How to Remove Cat Urine Smell: Practical Advice for a Stench-Free Home
One of the most frequent questions I have been asked over the years is How to Remove Cat Urine Smell. This is something that can really stress a cat owner as your house is smelling like a filthy litter tray and can be embarrassing for you when you have visitors.
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How to Remove Cat Urine Smell. Now.
Let’s face it — in comparison to dogs, cats do have a bad reputation following them around. Whether they’re seen as grumpy, furious or downright entitled, not many people would say that a cat is a man’s best friend. However, that hasn’t swayed most of us from owning a cat. After all, kitties are wonderful, soft, furry shape-shifting creatures (ever seen a cat sit in a bowl? Adorable!), and they are welcome companions…That is until you find yourself googling how to remove the cat urine smell.
The problematic thing about cats is that, unlike dogs, they love peeing in the most unexpected areas. Given that felines are more flexible than, say, a Shar-Pei, they can wiggle their way through tight spaces and pee — without us even figuring it out! Then, after a week or two, we realize that there’s a stench in our house that just isn’t going away — and we cannot even see where they peed!
Luckily, there are quite a few solutions we can rely on in times of trouble, i.e., when we cannot even breathe because of the smell. Down below, we’ll talk about not just how to remove cat urine smell but also why your cat might be trying to become the master of improper elimination. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
How does cat urine even smell?
Now, if you’re someone who has both a cat and a dog, you already know that there is a slight difference in the urine smell of these two animals. What’s more, as previously mentioned, cats tend to hide and pee in various places, whereas dogs, no matter how much they hide, usually get discovered pretty soon.
So, how does cat urine even smell? Well, the main reason it stinks after a while is that it goes through a few important stages.
What happens to cat urine if we fail to clean it up right away
When a cat pees somewhere, this might go unnoticed for a few days or even a few weeks, which lets the bacteria found in the urine to decompose. Once that happens, the cat urine starts to eerily smell like ammonia.
Ammonia is actually a type of substance we often use at home. When diluted with water, for example, it makes for a fantastic tile floor cleaner. Additionally, greasy stoves are no match to it, as it removes all dirt it comes in contact with.
But here’s the issue — if we use ammonia all the time, how can we tell whether the smell is related to the cleaner or cat urine?
If we fail to notice the ammonia smell, the cat urine actually “transforms” — and it’s not pretty. The bacteria found in the urine decompose even further, which leads to the release of mercaptans. These are compounds that also make an appearance in skunk spray. At their very core, they’re harmless, but most would describe mercaptans as quite stinky — think smelly socks or rotten cabbage.
Finally, two other factors contribute to cat urine smelling worse than a gym — malfunctioning kidneys and cat hormones. The older the cat is, the worse the urine smells, as their kidneys are becoming more and more inefficient. Likewise, whenever they pee, cats release some hormones. These can particularly add to the already-not-really-pleasant smell.
Why do cats sometimes urinate all over the house?
People usually think that cats are smarter than dogs and that they even think they are more intelligent than humans. Of course, pop culture and the endless line of cat memes have fueled these assumptions. Cats are seen as dictators who are just waiting for their time to shine and conquer our civilization!
Though some find this idea hilarious, cats aren’t entitled or furious all the time. As always, a pet learns behavior patterns from their owner, and just like with dogs, there are lovable, cuddly cats, as well as those who’d like to scratch your entire arm just to entertain themselves!
Why do these assumptions matter? Well, they relate to the fact that people think cats urinate everywhere except in the litter box OUT OF SPITE. The truth is, however, entirely different — some serious issues might be making them act that way.
Just like in the case of coprophagia in dogs, cats are also prone to medical conditions that might make them act differently, i.e., resort to improper elimination. The most common ones are UTIs, diabetes, feline lower urinary tract disease, and hyperthyroidism.
UTIs are quite painful both for humans and animals, which is the main reason a cat might refuse to pee in a litter box. What’s more, if the UTI goes unnoticed, it may lead to scarring, which takes up SPACE in the bladder.
Thus, the cat cannot hold as much urine as usual and will probably pee whenever and wherever. Meanwhile, kidney disease, as well as diabetes and thyroid malfunction, can compel the cat to drink more water, which leads to frequent urination.
The cat might also be suffering because of something that’s not related to urine. It might be in pain and associates the litter box with it. Additionally, it might have a blockage that prevents it to pee as usual, or it is too old to function properly.
Older cats may develop arthritis, which makes visiting their regular bathroom a very tiresome ordeal. Thus, even if they don’t want to, they might pee somewhere else.
Stress and territorial issues
Animals are prone to stress just like us, so it’s not uncommon for cats to avoid the litter box and prefer to urinate somewhere else. Sometimes, changes in the household can cause them anxiety, especially if we’re talking about someone leaving or joining the family.
Cats are quite territorial, so they might perceive this as a personal attack and act out to point out what’s bothering them. That’s why it would be better to put the litter box someplace quiet, where there’s no one around and where they can be completely alone.
