Getting rid of the cat isn’t the answer. The problem will persist long after the perpetrator has left your home. Imperceptible pee clings to surfaces, posting an invisible olfactory signal that instructs any new pet (both cat and dog) to, “Pee here.”
There is hope. You can reform your cat and rid your home of the odor of cat pee. Even the most odoriferous home can be restored to a pollution-free zone.
I’ll walk you through the process of regaining your home and help you rekindle your love affair with your kitty. Take a deep breath. I smell fresh air in your future.
Inappropriate elimination is more complicated than a congressional health-care bill. To arrive at a fresh-smelling home, you’ll need to:
• Figure out who’s making the mess if you have a multi-pet home. • Take your kitty to the vet.
• Determine if he’s marking or going to the bathroom.
• Find out what’s upsetting your cat.
• Fix it.
• Retrain him.
• Find all the soiled spots.
• Remove the smell of pee from the floors and walls.
• Make the target area unattractive.
• Enjoy the new feeling of calm.
Let’s focus on cleanup strategies:
As soon as you notice the mess, clean it up. Removing all traces of ammonia and pheromones from the carpet is the first step in persuading the cat to return to the litter box. After all, if it smells like a toilet, Fluffy will use it as a toilet.
Cat pee and poop in a carpet contains pheromones that continue to attract cats to the soiled areas. It is as if the cat has posted an olfactory sign saying, “Bathroom.” If you simply mask the pee odors, you may be able to fool your nose, but Fluffy, with his superior sense of smell, will be able to find his alternate potty every time.
Completely banishing the odor requires treating the entire affected area, including the carpet pad and subflooring. Here are your needed cleanup supplies:
• Ultraviolet light
• Masking tape
• Odor neutralizer
• Old sponges
• White towels or paper towels
• Spatula or putty knife
• Cheap, large crystal silica gel cat litter
Before you can clean up the cat pee, you’ve got to find the pee spots — all of them. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Hydrogen sulfide, a gas emitted by poop and pee, deadens the nerve endings in your nose. You may be able to smell ammonia, but your nose, confused by locations, can’t pinpoint them. Fortunately, those inconspicuous pee spots are visible under the right conditions.
The soiled area in the carpet resembles an iceberg. You are only seeing the tip. If the surface stain appears to be the size of a silver dollar, it has likely spread to dinner plate diameter beneath the pad. You must clean all the layers. Even the best odor eliminator won’t work if it doesn’t fully saturate the soiled layers. You may want to use a large medical or cooking syringe (a needle is not necessary) to inject sufficient quantities of chemicals deep into the carpet pad.
When the ammonia odor persists or your cat returns to the spot, pull the carpet up and treat the wood or concrete subflooring. When the subfloor has dried, seal it, then saturate the carpet with odor removers. Failing that, you may need to replace floor boards, in addition to carpeting and padding. Don’t forget to scrub the walls and baseboards. You may have to treat the carpet multiple times in order to pass the feline muster.
You can safely and cheaply remove cat pee from your concrete slab by steeping it with hydrogen peroxide. It will bubble on contact. Repeat the process until you can apply the peroxide without a bubbling reaction. It may take a week of repeated treatments to thoroughly purge the odor. Once the odor has been removed from the foundation, apply a concrete sealer. This creates a vapor barrier.
When cleaning up a fresh mistake (translation: still wet), place a white cloth or paper towel over the spot and blot it by pressing down. Do this until you pull no more moisture from the carpet. Avoid printed designs or borders because the dye could bleed into a light-colored carpet. Also, don’t rub the carpet with the cloth, as this will only force the pee farther from the original spot and deeper into the pad. Left untreated, cat pee will eventually fade the color of the carpet — another reason to clean a pee spot as soon as you find it.
Before you buy a cleanup product, find out how it works. Read the label warnings. These cautions list a cleaner’s wide range of potential injuries, from irritation of the gastrointestinal tract to chemical burns in mouth, esophagus and stomach. While the warnings are alarming, the more frightening part is they are intended for people. Your cat is more at risk.
