Cleaning Cat Urine

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, facing left

Greetings cat lovers one and all! Skye Blake here, Cat Info Detective, following yet another trail about cat pee. This time I’m tracking down products and methods you can use for cleaning cat urine and its odor.

Paw prints coming forward

It can be overwhelming and frustrating to realize you have pee to clean up from your normally fastidious kitty.

Even worse than smelling it yourself, your cat can smell it when you can’t and you’re frustrated when she starts peeing there again! The problem is you didn’t get it clean the first time.

Whether the cause is a medical problem, fear of the litter box, or territorial insecurity, you still have to clean it up. You can find ways to understand your kitty and fix the problems.

Peeing or marking outside the litter box is upsetting but can be fixed!

Don’t Grab Just Any Old Cleaner!

To clean up the mess, most people grab the carpet cleaner, dishwashing soap, laundry detergent, even bleach to get rid of it quickly. Unfortunately, there are specific elements in cat uric acid (thiols) that don’t breakdown or respond to regular cleaners, including homemade ones. Not only don’t they clean it, some set the urine in the material so it’s more difficult to remove!

cleaning supplies for killing fleas

Materials like carpet fibers, brick, drywall, and wood are all things you may have noticed can smell bad from cat urine, indoors or outdoors (rain doesn’t wash it away).

Uric acid bonds tightly to anything it touches, doesn’t dissolve in water and can take many years to break down. So the smell never goes away!

A word about home products for cleaning cat urine. Some people swear by them and they seem to work for awhile. These are usually some combination of baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide. They remove the yellow color and some odor. But they can’t get rid of thiols in the uric acid. Sooooo…….the smell seems gone, then it’s baaaack! Arghhh!

Use an Enzyme Product Made for Cleaning Cat Urine

There is, however, an answer that works…yay! Cat behaviorists and veterinarians recommend enzyme-based cleaners for dealing with urine stains and odors.

Enzyme-based cleaners seem to be a universal recommendation so we’ll focus, for now, on these, rather than chemically-based or other cleaners. This should give you the greatest chance of success if you use them properly.

cat on it's side

Be sure to use a product made specifically for cat urine stain and odor removal. Make sure what you get doesn’t have ammonia, which smells like pee and will attract cats to pee there.

Soaps and other cleaners clean some of the urine and it looks clean, even smells clean when it dries. But as soon as it’s exposed to humidity, the uric acid salts crystalize again and, voila!, the smell is back! Grrrr!

Since enzymes have specific targets it’s important to match the enzyme cleaner with what it actually cleans. You must also follow the directions carefully.

Enzymes clean differently from cleaners you’re used to using. It’s not difficult, just different.

To be most successful with cleaning, it’s important you understand a bit about what’s in feline urine, what enzymes are and how they work.

What’s in Cat Pee that Makes It Smell Bad?

Cat pee is chemically different from dog or human pee. It contains certain things that any cleaner has to be able to specifically address. Cat urine contains bacteria, urea, and other things that create that unpleasant odor as it dries. The main culprits are…

Ammonia (“Fishy”)

Cat with stinky litter box

Ammonia is that fishy smell that assaults our senses when urine breaks down. It happens when certain bacteria create an enzyme called urease, which changes urea to ammonia and carbonic acid. Cat urine has a lot more urea than dog or human.

Felinine (“Sulfur”)

Another cause of the bad odor is felinine, a pheromone found in cat urine after about 3 months of age. It’s stronger in intact males than neutered males or females. Felinine has no odor but it breaks down into thiols, which are sulfur compounds…eww! Thiols have that lovely “cat” smell. They’re also what’s in skunk spray that makes that powerful wretched odor! Yuk!

Pyruvic Acid (“Sour”)

As felinine breaks down it also creates pyruvic acid (smells sour) and some ammonia. Both of these add to the already strong ammonia smell from the urea breakdown. Even smellier! Whew!!

There’s an interesting article at Appetizerblog.com, that explains this in more detail that I recommend reading if you’re interested.

What Are Enzymes and How Do They Work?

Enzymes are not living organisms. They are long-chain proteins made by certain bacteria, which are living organisms. They make it possible for bacteria to do their work, speeding up the process of breaking down soil and waste materials chemically for bacteria to be able to “eat” them. The bacteria break them down into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O).

Scientist holding a beaker-representing enzymes that clean cat urine

Specific enzymes used to clean cat pee are the only way to get rid of the uric acid salts once and for all. They break it down into carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia, gasses that dissipate into the air.

This is why it’s important to follow the instructions. You must give it time to do this process by air drying overnight.

Enzymes are different from one another. They’re very specific to the type of material or surface they work on and must be activated to work properly (such as having damp conditions).

As long as the dirt exists (in this case urine compounds), and is wet enough, the enzymes and bacteria will multiply and continue to work. This can continue for hours or days after application. Once the dirt is gone the enzymes and bacteria stop working.

