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By Carol McCarthy

If your cat is peeing outside of the litter box—on the floor, on the bed, or on your clothes—cleaning the stain and removing the odor is an important step to ensuring that your feline doesn’t become a repeat offender. The smell of old pee is an attractant that will bring your cat back to urinate in the same location again…and again…and again.

But cleaning cat urine involves a lot more than blotting the puddle with a paper towel. To get rid of any trace of cat pee, you need to be thorough and follow some important steps. Here’s how to get rid of cat urine odor and stains once and for all.

Soak Up Cat Pee

The first step to eliminating cat pee is to physically remove as much of the urine as possible before attempting to clean the surface—whether a floor, bedspread, clothing, or rug—by absorbing it with paper towels or newspaper and disposing of the soiled material immediately, advises Dr. Neil Marrinan of Old Lyme Veterinary Hospital in Connecticut. Responding quickly is key, agrees Dr. Cathy Lund of City Kitty, a feline-only veterinary practice in Providence, Rhode Island. Letting a stain sit makes cleanup more difficult and invites the cat to re-mark the spot, she says.

If Your Cat Pees on the Rug or Furniture

After you’ve blotted up as much cat urine from the carpet or furniture as you can, spray the stain with an enzyme-based cleaner. “I am a big fan of enzymatic cleaners,” Lund says.

Enzymes break down the uric acid in cat pee into carbon dioxide and ammonia, gases that easily evaporate. This process eliminates the smell, which is part of the organic molecule in the pee, Lund says. You can find enzyme cleaners at most pet stores. There are also “green” or non-toxic enzyme cleaners available, adds Marrinan.

Spray the urine stain thoroughly and let the cleaner sink into the carpet for 10-15 minutes, and blot up as much of the liquid as possible. Repeat this process if necessary. You will have to use enough enzymatic cleaner to thoroughly soak all areas (including underlying rug pads or the stuffing of furniture) that have been dampened by cat pee. Don’t worry if the smell actually gets worse for a while. The enzymatic process is not complete until all materials are completely dry, says Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM. This can take weeks under certain conditions. “Do not use traditional cleaning solutions in conjunction with enzymatic cleaners,” she says. “Soaps and detergents can actually deactivate the very enzymes necessary to get rid of the smell of cat pee.”

This same cleaning process can be used on furniture such as couches and mattresses.

Cleaning Cat Pee from Hard Floors and Surfaces

If your cat pees on a hard floor or wall, you have two options. First, soak up the urine with a paper towel or cloth. Then you can either spray the area with an enzyme-based cleaner and wipe it up or use regular dish soap and lots of water Both Lund and Marrinan quoted the idiom “the solution to pollution is dilution” to sum up how important it is to wash away the pee as much as possible.

This means cleaning the location multiple times, letting it dry thoroughly between washings, and keeping your cat away from the location until all traces of the smell are gone.

Vinegar may also assist with neutralizing cat pee smell on hard surfaces. Vinegar is an acid that neutralizes the alkaline salts that form in dried urine stains. Mix a solution of one part water and one part vinegar and apply it to walls and hard floors. You can even mix in a little bit of baking soda to boost the solution’s ability to eliminate odor.

What to Do if Your Cat Pees on Clothing and Linens

If your cat has urinated on a bedspread or linens that need to be dry-cleaned, get the linens to a professional cleaner as quickly as possible. The longer the pee stays on the material the harder it is to get rid of the smell.

If the clothing, linen, or textile item can go in a washing machine, run it through a cold-water cycle immediately and hang it outside to dry, Lund says. If you still smell cat pee after the item dries, try running it through the washing machine again with a cup of baking soda and/or quarter of a cup of apple cider vinegar, and place it outside to dry. Drying the textiles outdoors will help the smell dissipate, says Marrinan.

Cleaning Cat Pee: What Not to Do

Resist the temptation to go with cleaning products that contain ammonia, says Lund. Using an ammonia-based cleaner may encourage your cat to re-mark the area. It’s also important to avoid using steam or heat when cleaning items marked with cat pee. Heat can “set the stain,” says Lund. This applies to the washer and dryer—keep your settings on cold and avoid machine drying your items if possible.

And while you might be tempted to try to teach your cat that she has made a mistake by scolding or disciplining her after she pees in the house, don’t do it. “Punishing is not going to work for a cat,” Lund says. “If you have an anxious cat, and you [scold] her, you are probably making the situation worse.”

Instead of scolding your cat, clean up the area thoroughly and get to work on making your cat’s litterbox as appealing as possible. Several clean, easy-to-access litter boxes will entice your cat to urinate in the proper spot. Place the boxes over the problem areas and gradually move them to where you eventually want them to be.

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