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TheCatSite.com › Cat Care Articles › How To Remove Cat Urine

How To Remove Cat Urine

Written by Laurie Goldstein

cleaning cat urineWe regularly see recommendations for home-made formulas to clean cat urine stains here on the forums of TheCatSite.com. These formulas are widely circulated on the Internet, and typically include either vinegar or hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Of course, many people unfamiliar with the problem of cleaning cat urine
stains simply try to clean up cat pee as they would any other stain, only to find out later it didn’t work. In fact, using traditional household cleaners on cat urine actually “sets” the stain. This makes the stain even more difficult to remove with proper enzyme cleaners.

 

There is a strong, legitimate, and chemically important reason to use an enzyme cleaner to clean cat urine stains. Home-made mixtures, vinegar, baking soda, or typical household cleaners simply do not contain the required ingredients to remove ALL the components of cat urine. Vinegar and baking soda work to neutralize the odor temporarily, and hydrogen peroxide is 30% more oxidizing than chlorine. But cat urine is composed of things that REQUIRE enzymes to break down the chemical bonds.

 

Cat urine is composed of:

  • Urea
  • Urobilin/Urobilinogin
  • Uric Acid
  • Sodium
  • Other electrolytes
  • Creatinine
  • Pheromones
  • Bacteria - typically 5 different strains.

 

When cat urine dries, the urea is broken down by the bacteria. This is what makes it smell like ammonia. As it decomposes further, it releases thiols that make the odor worse. (It is the thiols in skunk spray that make it SO potent and difficult to remove).

 

The urea and urobilin/urobilogin are not hard to clean. Urea is water soluble, and urobilin is the pigment that causes the color. Traditional household or carpet cleaners will deal with these, and this is why hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and/or baking soda also appear (initially) to be effective at eliminating the problem. But the problem has not been solved! Uric acid and its salts have been left behind. Uric acid is not water soluble and bonds tightly to whatever surface it touches.

 

The vinegar and hydrogen peroxide/baking soda mixtures (or traditional household cleaners) do not - are not chemically capable of - removing the uric acid and its salts. They only temporarily make the smell go away, because they do clean up the other components of the cat urine. But when exposed to humidity, the salts cause
the uric acid crystals to reform, and they start to release the smell again; not always at levels detectable to the human nose, but the cats’ more sensitive noses can smell it. And the scent of their urine outside of the litter box encourages them to continue urinating outside of the box, with their families left scratching their heads wondering why.

 

Notably, because of the uric acid component of cat urine, cat pee has a half-life of six years. This is why it is absolutely essential to use a cleaner that can break down the uric acid. Soap, vinegar, baking soda, ammonia, chlorine, and hydrogen peroxide (to name the most common cleaners) are not chemically capable of breaking down the uric acid in cat pee.

 

The ONLY thing that will break down the uric acid to PERMANENTLY remove the smell is an enzyme cleaner. Enzymes are the only thing that will break down the uric acid. The enzymes break down uric acid into carbon dioxide and ammonia, both gasses that then easily evaporate. This is why it is also essential to allow the enzyme cleaner to air dry. It needs the “natural” drying time to break down the uric acid salts and allow the resulting carbon dioxide and ammonia to evaporate.

 

Not all enzyme cleaners are equally effective. Good enzyme cleaners are expensive. Cheap ones will work, but need to be reapplied over and over (and probably end up costing as much as the expensive enzyme cleaners). Enzyme cleaners that work well and reliably, as tested by members of TheCatSite.com include Nok Out, Urine Off, Anti-Icky Poo, and Stink Free.

 

Of course ANY cleaner needs to be used properly. Most enzyme cleaners come in a spray bottle. This is deceptive, because just spraying a light layer of enzyme cleaner over a urine stain will not result in complete cleaning of that spot. Cat pee wicks, and unless the enzyme cleaner completely envelopes all of the cat pee, even it won’t work. "Spraying" doesn't work. DOUSING, POURING, and SOAKING are required when cleaning up cat urine.

 

To properly use an enzyme cleaner on a fresh stain:

 

  1. Blot up as much of the urine as you can before applying anything.
  2. Soak the affected area with the enzyme cleaner.
  3. Let the enzyme cleaner sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Blot up as much of the enzyme cleaner as possible.
  5. Leave the enzyme cleaner to air dry.

 

Covering the area with something is always a good idea. This will not only help prevent the cat from attempting to pee on the same spot while the enzyme cleaner does its work; it will stop family members from stepping or sitting on the wet spot. Some people lay aluminum foil down over the area; other recommendations have included an upside down laundry basket or an aluminum baking sheet.

 

The same basic procedures apply for an old stain. But be aware that an old stain may require two or three full cycles of enzyme cleaner application (allowing it to completely dry between applications) in order to completely clean the stain.

 

Cushions and mattresses CAN be cleaned! SOAK the affected area of the cushion. As mentioned earlier, cat pee wicks, and you must get the enzyme cleaner to wick to all of the same places the cat pee did or it won't work. When one of our cats peed on the couch, we took the cushion outside, blotted up as much of the cat urine as possible, then we soaked the cushion by very slowly pouring the enzyme cleaner on/around the affected area, giving it time to really soak through the cushion. We let it sit for 15 minutes, and squished out as much of the excess enzyme cleaner as possible, then blotted up what we could (with a lot of towels). If sunny, we left it outside as long as we could to dry. We then laid aluminum foil down over the couch, put the cushion down, put aluminum foil over the top of the cushion, and a throw blanket on that. Before bed, we'd remove the throw blanket so the aluminum foil was left, discouraging the cat from peeing on it until it had the chance to dry.

