If you’ve ever shared a home with a cat, you’ve most certainly smelled the distinctly pungent odor of cat pee a time or two. Cat urine (and its stinkier cousin, cat spray) smells so strong, and is so offensive to some, that an inability to prevent or deal with cat urine odor consistently ranks among the most common reasons cats end up homeless and in shelters.
There are a number of potential reasons your home smells like cat pee-and not all of them involve cats! As unique as the smell may be, there are actually quite a few things that smell like cat urine.
If you’re certain the cat urine smell you’re sniffing is, in fact, caused by your beloved feline family member, follow these steps to have your home smelling fresh, clean, and odor-free.
The very first step in managing cat urine odors in the home is to determine why your cat isn’t peeing in the proper place. A visit to the veterinarian can rule out underlying medical conditions that may cause your cat to pee inappropriately. The most common health-related causes for unwanted peeing include urinary tract infection and undiagnosed painful conditions, like arthritis. While not a medical condition, per se, an unaltered cat may be spraying or “marking its territory,” outside of the box. Most often spaying or neutering your pet will solve the problem.
Hands down (and paws down, too), the number one reason a cat may not be peeing in the appropriate place is that he isn’t being provided an appropriate place. While the fancy, deluxe, top-of-the-line litter box in the corner may seem perfect to you, if your cat doesn’t like it, he simply won’t use it. Same goes for the litter you line the tray with. And, if you’ve got multiple cats, the number of litter boxes in your home is important, too.
Some cats prefer an open box while others like a little more privacy under a cover. Some cats don’t mind jumping into a litter box with high sides, while others can’t be bothered to put forth any more effort than is absolutely required. Once you’ve determined the style of box your cat prefers, you’ll have to pick the right litter. Most cats are naturally content to use litter with a sand-like consistency while others may prefer a dust-free pellet type litter or even a shredded paper litter. And, like human children, sometimes our fur-kids don’t like to share. As a rule of thumb, you should have one litter box per cat, plus one. (So, if you have two cats, you should have three boxes; if you have 3 cats, 4 boxes; and so on.)
Of course, you’ll also want to keep your cat’s litter boxes scooped regularly, usually at least once per day, and completely emptied, washed, and refilled with fresh, new litter at least once monthly. Maintaining a clean litter box will keep your cat happiest and keep cat urine smell to a minimum.
Now that you’ve ruled out any medical conditions and prepared a potty area that your cat is happy to use, you’ll need to get rid of cat pee smell to prevent your kitty from returning to those spots. Part of what makes cat urine smell so strong are the pheromones released in urine. Those same pheromones act as an attractant to your cat. So, as long as cat urine or pheromones remain inside your home, it’s very likely your cat will return to those areas to relieve themselves.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be hard to locate the source of the smells. Even a small amount of cat urine produces a big smell. You may need to don your detective cap and start seeking out clues.
...if the pet urine smell first hits you when the air conditioner kicks on, look for stains and odors near your air conditioner’s return vent.
...if the cat pee smell is stronger during certain times of day, look in areas of the house that get warmer during those times.
...pay close attention to carpet, piles of laundry, shoes, pet beds, blankets, or towels as those are popular places for kitties to sneak an unwanted pee.
If you still can’t seem to locate the source of the cat pee smell, wait until dark, turn off all the lights, and shine a blacklight around the room, paying special attention to corners and edges of carpets and flooring. When shone under the ultraviolet rays of a blacklight, the odor-causing chemicals in cat urine illuminate. Blacklights can even help you to discover very old spots and a pet stain or two that you might not have even been aware were there.
While your feline family may have already been using their litter box for years, if they've developed the habit of urinating outside the box, it may be time to litter box train your cat again. If kitty is continuing to pee in the same spot, even after a thorough house cleaning, consider moving a litter box to that spot. Once she begins using the box regularly again, slowly begin moving it to a more desirable location.
Remember, while it may sometimes seem like your cat is peeing outside of the litter box out of spite alone, there's always a reason—and a solution—for the bad cat behavior.
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