How to Get Rid of Cat Pee Smell

Brown tabby cat lying on on carpetAny cat owner can vouch that there’s nothing more frustrating than lingering cat pee smell. Cat urine has a distinct, strong odor that can be difficult to eradicate from carpets, furniture, floors, and other places. The good news is, by using the correct techniques and avoiding some common mistakes, you can get rid of the cat pee smell in your home.

Why It’s So Hard To Get Rid Of Cat Pee Smell?

Dog urine isn’t easy to clean up and certainly doesn’t smell great, but cat urine is even more pungent and it’s extraordinarily difficult to eliminate for several reasons. First, cat urine is extremely concentrated. Cats don’t tend to drink a lot of water (unlike dogs, which can empty an entire water bowl after a romp in the backyard). A dog’s urine is often so dilute that it’s clear, which means less smell. In comparison, cats usually urinate small volumes of very strong-smelling urine.

The urine of intact (unneutered) male cats is even more repugnant because it contains pheromones and hormones like testosterone. An unaltered male cat’s urine is supposed to smell strong. In nature, it allows the cat to send messages to other cats—females know he’s present and available for mating, and males know they should stay away unless they are up for a fight. In your home, however, there’s almost nothing worse than intact male cat pee odor.

Why Old Cat Pee Smells So Bad?

Fresh cat pee smells bad enough, but you might have noticed that cat pee seems to smell worse and worse as time goes on. This is because cat urine contains bacteria that break down the urea present in the urine, resulting in another offending odor: ammonia. The more time that passes, the more the bacteria consume the urea and the more ammonia odor you will smell. For this reason, the quicker you clean up cat urine, the better your chances of eliminating the odor.

Gray British Shorthair cat lying on chair

Sunlight can help eliminate odors, so bring couch or chair cushions outside to dry in the sun after cleaning and treating the affected area.

How To Get Rid Of Cat Urine Smell?

Getting rid of cat pee smell is important anytime your cat pees outside the litter box. If the smell lingers, your cat may return to that spot and continue to urinate there instead of his litter box. Plus, as much as we love cats, no one wants their house to smell like cat pee. A cat’s sense of smell is much better than ours, so make sure to remove lingering odors.

Eliminating cat pee smell is twofold. First, you must clean up and remove the urine as much as possible. Then, you need to neutralize the compounds that are causing the odor.

Types Of Products To Use

The best cleaning products for cleaning up cat urine are those that neutralize the odor. Never use an ammonia-based cleaner, which will make the odor worse. A word of caution: Never use bleach to clean up cat pee. Bleach combined with urine can cause a chemical reaction that emits dangerous gases.

Baking soda: A known odor remover, baking soda can absorb the urine and odor. It can be used on carpet, furniture, and in the laundry. Some commercial pet cleaners contain baking soda, or you can just use plain baking soda.

Vinegar: Distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar can neutralize pet urine odor. If using vinegar, you may smell the odor of the vinegar itself, but this should fade in a few days.

Enzyme-based cleaners: Enzymatic pet-odor cleaners are specially formulated to clean pet stains and neutralize pet odor. Special enzymes in these products break down the odor-causing compounds in the urine, leaving nothing behind.

How To Get Rid Of Cat Pee Smell In Carpet?

  • If the pee is fresh and still wet, blot up as much urine as you can using paper towels or cloth towels. If the pee has been on the carpeting a while, you can skip this step.
  • Rinse the soiled areas with cool or cold water, then soak up as much water as you can with towels and/or a carpet cleaning device like a handheld carpet cleaner (wet vac). Think twice before using a steam cleaner; heat can set an odor and make it harder to remove.
  • Use an enzymatic cleaner, following the instructions on the label. Be sure to use enough cleaner—it should soak through the carpet.
  • Allow the cleaner to sit for the recommended amount of time on the label, then blot the spot with a cloth or paper towels to soak up as much liquid as you can.
  • Alternatively, you can apply a solution of a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water to the area using a spray bottle, allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then blot up as much as you can. Sprinkle the spot with baking soda, allow to dry for a few hours, and vacuum up the baking soda.
  • If the pee smell persists despite these efforts, contact a professional carpet cleaning service without delay.

