We love our pets. In fact, studies show that about 63% of Americans have at least one pet. About 2/3 of pet owners have more than one pet, and 20% of pet owners have a whopping five or more pets. 48% of pet owners consider their pets members of the family.
There are more cats out there than dogs – but more families actually have dogs than cats. It seems, you see, with cat owners that one is never enough. And, while cats, dogs, and fish remain the most popular pets, other species are gaining in popularity. For example, turtle ownership in the US has grown by 86% since 2001.
Americans spend lots of money on pets, too. In 2006, Americans spent more than $24.5 billion on veterinary expenses alone. There’s no shortage of products out there to take care of every possible imaginable pet situation. You’ll find gourmet foods, expensive toys, clothing, and lots of gadgets for all our animal companions.
With our pets becoming such a part of our families, it’s no wonder that we’re anxious to get their odors under control. It can be frustrating to tame the smells of these stinkier family members. Whether it’s a smelly litter box or just the vague lingering scent of dog fur on the couch; it’s annoying for us and embarrassing when we have visitors.
Pet odors do require regular attention, and there is no shortage of products promising to conquer them. But, how do you know which ones work? And what are the techniques that can help you control odors effectively and without spending too much money or using harmful chemicals? In this guide, we’ll give you lots of ideas on how to remove and control those pet odors in your home. We’ll include both commercially available products and things you can make at home. No, you’re not going to have to get rid of the cat.
Understanding the Odors in Your Home
So, just where are those smells coming from, anyway? Well, there are lots of causes for pet odors. Because they come from different sources, some are more difficult to remove than others. Dog odors from fur, for example, are far simpler to remove than cat box odors. But, both kinds of odors can be conquered if you know the right techniques.
It’s important to note that you are likely somewhat immune to the odors in your home. Rest assured pet odors are much more noticeable to visitors in your home than they are to you. So, if you want to really conquer the odors in your home, ask a true friend to help you out. Have them try to identify the odors (are they ammonia from urine, the smell of feces, or the smell of wet dog?). In what parts of the house can you smell them? Then, as you work to get them under control, be certain to ask them periodically if things have improved.
You may find that once you get the worst odor under control, a new one comes to light that had been buried by the more overpowering one. So, if you really have pet odor problems, it may take a while to get them under control. But rest assured; it can be done.
Urine is the Number One Offender
The likely most offensive odor in your home is that of urine. It has the smell of ammonia and is very pungent. If you have a cat litter box, the urine odor is usually very prominent. But, you can also have a urine odor if your pets have had accidents in your home; particularly on your carpet. These odors can be hard to remove from the carpet.
They are especially hard to remove to the point that your pets, which have a much stronger sense of smell, no longer smell them. But, it’s important to fully get rid of the urine odors to prevent repeat offenses from your pet. As long as they can smell the spot they soiled, they may return to it to soil again.
Second in order of offense in terms of odor is the smell of feces. This is a problem with cat litter boxes but is also a problem if you have birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, etc. It can even be a problem with fish if your tank isn’t cleaned out regularly. Luckily, most of the smell of feces is gone once the incriminating evidence is removed. But, the smell is particularly offensive and pungent. If left too long, it penetrates the things around it.
Fur odors can be a problem, too, and they are able to penetrate rugs, fabrics, and upholstered furniture in your home. This smell creeps in over time but can ruin fabrics and furniture if left too long. Fur odors also linger on your pets themselves, too. Some animals have more trouble than others; dogs like sharpies with lots of wrinkles are prone to lots of odors. Finally, Seborrhea, skin irritation can cause redness, irritation, and infection in the skin, along with a foul odor. Your vet can treat this, most likely with a special shampoo.
Dogs can have other odors, too. They are likely to have bad breath, which can be alleviated by regular brushing, as well as by providing treats specially designed for removing tartar from their teeth.
Some dogs also have ear problems that can cause severe odors. Certain ear infections, most common in dogs with very floppy ears, such as spaniels, not only cause itching and irritation but cause bad smells, too. Proper treatment of the infection will take care of the odors too.
Finally, dogs have anal glands on either side of their rectums. These glands are normally expressed as the dog marks his territory, but they can become impacted, causing discomfort for the dog and a foul odor, too. This odor also requires treatment from the vet. If you notice your dog sliding on the floor on his backside or you see streaks of blood in that area, it’s a likely sign that he needs to visit the vet for help.
So, now that we know the things that are likely to be causing the odors in your home, we can work on getting rid of them. We’ll tell you the best home remedies, commercial products, and techniques to keep your home odor free without having to get rid of your pets.
Eliminating Simple Pet Odors From Your Home
There are many pet odors in your home that are pretty simple to eliminate. In many cases, simply stepping up your cleaning habits regarding your pets’ living quarters can make a huge difference.
The simplest pet odor to eliminate from your home is usually the odor coming from your dog’s fur. Even dogs that live in the house can get smelly, and that smell can penetrate upholstered furniture, fabrics, and rugs.
The first step in eliminating these odors is to keep your dog really clean. Regular bathing is a must, particularly if your dog spends time outside, where he is likely to be rolling in the dirt (and who knows what else). Different breeds of dogs, however, can tolerate different frequencies of bathing. Bathing a dog too often can cause problems with dry skin, but this problem can often be eliminated by bathing the dog with a shampoo particularly formulated to relieve dry skin. To determine how often you should bathe your dog, consider the following things:
Rough coated dogs like Collies can probably be bathed once a month, even if they’re mostly indoor dogs since most of the dirt that gets in their fur can easily be brushed out. The rough coat keeps the dirt from penetrating. Soft coated dogs like the Maltese may need to be bathed as often as once a week if they go outside because their fur will hold the dirt. Wrinkly dogs, like Sharpei’s and some bulldogs, also need frequent bathing. Bacteria and odors grow in those wrinkles, and bathing, working down into the wrinkles is the only way to remove them.
