You, a cat owner, love your cat. Your love for your cat runs so deep that you overlook the hairballs he coughs up, even the overlooked ones that you stepped on in the middle of the night on your way to the bathroom.

You sigh with understanding when she expresses her displeasure at your upcoming travel plans by relieving herself in your luggage. You willingly live a life in which your clothes (and food) are accessorized by stray fur; unless, of course, you are the proud kitty parent of a sphynx cat, in which case you’ve got a whole other set of problems.

Love your cat though you do, you probably do not love the hairballs, soiled luggage and the fur, oh the fur! And so I’ve rounded up some of the messes cats most love to make, to help you, dear cat person, live in harmony with your feline.

Wirecutter, a New York Times company that reviews and recommends products, has spent hours testing cleaning solutions, and you’ll see their recommendations throughout. Questions have been edited.


Our 15-year-old cat is peeing and sometimes pooping on our carpet. We are getting a larger litter box in the hope that helps, but what is the very best way to get the smell out of our carpet?

Biokleen Bac-Out gets high marks in testing for removing pet urine smells from both carpet and upholstered furniture, whereas other similar products worked on one or the other but not both. (Though it didn’t perform particularly well at stain removal.)

Another product that must be mentioned in any discussion of cat pee is Nature’s Miracle, an enzymatic stain- and odor-eliminator formulated to treat bio-based messes (that’s the polite, dinner table term for urine, feces, vomit and drool). Nature’s Miracle is like the Windex of the pet mess cleaning products world: It’s ubiquitous and people swear by it.

However, for every two Nature’s Miracle enthusiasts, there’s one person who takes extreme umbrage with it. “It doesn’t work,” they complain. “It has a smell of its own that I’ve come to associate with cat pee,” they lament. Sometimes, they offer suggestions of what has worked for them, as one helpful reader wrote to me:

I notice you recommend Nature’s Miracle quite a bit — no shade to it, but that product has never worked for me and my numerous cats. Something that has worked, especially where cat pee is concerned, is this weird recipe. It’s an elaborate process, but it has worked wonders both on suitcases (cats like to pee in your suitcase, as you know) and carpets.

(The letter writer also said this method works best on fresh pee.)


I have had problems with cleaning vomit stains made by my cat. Kitty has excellent litter box habits, mercifully, but she tends to throw up at least once a week. Sometimes, it’s a hairball; other times for seemingly no apparent reason (there’s nothing medically wrong with her). I’ve tried Nature’s Miracle, which did a pretty good job but didn’t get the stain out completely — I have white wall-to-wall carpeting, so this is really an issue!

You’ve done the most important thing, which is to check with your vet to make sure that Kitty doesn’t have any medical issues that are causing her to upchuck so regularly. But, based on anecdata from cat owners I have known, a cat’s food can cause frequent upset in our feline friends. So the next time you see the vet, you might ask if a change to her diet might help to minimize the vomiting.

That said, I can certainly point you to some stain removal products that may help. You mentioned that Nature’s Miracle removed some, but not all, of the staining; it might be that a second pass with that product is all that’s required. An enzyme-based stain remover like Zout or Biz might be more effective than Nature’s Miracle.

It also might be, as can be the case with doggy diarrhea messes, that the problem is less with the product you’re using to treat the stain and more with the tool. A portable carpet cleaner like the Bissell SpotClean Pro, which performed best in Wirecutter’s test of those machines, might be needed to fully eliminate those stains. But before investing in one, try the toothbrush trick that worked for our friend with the mess-making canine.


My couch seems to hold on to cat hair like it’s glued there. No vacuum or lint roller gets it all off. What’s the best way to get the hair off materials that seems to attract it? I’m also concerned about allergies — will vacuuming get rid of dander, even if it leaves behind hair?

Rubber, I’m fond of telling people dramatically, is the natural enemy of hair. It’s one of the reasons that rubber brooms, rather than the more common rush-style brooms, are the best choice for sweeping up human or animal hair. And when it comes to furniture, a rubber dishwashing glove is all you’ll need to relieve that couch of its furry slipcover. Simply don the glove on your dominant hand and go over the hair-covered areas. The rubber will cause the hair to ball up into little clumps you can just toss in the trash.

If your vacuum is leaving behind visible hair, you can bet it’s leaving behind dander, too. First, make sure your vacuum’s filters aren’t clogged, a problem that can cause your vacuum to leave things behind.

If that doesn’t do the trick, you might need a new vacuum (see Wirecutter’s guide to vacuums for pet hair for recommendations). If allergies remain an issue, you may need to upgrade to something like the Dyson Mattress Hand-held Vacuum, which can be used on furniture other than mattresses, to remove allergens from dust mites to dander.

Do you need help cleaning up a mess made by your beloved dog, kitty, cockatoo or snake? (Your snake would never.) Email your questions about pet messes, or anything else really, to joliekerr@gmail.com, or find me on Twitter @joliekerr. Are you a dog person? We’ve got you covered: Here’s how to clean the most common dog messes.

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