Next, look at the ingredient list. Look for ingredients ending in “-ol” or “-ene,” which typically indicates toxic solvents. “Chlor” usually includes chlorine. “Glycols” contain petroleum-based ether. “Phenols” can include coal tar derivatives. None of these things are good for your cat.
Never allow your cat into areas where you use or store cleaners. Clean up spills of concentrated chemicals immediately so your cat doesn’t walk across it and later ingest it while licking his paws.
When you think the site is clean, rinse again. The same logic should be used whether you are cleaning carpets or mopping the floor. Avoid cleaners containing ammonia. Because cat pee contains ammonia, cleaning a pee stain with ammonia is basically inviting your cat to refresh the spot with his own ammonia — pee.
Most products are safe for use around cats when you follow the directions. Three factors determine the dosage of what is toxic to cats:
• Concentration: Is the concentration of the chemical 2 percent or 98 percent?
• Quantity: Did the cat get one or two licks or two tablespoons?
• Size of the cat: Is he a 2-pound kitten or a 14-pound adult? Size makes a difference.
You may turn to “natural” cleaners to protect your cat, but just because the active ingredient comes from a natural source doesn’t ensure its safety.
Here is a rundown of odor neutralizers, how they work and the advantages and disadvantages of each:
Molecular odor eliminators: This class of product bonds with odor molecules, permanently converting an odor molecule into a non-odor molecule. They aren’t affected by chemicals previously applied to the carpet. They work immediately and permanently, but they are rather expensive. Some of the best are Zero Odor, and CritterZone Air Naturalizer.
Oxygenators: These products cause a chemical reaction that adds oxygen to the odor molecule, changing its composition. These products break down odors into carbon dioxide and water. The process is frequently used in wastewater treatment plants and in the purification of drinking water. You can buy ready-to-use liquids or powders. One of the best oxygenation odor eliminator for carpets is Fizzion.
Disinfectants: Antibacterial agents kill the bacteria – the source of the odor. If the bacteria are destroyed, so is the odor. Most bactericides can be used on soiled spots with results in under an hour. The carpet should then be cleaned immediately and liquids extracted. Allow the floor to thoroughly dry before giving pets access. Disinfectants should not be used at full strength. Check the label and use according to directions.
Enzymatics: Enzymes are made of proteins that work like saliva, breaking down the odor molecules, but they do not digest it. Since they’re not living organisms, they are not vulnerable to chemicals and extreme heat and cold, like live bacteria. Chemicals in other products, such as detergents and pesticides, won’t affect the enzymes. Enzymes will dissolve detergent residue from earlier carpet cleanings. Enzymes are pH sensitive and pH fluctuates as the odor breaks down, working best at a neutral pH between 6 and 8. They only work when they are moist, and like bacteria, can take about 24 hours to break down odor molecules.
Deodorizer/Masking Agents: These products use fragrance to cover up a stinky molecule with pleasant-smelling molecule. The foul reality is temporarily overpowered by the fragrant smoke screen. The odor’s true nature will return when the masking perfume wears off. Deodorizers usually contain fragrances, alcohol and water, which mask the odor-causing molecules but do not change them. These products may fool your nose, but not your cat’s. He knows where to find the pee.
Detergents: Detergent cleans and odor absorbers (such as foaming spray carpet cleaners) use surfactants to loosen organic material and dirt from fabrics, but some odor may remain. They may contain cationic detergents that can burn your cat’s skin or mouth.
If your carpet is too heavily soiled, you may need to bring in a professional carpet cleaning company to completely remove urine odor. Before hiring a company, find out what kind of chemicals the company plans to use. Ask your veterinarian to see if those chemicals are pet-safe. Also, check with your local Better Business Bureau for complaints and other websites for other reviews the company may have.
By Sarah Zumhofe