Where he spends his time
If your dog gets on the couch or sleeps in the bed with you, he needs to be bathed more often than a dog that’s never on the furniture. Otherwise, everything he’s picking up outside, like germs, feces, and dirt is getting on your furniture.
How fastidious he is
Some dogs are just cleaner than others. Some roll in the dirt every chance they get, while others just barely get their feet dirty when going outside. Some long haired dogs, in particular, have issues with feces getting stuck in their hair when they defecate. These dogs need regular bathing, and they need regular grooming to keep the hair short around their backside. Otherwise, not only do you have the dog fur smell to contend with, but the smell of feces, too.
Allergies in your family
If you have family members that are allergic to your dogs, bathing the dogs regularly will help keep the allergies in check, because you’re regularly removing the dander that builds up, triggering family allergic reactions. However, if your dog has allergies, you may need to check with your vet before choosing shampoos. Dogs with allergies may have difficulty tolerating frequent bathing unless the proper shampoo is used.
Of course, your next concern may be the fact that the smell of a wet dog, even after a bath with a great-smelling shampoo is one of the worst dog smells around. This is certainly true, and it’s caused by the fact that the sebum in the dog’s skin is activated when the dog gets wet. To neutralize this odor, give your dog a final rinse in 1 gallon of water mixed with either ¼ cup of lemon juice or ¼ cup of vinegar. You’ll have little or no wet dog smell.
On rainy days, keep two towels by the door where your dogs enter and exit. Make sure that both have been dried in the dryer using a nice smelling dryer sheet. (Don’t use dryer sheets on the towels you use for yourself; the dryer sheet makes them less absorbent.) Put one towel on the floor for them to walk on with their wet feet.
Towels will absorb much more water than rugs. Use the second towel to dry them off before you let them get all the way into the house. The use of the dryer sheet on the towels should help neutralize that “wet dog” smell.
Some people also report a reduction in dog odor by switching their dogs to a higher quality dog food, and by ensuring that their dog has plenty of clean water to drink.
Help!!! The Dog Was Sprayed By a Skunk!!!
If your dog spends some of his time outside, and you have skunks in your region of the country, he may eventually come home reeking of skunks. It’s a horrible smell and can be one of the most difficult to get rid of. Don’t go out and buy tomato juice. Try this remedy instead.
Combine 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid hand soap. Soak your dog thoroughly to the skin with water and then pour the solution all over him, working the solution all through his hair and down to the skin. Let it soak for three or four minutes and then rinse. The skunk odor should be gone!
Keep in mind, however, that baking soda and hydrogen peroxide combined make a very volatile combination. The merging of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda creates lots of oxygen in a big hurry. This chemical reaction is what makes this solution work, but it’s also fierce enough to explode in a closed container. So, whatever you do, don’t put it in a closed container.
This recipe is enough for a medium sized dog; double it for a large dog.
Other people report good results using baking soda and beer. Wet the dog, and then rub an ample amount of baking soda into the hair and skin. Next, pour two bottles of beer over the dog and rub them into the hair. Then rinse and shampoo.
So, What If I Have a Stinky Cat?
On rare occasions, you’ll have a cat that is somewhat smelly, too. And, most of us fear for our safety at the thought of bathing a cat. Fortunately, there are just three main causes of smelly cats.
The first is, just like dogs, feces clinging to hairs around the backside. This problem usually occurs with long haired cats and often happens when they get older and may become less fastidious. To combat this problem, first, ensure that you have a clean litter box. (See Chapter 3) Secondly, you may need to trim the hairs around the cat’s backside to prevent the problem. Using scissors is risky since one unexpected move from the cat can prove dangerous to both of you. If your cat isn’t frightened of the sound, using clippers or a shaver is safer. Regardless of how you try to remove the hair, it’s best to have one person hold the cat, wrapped in a towel, while another person does the clipping or shaving. If you’d prefer not to clip or shave your cat, you may try using baby wipes or witch hazel wipes on their backside to keep them clean.
This same problem can happen with urine. If the cat’s urine gets in their hair and dries, it may emit an ammonia smell. Wipes work well to combat this problem, as it may be even more difficult to clip hair from the underbelly region. In addition, this problem can occur with short haired cats as well as long haired ones.
Occasionally, you’ll find a cat that has smelly fur. Again, as with dogs, you may find some relief if you change their water more frequently and ensure that they always have plenty and if you switch to a higher quality cat food. If those tricks don’t work, your cat may really need a bath. You can buy dry shampoo at pet stores as well as bath wipes that can be used to bathe your cat without having to get it wet.
If your cat gets sprayed by a skunk, the same remedy mentioned above will work to rid him of the stench.
Keeping Furniture and Rugs Clean and Odor
So, now that you know how to keep the dog and cat clean, you need to get rid of the smell they’ve already left on the furniture, rugs, and linens. For washable fabrics, it’s pretty easy; just give them a good laundering at the same time you give the dog a bath, or on a regular basis if you only have cats. It can be a little trickier for upholstered furniture and rugs.
Regular cleaning is a must for upholstered furniture and rugs if you want to keep them clean and smelling sweet. Have them professionally cleaned once or twice a year.
