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Tips for Cleaning Cat Urine Off Carpets

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Life with a cat can be very rewarding, but when kitty “misses” the box, it can be a problem, and if you have a carpeted home, this is a problem that can linger. Fortunately, cat urine is not invincible. With these simple strategies you can make sure it doesn't hang around:

Tackle the problem as soon as an accident occurs. If your cat has urinated on the carpet, the Humane Society of the United States recommends blotting the area with an absorbent paper towel as soon as possible. This removes excess urine and leaves you with less odor-producing mess to deal with later.

Choose an enzymatic cleaner. When cleaning up cat urine, it's best to use a formula specialized for pet odors. Enzymatic cleaners are the best products for such a job. “[They] release cultures that literally eat the urine, leaving things sanitary and smell free once dry,” notes ApartmentTherapy.com. This is especially important because cats can smell leftover traces of urine that we can't -- which means they might soil the area again. Just be aware that enzymatic cleaners work best on areas that haven't been treated with other cleaning chemicals.

Use a wet vac, but avoid a steam cleaner. We generally think of steam as being able to clean anything, but the intense heat from a steam cleaner can actually cause odors to set into carpet fibers, defeating the purpose of cleaning in the first place. Instead, opt for a wet vac that expels cool, clean water onto the carpet, then extracts the dirty water back into the tank. This will rinse the area without enhancing the odor.

For air freshening, reach for a baking soda-based product. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a natural odor absorber. If you're planning on using a store-bought air freshener, select one that has baking soda as a primary ingredient. Of course, you can make your own do-it-yourself air freshener, like this recipe from HowStuffWorks.com:

  • 1 cup crushed, dried herbs (rosemary, southernwood, lavender, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

You can also sprinkle baking soda onto your carpet straight from the box. After letting it sit for an hour or longer, you can then vacuum it up.

Focus on prevention to keep future accidents at bay. If your cat starts “missing” the litter box, it’s time for a vet check-up before anything else. Inappropriate elimination can be a sign that something else is going on and, without getting the all-clear from your vet, any other work you do to prevent accidents could go, well, down the toilet. If your vet confirms that there’s nothing medically wrong, focus on behavior modification methods such as retraining your cat how to use her litter box, cleaning out her litter box more often, laying down disposable, absorbent pads (like puppy training pads) where she usually marks, and adding extra litter boxes if there is more than one cat in the household. A veterinarian may also be able to help you address the problem by spaying or neutering your cat, and checking her for kidney, bladder, or anxiety problems.