Cat Urine Odor Removal and Poor Cat Ownership

Cat Urine Odor Removal and Poor Cat Ownership

by Michael
(London, UK)

Fancy cat litter tray - photo by Daniesq (Flickr)

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Fancy cat litter tray - photo by Daniesq (Flickr)

Cat urine odor removal and poor cat ownership are linked. As a person who has created a website I have to find out what people search for so that I can try and satisfy demand. The phrases or words people use to search are called "keywords". When I search for keywords in relation to cat urine, every single one (of 200 keywords) is on the subject of how to remove it. In other words everyone is searching for ways of clearing up cat urine that is not in the cat litter. No one is searching for ways to prevent a cat urinating outside the litter! The whole process is reactive and yet it is not that difficult to work out what is going on. A bit of trial and error and some commonsense will usual solve the problem and eliminate the need for cat urine odor removal techniques (incidentally one of the specialist enzyme sprays are the best cat urine odor removal products).

What prompted me to write this post is a short and frankly horrible submission by a women in Florida. The post, which is reproduced verbatim below typifies, I think, the kind of blind ignorance of too many cat caretakers (actually you can't call these people caretakers). It is frankly pathetic and I see the failure of humankind in this ridiculous post:

are cat pees every where i mean every where it,s a white Ragamuffin cat i mean it,s pretty but im sad were giving it away i hate it when were giving it away

This is a genuine submission, believe me. It is the entire submission. Is she joking (I don't think so)? Her name is Sabrina and she lives in Florida, USA. The grammar and spelling is appalling. The thinking is appalling. Note to Sabrina: you don't give away a cat for this reason. First, have a look at what you are doing.

You know what they say? It is all about education. I am not saying that a good education prevents poor cat keeping but I am saying that it encourages it and there are many more poor cat keepers amongst people who are badly educated than amongst those who have been fortunate enough to be educated.

This is not a criticism of badly educated people. It is probably not their fault but it is someone's fault!

OK back to cat urine removal and that ghastly quote above. Actually this reminds me of another RagaMuffin cat story: The RagaMuffin and the Princess.

The experts call it "inappropriate elimination", meaning inappropriate from our point of view. It is the most common "behavioral problem" (another well worn cat phrase). What causes it?

First we have to differentiate between urinating and spraying. Spraying is territorial marking, a claim on territory and dominance over it. When a cat's territory is threatened it many spray to assert its position. Domestic cats sometimes do it, particularly intact males. Urine is sprayed horizontally onto objects. Urinating is eliminating waste from the body. A cat that sprays will urinate in the usual place (e.g. the litter box).

In my experience neutered, fully socialised domestic cats that are loved and neither under stress from their human companions nor from other cats, don't spray. The cure is then to neuter or spay (female) the cat and create a cat friendly non-challenged environment.

As to urinating in the wrong place, a urinary tract infection should be immediately ruled out. A vet can check for that very quickly and easily. Cystitis and other infections cause the cat to have uncontrollable urges to urinate. The urine will be dark perhaps bloody and in small amounts.

If the cat is confirmed, by a vet, as healthy the most common causes of inappropriate elimination are:

  • Dislike for the litter box: the material used, or its location
  • The cat is suffering from an emotional problem

Cats can have a preference for specific types of litter. Or they may have formed a habit of using a certain type of litter or surface. Charlie my three legged cat taught himself to use earth outside as he used to go into an outside enclosure.

Cats that start to urinate on carpet can go back to the same spot as a habit and as it an area for urinating and defecating. Wild cats sometimes have "toilet areas". These are also territorial markers. This can be an obstacle to a cat going back to a litter box (i.e it maintains the problem). Cleaning the area with an enzyme cleaner should work and/or placing the litter box over the area. Then gradually move the box back to its original location.

A clean litter box of the litter type that your cat finds OK, that is in the correct place (
for the cat - try different positions - privacy helps) should work. Some cats might prefer a litter box without a cover. The litter must be cleaned daily at least and cleaned properly. Try different litters and bigger box in a quieter location. Try two litter boxes in different locations. Cats should not be disturbed when using the litter.

Cats are creatures of habit (we are too) as it is comforting for them. Cats use similar spots for certain activities (e.g. sleeping). Once the habit to use a litter box is formed things should tick along nicely.

As to emotional upset causing inappropriate elimination, a classic problem is separation anxiety. I recall a well known Persian cat rescue organiser saying that the best cat caretakers are over 55 years of age as they are around more.