To keep rugs and upholstery clean between professional cleanings, you should do the following:
- Vacuum rugs regularly. Sprinkle a little baking soda or powdered carpet and room deodorizer on them once a week before you vacuum. This will dramatically improve the smell. If you prefer a fragrance, use the carpet and room deodorizer; if you prefer no scent at all, use baking soda. The baking soda simply neutralizes the odor without leaving any scent behind. You can also fill a spray bottle with half white vinegar and half water, and use it to lightly mist carpets and furniture. It does a great job of neutralizing pet odors.
- Upholstered furniture should be vacuumed regularly too, particularly if your dog rubs against it like a scratching post, and if he joins you in your favorite chair or on the couch. In addition to vacuuming and yearly professional cleaning, try putting a washable blanket on the couch for the dog to lie on. With a little consistency, the dog will learn that this is “his” spot on the couch. (You’ll have little luck training a cat to stick to a blanket.) And, you can wash the blanket whenever you need. Another option is to use washable slipcovers on your furniture since they can be laundered whenever needed. Likewise, any dog or cat beds should be easy to launder and should be laundered regularly. I like to wash the cover on the dog’s bed on the same day I give him a bath.
- Fabric refreshers, like Febreeze, are also great for helping keep your furniture smelling good. Lightly mist couches or chairs weekly.
Odors from Other Pets
Other pets, like rodents, birds, and even reptiles can cause odors in your home. Here are some ways to combat the common odors from other pets.
Birds can get smelly faster than any other animal. 90% of what you smell is the cage. It’s not enough to just scoop the poop out; you have to clean everything every day, because the floor of the cage, as well as the food and water bowls, grows bacteria very quickly. This bacterium creates a very bad odor. So, unless you’re cleaning everything daily, you’re likely to have a smell.
Lining the bottom of the birdcage with newspaper will make it easier to give the floor a daily cleaning by just removing the paper. You can purchase some special pellets at pet stores that are sprinkled on the floor of the cage (or your newspaper) to help it smell fresher. They are safe for the birds and will help control the odor throughout the day. Once a week, however, you should disinfect the entire cage, including toys, by cleaning them with vinegar and water, even if you’re using paper at the bottom of the cage.
It’s also important to make sure that your bird has fresh water for bathing. If your bird is reluctant to take a bath, try spraying him with a mist of water each day. When he gets a bit wet, it should cause him to preen, getting his feathers fresh and clean.
Keeping a home with birds smelling fresh also requires proper ventilation. Good air circulation from open windows is a great way to help the house stay fresh. If it’s too cold or hot for this, try using an air purifier to help keep the air clean. Be sure to change the filter often.
It’s important to note that many of the techniques you would use to mask other pet odors cannot be used with birds. Spray air fresheners, as well as the air fresheners that are plugged into outlets, can be toxic to birds, so they must not be used. Candles are fine as long as the wicks are lead free and the fragrance used to scent the candles is safe for birds to inhale. Natural fragrances like vanilla and lavender are usually fine. Check with your vet for more information on air fresheners and birds.
Another alternative is to use a simmer pot on the stove to keep the air smelling fresh. Simply keep a pot of water with cinnamon sticks, cloves or citrus peels (or any combination of the three) on a low simmer throughout the day. It gives your home a great smell and is completely safe for the birds.
Water turtles, such as red eared sliders, can have very foul smelling tanks. Each tank must have a wet area for swimming (they usually poop here, too) as well as an area for basking plus another dry area. Because they are in the water, they can smell really bad.
Be sure your tank is large enough and has a good filtration system. But, even with that, you’ll have to change the water frequently to keep down the smell. Fortunately, since these pets don’t wander the house, as long as you keep the tank super clean, you should have no problem.
Check with your pet store regarding proper cleaning solutions, as some could be harmful to the turtles. You can’t go wrong, however, with vinegar and water for cleaning the tank. Keep in mind, however, that these pets carry salmonella, so thorough washing of your hands with warm soap and water is imperative after handling the turtle or cleaning the tank.
Box turtles and other tortoises that don’t require water are many cleaners. If you keep it in a dry tank, you’ll need to change its bedding every few days, but that’s about it. In the right climate, you can let these pets live outdoors in a fenced area, provided you have no poisonous plants. This makes them completely maintenance free.
Pet snakes are typically carnivores, so by nature, they’re going to have very stinky poop, regardless of what kind of snake you have. The only remedy is regular cleaning of the tank. You’ll likely be using some sort of bedding in their tank. The best kind is something formulated specifically for snakes that has a good smell.
You cannot, however, use pine scented bedding, as it causes respiratory problems for the snake. Like with other pets, however, regular cleaning of the tank is the only way you’re going to keep those smells at bay. Change the bedding every day and disinfect the entire tank at least weekly with vinegar and water or some other disinfectant (check for safety first). However, unfortunately, even with diligence, you may never completely get rid of a snake’s odor.
Lizards do not smell. Lizard poop, however, does smell. So, the good news about lizards is that as long as you keep their tank clean, you should have no problem at all with odors. You may also be able to get by with cleaning their tanks just once a week and still have a sweet smelling house. Your experience with the lizard will tell you just how often you need to clean. When cleaning the tank, take out everything and wash food bowls, rocks, etc. with mild soap and water. Do the same with the tank itself, being certain to rinse everything well. Discard the old bedding and replace it, and you should be odor free for another week.
