Meth lab-urine smell

I scheduled an inspection next week on a bank foreclosed home. The realtor said the home has a cat urine smell that will run you out of the home. I have read that urine smells are indicative of meth labs. Would you refuse to do the inspection until a test has been performed for meth labs or would you do the inspection and inform your client of the potential of the previous meth lab.

this is a time when your contract, standards, and “canned” disclaimers could let you down. Be specific, tell what you know or suspect, and recommend specialist evaluations in the strongest terms. Long-term helath affects of meth have been well-cocumented, and well after your clients have moved in dealers and dope fiends could come knocking on the door after midnight. This inspection reeks of liability, and I wish you well.

I have encountered strong cat odors that could visually be attributed to the presence of cats.

I have not encountered a Meth lab.

My Opinion:

  • Do the Inspection and base your recommendations upon what is visibly present at the time of Inspection. If the Odor can not be directly attributed to cats / pets at the time of inspection, a follow up recommendation for further review of meth production may be warranted.

I have been in many, many meth labs (I am a full time police officer) and I have never been in one that smells like cat urine. I think you would be able to notice tell the difference.

I thought “ammonia” smell was tip off that it could be a lab. Here is an article that I found.


I have inspected Meth labs.
In 2 of 3 cases the smell was apperent (like an either borax smell) the other one was cleaned up and I found the beakers under the building.

It is not you’re responsibility to determin the purpose of the residence, but only the quality of the visible systems. If you find evidence of activity report it as so. It is not you’re job to find crack houses.:roll:

I have never seen that article or heard that referrence before. Yes, anhydrous ammonia is used in the meth cooking process…and I have been in houses with LOTS of cats and cat pee, and the two dont smell anything alike! Anhydrous ammonia is a very dangerous, smelly substance. I think anyone could tell the difference between it and the ammonia smell that cat pee gives off.

Just for the record, and I have said this before, I know all this meth lab training is a hot topic, and eveyone wants to do it. I think training HIs to recognize old labs is a great thing…but there is another thread talking about training HIs to be “certified” to inspect labs. This is a VERY bad idea in my opinion. Civilians should be trained to recognize what might be a lab, and then trained to call the proper authority. Labs are dangerous things, and should be left up to the professionals to handle.

After renovating my daughters house a few years ago that had carpets saturated with it, I can relate to that quite well. Knowing the difference between the two, no. I would not know what the difference is other than the fact it would not be cat pee.

As far as Meth-lab, whatever that is, I would expect that some like you Jeff can continue to educate us and would welcome the idea that it is best left to the Professionals of the trade.

Luckily, I have never come across one, but by far does not mean it does not exist.
Thanks for sharing educational thoughts.

Marcel :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Why I might recommend a taste test.


P.S. Only Kidding!

I have never been around a meth lab that I know of. A quick internet search for “cat urine meth lab”

This was the first Government web site that came up, with multiple other “how to detect a meth lab” websites listing cat urine smell as an indicator.

There’s a big difference between cat piss and meth aroma. And a cat will tend to pick a spot along a wall or in a corner, and when you get close to it, you WILL know. Use your flat nose pliers to pull the carpet back a little, and you will see (and definitely smell) an amber yellow, gummy looking accumulation. Meth has a definite chemical odor like ether mixed with ammonia (kinda). It’s very distinctive.

But as far as home inspections are concerned, what does meth have to do with SYSTEMS and COMPONENTS?

Good morning, Gents!

Some good comments on this thread, almost all of them are on target.

As my Brother in Blue correctly points out, very few methlabs have an odor of cat pee.
[FONT=Arial]When they do smell like urine, it’s usually due to the filth, squalor and cats that are present.

There is just one process (referred to as the “P2P” method) that employs compounds that really resemble cat pee, and that process is rarely seen. I address the urine odor myth and other methlab myths on my web discussion: [/FONT]

Just last Thursday, I executed a search warrant in a methlab, and although there were many visual indicators, there were no unusual odors (except the odor of human squalor). As a police officer, when I am in a methlab, I generally have initially higher priority threats than chemicals – and then a spectrum of diminishing threats as the process unfolds after I have secured a building.

The LE article referenced by Tom Dietrich addresses a threat priority hierarchy that simply does not apply to HIs. During my search on Thursday, for example, we simultaneously hit two adjacent houses/apartments. Upon the dynamic approach, as I scurried across an open parking lot, my three entry partners (one long gun, one less-than-leathal gun and my rear guard) suddenly were redirected and I had to make initial entry on my structure on my own. The last thing on my mind at that point was chemical exposures. Once back up arrived, I performed a search that placed me inside a confined, small, filthy closet, in physical contact with things I don’t want to remember, but included needles, meth, probably coke, and a variety of drug equipment. It turns out the apartment didn’t have electricity and I had to perform the search exclusively by flashlight, increasing my risk even further. These are the threats in the mind of the police writer.

For cooks who use the Nazi method (which uses ammonia), the ammonia dissipates very quickly and usually does not leave behind a urine-like odor.

Jimmy D. Breazeale and “tallen” raise valid points:

“But as far as home inspections are concerned, what does meth have to do with SYSTEMS and COMPONENTS?”

The objective of training HIs to recognize clanlabs is not to make them methlabs experts, but rather to equip them to have sufficient information to protect themselves by learning how to recognize a methlab, and leave a structure once they recognize they are in a potentially hazardous situation. As far as the next step goes, that will be dictated by your own professional judgment, policies, and professional inspection standards.

Cheers, all!
Caoimhín P. Connell
Forensic Industrial Hygienist

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)


If it was a lab. you surly have no worry. People have been inside the home, any type of trap should be gone. if you truly think it was a lab just be carefull where some one could of hid something, like the attic. insulation is a great hidding spot. I would wear some type of charcol mask for the smell. i always carry charcol dust masks.

I agree with Jeff, Inspectors shouldn’t be inspecting Labs. I Lent this quit clearly when i was a fire fighter, we had a training on labs. when all the training was done, it came down to two rules. if you think its a Lab, stay out. if you go in and discovery its a lab, get out.

I completed the home inspection today. The door had been kicked and a quick repair had been made. Indication of potential shady activity. I have never knowingly been around a meth lab and am not real familiar with the smell of cat urine (is it discernable from other urine smells?). The home had a strong gross smell.

Before the inspection, I contacted a local environmental clean-up contractor advertising to work on crime scenes and clandestine drug labs. This contractor stated that homes where labs were located can sometimes smell like urine. He stated that he can usually tell the difference and offered to check out the home for free (it is near his office). If necessary and desired by the buyer, he would perform lab testing for a fee.

I gave the contractor’s contact information to the buyers and told them I did not know the cause of the smell.

I was not worried about traps, more about the potential health concerns.

For those of you wanting to know what this has to do with a home inspection, I clearly state in my report that I provide no lab testing or environmental services. However, if one of my senses (see, touch, hear, taste, smell) alerts me to something in the home, I will inform the clients of it and give them any information I have on the subject.

First look around for the evidence of the animals that were living in the home cat urine does have a very distinct smell. I’m sure there are other telltale signs that there were animal’s in the house if this is truly the case I wouldn’t worry about it too much until you get there.

Forgive me for my ignorance, and my oversight if this has already been covered in this detailed dicussion, but what is wrong with buying an ex-meth lab or, for that matter, an existing meth lab? Exposure to old, low levels of some meth ingredients may produce headache, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue not unlike a day at the office. But surely these things can be cleaned up and thrown in the bin. And one could always open the windows.

Urine will show with a black light

Under $5.00 from your local home depot or Lowe’s