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.

Cleaning Urine and Other Stains

None of us enjoys hearing the words, "Bad cat! Bad cat!" just because of an inconvenient puddle or pile. Humans never consider that we put up with their scented deodorants, air fresheners and the piles of stuff they leave lying about. So why don't they accept our offerings instead of freaking out at something as innocuous a small puddle of cat urine? Or a bit of stool left behind the sofa? Not to mention a plop of vomit on the hardwood floor.

To make matters worse, when their attempts to clean it up go awry and they inadvertently re-attract us back to that very spot for another round of marking, all we get is yet another round of "Bad cat! Bad cat!"

That is why I've prepared this page for the people with whom you live. Feel free to download a copy and place it over your next puddle or pile that you leave.


If your cat has stopped using the litter box, chances are you’ve noticed a smell in your home. And if your cat is spraying urine on the sofa, that smell will be even more pungent. Sometimes your cat might leave a pile of barf, instead. And some of us have been known to leave poop in places you humans just don't appreciate.

If you are the usual human, your first reaction is to shout something stronger than "Bad cat! Bad cat!" But a wise human will, instead, pose the question, "What is wrong that my cat needs to do this here?"

Urine found outside the litter box, poop on the floor instead of in the box, or a puddle of barf may be the first sign of a medical problem. Some possibilities: urinary tract infection, constipation causing pain that gets associated with using the box, pancreatitis. So you might want to check with your cat's vet - just to make sure.

Of course, there could be a purrfectly reasonable explanation that is not medically-based. Some possibilities: a sudden change in the brand of litter, a box in which there is no clean area to deposit poop, another household pet who guards the litter box making it impossible to get to it in time, or the recent ingestion of cat grass helping one to clear the digestive tract by a rather impressive barf.

There are plenty of entries on this blog to assist your cat and yourself on such matters. And of course, your cat can always ask me for advice.

Now let's get to the matter of cleaning.


Start by repeating the mantra: Improper cleaning is no cleaning at all. So listen up. Follow my instructions. And you should be on the road to a less pungent environment.

Step 1. Locate all the spots.
It is usually easy for you humans to spot poop or barf.

I, for example, tend to vomit on the hardwood floor in the middle of the night, at the entrance to the bedroom. That way, my purrsons can easily walk into it when they head for the bathroom in the morning. Of course, I am a thoughtful cat who wishes to alert them with efficiency. Somehow they don't appreciate it.

But sometimes the stain is not that easy to locate because it is not always that visible. Some are hidden under furnishings or behind drapes; and there, the sniff test works well. Especially if you see a feline member of the household thoroughly sniffing particular items or locations, a stain may be involved - because cats are fine sniffers (and may be attracted, for example, to the fats left in a urine stain that was improperly cleaned or not detected).

But sniffing is not always reliable, especially in the case of urine. You may smell it, but you may not be able to locate it exactly as it wafts through the air. In this situation, a black light (an ultraviolet or Wood’s lamp) is advised because it will track down the spot.

This item is available from pet supply stores and some hardware, carpet and/or vacuum cleaner appliance stores. Blacklights come in several forms: a long fluorescent tube, a much smaller wand-like tube, and what looks like a small LED flashlight; but before you decide what to purchase, click on the site for further explanation so you get the one that is right for you.

To use a black light, it pays to review the instructions. For a how-to-use video that also compares the different black lights consult PetLuvR. In my video searches, this one has the clearest explanation.

Usually the manufacturer provides a colour chart of which colours and stain formations to look for. You may get some false positives (areas where there are watermarks or spills from food).

Even after you have cleaned the stain, the black light may still be a mark on the area (even though you wouldn't notice it in normal light) but the stain will have faded; this is because the cleaner removes the organic parts of the stain but the inorganic ones may remain. Don’t worry, it won’t affect your carpet or sofa (or whatever) and it won’t smell. So a cleaned and faded stain is nothing to worry about and chances are you won't see the fading except under a black light.

Just keep in mind that the point in using a black light is to find stains of which you are not aware - most especially urine stains that you might be able to sniff but not accurately locate.

Step 2: Remove the Solids and Sop Up the Liquid

The first line of attack, upon detection, is simple.

With feces and vomit, you will have to remove the solids first. Scrape it off using a piece of cardboard or an old knife, or whatever makes sense to you.

Once the solids are removed, sop up the liquids with rags or disposable towels WITHOUT rubbing. Resist the urge to rub, especially if the surface is soft or textured - like upholstery or carpet, because you can easily damage the fibres and inadvertently push the liquids further down, making cleaning even more difficult.

Step 3. Use the right product to finish the job.

Most products sold are for pet stains in general, that is, they work for pee, poop and barf, and they possibly work for dogs as well as cats. Just make sure that what you buy is for cats. A dog product may not be strong enough for our more pungent urine.

To increase your chance of success, do the following:

Buy from a reliable source. Purchase a product from a pet supply store, your veterinary clinic, or a store that sells flooring or floor cleaning appliances. They are more likely to have the quality of product you need.

