Cleaning pet stains and fixing pet smells

We like to pretend that our cats are perfect and things never get messy. But unfortunately accidents and upset tummies happen, and we’re reminded of the less glorious side of living with cats. Here are a few tips and suggestions for “oopses” around the house:

A cat loafing on two folded towels, looking at the camera.
Yeah, we know. No one wants to dry their hands on a towel a cat’s been sleeping on. To be honest, we think Kepler knows, too.

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When you discover an accident, the first step is to pick up or blot the solids or liquids with a paper towel or washable cloth. We use heavy paper towels, but a dedicated handful of microfiber towels are a greener and much-more-absorbent option, plus you never have to worry about running out when you need one or leaving behind bits of paper while you’re scrubbing.

If the accident happened on carpet or a rug, generously spray the stain with some kind of enzymatic cleaner. We were big fans of Nature’s Miracle for years, but they recently changed their formulation to include a very strong floral perfume that lingers for days, so we only recommend using this if you’re in a large, well-ventilated space away from sensitive notes (human or feline!). We are currently loving So Phresh Cat Stain and Odor Remover, which has a mild floral scent that dissipates within a few hours. We let the cleaner sit for a few minutes, then wipe it up with another towel. If it’s a darker stain, we spray it again and leave it. We notice that most stains will disappear within a day, although sometimes an extra spray treatment is required.

Enzymatic cleaners work well on tile or hardwood floors too. While soap and water will usually do the trick, the enzymes in these cleaners will help destroy pheromones and other scents that might inspire a cat to repeat the performance in the same location at a later date.

These cleaners can also be added to washing machines for bedding and towels to help eliminate stains and odors. You may still need to spot-treat with something like Shout Stain Remover, however.

Remember to do a spot test first! If you are unsure if the fabric you are treating can handle the cleaning products you’re about to use, always do a spot test on an inconspicuous area to make sure the cleaner won’t harm the color or the fibers. Enzymatic cleaners are generally safe in that regard, but occasionally some organic dyes or fiber-dye combinations will be unusually susceptible to problems.

And if you just can’t handle all the extra elbow grease (we would not blame you!), you can get this great little Bissell SpotBot Pet handsfree Spot and Stain Cleaner, and let a robot do the work for you!

Two tiny kittens on a blanket, looking at the camera.
Don’t let their size fool you. They tested the limits of our cleaning abilities when they were young.

Lining accident-prone areas (around litter boxes or inside cat carriers) with puppy training pads, will also help make cleanups easier. This was especially helpful for our elderly cat Ginger, when she’d have trouble squatting in the box and would use the edge of the box as a seat, where she would sit and do her business. (If only we could’ve taught her to do that from the outside of the box, she never would’ve missed her target! She was worth every cleanup. No matter how big.)

an orange cat sleeping on a wooden cat bed.
When you’re an elderly tripod kitty, you’re allowed to have accidents. They’re just the price humans pay for living with such greatness.

Because we are paranoid about “missing a spot” in a multi-cat household, we always have a black light flashlight handy. Black lights (which are actually ultraviolet lights, but get their name because the human eye cannot see the UV spectrum) will cause biological materials to fluoresce or glow. A pet stain will glow in the same shape of the average urine or vomit accident, or you might see a speckled spray pattern behind a litter box or other places where a cat might be trying to mark his territory. Other non-biological materials will glow under a black light, like detergents, so don’t worry if you see little white flecks on your shirt where you shine a black light.

Safety tip!! Always be careful when using a black light. Do not shine the light in human or animal eyes, and do not use the light more than necessary to get the job done. Ideally you’ll use UV blocking safety glasses like in the black light kit linked above, and many prescription eyeglasses will block UV light, but not necessarily enough to prevent a mild headache from a very strong flashlight. Keep your flashlight in a drawer or a case so that if it’s accidentally left on, it can’t hurt any children or animals who knock it over. Read all about black light and other cool things that glow under black light.

Safe and natural ways to prevent cats from clawing furniture

So you just got a new couch! And Ginger the tabby is just as excited as you are about it, and she can’t wait to really enjoy that new couch. With her claws. And much enthusiasm. Don’t panic! It’s okay!

Ginger stretches her arm out lazily, in a half-attempt at a scratch and stretch.
The queen of the “lazy scratch,” Ginger.

The Whisker Shop is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and some links in this post are affiliate links. This means that there will be no additional cost to you if you shop at using these links, but we will receive a small percentage of those purchases as a commission. The opinions in this post belong to The Whisker Shop, and we only recommend products we have tried ourselves, unless stated otherwise.

First, remind yourself that scratching is natural behavior for cats. Scratching is a way to get rid of excess energy, get a great stretch, and keep claws healthy by removing the outer sheath for fresh nail growth. Plus it just feels great– you probably like a nice luxurious stretch a few times a day, too! Cats also “mark” their turf by leaving behind pheromones when they scratch. They’re claiming a space as their own, and leaving “messages” for other cats. This is a natural behavior practiced by wild and domestic felines of all species and breeds.

a tabby stares at the camera with claws extended into a couch.

Next, put yourself in your cat’s shoes. Or paws. They want to scratch, and you’ve got this great thing just begging to be scratched. So give them something BETTER. Move their favorite scratching post to the corner of the couch and put some catnip on it. What kind of surface does your cat prefer to scratch? Some prefer cardboard, some prefer carpet, and some prefer sisal.

Remember: they’re scratching that spot because it’s a perfect spot. It probably doesn’t matter what you put there, but it’ll be all the more enticing if you give them something they really love to scratch, like sisal or a special carpet or scratching angle.

There are some products that can help deter scratching, such as Sticky Paws, which is available in larger sheets or a roll of tape. It’s a double-sided tape that can be applied to furniture and it feels weird to paws, so it may deter clawing. We have had cats who didn’t scratch after that, but they’d lick the adhesive instead. Anything to interrupt the clawing was fine with us! (It’s nontoxic.) Tape works best on porous materials like cloth upholstery. You may want to test an inconspicuous place with a small piece of tape to make sure it won’t leave any icky residue behind. We also suggest replacing the tape regularly so that it doesn’t become a permanently adhered. (That only happened once! And it was stuck there for years before we realized!)

Keep your cat’s claws trimmed. The blunter the claws, the less damage they can do. It’s also healthy for your cats, preventing overgrown or ingrown nails. If you have trouble trimming your cats claws, get help! Groomers, veterinary technicians, cat sitters, and cat behaviorists would be thrilled to trim your cats claws and give you some tips for trying it yourself.

Another product is Soft Claws, which are like tiny plastic caps for your cat’s claws. We have never tried these, but have heard from friends, clients, and cat sitters who have luck with them over the years. Sometimes you will find a particularly skilled cat groomer or cat sitter who can apply these for you, because it can be quite an ordeal to get the caps on. Once they’re on, cats can still go through the motions of scratching, without the sharp parts. Personally, we worry about the cat chewing and swallowing them, because they must feel pretty weird to wear and the feeling would encourage cats to fuss over them. However, as an absolute last resort, it might be worth a try.

It’s always better to redirect rather than prevent scratching. Allow your cats a healthy outlet for that clawing energy, and you’ll both be happier!

Surprisingly, other than their own cat condos, one of our cats’ favorite scratchers has always been the cheap and recyclable cardboard scratcher.

And if, despite all these options, you’re still considering declawing your cats? DON’T.