We all know that cats can spend a lot of time licking themselves clean, so proper hygiene is quite important to them. Thus, if their litter box is a bit dirty, they could stop using it.
On another note, the box might be completely fine and spotless, but the cat might not like it either way. Cats are different from dogs in that regard too. Unlike them, they love to be in control of the situation, even when it comes to their toilets. So, if the box is too small for them or the litter is too gritty under their paws and smells funny, they just will not want to do the deed in it.
Squatting vs. spraying
Before we move on to some prevention tips, it’s crucial that we mention the difference between peeing while squatting vs. spraying.
As you already know, most cats have to squat to release urine, so most puddles will be on the floor, the carpet, in the litter box, etc. However, some cats also like to spray urine, especially if we’re talking about unspayed females and unneutered males.
Why do they do it? Well, there are a variety of reasons. Some just love making a grand entrance and saying to the world, “Here I am.” That’s their way of marking their territory, albeit a more aggressive method, no doubt.
They also do it if they want to get the attention of another cat, usually of the opposite sex, or because they are frustrated. If the cat owner hasn’t been giving the cat the royal treatment it deserves, the furball might get annoyed and decide it’s time for revenge!
Stopping a cat from peeing all over the house doesn’t sound simple at all. However, it ties in with the training we go through with dogs. In order to help them learn manners, we have to put in the effort. Additionally, when it comes to cats, we have to:
Make sure the litter box is just right for the cat
Selecting the right litter box might make you feel as if you’re living with Goldilocks rather than with a cat, but that’s life! In any case, pay attention to the size of the box, whether it has a cover or not, and where you can place it. The bigger the box is, the more space the cat will have to pee, which will undoubtedly make it happy. Additionally, if it’s in a quiet area, the cat will have its privacy and get to urinate in peace.
Select the best litter possible
The way the litter feels under the cat’s paws, as well as how it smells are other factors you have to consider. Cats can be quite particular, and they may not want to use the litter you bought. If that’s the case, you just have to try with another kind until the cat approves. Most of them love unscented, scoopable litter, so try to find that type if you can.
Ensure the cat has something to do
Of course, cats love lounging on the window sills and sunbathing whenever possible. However, they can also get quite bored and frustrated with the fact they’re alone most of the time. As you can imagine, entertaining a cat is not as easy as entertaining a dog. So, if you want your feline to live a long and happy life, try to keep the stress and anxiety to a minimum by getting it lots of toys and playing with it often.
Pay close attention to senior cats
Just like humans, when they get older, cats can develop urinary conditions that might make them resort to improper elimination. Additionally, some conditions might prevent them from getting to the litter box in time. If that’s the case in your home too, place a few litter boxes around and one on each floor. That way, the cat won’t really have an excuse and will be able to urinate as soon as it needs.
Also, remember that each kitty should have its litter box. Remember what we said about cats and their desire to mark their territory? Well, they won’t appreciate sharing a litter box with other cats. Thus, if you have three cats, get three boxes — no exceptions.
Clean up urine as soon as you notice it
And finally, one of the most important things we have to do, apart from catering to the cat’s needs, is cleaning up the urine as soon as possible. You’ve already heard what can happen if we leave a puddle of urine on the floor, carpet, etc. for too long.
However, consider hard-to-remove urine stains as well. The longer they remain unnoticed, the harder it will be to remove them later. Thus, the cat will always know where it has already peed — and will continue to visit that same spot and do it again!
In the end, to remove cat urine smell, you have to pay attention to what you’re using and how you’re using it. It’s not enough to make a room smell nice again — you also have to mask the smell or remove it so well that the cat doesn’t notice it anymore!
Becoming a master of cleanliness — how to remove cat urine smell from various surfaces
Now that we know what might cause improper urine elimination in cats, let’s see what can help us remove the smell.
In general, household items everyone has in their kitchen, such as vinegar and baking soda, are fantastic when it comes to removing the cat urine smell. However, for some older stains, especially those that have been absorbed by some kind of material (carpets, for instance), enzymatic cleaners will be necessary.
Substances that can remove cat urine smell
As a type of acid that’s able to neutralize the stench of sprayed cat urine, vinegar is, for some, the ultimate solution. The best way to use it would be to make a one-part vinegar, one-part water solution, and spray it onto the stains. Of course, it will leave another scent behind; one many of us don’t like. However, unlike cat urine smell, this one goes away after a few days!
If you have a male cat, especially one that hasn’t been snipped, you will probably notice that his urine smells particularly bad. It’s usually quite stinky because it’s full of hormones, mainly testosterone. When an unneutered male cat pees, the pee serves as a deterrent for other males.
Why are we telling you this? Well, the mighty baking soda can be very helpful when it comes to removing a male cat’s urine smell. You can either combine it with some water or sprinkle it directly on the smelly area. After that, let it sit for a while, 30 minutes, for example, and then vacuum.
