How to Get Rid of Cat Pee Smell for Good

Pee be gone!
Tayler Tayler (43)
10 minutes

Cat owners know the scent of cat pee. It's an unfortunate side effect of feline ownership and, also, unfortunately, the smell of cat pee is vile.

While most cats are litter trained, or at least potty trained, there is still a chance that your cat might pee outside of the box. This is especially true if your cat is older, has bladder issues, or is anxious.

For this guide, I'll show you how you can get rid of that cat pee smell, whether you're trying to tackle furniture, your clothes, your carpet or a rug, and everything in between.

But first, here's my experience with cat pee where it wasn't supposed to be. If you want to dive into the content, feel free to skip on down to Step 1 where I describe why cat pee smells so awful.

Personal Story Time

One day, after I just moved to Florida back in August 2019, I left my apartment for most of the day to travel to the next city over. It was supposed to be a day of exploring the area with my friend, Kaliope, and, knowing that I would be gone for likely more than twelve hours, I set up my cats for success.

...my cat Val managed to open the drawer and relieve herself in protest of my absence.

I fed them appropriately and even left out more food than I normally would in case I would be back late, washed their water bowl, filled it, cleaned the litter box, and thought I was good to go.

Alas, my little 450 sq/ft studio with an open closet design exposed my dresser and, while the drawers were shut, my cat Val managed to open the drawer and relieve herself in protest of my absence.

Rendering all of my t-shirts and tops sprinkled with cat pee.

Thankfully her tiny bladder wasn't enough to really saturate the clothes and double thankfully my clothes protected the porous wooden inside of my dresser which would've acted like a pee sponge.

After washing my clothes in the communal laundry room provided by my apartment complex (this was pre-Covid) and sat down to figure out how one could get rid of the cat pee scent.

Here's what I learned.

Small Spray BottleSmall Spray Bottle ×1
Rocco and Roxie Supply Professional Strength Stain and Odor EliminatorRocco and Roxie Supply Professional Strength Stain and Odor Eliminator ×1

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Cat litter clumps.

For starters, let's take a look at why cat pee smells so awful.

Cat urine, according to Joe Schwarcz Ph.D. and director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society, isn't really different from other animal's urine.

The main problem is that cat's like to mark their territory with their urine, especially outside of their litter box, which means that many of us find pockets of urine around our apartment after they've had a chance to get really gnarly.

The science behind the smell

Stage 1

When urine is left unaddressed, the bacteria begin to decompose which gives off the characteristic stale old urine scent.

Stage 2

Decomposition emits mercaptans, a compound that is also in skunk's spray.

Stage 3

The scent worsens for a time before fading.

Male cats tend to have smellier urine due to different steroids in their system.

Of course, this is subjective. As the owner of two female kitties —whom I love, by the by — I can tell you here: female cat urine smells god awful, too.

But how do we get rid of the smell? How do we actually get rid of it, too, not just how do we mask it?

If you want to make your own cat poop scoop like the one pictured above, check out our guide on the best 3D printed cat accessories you can make!

Odor eliminator.

The first, if obvious, step is to clean the spot as soon as you can. The longer you leave the spot, the more the urine decomposes, and the more it stinks.

What to use

  • Use cold water and a towel to sop up the urine. You don't need to dampen the paper towels first. For best results: grab a cup of cool water, pour it over the stain, and sop it up using a towel.
  • Or you can use an enzyme-based remover that breaks down the acid and bacteria in the urine. This Rocco & Roxie Supply Professional Strength Stain and Odor Eliminator is enzyme-powered and it works with time. For best results: spray the affected area and let it sit for half an hour to an hour before blotting the spot with a towel and letting it air dry.
  • You can also use a homemade solution by mixing one part vinegar and one part water together and spraying it on the affected area. The vinegar breaks down those pesky urine acids and the vinegar smell subsides after a few days.

Let's dive into how you remove urine from specific fabrics and things.

Cleaning rug.

This works for rugs, too!

Carpets and rugs like to cling to the scent of urine which is unfortunate if you own a cat and have carpets, especially if your cat has decided that the carpet is theirs and they try to make this fact known (but we all know it's not true).