People who are away all day and sometimes in the evening as well may come home to find that their beloved cat has peed on the bed. The bed smells very much of us. The cat is stressed. In my opinion the cat is scent exchanging when doing this. This is a comforter - the same as rubbing against us when we feed a cat or when meeting a cat. Sometimes a stressed cat will sleep on its litter. The cat is going to a place that is hers or his for comfort.

Employing a cat sitter may help (if that is financial practical). Another cat might help but it might cause more stress. There will be a period of adjustment.

Stress can be caused by other cats coming in i.e. stray cats, and time share cats. This needs to be dealt with if it is causing problems. If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat the only solution is an electronically controlled cat flap, it seems.

I hope this page helps Sabrina. I fear that it will not. The learning curve is too step for her.

I am sorry but cat urine odor removal and poor cat ownership are often linked by plain old ignorance and as hurtful as this is it must be faced for the sake of the humble cat. There really is a need for greater control over the people who keep cats. Far too many are in the wrong hands. And it is the cause of problems far greater than inappropriate elimination.

A compulsory induction course on cat husbandry at a cost of $100 (or (£100 in the UK) might filter out some inappropriate owners.

Michael Avatar

Associated pages:

History of cat litter

Original photo (above) on Flickr website

Cat urine odor removal and poor cat ownership to Home Page

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Cat Urine Odor Removal and Poor Cat Ownership

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Nov 19, 2010 I agree Michael
by: Ruth

Great article Michael and you are so right about ignorance being the cause of many problems with cats.
The grammar and spelling of Sabrina is typical of a person who obviously knows nothing about how to care for a cat. The chances are high that the poor cat is declawed as she is the type of 'owner' who will think it's a good thing.
Not a thought that cats come with claws because they need claws.
I've said for many years that anyone wanting a cat (or any other pet) should be made to pass a competence test before being allowed to have one in their home.
Sadly this is never likely to happen as animals lives are of such little value to a lot of people and their welfare way down the priority list.
Our friend/neighbour has 15 cats and no litter box problems as we ensure there are plenty of litter trays, in private places and that they are kept clean.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Mar 27, 2010 Quality of litter and tray
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Avoiding urine odor has a lot to do with the quality of the cat litter. Some of the cheapest brands don't absorb the urine at all, but leaves a pool in the bottom of the tray.

We use a very fine grained litter made from a type of clay called bentonite and it lumps very nicely, making it quite easy to remove the waste. It costs more, but soon becomes economical as you don't have to change everything nearly as often as with the cheaper brands. Usually adding a little more once a week will do.

The brand we use has an added baby powder scent. I can't stand it, but for unknown reasons it seems to tell the cats what the litter is for. I am aware that the dust of this fine grained material could be a cause for worry, but to my knowledge no risk has been proven so far.

Our litter trays are the covered type in order to reduce cat litter on the floor when they cover things up. Snow White put a lot of energy into digging, while Milly doesn't.

Also the opening of the tray has the highest edge available. This is to prevent Milly from peeing out through the door as she always stands with her legs stretched out. Snow White is more of the sitting type and does not have similar problems.

cat in cat litter box
Photo by Finn Frode

The picture above shows our covered litter trays with Snow White resting in one of them. It's a one off shot - she usually prefers more comfortable places. 😉

Finn Frode avatar

Mar 24, 2010 Two very good comments
by: Michael

Thanks for two nice comments that add to this post. I hope we find out about declawing but I feel that we will not.

Bob, I never knew that. Thanks for the information.

Michael Avatar

Mar 24, 2010 Is the cat de-clawed?
by: Susan

Did the woman in Florida mention if the cat is de-clawed? That would be the reason the cat is not using the litterbox as declawed cats are twice as likely as clawed cats to have inappropriate urine issues:

"Among 218 cats relinquished to a shelter, more (52.4%) declawed cats than non-declawed cats (29.1%) were reported by owners to have inappropriate elimination problems." Source: World Small Animal Veterinary Association – 2001

Mar 24, 2010 Odors
by: Bob

I agree with you, Michael. Shelters (usually) do not smell bad, nor do homes of good breeders, and these places house multiple cats. Why then should a home with one or two cats smell worse? This is yet another responsibility of ours when we decide to live with a cat. El Ray had problems using the litter box, but he had his medical reasons. Once they were resolved, it still took a little time to get him using the box. Fortunately, he always chose the same room. So I removed the carpet, cleaned the subfloor, and replaced the carpet after it dried. One note worth mentioning is that those enzyme type cleaners will not work correctly if the area has been previously cleaned with a chemical cleaner. It contaminates the organic material and the enzymes won't remove it.

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