It took a while to find out because believe me, there was no strong odor at first. I thought I had smelled something but my husband didn't smell it and I didn't see anything, and I didn't want to believe it was happening. Then one day I was talking to my husband in his home office, a room he is thrilled to have, when we heard my male cat scratching, as they do in the litter box. We immediately smelled that smell. He was in a small spot in the corner, behind an easy chair.
Before I go on I should share that I am the cat person and my husband is anti-pet-of-every-kind. As a condition of our engagement to be married I required that when we married and began sharing a home that I would have a pet cat. Of all the places and things to damage, this is the second time that my male cat has picked my husband's stuff to wreck. This is a problem because each time something happens my husband threatens that the cats should go, even though the female has always been the innocent one.
Investigating the hidden corner behind the wing back chair, I found numerous spots and sprays, confirmed by sticking my nose right down on the spots. REVOLTING! This happened in October, a few weeks after the time that we discovered that cat had cystitis so he was already having toileting challenges and had developed an aversion to the litter box. Luckily the office actually has doors (most of our new home is open floor plan with no doors) so we shut the room and I began working to try to clean it.
In the process of cleaning the floor I found the source of the problem. The room has wall-to-wall carpet and two dogs had lived in this house. We had moved in about six weeks prior. Moving can be a stressful event for cats, although they didn't suffer when we moved from Connecticut to the rental house in Texas which had brand new wall to wall carpeting.
In this new house, a house where two dogs resided, we purchased the large desk from the previous owner. It is so massive that it would take three and maybe four men to lift it, so it has not been moved. We also purchased a credenza. When we hired the carpet steam cleaning service they cleaned all the rugs but did not move these pieces of furniture. When I put my face right up to the edge where the furniture met the rug I saw dog hair of two different colors. Using a black light I detected spots of dog urine from old accidents. The previous owner also left us many bottles of spot and stain remover and pet urine odor removal products. Now I know why. The male cat, being territorial, had begun spraying in that room.
Once the door was shut 24/7 the cat took to laying outside the door as if to guard it. He also meowed wanting to get into the office whenever anyone was in that room. Last week he snuck in when we accidentially left the door ajar and he sprayed once again.
I wanted to get the dog hair out and set about to vacuumming which did not work. I had to use a cleanser and an old toothbrush to scrub at the edges. That didn't really work either. I am going to have to get some men over here to move the heavy desk and to use the regular vaccuum cleaner on the area. Someday. Soon, hopefully.
At first with the door shut there was no odor but when the weather changed and it got more humid the odor arose. Houston homes are built on a slab with an inch or two layer of sand under the home and then solid clay below. The surface of the ground shifts often in Houston so cracks in foundations and walls occur. Humid and wet conditions under the house, as well as drought's ultra-dry conditions, can cause further damage in the homes. If pets urinate on carpeted floors with unsealed slabs, the urine can enter the foundation and can cause odors to return later! So when heavy rains occured this fall, the wetness and humidity rose and caused the cat and dog urine in the slab to come up through the padding and carpet. GROSS!
I spent six weeks trying to figure out the best way to handle this problem. I tested out the best way to handle this without ripping the carpet out, putting an expensive sealant on the foundation then laying hardwood down.
I began by unpacking all the last boxes looking for my black light which detects pet urine spots that are invisible to the naked eye in daylight or in the dark. I couldn't find it in the end. I then spoke to my brother who verified I gave it to him because I was worried the delicate flourescent bulb may break in the 1800 mile move. It took almost two weeks to travel to all the area pet shops only to find that none had this black light in stock so I finally used Amazon.com for buy one ($15), then waited for delivery.
I then spot washed with a non-ammonia solution, Citra-Solv, ($14) by hand and let it dry. (Cats mistake ammonia for cat urine and if you use it in the home they may spray.) That didn't work. I use the concentrate for mopping ceramic tile, marble tile, and wooden floors as well as to make all purpose surface spray, with success.
I then purchased a special Bissell carpet cleaning machine for pet accidents ($150 on 25% discount) and the Bissel special cleanser for pet accidents ($13 at discount). First I traveled to various local stores but they either didn't carry it or did not have it in stock. I then ordered that from Amazon.com and waited for delivery. That cleaned it well, in the spots where the machine could fit, so I had to hand wash in some areas. Unfortunately, there was still an odor after it was dry.
I then spot cleaned with Resolve ($7) but then there was a mix of horrible chemical fragrance mixed with cat urine. It was so strong I couldn't bear to be in the room, even a week later.
Two days ago, I soaked the cleaned areas with Nature's Miracle ($25 a gallon). You dump a ton of it on the carpet and it works down into the padding. The enzymes break down the pet urine and "eat it" so it is removed. Once gone, there is no urine stink left since the urine is literally gone. I am happy to report that now there is no urine odor. Thank God. The chemical fragrance from the Resolve was also gone.
The next step is to see if we can keep the doors open and trust the male cat to not return to spraying the office. My hope is that the Nature's Miracle will have eradicated the odor enough for the cat to not detect it so that he will not feel he must mark the territory with his urine.
The male cat's cystitis is resolving. He chooses to go outside less and is using the litter boxes more now. He also has resumed drinking water from the drinking bowl (during the cystitis he refused to drink much). He is urinating more so it is not that terrible concentrated urine odor. Changes to our homeschooling have reduced the stress in the home and we have all been working at being more calm and have been successful at hardly ever yelling (something that increased at the time of the move and at the start of the homeschool year). I believe the cats were stressed out from the increased stress in the household.
My two cats are getting along better now, they are friends 99% of the time. I'll tell more about that process at another time in case it can help someone someday.
I used the black light in other areas of the house and found more spots in two bedrooms and the upstairs hallway that never smelled in the room itself. I suspect these are dog urine from the previous owner. When I smell the carpet up close there is an odor so now these have to be taken care of.
I was told by the Kirby rep that the steam cleaning company we used ($400) does not clean pet accidents well at all. I already own a Kirby vacuum cleaner which also does carpet shampooing. I purchased the pet accident carpet shampoo ($36) to use on the area. The Kirby was not working right and on another day schlepped back up to the Kirby store to buy replacement for the broken part ($15).
The project with the bedrooms and hallway is a project I will tackle this week. I will shampoo it with the Kirby. If that doesn't remove the odor I will wash it by hand (with which cleanser I have not decicded, probably the stinky chemical fragrance Resolve). Then I will use the Nature's Miracle on the spots after it dries completely.
This has been a time consuming, trial-and-error, and expensive project which has taken up much too much of my time and energy. Who knew that cleaning up cat pee could be such a challenge?
Disclosure: See my blog's sidebar link. I was not paid to write about any of these products and purchased everything for our family's use.