An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cleaning Items Recently Sprayed with Cat Urine

Hi Greyce,

You asked about the items I have recently sprayed. Well the two new leather couches have been getting doused for the past three months. That wall in the basement behind the sofa has only been marked for a week. Right now because Themselves are away and the Daughter is my caregiver, I get to stay upstairs instead of being confined to the basement at night. Yippee! 


Hello Again Indy,

As you know, we cats have a very keen sense of smell. And we like to be surrounded by smells we recognize. Of course these smells decay over time and so we feel the need to mark them again. 

The thing about spraying that really bugs purrsons is that we spray and re-spray the same surface over and over again. The reason is that each time we spray a particular place we get what is known as olfactory reinforcement - so it makes up feel good to continue topping the spot up. It's a challenge to change. 

The sooner that intervention occurs after you begin to spray in a place, the better the chances of breaking the habit. And that is why I want to focus first on the spots you have most recently done.

Later on we will deal with your other spots - possibly in other ways. But right now, it would be great if we could help you break the habit in these most-recent areas.

The Basement Wall

It would be especially good if correct measures can be taken on this spot, since it is your more recent one. Moreover since you are not staying in the Basement overnight right now,  I want to take advantage of this break in your routine (before Themselves return) and see what we can do.

First, clean the mark(s) on the wall properly. 

Cat urine has fats which are not destroyed by the usual cleaning products; they need to be eliminated with an enzyme product because enzymes eat up the fats. In other circumstances I would recommend an enzyme-based cleaner. But NOT in yours - because I want you to use Feliway as well.

Since I will advocate the use of Feliway, you can forget about using Mr. Clean disinfectant or the equivalent. All forms of that particular disinfectant are scented and will thus interfere with the scent Feliway gives off. So putting Feliway on top of a scented surface is just a waste of money, because it makes Feliway ineffective.
So to clean the wall, have it washed and thoroughly rinsed with water. If Herself prefurrs, she can use surgical spirits (isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol are North American equivalents) available from the drugstore.  "But it smells, too," you might way. Yes, but only for a moment. Once it drys the smell evaporates along with the alcohol.

The key is to clean the spot well, rather than just spread diluted urine about. She can use a spray bottle, wet sponge or wet cloth. If using spirits, try a wet cloth and then put a bit of the spirits on that. 

So wipe a small area and then rinse it well (with a rinsed-out or clean sponge or cloth).

Once the wall is cleaned, it should be left to dry. You should NOT have access to that room or area at this time.

Second, when the wall is dry use Feliway spray. Give the spot in question one spritz (one depression of the nozzle) from a distance of about 10 cm (4" American) from the wall and about 20 cm (8" American) from the floor. 

Just one spritz, once a day, every day. 

I want this spritzing to continue for at least 30 days (or until you stop marking it in this way) and then for another 30 just to make sure. Don't worry. We will keep in touch and can discuss when it is a good time to stop.

Third, I want you to install a Feliway diffuser into a wall socket in that room. You will only need one diffuser for this space because a diffuser will 'do' 45 to 65 square meters (or 500 to 700 square feet). I understand you have a lot of diffusers about. Just take one from elsewhere, for now.

Make sure the diffuser is NOT placed behind a door or obstructed by something (like being behind a curtain, or behind or under a piece of furniture). It needs open air to allow it to waft through the room. Otherwise it will not work. Besides, its contents are flammable and you don't want to start a fire.

A diffuser bottle lasts about a month after which you will need to get a refill for it. It can take up to 4 weeks to show results. I want you to leave the diffuser in place for at least 90 days. 

Also Note:

We are using both products here because of your long history of spraying.   

Do NOT use air fresheners or other scented products. No aromatherapy, no sprays, thank you very much.

Make sure your purrsons pay particular attention to the expiry date on both forms of Feliway. These dates are very meaningful. Herself found out the hard way, thinking to use an expired bottle and found it was worthless. So this is a case where the date really makes a difference.

Okay, now for those new leather couches.

The Leather Couches 

Yes, we will keep a Feliway diffuser plugged in this room, just like in the basement room. 

I have not had experience in cleaning leather. While I have looked at several sites, I cannot vouch for them because we have not had experience in using such products. Even so, Herself may wish to consult a site such as Remove Cat Urine or Planet Urine My Herself has used Anti-Icky-Poo with great success (I vote for unscented here) - but not on leather - and I have put an inquiry into them about whether or not their product line is suitable. I will let you know as soon as I get a response. 