Read the label and instructions BEFORE YOU BUY. Get something that is made for cats (NOT dogs, whose urine is more dilute).

Further tips on reading the label:
If the product is anti-bacterial it may be affected by antibiotics (if your cat is taking drugs for a bacterial infection); and so, that particular product might not be suitable for your household.

If you are planning to use Feliway as part of an overall program to discourage your cat from peeing outside the litter box, then do NOT use cleaning products that are scented because they will interfere with Feliway's ability to work.

Compare products since different instructions may be involved, some of which may work better for you or your household. Foe example, some products need you to keep the affected area blocked until completely dry. Depending upon the stain's location and the nature of your household, this may not work well for you.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. He wants his product to be effective and he’s figured out how it is best used.

Don’t scrimp. You won’t save a thing and will only make the problem worse by allowing the fats and smell to come to the surface without having enough of the product to kill them off. Most products are used full-strength. Don’t dilute the product any more than is recommended or you have just poured money down the drain!


There are a vast number of products on the market. My colleagues have used several products and the ones I list have at least one fan amongst my many. (They are in alphabetical order.) Just remember to read the label and if in doubt, test in a small area first.
Anti Icky Poo
Biological washing soda
Club soda - yes, the bubbly kind you drink (for hard surfaces)
Oxiclean for all surfaces except wool or silk.
Nature's Miracle
Surgical spirits (known as isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol in North America). While is has a scent (the alcohol) is evaporates very quickly and so can be considered an unscented product for these purposes.
Urine Erase

Ammonia is NOT recommended because it smells like urine to a cat and will attract him back to the spot. If you don't believe me, consult the  Humane Society of the United States handout. The jury is out on vinegar. There seems to be a difference of opinion depending upon whether the advisor comes from a furnishing and textile perspective (like a cleaner, a home economist, etc.) or a animal behaviour one. I will investigate this matter more carefully and get back to you with my findings.

Scented or Not? 

Some products come with a scent that is designed either the mask the smell, repel the cat (like citrus scents), and/or appeal to humans (like pine or cinnamon). What they do for the cat is debatable - other than to attract him back to the spot. I have found that scents used to repel the cat (citrus scents like orange or lemon) may or may not work depending on the cat. REMEMBER: If you are using Feliway (diffuser or spray) as part of a behavioural program, do NOT use scented products as they interfere with Feliway's ability to work (because, it too is scent-based).


Cleaning  hard surfaces should be a piece of cake. After all you just sop up the mess, apply the product and - depending upon the instructions - rinse it off or let it dry completely.

Here are the most common mistakes people make in cleaning up hard surfaces:

a) Using something that has ammonia in it. This smells like urine to a cat and will guarantee he will come back to christen that spot!

b) Using the same rag or towel that was used to sop up the mess, to apply the rinse. This only dilutes and spreads the mess further.

c) Spraying the rag or towel with rinse water and then wiping over the spot - again just diluting and spreading the mess. The key is to rinse very, very well. And that may require being generous with the rinse and using more than one clean rag or towel.

While a behaviour program is in place, you might want to put heavy gauge vinyl over the dry area to prevent further accidents from causing damage. This is particularly the case if urine is being repeatedly sprayed on a piece of furniture. Use plastic carpet protector (available from hardware stores) or heavy guage vinyl sold in fabric stores (the kind sold on the roll in some fabric shops to put over a linen tablecloth to keep it clean).

If urine has soaked through walls or wood furniture (often because of repeated urine spraying), then after you clean it consider coating it with a vapour barrier that will lock the stain and odour away. One such product is Kilz primer - available from many hardware and paint stores and used on interior surfaces (furniture, drywall, plaster, wood, etc.); some versions can be used on exterior surfaces as well. For households with pets, the most suitable of its product line would be either KILZ Original Low V. O. C. or KILZ Odorless.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Methods

There are two options for do-it-yourselfers.

DIY Option #1

If you are planning to use an enzyme-based product but have already used something else, that “something else” may compromise the product’s ability to work. So clean the carpet first with hot water. If you can rent a steam-extractor, all the better.

If underpad is involved you need to apply the product to the pad as well. The underpad is far more absorbent that the carpet (so don’t be surprised if there is a larger stain in the underpad than shows up under the blacklight). Lift the carpet up so you can see the extent of the stain OR pour cleaner over the stained area and press (don’t rub) it in, to be absorbed by the underpad.

To do this EITHER flood the area by using a watering can with a sprinkler-type nozzle (easiest method). A spray bottle works well for upholstery but may not give out enough liquid to soak a carpet without a lot of work.
ask your veterinarian for a large syringe (with needle) and inject it sideways under the carpet, into the pad. This is a more complicated procedure; so rather than take up space here, just go to the  video on carpet cleaning which has a demo of how to do this properly. But be careful! If you accidentally inject yourself, go IMMEDIATELY for a tetanus shot. I only recommend this method if you are a health-care professional who is confident using large needles. Don’t forget to keep kids and pets away from the area when you are doing this.

