Urine Marking: How to Get Rid of Smells
Does Your Cat Toilet Where She Shouldn’t?
You can be truthful. You’re amongst friends here.
Behaviorists call this unpleasant habit “inappropriate urination”. It starts for any number of reasons, for example a bladder infection that causes a sense of urgency to pass urine or the stress of a new kitten moving in. But what starts as a one off quickly becomes a bad habit unless you get rid of lingering odors which draw the cat back to the scene of the crime.
Cat urine contains scent signals that are precious to cats. Having a sniff where she toileted is the cat equivalent of checking her Facebook feed. But more than that, she’s sending out a message to other cats that this is her toilet spot. And of course she wants to keep the signal strong and vibrant which means topping it up regularly.
A crucial part of putting an end to inappropriate urination is getting rid of odor. Equivalent to switching off the internet, removing the urine mark means there’s nothing to attract her back.
But here’s the rub. If you reach for bleach you are accidentally amplifying the smell, because ammonia is a component of urine. Indeed, many of the household cleaning products in your kitchen cabinet contain ammonia, so rather than helping clear up the problem they make things worse.
There’s an art to effectively de-odorizing a ‘crime’ scene, and here’s how to do it.
Mopping Up Spills
When you find a fresh damp patch, blot it up immediately.
Top tip: Use disposable kitchen paper.
When you use a sponge or towel, there’s a risk of spreading the scent when you use it next time (even after a thorough washing) which means your aiding and abetting the offender.
Then once you’ve got rid of the wet evidence, time to remove the smell. But if you shouldn’t use household cleaners, what should you use? This is the regime that pet behaviorists recommend. (When treating any surface, check a small area first for color fastness.)
Steps 1 – 6
#1: Blot the area with paper towel
#2: Spray with area with a solution of biological washing detergent [Ratio of one part of powder or liquid to 10 parts of water.]
#3: Blot again with paper towel
#4: Spray with a solution of bicarbonate of soda
#5: Blot again with paper towel
#6: Spray with clear surgical spirit / rubbing alcohol
Although that sounds pretty thorough you’re not done yet. Once is not enough. You must clean the area again several times a week. In fact, you can only stop after three weeks of repeated cleaning, provided the cat hasn’t peed there again.
Prepare for Success
Sometimes even the patented cleaning method isn’t enough, because urine absorbs into carpet or wood, and gets into cracks between the wainscoting and the wall. Once it’s absorbed and dried in the subtle scent can be very difficult to shift.
If your cat is a known offender then it helps to be proactive and make it difficult for the urine to absorb. This means varnishing or waxing wooden surfaces to ‘waterproof’ them so the urine stands out in beads rather than soaking in. If there are gaps between the wainscot and the wall or floor, then fill them with waterproof bathroom sealant.
Top tip: Wooden chairs standing in a puddle will absorb urine. To prevent this varnish the underside surface of the feet that contacts with the floor.
Heavily soiled carpet may be beyond redemption and need throwing away. If starting afresh and investing in new carpet, put a layer of heavy duty plastic between it and the underlay to stop any ‘spills’ soaking through. This can also make it easier to clean up if ‘accidents’ do happen.
A Warning about Electricals
Some particularly hardened offenders will pee on electrical items. They find this super-satisfying because when a TV or hi-fi heats up with use, it vaporizes the urine and releases the smell into the air.
When rehabilitating a cat that repeatedly pees on electricals, consider covering those items with polythene when not in use. Indeed, investing in a glass fronted hi-fi cabinet can save you money in the long run as it’s not always possible to clean inside delicate electrical devices.
And of course, if the cat sprays on walls then it’s wise to place a flap of plastic over electrical sockets to avoid electrocution or shorts.
The Bigger Picture
If your cat develops bad toileting habits, don’t despair. There are strategies that help to reduce the cat’s urge to spray. Make sure you’ve covered the basics such as having enough litter trays and keeping them clean (or use a self-cleaning tray). Plus look at ways of reducing the cat’s stress and making the home as pleasant a place as possible.
Removing underlying stress, making her feel secure, and keeping the cat mentally active, all help to reduce her need to scent mark. All of which makes for a happier and sweeter smelling home for everybody.
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