It may not be quite as bad as, say, getting sprayed by a skunk, but the smell of cat urine isn’t much better! The strength of the smell hints at how concentrated cat urine is, more concentrated than the urine of almost any other domestic animal.
It’s not too difficult to control cat urine smell when you’re using a good cat litter and scooping frequently. But as many cat owners know, even a single incident of your cat peeing outside their litter box can create lasting odor problems!
If your kitty has peed somewhere they shouldn’t have and you’re wondering how to get rid of the smell, you’ve come to the right place! Because by the end of this post, you’ll know how to get rid of cat pee smell on various surfaces and materials, how to determine the cause of the urine incident, and prevent it from happening again in the future.
How To Get Rid Of Cat Pee Smell
1. Find The Source
If you can smell cat urine but aren’t sure where it is, track down the source as quickly as you can. The longer you let it sit, the worse it’s going to get and the longer it’s going to take to get rid of cat pee smell.
2. Blot With Cold Water
Dampen paper towels or a rag with cold water and use it to blot the cat pee spot. The goal is to remove as much of the urine as possible with the rag or paper towel as gently as possible (because both scrubbing and heat of any kind can set the stain and make the cat urine smell immeasurably worse!)
3. Neutralize The Odor
After blotting, douse the spot with an enzymatic cleaner or a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water. Both enzyme-based cleaners and diluted vinegar can help to neutralize the bacteria that makes cat urine smell so strongly.
Let the solution sit on the stain for 3-5 minutes, or according to the directions on the label. Set a laundry basket over the area to keep the kitty and other pets away from the spot while the cleaner is working.
4. Rinse And Repeat
Dampen a fresh paper towel or rag with cold water and use it to “rinse” the area and remaining odor. If the odor persists, repeat the steps again to remove it.
When you’re ready to let the spot air dry, open your windows if possible and use fans to keep fresh air moving in and the cat pee smell moving out.
Additional Tips For Specific Surfaces & Materials
Carpets, Mattress, And Couches
Follow the guidelines above, but when you’ve finished, sprinkle a layer of baking soda over the stain to help further neutralize the odor. Let it sit there for one hour or so, then vacuum it up.
Sealed Wood Flooring And Baseboards
Follow the general guidelines outlined above, or use a mixture 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 2 parts cool water to clean the area and remove the odor. Undiluted white vinegar would work as well if you don’t happen to have any hydrogen peroxide on hand. (And whatever you do, do not use a steam cleaner!)
Unsealed Wood Flooring
Removing cat urine from old, unsealed wood flooring is a bit more complicated. After blotting the stain with cold water, scrub the stain with undiluted white vinegar and rinse with more cold water, then blot with a towel until the area feels dry.
Enzymatic cleaners can help neutralize the odor, but be aware that the enzymes could damage or discolor unsealed floors. Test it in a small, hidden area of your floor first before using an enzymatic cleaner to deodorize the stain.
If the cat pee stain and odor are still present after you’ve taken these measures, you may need to sand down the area because the urine may have soaked into the wood. (This is why it’s absolutely worth the time, effort, and/or cost to seal wood floors!)
If your cat mistook your laundry basket for their litter box, don’t throw the clothes in your washing machine right away. Instead, rinse them under cold water and blot with towels the same way I outlined in the guidelines above.
Next, throw the soiled clothes into a bucket of cold water, add 1/2 cup of oxygen bleach (not chlorine bleach!), and let the clothes soak there for 2-3 hours. Remove the clothes from the bucket, transfer them to another bucket or your bathtub and soak them in a mixture of 1 part white vinegar and 3 parts water for 1 hour or so.
Finally, remove the clothes from their second soak and sprinkle baking soda directly over the urine stains. Let the baking soda sit for 10-15 minutes, then place the stained item(s) in your washing machine, set to cold, and run a wash cycle without any detergent.
(If this odor removal process seems like a lot of effort to go to, it is! The cat pee smell is extremely tricky to eliminate completely from fabric, so if you don’t care about the affected clothes all that much, you may decide you’d rather just replace them instead.)
Why Did My Cat Pee Outside Their Litter Box?
Getting rid of cat pee smell probably going to be your top priority after your kitty pees outside the litter box. But it’s also important to consider why your cat is peeing outside their litter box too, especially because the reason could be health-related!
Below, we’ll explore four of the most common reasons why cats pee outside the litter box. (But keep in mind that I’m not a veterinarian or a feline expert of any kind—consult a professional if you have specific questions or concerns about your kitty!)
Litter Box Access
One possible reason that cats may pee outside their litter box (especially if the cat in question is older) is that they are having difficulty accessing the box. Older cats often develop arthritis, which can make it difficult or even impossible to climb into a tall box.
If your cat has limited mobility, be sure to consider the location of the box too. If your cat has to go up a flight of stairs to use their litter box, consider relocating the box to the ground level where it’s more accessible.
Inappropriate urination can be a side effect of several feline health issues, including urinary tract infections, kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and other urinary tract diseases. These can make urination painful for cats, which may contribute to them urinating outside their litter box if they come to associate it with that painful sensation.
If your cat is exhibiting other symptoms in addition to peeing outside their litter box or displaying any unusual behaviors, take them to the vet as soon as you can. Untreated health conditions can become serious, and where our pets are concerned, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
If access isn’t an issue and your cat appears perfectly healthy, the incident may be a behavioral issue. Many cats don’t like using a dirty litter box (and some don’t like sharing them either), so be sure to address these conditions if they exist.
Clean and change your cat litter regularly, and if you have more than one cat, set up at least the same number of litter boxes in your home as there are cats. (Add one more litter box if they any of them are peeing outside of their litter boxes—as in 3 litter boxes for 2 cats.)
Finally, if your cat is peeing outside their litter box, they could be marking their territory (literally.) This behavior is called spraying or urine marking, and it can stem from either hormone changes or emotional distress.
Unfixed male cats spray to mark their territory, while unfixed female cats spray as a signal that they are ready to mate. To avoid these hormone-induced spraying behaviors, male cats should be neutered and female cats spayed when they are 6 months old.
If a fixed cat pees or sprays, it could be a sign that the cat is stressed, anxious, or frustrated by something, like a restrictive diet or not getting enough exercise. Discuss these issues with your vet, who can help you determine how to resolve potential problems.
Preventing Future Cat Urine Incidents
A happy, healthy cat with a clean litter box should (theoretically) urinate in it without issue. Addressing problems that can contribute to inappropriate urination should prevent future instances of that behavior.
If your cat continues to pee outside their litter box without an obvious explanation (such as new pets at home, moving to a new home, using a new type of litter, you put them on a diet), it’s a good idea to take your kitty in for a checkup just in case.
Do you have any tips or tricks for dealing with cat pee stains?