It happens. Hairballs, the occasional (or sometimes not so occasional) scarf ‘n’ barf, urine next to the litter box or in a closet somewhere, diarrhea, and other fun things we peasants have to clean up. Most of the time, if you catch the mess quickly, the smell can be mitigated and is much easier to get rid of. Blot up, spray enzyme cleaner, use extraction cleaner if needed, and move on. If you have the more eccentric of the feline kind, you may find a spot weeks, months, or years later. Moving is a FINE time to discover this, especially when you just sold the house and have to replace all the carpet. Not that I would know or anything…
Some common places to keep an eye out for the stray hair ball or ejected food contents is under the bed, behind or under the living room furniture, and other cat area-adjacent spaces. I had one that only had hairballs under the kitchen table on that particular rug. He also liked to dump houseplants and water glasses over I assume for fun, as we never did find a reason. I have had cats use potted plants as a litter box which is better than the carpet, but still, not cool. If a towel is left on the floor, my Zeus will sleep on it but if it is not moved shortly after he is done, he will just come back and give a good solid pee right on it. Shoes can also be a good target, especially the dressy ones or seasonal shoes. There are a myriad of things that are either just horrible to clean anyway or turn horrid over time, and by the time you notice, you will have a job on your hands. The good news is most things can be handled rather easily.
The easiest of all to deal with is portable, machine-washable items. You still need to use an enzyme cleaner if you expect to remove urine smell or other types of organically-based stains. There are several good brands. I have a particular brand I prefer, but that has nothing to do with being “better” than another brand. The scent happens to be more tolerable to me and does not trigger my migraines. The thing about enzyme cleaners is they need time to work. If I find a soiled towel, rug, or other portable item, I will spray them down, leave them in the washer overnight to give the cleaner time to work, and then wash them in the hottest possible water with pre-wash and regular cycle. This usually works. The trick is to soak the item through enough to get all the organic “mess” cleaned up. I rarely have to do this twice, but it is good to give a good sniff to each portion of your items before drying the item. Even if it smells fine going into the dryer, sometimes the heat will bring out more scent. In this case, I would repeat the process. If this does not do it, you can take your portable item outside or hang it in a sunny window. The UV rays can often get rid of remaining mild scent remnant. There are all kinds of UV light cleaning tools out there. I haven’t tried one yet, but Florida has enough UV rays available for free. J
Hard surface cleaning is somewhat easier, but urine can penetrate anything that is porous. Tile grout, concrete, wood, and laminate flooring all bring their own issues and special cleaning requirements. Then there is carpet. This is a monster I have wrestled with for too many years. Yes, full disclosure, I hate carpet. House shopping involves the words, “Nope, too much carpet.” The cats that have decided to urinate or vomit on the carpet rarely did so out in the open. I had a cat that liked the back corner of the basement, another that constantly wanted to use the hallway closet carpet, and more than one that have squatted in their litter box with good intensions, and end up spraying all over the floor – sometimes the wall and baseboard too. The thing about cat urine is it crystalizes as it dries. If we rewet it or disturb the structure, more scent is released. This is my own experience. I am sure there is a more science-y way to explain it. That is why it is so hard to get rid of the smell of cat urine. The structure gets partially damaged but not destroyed. The smell can come back even months later. That is some strong stuff. The best way to approach an old stain on carpet or furniture, after a spot test of course, I have found is blot up or shop vac the area to get as much out as possible. If you have a carpet extractor that works too, though the regular wet/dry shop vac is a lot easier to clean for the fresher contents. Then SOAK the area with your enzyme cleaner. It can be helpful to cover the area or furniture item with plastic drop cloths or even food plastic wrap for small areas. This keeps the enzymes from drying up before doing their little enzymatic jobs. The older the stain, the longer it may need to soak especially if this is an often-used area for Kitty. After the smell is gone for the most part, we can then use extraction cleaning to remove the residues.
If you don’t have an enzyme cleaner, its it best to either go to your local pet store and get the smallest size possible or even try to find sample sets online (not common but it does happen). This is very important. Do NOT buy bulk the first time out. Your cat may take to the scent and decide this is the perfect place to re-mark over and over. Even orange scents are no guarantee. My youngest baby loves oranges. She tries to paw them out of our hands and she WILL eat them. This part will be a trial and error process for you and Kitty, so don’t invest until you know you have a product that works for your needs.
Emergency odor coverage is another consideration we often overlook. If you can’t stop to clean your stain or you are out of enzyme cleaner, I mix Dawn® with baking soda and some water. Shake or stir that up and pour it on the stain, cover with plastic or a towel. This will help absorb some of the odor, the Dawn® will help break up the oils and structure, and keep the stain from setting until you can get down to the real cleaning. If you have to, you can use a room spray, carpet powder, scented candles, or a closed door in a real scent emergency.
Happy experimenting! Keep in mind, those enzyme cleaners will work on human stains too!
Until then, the Feline Diabetes Support Group on FB is always available for support for questions, venting, and all things sugar Kitty. They will be able to point you in the right direction for good cleaners depending on your region of the world – seriously, this is GLOBAL!