How to Triage Smelly/Nuclear Waste Kitty Box Area
July 24, 2020 7:17 PM   Subscribe

The smells emitting from the area where my cat's litter box is have gone nuclear waste status bad. I have an inkling of what's happened. I do not know how to rectify the situation because spending more than a minute over there induces dry to wet heaving. Cat is mostly nonplussed thankfully. Please help me detoxify this part of my apartment. (cat tax in profile)

About 3 weeks ago the litter genie esque container I was using to house my cat Gingerbunny's waste shattered and spilled all its contents into my dining room's vinyl floor. Bunny's pee and poo is especially noxious because she eats prescription kitty food to help her stomach and bladder.

I *thought* I had done a good enough job cleaning things up by replacing her litter box, mat, container, etc. But today the smell returned and I don't know what to do.

What I *think* has happened is that during her latest ablutions, Bunny kicked up her litter mat and exposed heretofore hidden excrement to oxygen, thus releasing it all into the air and off into my nose. I'm guessing some of this has actually gone into the wall and the vinyl flooring. I am not brave enough to go put my nose anywhere to confirm.

My first instinct is to bleach everything. Like cordon the whole area off (which means kind of not accessing my kitchen), and bleach the corner of my dining room where her box is. It's in the far corner near a window.

Is this the right step? How do I do this safely so I don't poison my beloved stinky cat? Her litter box cannot go anywhere else, so once I clean this area, it's gotta go back.
posted by Kitchen Witch to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You need an enzyme cleaner. I've had good success with odor and stain removal on carpets and vinyl with Nature's Miracle, Just for Cats Odor removal products. Amazon carries them, if you cannot leave the house. Don't bleach anything. If it's strong in your nose, it's debilitating for Bunny. Cats have 14x the sense of smell of humans. It's cruel to use bleach. The stench will drive her away to pee and poop somewhere else, hidden, out of sheer desperation.
posted by lemon_icing at 7:27 PM on July 24, 2020 [15 favorites]

Seconding Nature's Miracle to clean up the stench you have now.. Also I just started using a Tidy Cat Breeze box for our foster cat, and it has done a lot for the reduction of ongoing stench.
posted by hollyholly at 7:39 PM on July 24, 2020

Put it all in a plastic bag for a moment. Tie it up. Sweep with a plastic broom. They wash out. Spray the area with a cleaner, spray clorox, whatever you want, clean it up. Head outside fast and dump, and wash, get your new litter back in place. I gave up on cat litter, I use dirt. The bacteria in the dirt eat up the ammonia. The cats guts are healthier processing dirt out from between their toes than chemicals and clay. One of my cat's kidney failure situation, cleared right up. The dirt washes rivht out of the boxes, I have two, one is outside lean, waitinv to be the rsplacement. It's a dirt cheap solution.
posted by Oyéah at 7:58 PM on July 24, 2020

Be aware that pee smell means ammonia and adding bleach will result in chlorine gas. This is bad. No kidding. If you can smell pee, you should clean with an enzyme cleaner and Lysol.

My mom gassed herself trying to clean cat pee in the basement. It scarred her lungs.
posted by irisclara at 8:01 PM on July 24, 2020 [21 favorites]

Enzyme cleaner, stat. Just Nature's Miracle the hell out of that area.
posted by bedhead at 8:07 PM on July 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yup, do NOT use bleach, use Nature’s Miracle or some other enzyme cleaner. And use MORE than you think you need. It will stink to high heaven while it dries, but after it dries it should eliminate the odour. Test a small area first to make sure it doesn’t discolour your floor and other surfaces, but personally I’ll take discolouration over cat pee smell any day.

Source: was a cat owner for many years and that’s how I know it works well on cat pee. Also, I once accidentally dumped the oil from a tin of oysters onto white carpet in a rental apartment. That was an eye watering stench, let me tell you. After I dumped a ton of NM on the carpet and let it dry for 2 days, I could put my nose right where the oyster oil had been, and it was completely undetectable. And that’s my testimonial for Nature’s Miracle.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:08 PM on July 24, 2020 [12 favorites]

In terms of dealing with the smell while you treat the area, I use Tiger Balm just under my nostrils for that. Menthol anything works too.
posted by Gneisskate at 8:32 PM on July 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

Secret Recipe for Organic Effluvium

Ammonium and hydrogen peroxide, mix fresh 50/50 by volume.
Saturate area, wait 10 minutes, then stand on folded towel over area to absorb excess moisture.
Follow with enzyme cleaner or steam cleaner if desired.
Of course, test small swatch first.
posted by dum spiro spero at 9:28 PM on July 24, 2020

OdoBan works well too. I buy it at Home Depot. It is available at Amazon too.
posted by AugustWest at 9:44 PM on July 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

If for some reason you must use bleach, VENTILATE the entire room and do it with plenty of breathing breaks. I have learned this from bitter experience.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:32 PM on July 24, 2020

If you really don't believe anything anybody says about things that aren't bleach working better than things that are (and yes, enzyme de-stinkers are the business!) or you're not willing to pay what the makers of enzyme cleaners charge and you're absolutely determined to use a bleach instead, use an oxygen-based one like NapiSan or OxiClean or generic 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, not a chlorine-based one like Clorox.

You really really don't want to breathe the toxic chloramine fumes that result from chlorine bleach reacting with ammonia from decaying cat whiz. And that goes 14x for your cat.