I assume your purrsons may have contacted the seller or manufacturer of such couches for guidance.

While it would be great to clean the couches in a way that will not inflict damage, I am woefully ignorant at this. So I'm afraid I have to leave you to it. I just hope you don't use a highly scented product.

Regardless, let us move on. The following will apply whether or not you try to clean the couches first.

Consider purchasing heavy-gauge, clear, vinyl; it is see-through and often sold at places like Jysk or Fabricland (at least where I live) that sell easy-wipe fabric by the meter or yard for picnic tables and such. (Try a hardware store, fabric store or general department store.) 

Clear, heavy gauge (meaning it is one the thick side, rather than paper thin like plastic drop cloths) vinyl has a number of benefits: 
1) You can see it clearly which means that new spray spots are easily located. 
2) It is heavy enough to be able to clean (rather than shredding or bunching up).
3) It is relatively inexpensive.

I would purchase enough vinyl to cover over the sprayed sides of said couches, affixing said vinyl in a safe way so as not to damage the leather. That could mean just draping it over or could require the creative use of something like duct tape underneath and tucking some of it under the leather seat cushions. I don't know your couches so I cannot be more specific. 

The key is to set up an impermeable barrier between the couch and your urine (which is why I would NOT recommend cardboard and the like, instead) - one in which new spray activity can be easily seen and dealt with. (And tell your folks to chill. Eventually they will be able to remove the covers. It will give them something to look forward to.)

Once this system is in place, treat it in the same way as you do that basement wall: Clean the vinyl with water as needed. Let it dry. Spritz once a day with Feliway spray.

I assume you already have a diffuser in this room. If not, please install one.

Some Further Comments
Now I'm going to write a bit about one of the layouts you provided.

Indy's Main Floor. Red arrow show vulnerable entries.

I can really understand your need to christen the couches. First they are new pieces of furniture with strange smells, so you got anxious and had to make them smell comfortable - to incorporate them into your territory. 

Second, I note a great difference in the amount of each couch that you anoint. The one nearest the bay window and corridor is the one that really gets it. And that is understandable. From your point of view, there are two, highly vulnerable areas of this room that could be subject to invasion. The back door (and possibly adjacent bay window), and the corridor which leads both to the basement and most importantly to the front door (source of the dreaded doorbell). It is also open to the kitchen. And so it MUST be protected. Your thoughtful humans provided a barrier which defends the area, namely the couch.

Information, Please

I have some other ideas for this room, but I need more specific information. So here goes:

Now can you tell what was there before the new couches, and if you anointed it/them as well? In other words, I need to figure out how much of this is "let me spray on new furniture to make it mine" and how much is "keep invaders away at all cost".

I would also like to know more about the bay window: 
Does it go from the floor up or is there a wall first, and if so, how high. Is there a ledge on which you lie? Are there blinds or curtains on these windows (and if so, do they close from the sides, the top or the bottom)? 

From what you have shown me, the bay window has nothing in it but the litter box. I wonder if you use said litter box to urine mark (instead of spraying there) when a roaming cat is around? You spray the area opposite the litter box (the fireplace side) which is also adjacent to the back door.

Am I right in assuming that this living area has the bay window by which you see the roaming cats that make you go ballistic? Where do you position yourself when you get riled by the roaming cats in your yard?

About that fireplace what is the fireplace made of (the part you spray on). I need to know because cleaning instructions will vary. 

I notice that you scratch the two chairs in the bay window of the Great Room. And that would be a great way to warn invaders who may think of posing a threat from that window. It is also suitable as a marker in relation to the entrance from the front door. This tells me that you are a vertical scratcher, though I understand that you also use horizontal scratch boards. It also tells me that vertical scratching may be an effective way for you to feel safe and may be an alternative to urine marking if we can lower your anxiety and get you something vertical and purrson-acceptable to scratch. 

So can you please verify that you have no vertical scratching posts? And tell me how high your cat tower is (and what you used it for in the past)?


Since it is a new spray spot, I suggest the water and/or spirits cleaning method followed by Feliway spray. I'm reluctant to suggest the use of a diffuser here, because the kitchen is already one of the most aromatic rooms in a home. Besides the contents are flammable.

So my dear, you have your work cut out for you.