With any sort of rodent, the most likely culprit for odors is, again, the cage or tank where he’s living. Bedding should be changed at least once a week; more often if you notice a smell. Most rodents need at least 3 inches of bedding in their homes, and everything should be washed with soap and water when you swap out the bedding. Keeping an air purifier or candles near the cage can help as well. Just be certain you don’t allow yourself to mask odors rather than clean them.
Unfortunately, if you have bad cage cleaning habits for a while, your rodent’s body may begin to stink. If, however, you’ve been very fastidious about keeping your rodent cage clean, and you’ve given them the proper type of bath, yet they still stink, it’s time to visit the vet. A clean rodent that still smells bad could be diseased. Keep the following in mind when considering bathing a rodent.
Guinea Pigs can be bathed, but short haired varieties should be bathed just once or twice a year. Long haired varieties may require more frequent bathing. Use baby shampoo or shampoo formulated for guinea pigs or kittens. Do not wash their faces and be certain to get them completely dry before returning them to their cage. There are also spray products you can use that allow you to avoid getting the guinea pig really wet.
Hamsters, Gerbils, and Chinchillas
Hamsters, gerbils, and chinchillas should not be bathed in water. Doing so removes their natural oils and can cause them to catch a chill and die. Instead of wet bathing, put a bowl of chinchilla or rodent sand in their cage. They will roll around in it to clean themselves. Then remove the dirty sand, and you should have a sweet smelling hamster, so long as his cage is clean too. Give him a new bowl of sand about every other day to keep him clean.
It’s very important not to leave the sand in the box after he’s finished. First, the rodent may begin to use the sand as a litter box if you leave it. Secondly, too much exposure to dust could cause eye irritation, particularly in chinchillas. Alternatively, you can buy wipes or deodorizing sprays at pet stores that can be used to clean hamsters and gerbils. Just remember that they should not get very wet.
So, as you can see, keeping your pets and your home odor free from the most common odors is mostly about keeping ahead of the smells in their habitats. Pet odors can get out of hand quickly, but staying on top of the cleaning should keep them at bay.
The Cat’s Litter Box
A cat’s litter box can be, far and away, the most repulsive pet odor around. And, the really bad news is that, as a cat owner, you may become immune to the smell, or smell it only when it’s really bad. And, the more cats you have, the greater your challenge. But, here are some ways you can conquer cat litter box odor.
1. Feed your cat the right diet
Low quality dry cat food, as well as wet cat food, has more fillers and will cause your cat’s feces to have a very foul odor. Switching to a higher quality dry cat food may reduce your little box odors significantly. Be certain to switch the food gradually, mixing the old with the new and gradually adding a higher percentage of the new food, to avoid stomach upsets.
2. Choose a high quality litter
Cat litter is expensive, so it’s tempting to buy the cheapest you can find. However, you’ll probably spend more money on low quality cat litter in the long run, because you’ll have to change the litter so frequently. Better quality litter absorbs odors better. Avoid litter with fragrance crystals. They’re more expensive, the crystals do little to control odor and they’re messy. In addition, your cats may not like the smell.
3. Choose clumping litter
Clumping litter makes scooping the cat box pretty simple. Again, choosing a high quality clumping litter is important. High quality litter designed to clump will clump more tightly, making it easier to ensure you’ve scooped out all the urine.
4. Have one extra cat box
Experts recommend that, if you have multiple cats, you have one more cat box than you have cats. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, some cats are very finicky and do not want to share a bathroom. This can really be a problem when you add a second cat to a household where only one cat has lived for some time. The older cat may not want to share the litter box with the new cat and may revert to soiling outside the litter box in rebellion. Having one per cat, plus one extra should alleviate any problem.
In addition, each cat box is easier to clean when there are multiples. You’ll find some very picky cats that refuse to urinate and defecate in the same litter box. Luckily, there are very few of these cats. But, if you happen to have one, you may need to have two litter boxes, even for one cat.
5. Be diligent about cleaning your litter box(es)
Some cats will refuse to use a dirty litter box, and revert to soiling other places if you’re not keeping up. And, even if your cat is willing to use a dirty litter box, doing so may cause him to get urine or feces in his fur, extending the odor problem beyond the litter box.
6. Use a cat box with a carbon filter
Carbon filters can really help absorb odor.
Here are instructions on how to keep your litter box clean and smelling fresh.
Use scoopable litter and scoop twice a day. Regular scooping gets rid of the offending odor. If you happen to have one of those cats that refuse to bury his feces, you may find that no litter can control the odor. In this case, you may want to scoop every time he defecates. If the feces haven’t been buried, you can simply flush it down the toilet. As you scoop, add litter as needed to ensure that your cat box has a good layer for burying.
After you scoop, you may want to sprinkle the top of the litter with either baking soda or carpet and room deodorizing powder, even if you’re using an odor control littler. It’s just a little extra odor control.
Once a week, dump out all the cat litter and thoroughly clean the floor around the cat box. Then scrub out the cat litter box with a disinfectant or with white vinegar before you replace the litter. Use this opportunity to make sure that everything around the litter box is clean, as it’s possible for cats to get urine outside the box, too. You can also vacuum up scattered litter before you put the box back. Completing this step every week will help ensure that your litter box is really clean.
Before you put the litter box back, add a thin layer of litter and then a layer of baking soda, carpet, and room deodorizer or litter box odor control product. Then add another layer of litter and then finish with another layer of your odor control mechanism. This way, as your cat scratches after eliminating, they’re infusing odor control all through the litter.
You can find lots of tools and products to help you keep your litter box clean. There are plastic liners that work much like garbage bags. You line the litter box with the plastic and then when it’s time to do the weekly dump, you just gather up the liner like a garbage bag, tie it off and throw it away. With these liners, you should have little scrubbing to do, since the cats are not going directly into the box.