Here's how to get rid of cat pee from the carpet:

  • Step 1: Absorb the urine. Absorb as much of the stain as possible by blotting the spot with a clean cloth. Don't rub. Rubbing will press the pee into the fibers of the carpet, making it harder to eliminate the scent.
  • Step 2: Spray with enzyme cleaner or vinegar solution. Regardless of what medium you choose, make sure you soak the spot.
  • Step 3: Place a damp towel over the spot and weigh it down. This will allow the cleaning solution to break down the urine in the fibers of the carpet. You're going to let this sit overnight.
  • Step 4: Let the spot air dry.

Your carpet will look good as new and free of pee.

Inspecting clothes.

Cats can mistake piles of clothes for a litter box or, in the case of my own cat, they can maliciously relieve themselves in a drawer that they paw open with their little murder daggers. Naturally, you'll want to wash the clothes immediately, but there's a better way to remove the cat pee smell from your clothes.

Washing freshly peed on clothes is bad!

  • Step 1: Rinse the affected area with cold water. This will help to keep the urine from settling into the fibers of the clothes.
  • Step 2: Add clothes to the washing machine. Add your normal detergent to the washer and add either 1 cup of baking soda or 1/4 cup of vinegar.
  • Step 3: Wash your clothes as normal.
  • Step 4: If the smell persists – add a little bit of Rocco & Roxie Supply Professional Strength Stain and Odor Eliminator to the load and wash the clothes again.
  • Step 5: Air dry your clothes.
  • Step 6: Rewash until the scent is gone.

This process helped me clean my clothes after the pee incident.

Cleaning mattress.

This works for cushions, too!

Cats pee on mattresses and cushions often, unfortunately, and the idea of tackling that mess can seem daunting. After all, there are layers upon layers that aren't easily accessible and easy to clean.

Thankfully, it's not that difficult! Here's how you can clean the cat pee smell out of your mattress:

  • Step 1: Remove the bedding from the mattress. You can follow Step 4 to remove the scent of urine from the sheets!
  • Step 2: Blot the spot. Soak up the spot as much as you can using a clean, dry towel.
  • Step 3: Make your mixture. Mix together 3 tbsp. of laundry detergent, 1 cup of white vinegar, and 2 cups of cold water into a standard spray bottle.
  • Step 4: Soak the spot! Don't be afraid to really drench the area. Remember – you want to breakdown the chemicals in the urine and soaking the spot is the best way to do this.
  • Step 5: Blot the area. Repeat Step 2.
  • Step 6: Coat the spot with baking soda. Allow it to sit for a minimum of 8 hours. Baking soda will neutralize the scent.
  • Step 7: Vacuum the baking soda from the spot. Only do this when the baking soda is dry.

This is the lengthiest of processes on this list but trust me - this is the easiest way to make sure the urine scent is gone from your mattress. I saved my own mattress this way.

Litter.

At a glance, it may seem like your cat peeing outside of the litter box is nothing more than an act of rebellion but, a closer look could yield some dietary, health, or behavioral problems.

Don't feel discouraged in the event your first attempt doesn't work out.

A few reasons why your cat is peeing outside of the litter box

Bladder Problems

If the habit of peeing outside of the box becomes regular, take your car to the vet. Problems like bladder stones, idiopathic cystitis, kitty UTIs, or even a metabolic disease can make peeing in the box difficult for your cat, causing them to seek out a more comfortable environment to relieve themselves in.

Behavioral Problems

Stressed out and unhappy cats might be trying to communicate their distress by peeing outside of the box. Something like a new person in the home or a different litter can trigger this behavior. Cats will also seek a cleaner place to relieve themselves in the event of a dirty litter box.

Lingering Scent

If your cat has peed on a rug and the scent of urine remains, they might associate that spot with their new bathroom, hence why you'll want to take care of urine scent sooner rather than later.

Poorly Sized Litter Box

Is your cat's booty hanging out of the box when she tries to pee? Make sure you have a properly fitted litter box, so all the mess ends up where it should. For some help choosing the best litter box for your cat, check out my guide!

That's it in a nutshell! Cat urine is a stubborn substance, unfortunately, so you might need to repeat the processes once or twice. Don't feel discouraged in the event your first attempt doesn't work out.

As with all of my cat-related content, remember that you love them. Cats are wonderful, albeit hellish, creatures but high risk equals high reward, and very little can replace the love of a cat.

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