Because cat urine has an unmistakable odor, you would think that it would be easy to clean up, but if your cat has found some discreet locations to eliminate then you may not be aware of the problem until he has gone back to that spot repeatedly to urinate. By that time, the urine will have soaked through carpeting and gone down to the carpet pad and even beyond. So it’s very important to first locate all the soiled areas so you can do a thorough clean-up.
Locate All Soiled Areas
The easiest way to do this is with a black light. This this is a special light that will cause most urine stains to fluoresce (think of those old disco days when the disco had black lights and it would cause white clothing to almost look electric).
Black lights are available at your local pet product store as well as online. They’re inexpensive and an absolute must-have if your cat is eliminating outside of the litter box.
Using the Black Light
In order for the urine to fluoresce you’ll need to darken the room as much as possible. If it’s a very bright room during the day and there’s no way to darken it, wait until evening for best detection ability.
Hold the light a few inches away from the area you’re checking. If you think your cat has been spraying, be sure to check vertical surfaces as well.
Typically, urine spray will be in a thin stream and indiscriminate urination will be in a puddle.
Keep in mind that the black light will cause other stains to fluoresce as well, so not everything you see will necessarily be cat urine. It can fluoresce blood stains, vomit, diarrhea stains, etc. After using the black light for a while, you’ll get more familiar with the typical look of a urine stain.
Mark the Spot
Since the stain will not be visible once you turn the room lights back on, you’ll need to make sure you’ve outlined exactly where you’ll need to clean. I use painter’s tape (not masking tape) to outline the stain because it’s easy to peel off afterward. Don’t just put a piece of tape over the stain – outline it so you’ll be sure to clean the entire spot. If you don’t get up all of the urine then your cat will still be able to detect the odor and may return to that area again.
If you’re dealing with a fresh urine stain, first soak up as much of the urine with paper towels. Use a blotting technique and don’t press so hard that you drive the urine deeper in the carpet or upholstery.
The product to use for cleaning urine stains is one that states it not only removes the stain but neutralizes the urine odor. Ordinary household cleaners or rug cleaning products won’t do that. It has to be a product specifically made for pet urine. Additionally, don’t use any products containing ammonia because urine contains ammonia and the smell could just trigger a cat to return to that spot to urinate again.
There are several pet stain removers available and the instructions for each one might vary a little so make sure you follow the directions regarding how long to keep the product on the carpet or upholstery and whether it needs to rinsed off. If using a product on upholstery, test it in an inconspicuous area first to make sure it’s safe for that particular fabric.
Keep in mind that carpeted areas that have been repeatedly soiled may have urine that has reached the flooring underneath. The carpet may need to be replaced. Pet stain and odor removers can only do so much.
Once you’ve applied the pet stain remover and left it on for the time specified by the manufacturer (and rinsed, if also indicated by manufacturer), place a towel over the area with something weighted on it to absorb as much of the moisture as possible. Keep replacing damp towels with dry ones until you’ve gotten up as much moisture as you can. If you’ve used a large amount of pet stain remover and it went down deeply into the carpet or upholstery, step up a small fan to help accelerate the drying process.
Calling in a Professional Cleaning Service
If you do this, make sure the company states that the product they use is specifically designed to remove pet stain and odor.
Prevent Repeated Performances
Getting rid of urine odor won’t correct the underlying problem as to why your cat has developed a litter box problem. In order to prevent the problem from continuing, it’s important to figure out why the cat is displaying the behavior of either spraying or indiscriminately urinating. The first step in this process is to take your cat to the veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical cause. Then, look at the litter box set-up itself to make sure there isn’t something that needs some tweaking. Additionally, look at any environmental factors that might be causing your cat to feel as if he is unable to eliminate in the litter box.
Need More Information?
If you’re dealing with a litter box problem and the veterinarian has ruled out underlying causes, you can find step-by-step information on behavior modification techniques in any of Pam’s books. For multicat households, refer to the book Cat vs. Cat. For single cat households you can find helpful behavior modification techniques in Starting From Scratch.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.