There are also automated litter boxes that scoop the box periodically and empty it into a lidded plastic container. When the container is full, simply dump it. These litter boxes are expensive but can be helpful for cat owners who aren’t home often and may have difficulty scooping as often as needed. Though these automated boxes are convenient, they don’t beat regular upkeep as a method of odor control. Finally, consider locating the litter box in an out of the way place. A closet or shower stall, dedicated to this purpose and outfitted with a pet door if needed, is ideal. Your cat will appreciate the privacy and you’ll have fewer problems with noticeable odors, too.
What if My Cat Goes Outside the Litter Box?
Cats are usually very easy to litter train. In most cases, you can show even a young kitten the litter box one time, and potty training is done. But, occasionally, you’ll have a cat that either doesn’t consistently use the litter box or who begins soiling elsewhere after having used the litter box consistently. These are two completely different problems, so we’ll handle them separately.
The most common reason that cats are abandoned or taken to the shelter is failure to use the litter box. And, considering the fact that our country is overpopulated with cats, many of these cats, as you might imagine, are euthanized because homes cannot be found for them. It’s really quite sad because if you understand the issues that are causing your cat to eliminate inappropriately, you can nearly always solve them. Cats are naturally fastidious creatures and want to eliminate them in a clean and unchanging spot. There are many things you can do to facilitate this natural habit and get your cat on the right litter box track.
If a kitten or cat that is new to the house is using other spots besides the litter box as his bathroom, it’s likely for one of two reasons.
The first issue could simply be that the cat can’t remember where the litter box is, or, particularly if it’s a young kitten, can’t get there in time. Remember that your home seems very large to your new cat, and he may not be able to locate the litter box when he needs it. If this is the case, you may need to confine him to a smaller area until he gets a little older. Another alternative is to add another litter box in another area of the house so that he has two choices. However, once you do this, you may find that it’s difficult to remove the second litter box later, as the cat is accustomed to it.
Another common cause of young cats not using the litter box is if they are confused, and have come to believe that another spot in the house is an appropriate bathroom. Once a cat has been eliminated in an inappropriate spot, he may continue to return to this spot as long as the smell remains. In this case, you must completely remove the smell from the affected area in order to correct the problem. You’ll find instructions on removing the smell of urine in the next chapter.
Your vet can tell you about products that can be used to attract your cat to the litter box. These products are often helpful for training kittens that need that little extra “push” to find the box and remember to use it. If you have a cat that previously had an established litter box routine, but has now reverted to eliminating in another place, it’s likely a different problem. Ask yourself the following questions to try and determine why your cat has changed his habits.
. Have you changed litters?
It’s possible that the cat doesn’t like the new litter, particularly if you’re using a scented litter. Just because you like the smell, doesn’t mean he does. Even changing the cleaner you use when cleaning the box can make your cat rebel.
. Have you changed litter boxes or changed the location of the box?
If the answer is yes to either of these questions, then there’s a good chance that your cat simply doesn’t like the change. For example, many large cats do not like covered litter boxes because they feel too confined. In addition, most cats do not like to eat near where they go to the bathroom. (Would you?) If you’ve located the litter box too close to the food bowl, you may have trouble.
Many people simply set up three or four litter boxes in their home, in different shapes, sizes, and locations; each with a different type of litter. Once they determine the cat’s preferences, they set up a box custom designed to their cat’s liking.
. Are you keeping the litter box clean?
Some cats are very finicky about their litter boxes. If you’ve slacked off about cleaning the litter box, your cat may be in rebellion. This is actually a defense mechanism. In the wild, predators use the scent of urine to locate their prey. Eliminating in a dirty litter box may make your cat feel vulnerable to danger.
. Have you inadvertently created a negative association with the litter box?
Punishing your cat near the litter box or performing unpleasant tasks like nail clipping near the box could cause your cat to simply not want to be around the box. Move the box and stop performing the unpleasant tasks near it and you may solve the problem.
. Have you added a new cat?
Some cats don’t like to share their litter boxes. If you’ve added a new cat, and your old cat has reverted, this is likely the cause. Adding one or two more boxes may solve the problem.
Has your cat been through another recent traumatic experience?
Moves to a new household, the addition of a new baby or a person who had always been at home suddenly being gone from home can all cause stress on cats. In some cases, they may express this stress by urinating in the wrong places. If the situation cannot be remedied, rest assured that the cat will eventually adjust. However, don’t forget that in order to facilitate the cat getting back to his old litter box routines; you must completely remove the urine odor so that he does not continue to return to the same spot to urinate.
If none of these issues apply to you, then it’s time to take your cat to the vet. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease could be the cause. This disease causes severe pain during urination, which can make your cat avoid the litter box because he associates it with pain. The disease is treatable, but left untreated can kill your cat.
Diabetes may also be the cause of your cat’s inappropriate urination problem. Perhaps he has to go frequently and urgently and simply can’t get to the litter box in time. Diabetes is fairly common in older cats, and can often be treated. If your cat has diabetes, however, you may need to put additional litter boxes in your home to make bathroom visits more convenient for your cat in addition to treating the disease.
Spraying vs. Urinating
Though it has the same end result, spraying is a very different problem than urinating. Spraying comes from a dominance issue and is done to mark territory. Both male and female cats spray to mark territory if they’re unaltered; though the behavior is more common in males. Occasionally, even altered cats may spray under extreme stress. A cat that has never sprayed is most likely to begin the habit when a new cat is introduced into the household.
