When your cat takes to urinating outside the litterbox, the smell can be difficult to get rid of and nearly impossible to mask.
Whether the cat pees on a carpet, a piece of furniture, bed linens, or your clothes, it’s important to neutralize the odor both to avoid embarrassment and to prevent the cat from becoming a repeat offender, as they’ll often return to a spot where they have previously urinated if the odor is not eliminated.
Consider this your ultimate guide to eliminating cat urine smells from your home and determining why your cat may be urinating outside of his or her litter box.
1. Remove as much urine as possible
The less urine there is, the less you’ll have to deep clean. So when you notice that your cat has urinated somewhere outside of her litter box, clean up as much of it as you can as soon as you can.
If the puddle was made on carpet or furniture, The Humane Society of the United States recommends blotting the area with an absorbent paper towel.
This won’t get up all of the urine, but it will leave less of it behind for you to have to treat later.
If your cat has urinated on linens, clothing or drapes, wash them or have them dry-cleaned as soon as possible.
The longer urine stays on fabric, the more stubborn its odor becomes. Detergents with baking soda or enzymatic additives are best for cleaning items that have urine odor.
If the urine is on a wall or other hard surface, wipe it down with a wet rag.
2. Break down the stain and smell with an enzymatic cleaner.
Enzymatic cleaners release cultures that literally eat the urine, leaving things sanitary and smell free once dry.
Many non-protein-based carpet and fabric deodorizers alone won’t be able to handle the strong, pervasive odor of cat urine.
Cats have a stronger sense of smell than people, so even if you can’t smell leftover urine, your cat might – making it more likely that she’ll soil the area again.
A spray made with enzymes that target pet urine can help break down the urine and make it less likely that your cat will return.
There are a number of these products in pet stores and home improvement stores. Just be sure to use it as instructed. (The potency of many enzymatic cleaners can be weakened by contact with other cleaning chemicals.)
3. Clean the area with an extracting wet vac but avoid steam cleaners.
Extracting carpet cleaners expel clean water onto carpet or fabric then suck dirty water back into the tank. This can be a great way to rinse the area, especially if you’re dealing with carpeting.
It’s important to follow the directions carefully. The HSUS recommends using cool, clean water in the wet vac.
You should also avoid using steam cleaners. Intense heat can actually cause odors to set into the fibers of carpet and upholstery more stubbornly.
5. Find ways to prevent future accidents.
The more urine your cat adds to your home, the harder it’s going to keep the odor at bay. So the best way to fight this stench is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This may include any number of methods:
- Retraining your cat to use her litter box
- Laying down disposable, absorbent pads (like puppy training pads) in an area she continues to mark
- Having her spayed (or neutered, if a male cat)
- Taking her to the vet for a check-up to see if she has any kidney or bladder problems
- Treating her with anxiety, if that’s determined to be the cause of her urinating outside of her litter box
- Cleaning out her litter box more often
- Adding extra litter boxes if there is more than one cat in the household
How to get cat urine smell out of cushions and mattresses?
Cushions and mattresses can be cleaned in a fashion similar to carpets. Soak the affected area of the cushion with water. Blot up as much of the cat urine as possible with a towel, then soak the cushion by very slowly pouring the enzyme cleaner on and around the affected area.
Let it sit for 15 minutes, then squish out as much of the excess enzyme cleaner as possible before blotting with towels. If possible, leave the cushion outside as long as possible while it dries.
Since cushions take days to dry, lay aluminum foil down before putting the cushion back, then put a second layer of foil over the top of the cushion to discourage your cat from peeing on the cushion again.
Mattresses require the same process as a cushion. After applying the enzymatic cleaner, letting it sit and blotting it up, place several layers of clean towels over the area and then make the bed.
Swap out the towels each day until the mattress completely dries. To discourage peeing on the spot while the mattress dries, cover the bed with a large plastic sheet or tarp when you’re not using it.
DeFeo also suggests keeping a plastic cover over your mattress at all times, particularly if your cat has taken to peeing outside its litter box.
Thick cushions and mattresses may require several applications to completely remove the cat urine.
How to get cat urine smell out of linens and clothing?
If your bed linens and clothing items are machines washable, first rinse the spot in a sink with cool water, then add them to the washing machine with detergent and a cup of baking soda or a quarter cup of cider vinegar.
If you can still smell the urine after the cycle is complete, add enzyme cleaner to the load (following instructions on the package) and run the cycle again.
Remember never to use bleach (when mixed with ammonia and cat urine, it can cause harmful gases). Always air dry linens, as the heat of the dryer may lock in the smell before it’s completely gone. You may need to re-wash one or more times until the scent is completely gone.
Tips to prevent your cat from urinating in the wrong place
The very best way to eliminate cat urine and dog pee odors from your house are by not letting them happen in the first place. Here are five useful tips that will help keep your cat from random accidents:
- Spay or neuter the animal while it is young.
- Keep the kitty litter very clean at all times.
- Try changing the type of litter you use.
- Do not feed your cat in the same area that you keep its kitty litter.
- Get an extra cat litter box so your cat has options.
- Cats don’t want to pee near their food. If your cat pees in an area, you can try moving the cat’s food dish to that area to prevent further accidents.
- Put something large (like a sofa or a plant) in the spot where the cat likes to pee so she’ll be prevented from peeing there in the future.
- Avoid stressing out your cat, as stress makes cats pee erratically.
- Take your cat in for regular checkups at the vet. Those who have a lot of accidents could have a more serious kidney infection or other medical problem.
- Re-train your cat. Consistently and patiently take her to the litter box and give her pets and positive feedback when she uses it.
- Cats spray (mark walls and vertical surfaces) to mark their territory or when they feel threatened. If it’s spray we’re talking about instead of regular pee (a wet pool on the floor), you’ll need to treat the psychological reasons for the cat’s anxiety.