Enzyme cleaners can get into cracks and crevices that others can’t reach. This makes them effective for tile, brick, and concrete, as well as carpet and wood.

What Enzyme Cleaners Work Best for Cat Urine?

Not all enzyme cleaners are created equal. The product you use must be specifically made for cat urine. The better quality ones are usually more expensive but lesser quality ones often have to be applied frequently.

It’s also important to use enzyme cleaners by themselves. Don’t combine with other cleaners since this will reduce or destroy the effectiveness of the enzymes. If you’ve put other cleaners on first and haven’t gotten them completely out, the enzymes may not work properly.

Spray bottle for enzyme cleaner-cat urine

Some enzyme cleaners with a good reputation and reviews are…

  • MisterMax Anti-Icky-Poo
  • Urine-Off Odor and Stain Remover for Cats
  • Simple Green Cat Pet Stain & Odor Remover (not regular Simple Green)
  • Nok Out
  • Rocco & Roxie Professional Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator
  • Mella Magic Enzyme Pet Stain & Odor Remover

Some can be used directly on pets or people (e.g., for skunk smell removal) and some cannot. Read the labels closely to be sure you’re getting what you need. No matter which one you buy, be sure it’s specifically for cat urine and follow the instructions carefully.

The Basics of Using Enzyme Cleaners

Follow the directions for the specific cleaner you use but these basics will be what you’ll do to get all the cat urine cleaned. Be sure the product works on the surface you’re cleaning (carpet, wood, brick, etc.)

If you’re dealing with an old stain, you may have to apply the cleaner more than once. Just be sure you let each application dry completely before trying again.

  • If the stain is fresh, blot up as much as possible
  • Follow the instructions on the bottle
  • Soak the area well (don’t just spray lightly). Cat pee wicks down into carpeting and other materials. Enzymes have to wick down to clean it. Get them deep into cracks and fibers.
  • Let the enzymes stay on as long as possible
  • Blot up as much of the cleaner as you can
  • Let it air dry for the amount of time specified (usually overnight)
  • Cover the area so it can dry slowly. Tarp, foil, or plastic bags placed loosely over the area work well. The longer it’s wet, the more active the enzymes will be and the more pee will be cleaned.
  • Covering it keeps your cat from peeing where the enzymes are working. It also keeps people from walking or sitting on it.
tabby cat lying on a rug-floors are often places where cat urine needs to be cleaned

This can work even on mattresses and pillows where the pee has soaked down in…as long as you make sure the cleaner soaks in where the pee is.

Once your treatment is done, use a black light to be sure you’re getting everything. If anything still shows up, treat it again or reactivate the enzymes with water.

Enzymes Are Environmentally Friendly

Enzymes are environmentally safer than other cleaners and don’t have to be combined with detergents, abrasives, etc. Their pH levels are neutral which makes them non-caustic.

Since they simply convert pee to carbon dioxide and water, enzymes don’t kill anything and don’t go down the drain into wastewater. So you can use them without that worry.

There’s Hope to Clean All the Cat Urine!

As you can see, there’s hope to finally get rid of all the cat pee stains in and outside your home. If you clean it all carefully and make changes to help your cat be secure in his world, you’ll be able to live stain-free and happy with your little buddy! Follow this trail for more info about getting your kitty happily back in the box…


RELATED PAGES OF INTEREST

Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?Deciphering Cat Pee Patterns
Location, Location, Location…the Box?Symptoms of Illness in Your Cat
The Territorial CatWhat’s the Best Type of Cat Litter Box?
What Are the Best Types of Cat Litter?Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Box?

Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary. Primary are always preferable and have the most reliable information because primary sources are original and directly referenced. Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own. However, sometimes they refer to primary sources. Thus, when I use secondary sources most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

“DIY Cat Stain & Odor Remover That Actually Works”, by Chrissie Klinger, Hills, November 14, 2016

“Enzyme Science”, About Cleaning Products

“How to Clean Urine in 6 Steps”, Feliway

SCOE10X

“How to Remove Cat Urine: Why an Enzyme Cleaner Must Be Used”, CatCentric, by Laurie Goldstein, November 2011

“How Bio-Enzymatic Cleaners Work”, by Selmene Ouertani, Ecomastery Project, October 5, 2017,

“The Top Five Uses for Enzyme Cleaners in the Home”, National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors

“Why You Should Use Enzyme Cleaners for Your Home”, Pro-Tek Products

The Cat Whisperer by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com

Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011,

Total Cat Mojo by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017,

“A Major Urinary Protein of the Domestic Cat Regulates the Production of Felinine, a Putative Pheromone Precursor”, Science Direct, Chemistry & Biology, Volume 13, Issue 10, October 2006, Pages 1071-1079,

“Something In the Air: Why Cat Pee Stinks and How to Control Litter Odor”, Appetizer