What I *think* has happened is that during her latest ablutions, Bunny kicked up her litter mat and exposed heretofore hidden excrement to oxygen, thus releasing it all into the air and off into my nose.

I suspect that a bladderload of urine has wicked itself between the mat and the floor at some point, then undergone anaerobic (oxygen-free) decomposition. This yields some spectacularly stinky breakdown products. So it won't be so much that heretofore hidden excrement has been exposed to oxygen, as that it's been kept wet and away from oxygen by vinyl underneath and a mat over the top, then released its stored payload of horrible funk into the air the instant the mat got kicked up.

To reduce the severity of similar mishaps in future, put a whole newspaper under the mat. That way, instead of a misdirected whiz turning into a well sealed pool of anaerobic rot that only sees air at the very edges, the newspaper will wick it up and draw enough air in behind it to help it break down aerobically, with far less whiffy results.
posted by flabdablet at 2:22 AM on July 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

We’ve found that Anti-Icky Poo (available from Amazon by the gallon) works better than Nature’s Miracle for some reason. Good luck to you!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:15 AM on July 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

I do not know how to rectify the situation because spending more than a minute over there induces dry to wet heaving.

So while you're trying to work this out: if you have any fans in the apartment that can remove air from it - like a bathroom exhaust fan, or a kitchen range hood vented to outdoors - turn those on. Then, if the dining room has a window, open it; if not, use internal doors to create an air path from an open window elsewhere, so that air has to pass through the dining room on its way from the window to the exhaust fan.
posted by flabdablet at 4:37 AM on July 25, 2020

Nthing Natures Miracle. Things to note when using it, soak the area, cover it in plastic, I just lay a garbage bag over it & let it sit for a while it needs to soak down to where all the pee soaked to. The enzymes only work when wet & they take time to work. They may smell worse before they get better, that is the enzymes at work don't panic. If the pee has had time to settle in you may need to retreat the area & mop it down afterwards to remove any residue.

Please don't use bleach, use Oxyclean instead if you want to go that route. I have used Oxyclean with some success on cat pee & also let it sit & soak for a while before rinsing it off.
posted by wwax at 8:31 AM on July 25, 2020

I have had good luck with lots of Nature's Miracle Cat Formula, and when dry, follow up with Odoban.
posted by SamanthaK at 9:17 AM on July 25, 2020

As a dog foster who also has two cats, I have not had good experiences with enzyme cleaners and bleach both. The smell comes back, especially when it's moist out.

The only thing that worked for me is dousing the area with straight white vinegar, and letting it dry there. Sometimes it took more than once, but it worked much better than anything else.
posted by answergrape at 11:50 AM on July 25, 2020

I have had mixed results with enzyme-based cleaners. The only thing that eventually got the lingering stench out of a perpetually re-fouled area was an oxygen-based liquid laundry stain remover.

The pee may be under the vinyl, if there is any way that it could have been wicked in through a gap between tiles. I spilled tea on a laminate floor in an area which had definitely not been peed on for years, and the smell was awful for days (by the side of my bed, right next to my head! Yay!), and I'm 100% sure that this is because thoroughly dessicated pee residue under the flooring had been reactivated by the moisture. The only thing that helped there was standing a heater directly over that patch of floor.
posted by confluency at 2:45 PM on July 25, 2020

DON'T USE BLEACH TO CLEAN URINE. A neighbor did this recently and accidentally drove us out of our home with chloramine gas.

Get some Vicks Vapor Rub and rub it in right under your nose to help block out the smell while you're cleaning.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:28 AM on July 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I will not use bleach!!! I am so glad I asked!!!

I have purchased two types of Nature's Miracle solutions so I can see how they do. I will need to clean the 4x4' swath of vinyl underneath her box and then probably wash the walls and baseboard surrounding her litter area too.

Tiger's Balm, gloves, sponges, etc are all on their way as well. This is going to be a Project. Will report back with results and additional questions. Further cat tax pending.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 11:51 PM on July 26, 2020

Nature's Miracle is not a cleaning product, and attempting to use it as if it were will yield disappointing results. The best way to use Nature's Miracle is to use enough of it to duplicate the original urination event; it needs to be applied to the same place the urine was, track where the urine tracked, and spend about as much time soaking into whatever the urine soaked into as the urine did.
posted by flabdablet at 12:53 AM on July 27, 2020

Response by poster: What do you recommend I do after using Nature's Miracle, flabdablet?
posted by Kitchen Witch at 1:15 AM on July 27, 2020

If it was me, after leaving the NM to work for a day or so I'd clean up any leftover NM and any surfaces requiring further de-stinking with the help of either plain white vinegar or an oxygen bleach.
posted by flabdablet at 1:23 AM on July 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I used to enthusiastically recommend Nature's Miracle but they have changed the formula and it's a lot more perfume and a lot less useful stuff. After trying numerous alternatives that seemed to work until they didn't, I found Cat Odor Off. This stuff is magical. Has a scent but it doesn't bother me and it dissipates after a day or two. It's cheap and highly concentrated and has worked on everything. Highly recommended.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:50 AM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for all your suggestions. I was able to clean the area in question super thoroughly and the smells are totally gone.

Gingerbunny is delighted.

I am... Less... Delighted by this decision but... Anyway.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 4:13 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yay! I’m glad it worked! Your cat is very cute.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:22 PM on August 12, 2020

A description of the steps you used for your super thorough cleaning process would probably be of use to other people, if you can be bothered writing it up.
posted by flabdablet at 2:24 AM on August 13, 2020

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