Cleaning of Cat Urine on Rugs
Let me first give you a few facts on cat urine marking and cat habits prior to discussing the cleaning of cat urine on rugs. Before we go into the details of cat urine and its ammonia smell, it is important to note what cat urine is composed of. It is made up of different chemicals like urea, uric acid and cretonne. You will even find presence of some electrolytes in the urine. The cat urine contains other waste chemicals as well as bilirubin, ketones, nitrates and leukocytes. The urea is a nitrogenous waste that is highly concentrated in the urine of cats. When urea is broken down, it will produce amines that contain an ammonia group. This shows us that cat urine is primarily ammonia based. This is the reason you always tend to get a mild, lingering smell of ammonia from cat urine. Unfortunately, these toxic chemicals can cause respiratory problems and pneumonia in both children and pets. So it’s important to treat cat urine odors as soon as possible so they don’t increase in concentration and cause more problems for your family in the future. Bear in mind that if your child has a pre-existing health condition such as asthma or migraines, the strong cat pee odor may cause enough irritation to trigger an episode.
Male cats will spray to mark their territory and females do so to attract male attention. It is a part of cat behavior. Cat urine contains hormones that helps them send secret signals to fellow felines. One of the functions of urine marking is to advertise reproductive availability. Their urine also contains extra communication chemicals. Those chemicals smell pungent to people. If there are multiple cats in the household the more likely it is that at least one of them will urine mark. Cats don’t like change. When things change, cats can become stressed. Urine marking behavior can be triggered by someone moving in or moving out, getting a new dog or cat. Even your changing of work hours or having a baby can cause cats to stress out. One of the ways cats deal with this stress is by marking their territory. They might do it to preempt a problem by leaving a message that this place is theirs, or they might do it to comfort themselves with their own familiar scent. If there is a conflict between cats whether between another house cat and other cats they sees outside, it is these conflicts that are one of the most common reasons for urine marking, and it’s usually anxiety based rather than intolerance based. Cats mark in response to conflict with other cats for the same reasons they mark in response to household changes.
Many pet cleaners contain protein-based chemicals called enzymes, which break down your cats’ urine into non-toxic substances. The enzymes speed up the natural chemical processes which organic substances, like urine, go through when they biodegrade. The enzymes contained in pet urine cleaners include protease, lipase, amylase, cellulase and uriase. Bacteria produce these enzymes to help them break down the urine into chemicals which they can digest. Manufacturers culture only beneficial, non-pathogenic bacteria in a lab to produce enzymes. These pet cleaners include both the bacteria and their enzymes. Once the bacteria come into contact with urine and other organic substances, they produce more enzymes to digest the urine. The bacteria also rapidly reproduce. Eventually, the urine is completely digested and transformed into harmless substances like carbon dioxide and water; the bacteria, without a source of urine to digest, die off completely.
Locating the areas a cat has marked or stained the rug is very important. Sometimes these are very visible and sometimes they are not. If a room has an odor and you’re not sure where the source is, try using a black light. You should wait till the evening to do this or you will have to block as much light from coming into the room as possible so it is fairly dark. Then take a black light and hold it a few feet from the floor and slowly go over the entire room. Any areas that the cat has urinated or marked will glow very brightly. You may usually find these areas next to furniture, in corners of a room or along the perimeter of the room. Place a sticky note or something there to mark the location. Once done, you have located every area of the carpet that is effected and needs special attention. If it is a fresh stain, absorb as much of the urine as you can from the area where your cat has left a urine stain or marking using paper towels or a wet/dry vacuum. Spray the area down with a cleaner containing enzymes. Let the cleaner dry naturally. The enzymes work best if the area is damp for 24 hours. For older stains on the carpeting, dampen the area with water first before applying the enzymatic cleaner. The water reactivates the uric acid in the stain, one of the main chemicals responsible for the odor, and helps to facilitate the enzymes to break it down. Stubborn stains and odors might require a second or even third treatment to fully get rid of all of the odor-causing residual urine. This is really all you, as a consumer can do.
A professional carpet cleaner will first use a steam cleaning procedure on the areas using a special acid rinse that will be helpful in the removal of the uric acid. By going over any of these areas heavily will allow the professional carpet cleaner to get deeper into the base of the carpet and increase the likelihood of the removal of any contaminants. Some companies will flood the area to the point of water actually pudding on the carpet then use a water claw to then try to remove as much as possible. The problem with this over wetting of the carpet, is it can cause other issues of their own depending upon the type of fibers and materials used in backing of the carpet. Usually natural fibers like wool, cotton, linen, silk or jute do not respond well to this type of over wetting. Many of these should not get too wet, making it impossible to deeply remove these urine contaminants, thus making it near impossible to resolve the odor issues. Once cleaned, quite often a professional carpet cleaner will also apply an enzyme to combat any remaining odors. There are also many professional products today that use either hydrogen peroxide or a by-product that will create a by-product of hydrogen peroxide. These products are fairly effective in aiding in the removal of odor. The only problem with these are they can also have an effect on the dyes and cause fibers to become a little lighter in those areas. So this comes in to question as, is this an acceptable trade off? Most people will go for a lighter area on their carpet to try to combat the odor problems.
Another problem dealing with urine stains, whether from a cat or a dog is the effect of the urine on certain dyes and fibers. Sometimes you can get a yellowish stain that can be permanent, also many times the urine will break down the bond of the dyes from the fibers. This usually won’t be noticeable at first. When an attempt is then made either by the homeowner or a professional, those dye will now migrate from one fiber into an adjoining fiber. So if the rug is made up of multiple colors, this can be another problem. Also the urine can actually alter the existing color of the fibers. These are all considered preexisting conditions caused by the urine and not the cleaning procedures.
Our Conclusion is cat urine on rugs create a tough problem and sometimes even with professional help there can be incidences that aren’t going to be totally resolved. Rinsing and flushing out as much urine as possible really help but many rugs can’t take that aggressive of a treatment due to the natural fibers involved. Other issues are the frequency of urine stains, making it almost impossible to resolve issues. Then we have the possibility of permanent staining or color loss and dye migration. I have seen severe cases where the urine will penetrate through the back of the carpet, into both the padding and the flooring underneath it. These are cases that require you to replace the carpet pad in affected areas and well as bleaching wood floors to disinfect them followed up by applying urethane finish on top to seal any odors in. In all cases you should take some action to try to resolve these issues as soon as possible.