 

To treat the mattress, we used essentially the same process, only we did not remove it from the bed. We slowly poured the enzyme cleaner on/around the affected area, ensuring it had the chance to really soak in thoroughly. We let it sit for 15 minutes, then blotted up what we could with a lot of towels. We then laid down several layers of clean towels over the area, and made the bed. Just swap out those clean towels each day (if done properly it will take days to dry). We took a very large box, cut it down, and laid it over the top of the bed during the day. This prevented the kitty from wanting to pee on the bed while the enzyme cleaner did its work.

 

Thick cushions and mattresses may require several applications to completely remove the cat urine. The thickness is the issue, and getting the enzyme cleaner to all the same spots the cat pee went is more difficult on the thick things. But rest assured, your couch or your mattress is not ruined if your cat pees on it. You will be able to clean it!

 

 

Laurie Goldstein is a CFA Charterholder. In addition to her work as an equity analyst, she applies her research skill to all things cat, focusing on nutrition and advocacy for feral cat management via trap-neuter-return (TNR) and educational research on cat predation. Learn more about feral cats on her website http://www.StrayPetAdvocacy.org.


Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

Comments (14)

Good info, can you recommend a good enzymic cleaner?
Quoting from Laurie's article: "Enzyme cleaners that work well and reliably, as tested by members of TheCatSite.com include Nok Out, Urine Off, Anti-Icky Poo, and Stink Free." Hope this helps :)
We use a product called Urine Gone and it seems to work for us too. If you see that maybe try it also^^
I have used everything and even covered the area and the coat still goes on the foil or plastic runner...I'm at my wits end.. She will use her little box sometimes or she willl pee on the paper in front of the litter box but lately she has been peeing on one area in the living room....
She is 16 yrs old...had he checked by the vet...said she was old but in comparably decent health for her age..I tried putting food where she is peeing but she willl pee beside it...also she does do her #2 in the littler box....So does anyone has any ideas as too why she would be doing this....I do have another cat around the same age and she doesn't bother her...I put one of those colllars they sell to help calm her but it isn't doing anything...she is still peeing on the same spot even after i spent the day soaking and scrubbing it....PLEASE HELP
Hello mowmow and welcome to TCS. Litterbox problems can be very frustrating indeed. I see you've also posted on the board, which is great - that would be the right place for it rather than here. Thank you!
Great information. One of my cat has had a bladder. SO glad to find this post.
Since I can't manage to get into the forums, though signed up, I am asking for BIG HELP here: How do I treat the entire crawlspace under my 900 sq. foot house to rid if of cat urine odor using one of the products that Laurie Goldstein has recommended? I'm having to keep the windows open while the air conditioner is running, as the smell is entering through the ductwork and wreaking havoc on my well being. Two neighborhood cats entered crawlspace when door was opened during repairs. PLEASE and THANK YOU Laurie, for telling me how to deal with this on a large scale using one of the products you've recommended . Amy Pierce in N.C.
@Amy 9000 I don't remember the address, but I found something on the internet a few days ago about using a blacklight to find the spots where the cat pee is, and then treating just those spots. If I recall, old cat pee shows very faintly under blacklight, fresher stains show brighter, and certain cleaners will show up even brighter than cat pee... not to mention all the other proteins that show up under blacklight. Anyways, to find the faintest/oldest cat pee, the room needs to be pretty dark. And it helps to have a wider blacklight to see more area at once. I forget how wide.
I posted some links below that I found using google a minute ago. I didn't read through all of them, but the basic gist is: room has to be dark... urine will show up as yellow, not bright white. Wet urine probably won't show up under the blacklight. Dry urine will glow, but will fade over the months, or years. I don't know where to get a low cost black light suitable for this task.
http://www.wikihow.com/Find-Cat-Urine-With-a-UV-Light
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=534709
http://caturineodor.com/blacklight-find-cat-urine/
http://www.articlesbase.com/interior-design-articles/significant-effect-of-urine-of-your-pet-in-carpet-6079181.html
http://www.articlesbase.com/pets-articles/cleaning-cat-urine-with-a-blacklight-70123.html
Amy, I'm just seeing your comment. You should have no problem posting on the forums if you managed to post a comment. It's the same permissions set Give it another try and if you're having trouble, send me a private message (you can do that by clicking on my username and getting to my profile page).
What about for clothes that got nailed in the clothes basket. Is there something I can put in the wash? or do I need to soak each item individually and hang to dry?
@AmylynnW That's a very good question. Could you please post that in the cat care forum? 
http://www.thecatsite.com/f/6/care-grooming
I just found a new cleaner, that removes cat urine as well as human, it's really cheap if you go buy it at Staples, they sell a gallon, 2 ounces will make another gallon (add the rest in water), that's a ton of cleaner for 23.59, 128 gallons from this, you will not need to buy anything else for a very very long time, no matter how bad the problem is :
 
http://www.staples.com/Brighton-Professional-Enzyme-Plus-Odor-Eliminator-Deodorizer-1-gal/product_815023?cid=PS:GooglePLAs:815023&ci_src=17588969&ci_sku=815023&KPID=815023&kpid=815023&gclid=CL3n76eG9sACFShp7AodSUkA3w
You do need to pick it up, shipping would be awful
Re: black lights, if you have a cat pee problem it's essential you have one, when it's dark you can see it where your cat sprayed no sweat, I bought one on ebay couple years ago
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