After you have spread the cleaner on to the carpet, walk over the area to spread the cleaner further into any air pockets there may be. You can cover your feet or shoes with plastic wrap, first, to avoid getting soaked.

Don't want to worry about dealing with underpad? Think about replacing it instead. Underpad can retain a lot of urine and is relatively inexpensive to replace. You can just cut out the affected strip rather than the whole thing. If a lot of carpet surface has urine on it, it will be cheaper and easier for you to replace the underpad than to clean it.

Don’t rub the product into the carpet unless the manufacturer suggests it because you can damage the fibres. Most ask you to soak the carpet and then leave it or to just put a cloth over it and let it sop the liquid up through pressure rather than rubbing. Unless contraindicated on the product instructions, you can sop up excess moisture (after applying the product) with rags or use a water-extractor (e.g., Shop Vac).

DIY Option #2

A new product called a SpotVac is now available. This appliance is an attachment for your wet-dry vac; once attached it becomes a sub-surface extractor. This means that the manufacturer claims that it can clean up all liquids down to and included the carpet pad and top of the subfloor.

If this interests you, I suggest you go to the site and have a look at the videos, What is a SpotVac and Does It Really Work; and then select the How-to-Videos at the top, as well. This manufacturer also makes cleaning products which are designed to work with it.

I haven't had the chance to test this appliance and it related products (and I haven't heard from others who may have). So I make no claims about its effectiveness. However for those of you faced with repeated carpet staining, it may be worthing checking out.

Regardless of the option selected:

If damage to subfloor is extensive, it may be worthwhile to put down a vapour barrier between the floor and the underpad AFTER the area has been cleaned. One reliable vapour barrier is to seal the floor with oil-based paint. The new oil-based paints are low odour and dry relatively quickly.You can also investigate using Kilz (or similar product) mentioned previously.

Block off access to the area when it is drying. If it is a relatively contained spot, you can probably get away with putting a cardboard box over it; just punch some holes in the top and sides to let the area dry. If you used an enzyme-based product, you can hasten the drying by using a fan. Do NOT use heat or you will kill the enzymes. With other products you can try the warmth of a hair dryer.

While a behaviour program is in place, you might want to put heavy gauge vinyl over the dry area to prevent further accidents from causing damage. Use plastic carpet protector (available from hardware stores) smooth side up.  If you are dealing with upholstery, consider using a plastic shower curtain with a blanket over top, or some smooth, heavy gauge vinyl (the kind sold on the roll in some fabric shops to put over a linen tablecloth to keep it clean).

Using A Professional

With urine cleaning, you get what you pay for so do NOT select solely on the basis of price. An appropriate professional will determine where the stains are first and then use some type of enzyme-based (and possibly bacterial) product on the stained areas. NEVER agree to the use of a scented product (which attracts cats back to the spot).

If you have pets with recurrent urinary problems, consider replacing your carpet with hard floor surfaces when it is time to do so. Non-porous flooring with minimal seams would be in order.


I have found so many contradictions in the instructions for cleaning upholstery that I need a catnip party to recover. Again I am still investigating this matter more carefully and will revise this section as soon as I can. In the meantime, select a decent product and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Don't soak the upholstery (because it will be difficult for it to completely dry.


For clothing, bathmats, towels and blankets, any enzyme detergent or pet stain cleaner for cats can be used. Again, just follow the manufacturer's instructions. Some such detergents are available from the detergent section of your grocery store. Basically my rule is that if it can clean dirty baby diapers it should clean cat pee and poo on washable things. You may have to wash the item and then after it is rinsed, let it air dry.  


Clean the bedding as per instructions for washable fabrics, assuming everything is washable.

If the mattress is damaged, clean it as you would upholstery. When it is completely dry, turn it over. Cover it with a water resistant mattress cover (sold for bedwetters).

While the behaviour program is in place, cover the bed with a heavy-plastic drop sheet (available at hardware and paint stores) or an inexpensive shower curtain liner. Put an old blanket or towel over that for the cat to lie on. The drop sheet keeps the urine off the bedding and it is easier to clean an old blanket or towel than to try to clean all the good bedding.

Yes, cats can pee there too!

Remove the vent or duct cover. Either immerse the cover in cat stain cleaner or apply it using a spray bottle. Spray and rinse several times to make sure you have got all the crevices. Then air dry or wipe with paper towels and use a blow dryer.

Also clean the duct for as far down as your arm can reach (be careful to avoid any sharp ends).  Use paper towels soaked in cleaner. Scrub and rinse several times.

Use any of the cleaning products recommended for hard surfaces. But remember that if you are using Feliway as well, the product you use should NOT have a scent.

If you still find a urine smell in the house when the cat is no longer marking OR if the cat urinated a lot in vents and ducts, have the ducts cleaned (weather permitting) by a duct cleaning company to remove any remaining crystals. To avoid stressing the cat, keep him confined to one room (doors closed and radio on) or if appropriate, outside or elsewhere, so he doesn’t freak at the noise.

AND NOW . . .

If you have a comment or questions, please contact me at And don't hesitate to share methods or products that have worked for you. Enough said!