Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Using a Black Light to Clean Pet Accidents

Did you know that you can use an inexpensive black light to detect cat pee? If you think your cats are peeing outside the litter box, chances are good that they are. Here's how to use a black light detector.

This adorable cat is Shy Boy. His nickname is Pee Boy. Poor Shy Boy was diagnosed with urinary crystals when he was just a year old. He would pee and cry. His urine was bloody. I rushed him to the vet. He was on medication for many months, and now eats a special diet to maintain his urine's pH in a range that hopefully won't produce the crystals again. 

Unfortunately, the months leading up to the diagnosis must have been painful for my boy. He won't pee in a litter box. Actually, I'm not sure he can. He pees standing up, in small amounts, outside.

Now most of the time, that's all fine. It's when we have a cold night that I bring all of my cats inside...and that leads to accidents. With six boy cats all in one house, it gives new meaning to the word p--- ing contests. You know what I'm talking about.

Some of the accidents are easy to spot, and these can be cleaned up quickly. However, some of the cats can be quite sneaky about hiding their accidents. Often, you can't even smell them.

Black lights work for dog or cat stain detection.

A black light becomes a very useful tool for detecting pet accidents. I bought my black light at Lowe's. It's a small flashlight about six inches long that runs on 3 "AAA" batteries. It has to be used in pitch darkness. A black light produces ultraviolet light. When it strikes biological substances, it emits a glow.

To use your black light detector:

  • Purchase a black light flashlight. They're easy to find at big box stores or hardware stores.
  • They have to be used in pitch darkness. Too much light makes it hard to see the spots they detect.
  • Pet accidents and some other substances, such as grease, will glow "white" in the light.
  • Use post-it notes or painter's tape to mark the areas to clean.
  • Clean the marked spots using warm water and an enzyme-based cleaner, or white vinegar and water. I also use Lysol floor cleaner on baseboards and tile floors. The citrus scent seems to repel the cats after cleaning up an accident.

Black light will glow on pet accidents, such as urine stains on carpet or tile. It will also make grease stains in the kitchen glow too, which is useful for finding those areas you miss!

The first time I used the black light in the kitchen, I gasped because I thought the cats had actually had accidents in some very unlikely places. On closer inspection, I realized it was spatter on the splash guard behind my stove. Small particles of grease had accumulated in certain areas. Some cleanser and elbow grease later and my stove was clean again.

Other areas did indeed highlight places my cats like to "mark" in the house. Doorways, doors and similar vertical surfaces appear to be popular places. The cats tend to mark the same areas over and over again, so I've been working hard to clean them.

When cleaning up cat urine spots, do not use any produce that contains ammonia. It will make the scent stronger to your cats. Another tip is to never use steam cleaning on fabrics. Steam also makes the odor "set" into the fabric. Instead, look for cleanser with enzyme-based cleaning action that are marked for pet accidents. These destroy the scent odors in the area that give off signals to the cats that it is okay to pee there.

Please don't get the idea that my house is one giant litter box. Of course it is not. But every cat owner probably has at least one or two spots around the house that cats have marked.

Neutered boy cats and spayed females are said to have less accidents. My boys are all neutered, but some of them still seem to think it's up to them to alert every other cat in the neighborhood that they live there. It's up to me to be vigilant and clean the problem areas when they arise.

One thing to note: if you're playing carpet detective and you find that your cat is really having a lot of accidents or refusing to use the litter box, it's time to investigate. Shy Boy let me know about his urinary pain by purposely going in front of me. In the box, it was hard to distinguish the discolored spots on the clay litter I use. On the ivory colored tiles, it was easy to see that he had a serious problem and needed immediate veterinary attention. You may consider taking your cat in for an exam if he or she is having a lot of accidents!

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