Cats mark their territory with urine, something that can become unpleasant quickly if your kitty is marking inside your home. Repeated marking can leave your home smelling stinky, a situation that requires some detective work to locate the source of the odors and cleaning to neutralize them.
Finding the Mess
Finding the source of the urine smell can be harder than you think, even if you follow your nose. To help, purchase a black light, usually found in pet supply stores, to locate older urine stains that aren't obvious to the naked eye; corners and spaces behind furniture are prime targets for spraying. Chemicals in urine and other biological fluids glow brightly under the light. Mark these spots with tape or stickers to find them again with the lights on.
Cats usually spray on vertical surfaces such as walls. Soak up any fresh urine with dry paper or cloth towels. Wipe the surface again with towels dampened with a solution of water and 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Don't use vinegar on fresh urine, which is more acidic than dried urine, according to "The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Cat Care." The peroxide neutralizes and cleans the urine away without further acidifying it, preventing residual odors.
For dried urine, make a solution of one part white vinegar and one part water and spritz it on the affected surfaces. Vigorously wipe away set-in stains with a scrub brush or sponge. For stubborn stains, scrub with a paste of baking soda and water. Repeat until the urine doesn't show up under the black light when the surface is dry.
Soak soiled items such as blankets, curtains, drapes and slipcovers with water to remove the urine before wringing them out. Douse stains with enzymatic pet cleaning solution and allow the solution to work overnight. These cleaners, which are available at pet supply stores, contain enzymes to break down the chemicals in the urine and bacteria that digest them, removing the scent of the urine and any stinky pheromones it contains. Wash the items in regular laundry detergent and 1 to 2 cups baking soda, depending on the size of the load, or 1 cup of vinegar to neutralize any residual odors. Run your items through two washing cycles and dry them outdoors in the sun to prevent locking in any remaining odors with the heat of the dryer.
Wet the upholstery with club soda and press down on the surface with paper towels to blot up residual urine. Douse the stains with an enzymatic pet cleaner and allow the cleaner to dry over a period of 24 to 48 hours. Repeat the procedure up to three times if needed. After treatment, sprinkle baking soda over the area and let it to sit for a few days before vacuuming. The baking soda absorbs any residual odors.
Carpet smells are the hardest to eliminate because the urine can soak down to the floor padding and sub-floor. Wet the area with water and vacuum up the moisture with a carpet cleaning machine or wet vacuum. Repeat this procedure several times to eliminate as much of the urine as you can. Pour an enzymatic cleaner liberally over the area and let it soak down to the padding. Let the area dry for a few days and then clean the area with a solution of one part vinegar to 10 parts water.
Don't use a steam cleaner, which can lock in odors instead of getting rid of them. You might have to pull up the carpet to reach the padding and sub-floor and treat those separately with an enzymatic cleaner.
The No. 1 reason most cats spray is the urge to mate and mark territory. Spaying and neutering your cat eliminates this behavior in up to 90 percent of cases, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Urine marking also can indicate a medical issue, so it may be time for your furbaby to visit the vet. Anti-anxiety medications can help healthy kitties who urine mark; ask your vet about that option.
Don't punish your little guy for urine marking -- it only increases stress and leads to more marking. Instead, keep your furbaby's litter box extra clean by scooping it twice a day. Special pheromone sprays, found in most pet supply stores, contain chemicals that help calm your cat and reduce his desire to mark. Use these around your home.
- Veterinary Partner: Feline House Soiling
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Urine Marking in Cats
- Vetstreet: Why Has Our Cat Started Spraying?
- The Humane Society of the United States: Marking Territory
- The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Cat Care; Wendy Christensen & The Staff of the Humane Society of America
- The Humane Society of the United States: Removing Pet Stains and Odors
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.