When a cat is spraying, you’ll find urine on vertical areas, such as the side of your couch, as well as on the floor. There are some ways to deter your cat from spraying in a particular spot.
- Make the area where he sprays unpleasant to him. You can tape plastic to it, put sandpaper on it or make it smell like lemon. Any of those things will discourage a cat from coming to a particular area.
- Many cats like to spray in the bathtub or sink. If this is where yours sprays, keep a little water in them at all times.
If you can’t stop the cat from spraying, altering the cat can usually solve the problem. If your cat is already altered, however, your vet may be able to provide medications that can help.
Of course, regardless of the reason for the inappropriate elimination, you must remove the urine odor. Not only does your house smell terrible, but the cat may continue to return to the spot to eliminate because they now smell the urine, too. The tips in the next chapter will help you remove the odors, but you might want to keep the cat out of the area for a while, too. This way they can get re-oriented to the litter box, helping them forget their other elimination spot.
So, now we’ve given you lots of ways to help improve the condition of your litter box and to help improve the chances that your kitties will actually use that litter box. Those two things can go a long way to eliminating cat litter box odors from your home. The next step is to get rid of the lingering urine odors that your pets have left on carpets, fabrics, and rugs.
Only when the lingering odors are gone can your house smell really clean. And, only when the smells are gone to the point that your pet can no longer smell them can you really be sure that your pet won’t return to the area to re-offend. In the next chapter, we’ll help you remove the smell of urine, which is the most difficult odor to get rid of.
Eliminating the Odor of Urine From Your Home
As we’ve mentioned before, urine is the number one pet odor problem. This is because it is such a pervasive odor, and becomes trapped in everything that it touches. It’s also a big problem because when it is left untreated, it invites your pet to continue to soil inappropriate areas. And, since your pet’s sense of smell is about 200 times stronger than yours, it’s critical that the odor be removed completely.
The first step in eliminating urine odors from your home is by using a black light. When a black light is used in a darkened room on areas where pets have soiled, you’ll be able to spot them quickly, because they will fluoresce. It works on fabric, carpet, and furniture. Without the black light, you may not be able to find all the old soiled areas. Black lights are inexpensive and easy to find at discount department stores.
You will need the blacklight only for old urine stains. You can catch recent offenses, and mop them up thoroughly to remove most of the urine. A good microfiber towel is a great way to soak up most of the odor. You will still, however, have to treat the affected area even after removing soaking up the urine.
Removing Odors from Clothing and other Washable Fabric
Of course, removing urine from washable items is usually simple. In many cases, simply washing in warm water and regular detergent does the trick. However, there may be some washable items that may be a bit difficult to clean because the fabric simply absorbs the odor better than other fabrics.
When washing clothing, linens, or curtains soiled with urine, do not put the items in the dryer until you’ve verified that the stain and the odor are gone. If you dry them with heat, you may actually set the odor and stain so that they cannot be removed. If a simple washing doesn’t work, there are some additives you might try to help remove the stain or odor from the clothing.
– For stains
Adding borax to the wash can help remove urine stains from clothing. In fact, borax is what the experts in antique quilts recommend to remove those yellow age stains that appear on old fabrics. It’s also great for removing the yellow stains that urine might leave. If your stain is on fabric that is heavy duty and white, (such as a white towel), you may accomplish both stain and odor removal by simply washing it in hot water with bleach.
– For odor
If, after regular washing, your clothes have no yellow stain, but still have the odor of urine, try washing them again and adding one cup of white vinegar to the wash. The vinegar should neutralize the odor, but the clothing may now smell just a bit like vinegar. If so, one more wash in the regular cycle should get rid of the vinegar odor.
When it comes to carpet and upholstery, removal can be more difficult. There are many products on the market that claim to remove the odor of urine from your carpet and upholstered items. Some of them work and some don’t. Even professional cleaning may not always remove the odors from the carpet. Many products contain ammonia, which is not at all good for removing the odor of urine. This is because urine itself has the smell of ammonia, so you’re doing nothing to remove the smell that attracts your pet to reoffend. If you choose to purchase odor removal products, be certain to check the labels for ammonia.
Later on, we’ll list some specific products that have had good reviews on their ability to remove odors from carpet, upholstery, and mattresses. But first, we’ll show you how to make your own product for removing urine from carpet, upholstery, and mattresses. This little concoction should be tested on an inconspicuous spot before you use it. Because it contains hydrogen peroxide, it can bleach some fabrics and carpets.
Home Remedy for Cleaning Urine Stains and Odor
1- If the urine stain is recent, begin by soaking up the urine as mentioned above. Soak up as much as possible before beginning the treatment. Keep reapplying microfiber towels or paper towels until you can no longer soak up any more urine.
2- Next, mix a solution of fifty percent white vinegar and fifty percent water. If you’re working on carpet, you must use a liberal amount of this solution to reach the carpet fibers deep down. On upholstery, you’ll need less, and you may want to remove cushions from their covers and treat each separately. Work the solution in with a scrubbing brush to ensure it penetrates the carpet fibers below.
Now blot the area again using the paper towel method above. The vinegar will neutralize the ammonia in the dog’s urine. If you own a wet and dry vacuum, you can now use it to remove the excess solution, but it is important to soak the carpet thoroughly.
