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by Carole Nickerson
Anyone who has ever owned a cat has likely had the experience of stepping in a cold puddle of urine on the floor at least once. When it's on linoleum or another washable surface, it's not so bad, but when it starts happening on carpet and rugs - then you've got a real problem. Urine can soak down deep and the smell can linger for months if not cleaned properly. Cats tend to go back to the same area they've urinated before, and even when we think the smell is gone, a cat's nose knows exactly where to do the dirty deed again.
Most people think that cat urine is worse than other types of animal urine, but there really isn't much difference. The problem is that it tends to not be noticed right away or cleaned up thoroughly, giving bacteria a chance to grow, producing the funky ammonia smell. The longer it sits, the worse it gets. The other problem is that it tends to seep down below the carpet into the floorboards where you have no hope of getting to it without pulling the carpet back. Not very practical if the cat has urinated in the middle of the room.
Why cats choose to urinate outside the litterbox varies and can be complicated. If your cat is doing it frequently, you will want to consider the reasons behind the behaviour and ways you can prevent future accidents. Here are some common reasons why cats urinate in the wrong spots:
- Litter Box Problems. The litter box might be too dirty for the cat or has a cover which is keeping odors trapped. You might think the litter box is just fine, but a cat's sense of smell is far more sensitive than our own. As well, your cat may have an issue with litter box privacy. Cats can be fussy about the amount of privacy they have when relieving themselves, especially if they have to share the litter box with other cats.
- Marking territory and dominance. Some cats like to urinate in key areas as a way to say "This is my turf, just so you know..." This is especially true of cats which have not been spayed or neutered. There's nothing worse than a male cat "spraying" on furniture, the door, and everything else he feels needs to be marked with the scent of his virility.
- Unfamiliar new objects or smells. Some people believe that a cat will urinate in the wrong spot out of spite or jealousy. To a cat, strange new items with strange odors like baby blankets, jackets, and shoes are perceived as the presence of an intruder, and so the cat may feel they need to remind that they are king (or queen) of the house.
- Anxiety, Stress and other behavioural problems. Some cats seem to have a lot of emotional baggage, especially if they have a history of being abused or still being abused either physically or verbally. These types of problems require special care.
- Health problems. Older and sick cats may have some health problems you're not aware of that require a vet's attention. Frequent urination, especially in the presence of other symptoms, should always be investigated.
Cleaning cat urine effectively depends on many factors such as where it's located, how long it was left unnoticed, and the type of surface it was deposited on. The most recommended products on the market contain enzymes which cause a chemical reaction with the urine to make it easier to clean. They break down the urine and neutralize the odor. The best approach is to take a rag or paper towels and soak up as much urine as possible first by firmly pressing on the area, repeating until you've absorbed as much urine as possible. A small carpet steamer can be helpful in sucking the urine from the carpet. If using a commercial product to clean the cat urine, it is best to follow the instructions on the bottle from that point as each have their own properties and strengths. Some products which have received good reviews include: "Kids 'n' Pets Brand Stain & Odor Remover" and "Just for Cats by Nature's Miracle".
There are few truly effective home remedies that work well in removing cat urine odors and stains. What seems to work for one person doesn't work for another. Perhaps this is because different urine-soaked surfaces require different methods or solutions. Most people try dozens of things before finding something that does the job and agree that bleach, perfume-based products, and ammonia-based products do not work and likely to make the problem worse.
Vinegar and Baking Soda - First soak up as much of the urine as you can, then soak the area with a mixture of 1/3 cup of white vinegar with 2/3 cup of water and a little soap. With a clean rag, soak up any excess liquid pressing firmly and repeatedly until dry. Repeat this process using fresh water, and then use another rag to soak up the remaining liquid. After this, sprinkle some baking soda on the area and vacuum up in 24 hours.
Peroxide - Some people claim peroxide works well in cleaning up cat urine and stains, though this can be tricky on surfaces which might discolor easily. Supposedly, peroxide breaks down the components in the cat urine which cause stains and odor. Pour a small amount directly on the area and allow to dry. Then rinse with warm water and soak up with a rag or paper towel.
Listerine Mouthwash - A number of people claim this helps eliminate cat urine odors when a few drops are added to your water & vinegar solution, or when mixed with a peroxide solution. It can also be mixed with just hot water and dabbed on the area. Most likely this is because of the amount of alcohol in Listerine.
As you can see, the issue of cleaning cat urine is complicated and there are no easy answers or quick fixes. You must be willing to consistently balance preventative measures with adequate cleaning methods and simply hope that your efforts will resolve the problem with time and persistence.
About The Author
Carole Nickerson has been a writer and web developer since 1998, writing articles and content on various topics of interest and from personal experience for magzines, the web and other publications.