If your cat pees in a pile of laundry, wash it quickly using cold water and an enzyme detergent.

How To Get Rid Of Cat Pee Smell From Clothes, Sheets, And Blankets?

  • If your cat pees in your laundry basket or on your bed, thoroughly rinse the items in cold water.
  • Place in the washing machine with your regular laundry detergent plus 1 cup of baking soda OR ¼ cup vinegar. Alternatively, use an enzyme-based laundry detergent.
  • Air dry in the sun to further remove lingering odor.
  • If you want to dry the clothes in the dryer, smell them first to make sure no odor remains. Heat-drying washed laundry that still smells like cat pee can set the cat pee stains and make it even harder to get rid of the odor.

How To Get Rid Of Cat Pee Smell From The Bed, Couch, And Other Furniture?

  • If the pee is fresh, try blotting up as much urine you can using a cloth or paper towels. If the pee has dried, you can skip this step.
  • Rinse the affected area with cool or cold water, then blot up as much water as you can with towels and/or a carpet cleaning device like a handheld upholstery cleaner (like a wet vac).
  • Use an enzyme cleaner on the area, following the instructions on the label. Spray generously so it soaks through the entire spot.
  • Allow the cleaner to sit for the recommended amount of time on the label, then blot the area with cloth towels or paper towels to remove as much liquid as you can.
  • Alternatively, soak the area with a solution of a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water using a spray bottle, allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then blot with towels to absorb as much liquid as you can. Sprinkle the spot with baking soda, allow to dry for a few hours, and vacuum up the baking soda. If the pee is on couch cushions or a mattress, bring them outside to sit in the sun while the baking soda dries.
  •  If the pee smell persists despite these efforts, contact a professional upholstery cleaning company as soon as possible.
Kitten on bed

If your cat pees on your bed, be sure to use a generous dose of an enzymatic cleaner, allowing it to penetrate the mattress.

Cat Peeing Outside The Box? It’s Time To Investigate!

Cleaning up cat pee accidents can be frustrating and time-consuming, but consider this: If your cat is peeing outside the litter box, he could be suffering from a medical condition.

Bring him to the veterinarian for an exam to look for any health issues that may be causing him to urinate outside the box. If not health problems are found, the inappropriate urination might be behavioral. Your vet can offer suggestions about how to stop it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does vinegar remove cat urine odor?

Vinegar is a natural way to help neutralize the smell of cat pee. Although the vinegar itself has a distinct odor, it typically goes away after a few days. If vinegar doesn’t do the trick, an enzyme-based pet cleaner is a more powerful option to neutralize cat pee smell.

What else can smell like cat urine?

Things other than actual cat pee that can have a similar smell include certain plants, sewer problems and even certain strains of mold.

How do I get rid of urine smell in my house?

Eliminating cat pee smell requires two steps. First, clean the area as completely as possible using a non-ammonia based, non-bleach cleaner. Then, neutralize the odor using either vinegar, baking soda or an enzyme-based pet cleaner.

Jackie Brown

About Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown is a freelance writer specializing in the pet industry. She writes on all pet and veterinary topics, including general health and care, nutrition, grooming, behavior, training, veterinary and health topics, rescue and animal welfare, lifestyle, and the human-animal bond. Jackie is the former editor of numerous pet magazines and is a regular contributor to pet magazines and websites.

One thought on “How to Get Rid of Cat Pee Smell

  1. AvatarGGof9

    Cat urine odors are definitely the worst. My cat got scared riding in the car several months ago and peed between the seat and the console. I tried everything to get the smell out including vinegar and neutralizing agents. I can’t say what finally did it because I tried so many products but it’s finally gone…thank goodness!

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