Photo: Aspen Photo/Shutterstock
I love my cats. What I don't love is their pee. When it's confined to the litter box, that's great, but sometimes they miss, or they're not feeling well, and they don't quite make it to the box to begin with. And then I have a big, stinky mess to clean up, along with a confused cat who can't figure out why I'm going "blech!" I'm not ready to call in a cleaning service to deal with unpleasant jobs, so I have a lot of experience when it comes to cleaning up cat messes.
I use nontoxic cleaning products in my home, both because I want to keep the environment healthy for me and my pets, and because I want to protect my larger environment and community. No harsh chemicals for me, and no "deodorizing" products that really just cover one smell with another smell, instead of getting to the bottom of the problem and eliminating it. While it's sometimes tempting when I've been working at a cat-related carpet incident, the big guns just aren't that effective.
So how do you clean up cat pee the green way?
If you have pee on a hard surface, lucky you. It's a lot easier to clean up. Throw down some baking soda or paper towels to absorb the puddle (or piddle), and whisk them away quickly. Do another round if you have to in order to absorb all the urine before you start cleaning. You can use a vinegar or hydrogen peroxide-soaked rag to quickly wipe down the surface, remove the urine odor, and, incidentally, kill pathogens that might be present.
However, cats are infamous for their poor choice of vomiting and peeing locations. Which means you're probably looking at pee on a carpet, a bedspread, an upholstered piece of furniture, a beloved pillow, a pet bed, or some other soft, absorbent location. (And, if you're like me, you're probably pondering replacement of that carpet with a nice, easily maintained floor like tile.)
Step one, which is critically important: get to work on absorbing as much of the urine as possible before you even start to think about cleaning, and do it fast. Sprinkling baking soda on the site, allowing it to totally dry, and vacuuming it up is a great idea. The baking soda soaks up the pee and starts the deodorizing process, too. You can also blot with a towel (you'll want to launder said towel in hot water and vinegar or hydrogen peroxide later). Don't rub, because that will spread the urine further.
Once the area is as dry as it can be, you can start assessing the damage and your cleaning options. If you're looking at something that can be laundered (pillows, bedsheets, pet bed, comforters, etc.), launder it, and be prepared to launder it multiple times. Launder cold with regular detergent and a cup of hydrogen peroxide or apple cider vinegar (if you launder hot, stains and odors can set), and test the odor level after the load is done. If you still have some lingering smell, wash again; once that laundry goes through the dryer, you're stuck with what you have.
If you're looking at carpeting, heavy upholstered furniture, and other soft items that can't be laundered, you'll need some more creative green cleaning solutions. One option is a vinegar solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water. Use it in a mister bottle to hit the spot, and then blot to get the stain and odor out (never soak, and never rub!). You can also use a baking soda and hydrogen peroxide mixture to attack smells and stains in much the same way (15 ounces H2O2, two tablespoons water).
Commercial deodorizing products are also available, including green varietals like Nature's Miracle Just for Cats and Simple Green. You can give them a shot if your home cleaning solutions don't work, but you may need to do some experimenting to find one that works for you.
Finally, it's important to note that if peeing is a problem, you may have a larger issue. Cats often miss the litterbox or start peeing somewhere else when they have urinary tract infections, which can become very serious if not treated. Inappropriate elimination can also be a behavioral issue: a cat might be upset about a change in the routine of the house, for example, and could be expressing it in the only way she knows. Consider contacting a veterinarian if repeated "accidents" keep happening.
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