By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
If your cat has suddenly taken to wetting your carpet or another area of your home instead of, or in addition to using his litter box, the first thing you must do is find out why it’s happening and immediately address the problem. A short list of possible causes for urinating outside the litter box includes:
- The box isn’t scooped and/or disinfected often enough
- Your cat doesn’t like your choice of litter
- The box is in a high-traffic area or is difficult to get into or out of
- Your cat has a medical condition like FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease), or another chronic illness
- Your kitty is a senior citizen or is experiencing cognitive decline
Whatever the reason for your cat’s inappropriate elimination, it’s imperative that you get rid of urine odors so your kitty won’t continually return to the scene of the crime and reoffend.
Using a Black Light to Find Urine Stains
If you’re not sure where or how long your cat has been relieving herself around your home, the quickest way to find the urine marks is with a black light. Cat pee stains jump right out when illuminated with a black light, so darken your house and walk around shining your light on floors, baseboards, and anywhere else you think your cat may have done her business. Urine marks show up neon green under black light, and you can confirm your findings by sniffing the areas that announce “Miss Piddles was here” when illuminated.
If you come across spots that are still wet, use clean, dry cloths or paper towels to blot up as much of the moisture as possible before treating.
Cleaning Old (Dry) Urine from Hard Surfaces and Absorbent Surfaces
For dried urine spots, treatment will depend on the type of surface you’re dealing with. Hard materials such as tile, wood flooring, and baseboards can be cleaned using a safe, natural solution like one part hydrogen peroxide and two parts water, or undiluted white vinegar. Liberally spray the solution on the urine stain, wipe, and repeat as often as necessary to eliminate any lingering odor. If the smell remains despite your best efforts, I recommend purchasing an enzyme-based cleaner as described below and re-treating the area(s).
Cleaning carpeting, upholstery or another absorbent surface requires a bit more effort. Cat urine is composed of several different chemicals, strains of bacteria, and other substances. And while natural cleaners like hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or baking soda can deal with some of the resulting odors, they don’t deal with them all. It’s important to have an enzyme cleaner like Nature’s Miracle or Urine Off on hand to deal with the uric acid in cat urine stains.
Take these steps to thoroughly clean urine stains and odors from carpets, rugs, and other absorbent surfaces:
- If the spot is still wet, use paper towels or another absorbent material like a rag or cloth and blot up as much of the urine as possible before proceeding to the following steps.
- Pour plain water over the spot and soak up the moisture again using clean, white cloths or paper towels – continue blotting until you don’t see any more yellow on the towels.
- Saturate the spot with an enzyme-based ‘digester’ preparation like Nature’s Miracle or Urine Off and let it sit for the prescribed amount of time. You will need to thoroughly soak the soiled areas, including carpet padding if the urine has soaked all the way through.
- Using more clean paper towels, blot up as much moisture as you can and then allow the spot to air-dry. Protecting the just-treated area is a good idea to prevent humans from walking through it or kitty finding it and re-soiling. You can place aluminum foil loosely over the spots or use upside-down laundry baskets, baking sheets, or similar items.
If the urine spot has been there awhile, you may need to repeat the last two steps at least once. Depending on the scope of the problem, be prepared to make this a multi-week project as you soak the spots, blot them, allow them to dry, and then repeat the process as many times as necessary to completely remove stains and odor.
I do NOT recommend using a regular carpet-cleaning product you have on hand instead of a specialized pet formula. If you try something else on the spot first, then use a specialized pet formula, you may not get the same good result you can achieve using the pet product alone.
No matter how bad the stain may look or smell when you discover it, resist the urge to use a harsh scrubbing motion during the cleaning process. You can quickly destroy the texture of your carpet or rug this way, and scrubbing isn’t necessary.
Once the urine is completely removed from a spot a cat has repeatedly soiled, I’ve found applying a few drops of a pure essential oil (I’ve used lemon, tangerine and lavender) on the area acts as an excellent deterrent.