We love our pets but sometimes, they don't love our homes. Thankfully, we don't have to choose between our pets and our property values. There are plenty of ways to reverse damage and live harmoniously with our furry friends. Cats tend to be the worst offenders, so let's begin with them.
If you've ever introduced your cat to another animal, it's possible Fluffy was less than pleased and communicated her disdain by marking her territory. Perhaps she wanted to tell you that she won't stand for a dirty bathroom after you forgot to clean her litter box.
You understood where she was coming from but that didn't change the fact that nothing is more difficult to remove from carpets than cat urine. You tried to remove the odor but it wouldn't budge. What to do?
Hope for your rugs
First, curb the temptation to reach for any sort of freshening spray. Masking the smell won't actually undo the damage.
Now, take a deep breath. Odds are your carpet is synthetic, as most modern floor coverings tend to be.
Cat urine won't soak into synthetic fibers the way it will with wool or other natural materials. In the latter case, a professional carpet cleaner is your best bet. For the former, scrubbing is the way to go.
Regular soap and water is strong enough, but if you must use a commercial product, check the ingredients for ammonia or any of its derivatives. The smell of ammonia will prompt cats to repeat their prior offenses.
Once the carpet is dry, repeat the scrubbing if the smell still lingers. Try to find a way to lift the carpet so you can clean any soaked padding underneath. It might take ten rounds but the smell should eventually come out of synthetic carpet. A post-scrubbing run of the steam cleaner will help lift smells out.
Enzymatic cleaners are useful, but it can take a couple weeks for them to work to full effect. If you have that much time before your home inspection, go for it. Vinegar is, surprisingly, a good ingredient for removing the odor of cat urine. The smell of the vinegar itself will linger for a while, but it's a scent that says clean. That's much better than the alternative!
Save your tile
For tile floors, use a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda or an enzymatic cleaner. Don't use bleach. The grout will need your attention, as it harbors most of the offending substance. If you're cleaning the room where you keep the litter box, you can invest in some inexpensive rugs to prevent future cleaning projects. If the cat misses its target, you'll be able to discard and replace the rug.
Sadly, wood flooring is too porous to weather the damage. In this case, you'll need to replace it completely. Expensive as this can be, you'll have no luck selling a house that smells of cat markings.
Paying to install new floors isn't the end of the world. An upgrade means you can probably sell your house for more than initially planned, subsequently recovering some of the home improvement costs.
Once you've finished the process of cleaning and repairing, you'll probably question whether you can survive a future round of fixing the damage done by your cat. Instead of steeping in your dread, look to these hints for preventing damage in the future:
Creatures of habit
Cats don't like change of any kind, whether it is a new environment or a new location for their litter box. Now that you're putting your house on the market, a change in your cat's environment is unavoidable. You need an action plan for keeping the new home as pristine as possible.
When you move into your new space, designate a room for your cat in the first week. Place the litter box, food and water in this room and keep the door closed. This room will be your cat's safety while you unpack and rearrange. Fluffy will have a chance to acclimate slowly, being somewhat shielded from noise and chaos. Familiar toys and blankets will be a comfort to your cat, as they'll smell like its old environment. When you've finished unpacking, slowly introduce your cat to other rooms.
Cats will avoid the litter box if it's in an unpleasant place. Cold basements and dark corners could prompt your cat to find other restrooms around your home. Cats also hate to feel fenced in, so they might be inclined to avoid covered litter boxes.
If your cat is urinating outside the litter box, it could be a sign of illness. A trip to the vet's office to clear up an infection could be the key to getting Fluffy back on track.
You can also take a trip to your local pet supply store and pick up a bottle of pheromone spray, a product that's odorless to humans and can deter your cat from marking.