How To Remove Cat Urine
Odor From Carpet

Nothing says you have a pet cat more than cat urine odor. Add humidity to the equation and the odor can be unmistakable, even unbearable. A real source of embarrassment when guests come to visit.

To correct the problem, cat owners try many remedies. They scrub the affected areas, use various air fresheners to mask the odor, use baking soda mixtures or even scented candles.

Pet store products designed to eliminate the odor can provide some relief. Finally, a professional carpet cleaner is consulted which can produce varying degrees of success.

Frustration drives some cat owners to just resign to live with the problem. Others replace the carpet hoping the cat will not wet again.

No question about it, this is a tough odor to remove.

Why is urine odor from a cat so strong and difficult to remove?

A cat's urine contains higher levels of uric acid and urea than other mammal urine. The high concentration of protein in their diet coupled with the fact they don't drink much water makes for strong cat urine odor.

It's the uric acid in the cat's urine that forms uric acid crystals otherwise known as urine salts, and is the reason for the pungent odor.

As the liquid content of the urine evaporates, the odor from the urine salts is minimized. When the uric acid crystals absorb moisture from humidity in the air or from a cleaning product the urine salts give off the foul odor.

Unless the cat has an infection, its urine comes out odorless and is on the acid side of the pH scale. As the urine dries, however, the urine changes from the acid side to the alkaline side of the pH scale.

This is important to know because most carpet cleaning products are formulated on the alkaline side of the pH scale. Alkaline based cleaning products have little cleaning ability on alkaline based soils. Acids neutralize alkalines and vice versa.

What procedures do we follow to remove cat urine odor?

1. Locate the odor source:

Although it's more difficult to correct cat urine odor, than dog urine odor, it's easier to find the urine source. Cats tend to excrete against a border such as a wall or piece of furniture, not in the middle of the room. With this in mind, we look for visible evidence in the form of spots or discolorations. Visible evidence is not always present in urine contamination odors.

To aid in locating the odor source we use a "black (ultraviolet) light". The urine salts give off a "fluorescent glow" in the presence of ultraviolet light. In a really darkened room you would be amazed to see all the spots that glow revealing just how much your cat has been going without you even knowing it.

Another tool to locate the source of urine odor is with an electronic moisture detector. The moisture meter is extremely sensitive to the slightest amount of moisture and sticky residues found in the urine of a cat, even in the "dead of winter" when the heat is on and the smell of urine is minimal.

Even with the use of a black light and a moisture meter, locating the source can be difficult. The most available and practical method of locating urine problems is the nose. Generally used as a last resort, getting down on our hands and knees may be the only sure way of locating the source of the problem.

2. Assess the extent of odor contamination:

The average sized cat can excrete enough urine to wet the carpet face, the backing, the padding (if present), the wooden tack-less strip (if present on wall to wall carpet installation) and the sub-floor (hardwood, plywood or concrete).

The extent of the cat urine contamination will determine the course of action taken to remove the cat urine odor source.

In cases of isolated contamination, the problem can usually be effectively treated without the need to remove and replace the padding, tack strip or seal the sub-floor. In cases of large area and overall contamination, the carpet needs to be disengaged from the tack strip and inspected from the back to determine the scope of the problem.

Once the severity of the contamination is evaluated, the cost to correct verses the cost to replace the carpet can be determined. If correction is more cost effective, the contaminated padding and tack strips can be discarded and replaced with new.

3. Clean the surface where the cat urine odor exists:   

The process of cleaning the surface begins by removing the urine salts which cause the odor. The carpet or affected area is saturated with a solution that liquifies the urine salts. Enough solution is applied to recreate the "crime", to reach wherever the urine has gone (the carpet surface, backing, padding, etc). This liquified contamination is then extracted from the affected area and the carpet surface is thoroughly cleaned and ready for the deodorizer.

4. Apply a suitable deodorizer to eliminate any remaining cat urine odor:

The purpose of the deodorizer is to counteract and destroy any remaining urine salts. The odor will no longer exist once the urine salts are eliminated. The carpet or affected upholstery is saturated with deodorizer in much the same way the the solution in step 3 above was applied. The deodorizer begins working to destroy the odor and as the carpet dries, the odor goes away.

Please note, cat urine can be extremely difficult to remove and may require another pet odor treatment to fully remove all odor.

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