3- Leave the area to get dry or nearly dry. Then sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda over the area. Mix 1/2 cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide (you can buy this very inexpensively at the drug store) with a teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent. Be certain not to use any caustic product and do not use automatic dishwashing detergent. Do not use a hydrogen peroxide solution that is stronger than 3%. If you don’t have hydrogen peroxide on hand, you can substitute laundry stain remover with hydrogen peroxide. Check the label before you use it, but any stain remover with “oxy” in the name will likely work.
4- Next, pour the mixture of detergent and hydrogen peroxide over the baking powder. (You might want to wear rubber gloves.) Using a scrubbing brush, work the mixture into the carpet thoroughly. Allow the area to dry completely and then vacuum thoroughly.
This solution works in almost every case to remove the odor of pet urine from your carpet and upholstery. There are, however, some caveats to this treatment. Keep the following in mind:
- You may have to repeat this process more than once, particularly on carpet where your pet has eliminated repeatedly. But, eventually, once you’ve reached every fiber, the odor will be removed.
- You may have more trouble removing cat urine than dog urine. This is because you’re less likely to notice that a cat has urinated in a particular spot until he’s done it several times, and the smell has become apparent. You see, when dogs urinate, it’s a significant amount of liquid, and you’ll likely notice it. But, when cats urinate, it’s such a small amount that it may soak right into the carpet, fabric or mattress unnoticed. By the time you realize it’s there; it reeks. So, you may have to treat cat urine spots several times. But, don’t be discouraged.
If you’re treating upholstery, this solution may not work on foam cushions. In this case, you may simply need to replace the foam inserts in the cushions, which can be done fairly inexpensively. Check with your furniture manufacturer to order replacement cushions.
What About Professional Cleaning?
You’ll hear many people say that the only way to remove urine from the carpet is to have it professionally cleaned. In some cases, this is true. You will most likely need professional cleaning if you’ve allowed a dog or cat to repeatedly soil the same area over and over for a long period of time. If this is the case, the urine has soaked, the carpet, the padding under the carpet, and even the subfloor beneath the padding. There are some cases in which a section of carpet padding must be cut out, the subfloor under the carpet cleaned, new padding added and the carpet then professionally cleaned in order to remove the urine odor. Of course, such situations require the help of a professional.
These cases are extreme, but certainly possible. However, before you spend money having the carpet professionally cleaned, try the technique above. You can remove most or all of the odor yourself. So, when you do decide to have your carpets professionally cleaned, you can do so for the extra added cleaning and maintenance benefit; not just because of urine odors.
Cleaning Leather Furniture
If you have leather furniture, you may also notice that the leather can pick up the odor of urine, particularly if it has been soiled repeatedly. Here is the remedy for removing urine odor from leather furniture.
First, remove the cushion from the leather furniture if possible. Clean the foam separately with the above mentioned solution, or replace it if the cushion cannot be cleaned.
Next, mix ½ teaspoon of dish detergent with a quart of warm water. Beat with an electric mixer to create a large volume of suds. Using a sponge, wipe the leather using only the suds you have created. It’s important not to overwet the leather and it’s important not to scrub too hard. Clean the leather, using the sponge and suds, on both the inside and outside of the cushion cover. When the sponge becomes soaked with urine, rinse it out. Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned the leather, use a clean wet sponge to remove the detergent from the leather. Let the cover dry completely before putting the cushion back inside.
These solutions should help you remove the odor of urine from the most difficult areas of your home. However, to really get your home completely odor free, remember that all surfaces that have been soiled must be truly clean. You may need to launder throw pillow covers, clean pillow inserts, or even replace some of your more inexpensive items that have been soiled.
Hard floors must be thoroughly cleaned, too. Using a disinfecting cleaner appropriate for your type of floor, be certain to clean up accidents thoroughly. Simply wiping up the urine with a paper towel may not be enough to keep your pet from eliminating in that area again. Ceramic, stone, slate, and hardwood floors are somewhat porous, even if they’ve been sealed.
Therefore, if not kept clean, pet urine can penetrate the floor, making the odor very difficult to remove. Vinyl, stone, slate, and ceramic floors can be cleaned with disinfecting floor cleaners. Vinegar and water work well on hardwood floors to clean the urine and neutralize the odor at the same time.
Other Great Ideas for Odor Removal
You’ve likely noticed the recurring themes of vinegar and baking soda in odor removal. Vinegar is great because it neutralizes the ammonia in pet urine. Baking soda neutralizes the odor of the vinegar but also can help remove all sorts of odors by absorbing them. When you sprinkle baking soda on something; the odor goes into the baking soda. Removing the baking soda then completely rids you of the odor.
Vanilla is also a good odor remover, though it may not be potent enough to remove a strong urine odor. However, it’s a great quick fix until you can get to the store to get the products you need to remove the odors for good. It is definitely great for getting out other odors. Fill a spray bottle with 2 parts water to one part vanilla and use it to mist furniture and rugs in place of a product like Febreeze.
Liquid Chlorophyll has been given good reviews by many as an odor killer, even for urine. It can be purchased at the pharmacy.
Light a match to immediately remove offensive litter box odors. If your guests are due to arrive any minute and your cat just dirtied up the litter box, this works well. Scoop the box, of course; but then light a match to immediately neutralize the fecal smell.
Rubbing alcohol can also take out the smell of urine in some cases. However, it’s likely best used if you catch your pet eliminating in a particular spot for the very first time. Soak up the urine as completely as possible, then drench with rubbing alcohol. Then soak up as much of the alcohol as possible, and allow drying thoroughly. This isn’t likely to work, however, on spots where your pet has been eliminated repeatedly.
Baby powder can be used in place of baking soda sprinkled on top of the cat litter to help control odor.
