Management of Items Contaminated by Urine or Faeces
House-soiling and indoor marking can begin for a number of reasons, but, once a pattern of behaviour has been established, it may continue purely because the cat can detect the trace smell of urine or faeces. This is particularly true in cases of indoor urine marking. Removing these odours is essential in order to stop the problem. Given that ongoing damage to property may motivate clients to re-home or euthanise cats it is important to provide information that will help clients to protect their property.
Removing Urine or Faeces Contamination
A widely used method of cleaning sites that have been contaminated with urine and faeces is as follows:
- Make up 3 sprayer bottles, labelled 1, 2, and 3:
- Sprayer bottle 1: A solution of biological clothes washing powder, or liquid, in water (approximately 1 part of powder/liquid cleaner to 10 parts of water)
- Sprayer bottle 2: Plain water
- Sprayer bottle 3: Surgical spirit (clear surgical spirit, not coloured methylated spirit)
It is best not to use a cloth to clean sites, because this will quickly become contaminated and then acts to transfer odour rather than remove it. Paper kitchen towel is the best option. The spray bottles and towel should be kept in a dedicated bucket to avoid leaving scent marks where they have been placed on the floor. Having this cleaning kit makes it easier for clients to clean up, and also acts as a reminder that they should look for urine marks and attend to them as quickly as possible.
Each soiled site should be cleaned in the following way:
- Use paper towel to remove any urine and faeces. Dispose of the towel.
- Spray the site with bottle 1 and then wipe clean with paper towel. Dispose of the paper towel. Repeat until there is no visible residue of urine or faeces.
- Spray the site with bottle 2, wipe clean and mop dry with paper towel. Dispose of the paper towel.
- Spray the site with bottle 3, gently wipe clean and allow to dry completely before allowing the cat to have access to the place that has been cleaned.
The biological cleaning solution in bottle 2 is used because the enzymatic agents in washing powder/liquid is very effective at breaking down proteins and fats that form components of the chemical signals deposited by cats. Surgical spirit helps to remove remaining traces of odour and chemicals.
To prevent any inadvertent damage to surfaces, this cleaning method should be tested on a small and inconspicuous area of the wallpaper, carpet or fabric. Any curtains or furniture covers that can be removed should be washed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Scented products and those containing ammonia should not be used to clean up spray marks because they may intensify urine odours and leave an objectionable smell that encourages over-marking.
Carpets that are going to remain should be repeatedly cleaned with a carpet shampooing machine to remove all traces of contamination. It may take several attempts to completely clean a carpet, and to prevent new urine and faeces being deposited during the cleaning process, specific areas of carpet can be protected by covering them with heavy polythene sheeting.
Frequency of Cleaning:
The owner should draw a diagram of all of the sites in the house where urine and faeces have been found. At the start of treatment the client should be instructed to clean all sites in a single day, and then repeat this within 2-3 days. A single round of cleaning is not enough to remove all scent, but two house-wide thorough cleaning sessions will usually be enough to substantially reduce odours. This increases the likelihood that other scent-based methods, such as the use of synthetic pheromones, will be likely to be effective.
Owners should then continue to check and clean all sites at least on a weekly basis until no urine or faeces have been deposited for several weeks. New deposits should be cleaned immediately, using the same method.
Protecting Property from Urine Damage
To prevent the ingress of urine, any gaps, joints and junctions between flooring, skirting boards and fitted furniture (such as kitchen or bedroom units) should be sealed with a suitable waterproof sealant (e.g. silicone sealant). The same applies to joints between panels of laminated flooring (urine ingress will cause panels to expand and pop up). Wooden and laminated floors should be painted with several coats of varnish or damp-sealant paint. If possible, the painted or varnished area should be extended to over-paint the sealant and thus create a complete barrier.
Concrete floor shoud be cleaned and allowed to dry. Any cracks should be sealed and several coats of waterproofing paint should then be applied.
Some vinyl floors are porous, especially if they are old, and may be sealed using specialist paints and coatings. Cracked vinyl flooring should be removed and replaced.
Glazed tiles are generally non-porous but grout between the tiles may absorb urine. Terracotta tiles are porous unless regularly sealed with a specialist coating. Specialist sealant on grout should be used. Scraping out old grout in heavily urine-contaminated areas and replacing it with new waterproof grout is recommended.
In areas that have been repeatedly soiled with urine, the flooring under a carpet can become heavily contaminated. Installing a replacement carpet will not prevent odours from old urine contamination from coming through. Before fitting new carpet, the flooring underneath should be cleaned and sealed. Applying a layer of heavy polythene sheeting underneath the carpet or underlay can help to prevent urine from future deposits seeping into the floor. This facilitates cleaning and also prevents urine odours returning from old urine deposits.
Wooden items, such as furniture or staircases that have been targeted should be protected to prevent urine penetration. Varnish is the best option, but this is not suitable for all furniture, and repeated application of a wax finish is an alternative (not spray polish).
Electrical and electronic equipment:
Marking or soiling on electrical equipment can cause fires and electrical failures. It may be preferable, for safety reasons, to have contaminated equipment professionally inspected and cleaned. Cooking equipment, such as toasters, that cannot be cleaned thoroughly should be disposed of, because they represent a health hazard. Equipment that is only used occasionally should be stored in a cupboard or under plastic sheeting (switched off). Plastic sheeting may also be used to protect equipment such as televisions, CD/DVD players and audio equipment that is close to ground level and has previously been targeted for spray marking, but this should take into account the equipment's need for proper ventilation (to avoid fire due to heat build up).
To prevent urine from entering sockets and causing an electrical failure, sockets that have been targeted for spray marking can be protected by taping a hanging flap of polythene over the socket, or by installing child proof socket guards.
This article has been written and expert reviewed by Jon Bowen BVetMed DipAS(CABC) MRCVS.
Date reviewed: July 4, 2014
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