleach and ammonia. “It’s a lethal combination,” says Dr. Maza.
- Alcohol is great to clean with. It sterilizes. But there are some cautions – be sure to dilute it because living things can get alcohol poisoning. It’s also flammable, so don’t use it in the kitchen or around candles and other flames.
- Peroxide, a great oxide cleaner, is used in hospitals. Oxides eat uric acid crystals.
- Vinegar is okay for some cleaning jobs, but not this one. It has an after-smell and doesn’t sterilize anything.
- Baking soda is also not a sterilizer, but it is a freshener and absorbs odors.
Enzyme-based deodorizers are a popular option. The enzymes in these products work by breaking down or digesting odor-causing substances.
Natural cleaners and deodorizers
Several companies offer naturally formulated products made especially for eliminating the odor of cat urine. 100% Natural for Pets offers a non-toxic non-aerosol All Purpose Deoderizing Spray that eliminates a variety of odors, including cat urine. It’s water-based so can be applied to upholstery, fabrics and carpeting.
According to Jacklyn Rasmusson, President and CEO of GET SERIOUS, her company’s Pheromone, Stain & Odor extractor suctions out the urine and pheromones in stains so cats are no longer attracted to those areas. “Not removing the pheromones will cause cats to re-soil the house,” she says.
Only Natural’s Pet Stain & Odor Solution is a non-toxic and environmentally-safe natural cleaning solution formulated from aloe vera, coconut extracts and essential oils. It can be used carpets or wood flooring.
Once you’ve cleaned up any spots where your cat has been spraying or urinating inappropriately, re-check those areas a few times a week to make sure they’re still clean. If you see a new “gift”, clean it up immediately. Also keep an eye on your cat. Follow him around now and then to make sure he isn’t lifting his tail someplace else. If all else fails, consult your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist for professional help. Don’t give up!
Natural Odor Removers
100% Natural for Pets – www.natural4pets.com
GET SERIOUS – www.getseriousproducts.net
Only Natural Pet Store – www.onlynaturalpet.com