How to get rid of Cat Urine Smells
Why cat urine smells.
Read my page on why cat urine smells for more details but here is the short version:
Cat urine is made up of many things including Urea, Uric acid, Ammonia and many communication chemicals called Pheromones
Urea and pheromones gets decomposed by bacteria into Ammonia and other smelly products. Some of the cat's pheromones are already very smelly when they are sprayed.
All cats will produce Urea, uric acid, and ammonia as natural waste products, but the pheromone types and amounts vary a great deal.
Urine is quite a persistant chemical blend and will stay for over 10 or more years unless removed.
Typically intact males will have the greatest numbers of smelly pheromones. Not all pheromones can be smelled by humans, but the territorial, aggressive and dominance ones definitely can be.
One of the other factors that make urine smellier is the age of the cat. The kidneys lose their efficiency over time, so an older cat’s urine is smellier. A cat with a urinary track infection or a kidney problem will have urine that is smellier. If your cat's pee suddenly starts to smell bad, check with your vet. This is a symptom that something might be wrong.
A cat's diet has some influence on how strong the urine smells. Some foods change the smell of the urine and dry food often makes the urine more concentrated because the cat is not getting as much moisture in its diet as it needs.
A simple way of reducing the smell of fresh cat urine is to make sure cats drinks lots of water. Feeding wet food helps this.
This method can be used to remove urine smells from animals and humans.
I write about cats mostly but urine smell from other animals including dogs and humans can be treated exactly the same way.
The first step is really to actually find the stain. If your dog won't tell you where they are you will have to use UV lights. Here is my page on Finding urine stains using UV light You will need a source of Ultra Violet light, preferably in the 365-375 nm range of wavelength. Here is one from Amazon that gets good reviews.Petseer UV Flashlight Pet Urine Detector with 12 LED Ultra Violet Blacklight and AAA Batteries
First step is to get rid of the urine as fast as you can
When you find a wet spot, the first step is to soak up as much of the fresh urine as you can. The more you remove the less there is left to decompose into ammonia later.
This is not always very easy. Using dry paper towels is as effective as most methods. If you use rags or towels you will then need to get rid of the smell in those, later.
Put the towels down and press them as well as you can. Step on them if it helps. Try to remove the urine before it has had time to soak in the carpet or bed, or seep into cracks in the wood.
Don't work with a wet cloth. Many of the chemicals are not water soluble and extra moisture can push the urine further in and make it harder to remove.
Next step in dealing with fresh cat urine
The next step is to soak the area with an ENZYME or bacterial based cleaner. There are many brands. This is the one I use: Nature's Miracle Advanced Stain and Odor Remover Gallon The cheaper brands are often less concentrated. Do not dilute these unless the instructions say to dilute.
Cleaners are sometimes referred to as bacterial cleaners. They work the same way as enzyme cleaners. The good bacteria produce enzymes that decompose the urine.
You must use an enzyme cleaner to decompose the urea and pheromones. Enzymes act on the urea to break it down into ammonia and carbon dioxide. The ammonia evaporates off.
A regular cleaner can remove a stain and remove some of the urine components, and make the area smell nice for a short while but the bacteria that are left behind will continue to gradually decompose the remaining urea and uric acid and the smell WILL COME BACK as more ammonia is produced.
In order to work, all the remaining urine has to be soaked in the product. If you miss a spot or don't put enough cleaner, the remaining urea and pheromones will not be broken down and will smell later. Urea and pheromones are not very water soluble.
Use the enzyme cleaner before any other cleaner. Other cleaner will not work on the urea smell or the oily sticky pheromones. They can also set stains.
Most enzyme cleaner will have a stain remover as well as the enzymes. They usually have some form of fragrance to mask the smell as they work.
Soaking the whole of the stain can be quite difficult particulary if it's on a carpet with a carpet pad and wood underlay, or on a bed. Do your best, you might have to lift the carpet to completely get to the pee.
If the area is stained, it is useful to rub the stain with a brush.
After soaking, usually for an hour or so depending on the brand, soak up the remaining cleaner with a cloth as best you can. I've heard of someone using a shop vac to suck up extra cleaner but I've not tried this.
At this point leave the spot to air dry, do not apply heat. The enzymes are still at work. Don't rince with water. The process of breaking down the urea and pheromones takes a bit of time.
A good thing about these enzyme cleaners is that they are not toxic. There might be other ingredients that are, so check the label but they are mostly safe.
What if the spot is an old one and is dried up.
It's more difficult to clean an old dry spot because wetting the whole area is harder, and once wet, urea does not disolve easily, but the process is much the same. The most important thing to remember is to soak ALL of the urine covered stain otherwise what remains will start smelling again.
What to do if the smell comes back
In my experience, a properly treated spot will not smell again. If the area was hard to wet and you did not reach all the stain, then you might have to repeat the process.
Stopping the cat from Marking
Getting rid of cat urine smell in one spot is only the first step. The big job is figuring out WHY the cat is not using the litter box properly or is deliberately marking around the house.
Convincing Mr.Pussy to stop marking and to use the litter box is often quite a detective adventure.
Here is my page on Why Cats don't use the litter box or mark aroud the house and how to stop them.
Cats will mark or not use the litter for many reasons.
It's a natural thing for a male cat to do. Neutering, hopefully before the cat has started marking, will sometimes work. It will certainly decrease the intensity of the smell, and reduce the incidence of marking.
Inside cats mark less than outside cats.
Stressed out cats will mark more than happy cats. Too many cats in a small area will cause stress as will an overly aggressive individual.
A number of companies have developed synthetic cat pheromones that mimic happy cat smells and these have been shown to reduce incidence of aggression, stress, and thus reduce marking due to this. Confort zone Feliway is such a product. There are several others available. See side bar.
If you have more than one male in the house they will sometimes mark to establish dominance.
Sometimes outside cats will mark around your house and your inside cat will smell this and respond.
A frustrated cat will often mark. It is not punishing you but rather telling you he's frustrated. This is what my cat does. I let him out during the day, I've moved to a safe quiet semi rural area and the cats go out during the day but stay inside at night because of predators such as coyotes patrol the area. My cat often asks to go out at night and simply does not understand and gets frustrated. This is when he marks.
Sometimes a cat with a urinary track infection will have accidents. If a cat suddenly starts marking or missing the litter box, this could be the reason.
Some cats don't like to share the litter box with other cats.
Some cats are very picky about how clean their litter is, or about the type of litter they use.
In multiple cat households the recommended number of litter boxes is 1 more than the number of cats.
If a cat is bullied by another cat he will often be afraid of going to the litter box.
Litter boxes should be in quiet area. Cats are timid about being seen using the litter
Some cats are just klutzy and miss the litter box. Some are quite large and don't fit in the box. Sometimes an oversize kitty litter container is the answer. The recommended size for a litter box is 1.5 the length of the cat.
One study showed that scented litter increased the level of inappropriate urinatio.
Do not use ammonia based cleaners. They leave behind a smell much like cat pee that the cat recognises and will be attracted to. He is more likely to pee in this area again.
This article is provided for information only. Test any cleaning product before using.