Finally, cat owners also have a few professional options to choose from while in a pet store. As one of the most powerful solutions for horrible cat urine smell, enzyme-based cleaners, which come with natural enzymes and a bunch of beneficial bacteria, are a godsend, especially if someone is looking to remove cat urine smell from rugs and carpets. These break down the acid found in the urine and remove the bad bacteria that are causing the stench, thus not only eliminating the stain but the smell too.
How to remove cat urine smell from carpets, mattresses, and furniture
In order to remove cat urine smell before it stinks up the whole house, we’ll have to act fast. As soon as we see the urine, the first thing we have to grab is a clean cloth. By pressing the cloth onto the carpet, we’ll get most of the moisture out.
Then it’s time to get cleaning. Water is usually our best friend when it comes to fresh stains, so we can actually rinse that part of the carpet with some H2O and then vacuum the excess moisture. Do note that steam cleaners won’t work here. In fact, they’ll just seal the stain in! You’ll need a wet/dry vacuum for the best results.
If you want, you can sprinkle some baking soda after cleaning the area. Leave it on for about half an hour before vacuuming it. If there’s no smell afterward, you could just leave it at that. However, remember that cats can smell things our noses tend to ignore. That’s why it would be best to follow that with an enzymatic cleaner.
Rather than spraying some of it onto the carpet, feel free to douse the area entirely with the cleaner. If you have a curious feline who loves to follow you around, put some aluminum foil on top of the stain or something the cat cannot get under, like an empty laundry basket.
Let the stain “cook” for a while, around 10 to 15 minutes, and then blot the area with another clean cloth. If the odor is still there, repeat the process a few times.
Prevention is again key here. You don’t want to keep dousing your carpets in cleaners every few months. So, to prevent the cat from visiting the scene of the crime yet again, trick it! Cats don’t like to pee where they eat or play and vice versa. Thus, placing its food bowl on that same spot or even leaving some of its toys there will most likely prevent potential mishaps.
Mattresses, furniture, and cushions
If the cat has decided to mark its territory all over your bed, you’ll have to deal with the mess as soon as possible. Luckily, you can use the same method we’ve just talked about to remove cat urine smell from a mattress. To prevent the cat from ever urinating on the bed again, place a plastic tarp over it. If possible, keep it on forever, or at least set it up when you’re not using the bed.
In case you sense a strong urine smell coming from the cushions, use the same method again. Leave the cushions to air dry outside. When you decide to bring them in, place some aluminum foil on both sides of the cushion. This will let the cushion dry inside, and it will also prevent the cat from marking its territory again.
The same technique goes for furniture, although you could use a vinegar solution to remove cat urine smell fast. The vinegar’s strong smell will not just mask but eliminate the stench. Plus, the cat won’t like it at all!
How to remove cat urine smell from laundry or clothes
This is where you’ll finally get to use some baking soda and vinegar. Let’s presume that your linens or clothing are all machine-washable. If they are, you’ll first have to rinse the urine stain with some cold water. Then, fill up the washing machine, add your favorite detergent and top that off with either ¼ cup of vinegar or one cup of baking soda.
You might have to rewash everything if the smell still lingers. If it’s particularly persistent, add some enzymatic cleaner into the mix, but follow the instructions carefully. In any case, whatever you do, never use bleach to remove cat urine smell or stains!
Bleach can mix with the ammonia found in cat urine, which could lead to some harmful gases spreading around the house. Also, if you have a washer/dryer combo, opt out of using the drying mode in this case. The heat can seal the smell before you eliminate it.
How to remove cat urine smell from tiles and wood
We all love our wooden floors and furniture, but cleaning up urine and removing cat urine smell from them can easily make us rethink our flooring.
If the floors have some sort of sealant on top of them, then the cleanup is easy. Any hardwood floor cleaner would do! However, if the surface is porous, sanding is the best solution.
Also, you ought to consider the type of flooring you have. Site-finished floors won’t be affected by the urine too much, as the floors were stained and sealed in your home. In contrast, pre-finished floors consist of individually stained and sealed planks.
Thus, any seams between the planks will likely get filled with urine — making the cleanup process and the removal of the odor that much more difficult.
Finally, you also have to think about the tiles. In general, tiles are impermeable if they’re glazed, so the urine won’t seep through them. If the urine is right on the tile, you can simply wipe it away. Then, use your regular tile cleaner to eliminate the smell.
The thing you have to pay attention to is the grout. That’s where the odor can linger, especially if you don’t take the time to scrub the urine away.
The best solution for this would be to use some baking soda and water. Make a mixture out of these, grab an old toothbrush, and spread it in the gaps filled with grout. Rub the mixture vigorously, and then wipe it away once it dries down. You’ll remove some stains with this method as well.
As you can see, to remove cat urine smell, you can easily use some of the most common household staples. However, when the stench is strong, and the urine is old, enzymatic cleaners are the best option.
In any case, don’t forget to address common behavioral or medical issues the cat might be going through. It’s always better to help the cat feel comfortable enough to use its litter box than to keep cleaning urine stains for the rest of your life. What’s more, remember that the litter box can sometimes make the cat pee in other places — so keep it clean and in a quiet area where the cat can use it whenever it wants.