Products That Come Highly Recommended
If you’re not interested in making your own carpet cleaner for urine, you might want to try these products. They come highly recommended as great products for removing the odor and stains pets can cause.
- Anti-Icky Poo
Silly name, but tough product. This product is made by Mister Max, and was specifically designed to combat the odor of pet urine. It’s also great for getting out the odor of vomit.
- Bramton Simple Solution
Bramton Simple Solution works with hungry bacteria, which eat the odor-causing components of cat urine, leaving behind carbon dioxide and water. The formula is safe on fabrics and carpet – anywhere water can be used.
Thornell’s Cat Off Liquid Concentrate
This product is usually only available through your veterinarian. It can remove odors from any surface, and usually works when other products don’t.
Some other products that can be helpful in preventing pet odors, particularly from the litter box include:
- Carpet Fresh
Powdered freshener for your carpet. Sprinkle it on rugs and carpets before vacuuming to help remove dog and cat odors. Sprinkle in the litter box on top of the litter each time you clean to keep the litter box smelling fresh.
- Oust Candles
These little candles are great for removing odors from the air. They’re the perfect antidote when you have company coming and waited a little late to clean the litter box. Light one and let it burn until it burns itself out. They are not highly fragranced, but eliminate odors beautifully.
- Oust Spray
This spray is similar to the candles mentioned above. It doesn’t sweeten the air, masking the odors, but rather removes them. It doesn’t, however, work quite as well as the candles.
- Arm and Hammer Odor Control Products
Arm and Hammer makes both a spray and a powder you use in the litter box to help control odors. They are baking soda based, making them great odor neutralizers.
In the next chapter, we’ll talk about working with your pet to eliminate the possibility that he’ll soil your home again.
You’ve worked hard to get rid of the pet odors in your home and your office, and this will help prevent your pet from soiling these areas again, so long as you’ve removed the smell sufficiently that your pet can’t smell it.
However, the most important part in ensuring that your home stays odor free is preventing those re-offenses through training. An appropriately trained dog will not soil in the house, but it’s up to you to train him to be a good house dog. Here are some tips for potty training a puppy.
Working With Your Dog
1. There is no substitute for supervision
Your pet has had some troubles with accidents in the house, or you wouldn’t be reading this guide to eliminating odors. One of the most important aspects to house training your dog is making sure they’re not left alone in a position where they can soil the house. Observe your puppy closely. All dogs have a routine before they eliminate.
They tend to sniff around looking for a good spot before they eliminate. If you can take your dog outside as soon as you spot this behavior, you’ll be able to avoid accidents and teach your dog the importance of eliminating outdoors. Remember to take your puppy out right after eating and as soon as he wakes up until a good routine is established.
2. When you have to leave the dog home alone, confine him
Confine him to an area where an accident won’t create a long term stain, such as on vinyl or ceramic floor. Crate training is also a great way to house train a dog since you leave the dog in his crate whenever you can’t supervise him. Dogs are very unwilling to soil their beds.
3. Keep them away from their favorite “soiling spots”
Just as important as supervision is keeping your dog away from his favorite spots, particularly if you can’t keep your eye on them. Even though you’ve removed the odor, the dog does remember that he used particular areas for eliminating it. Give him time to forget before you leave him unsupervised in his favorite areas.
4. Create a routine
Even young puppies will react quickly to an established routine. If you take your puppy outside consistently and reward him for good behavior, you’ll significantly reduce accidents in your home.
5. Don’t scare him
When your puppy has an accident in your home, tell him “no” firmly, and then take him outside. But, don’t put his nose in the accident and don’t scare him. He needs to know you mean business, but you don’t want to make him afraid of you.
6. Show him where it is ok to go
When you take your puppy out to eliminate, take him to the same spot every single time. He’ll smell the urine odor and it will act as a signal to go to the bathroom, the same way he did in the house.
Proper dog training is the overall key to reducing odors in the home of dog owners. Once you can be sure that your dog will no longer eliminate in your home, your cleaning and deodorizing methods will be more gratifying and more lasting. So, ensure that your dog gets properly housebroken as quickly as possible to ensure a clean and sweet smelling home.
A Word About Cat Training
Though cats take to their litter boxes fairly easily, a new kitten must receive some house training. They are babies and will have an accident or two in the first few days. If you’ve had both kittens and puppies, you’ve likely noted that kitten house training is far easier. Still, there are some things to keep in mind.
- Just like with a puppy, if you notice your kitten eliminating in an inappropriate spot; tell him “no” and move him to the litter box. Don’t yell or scare him. Give him positive reinforcement when he eliminates in the right place.
- Keep the litter box clean, so he’ll want to use it.
- Make the litter box convenient. If he has to travel too far to get to it, he might have an accident. Confine him to an area near the litter box when you can’t supervise him.
If you keep these things in mind, you should have your kitten completely trained within a week, so long as he’s at least six weeks old. If he is still eliminating inappropriately, it’s likely for one of two reasons:
- You’ve failed to rid his favorite soiling spot of the smell of urine; or
- He has a health problem
It’s not a foregone conclusion that having pets means your house will have pet odors. It is possible to have the best of both worlds. You can have the pets you love and have a clean and odor free home. It is a bit of a challenge, and it does require some diligence to maintain a clean home with pets. However, there’s no greater companionship than a pet that you love and that loves you back.
And, you see now that conquering the odors that have been plaguing your home is certainly possible; often with just a little effort and a simple home remedy. So, it’s well worth the effort to rid your home of pet odors so that you and your pet can live happily and pleasantly scented, ever after.