How To Get Rid of Cat Pee Smell

Katie Grzyb, DVM
By Katie Grzyb, DVM. Reviewed by Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP on Mar. 20, 2024
ginger tabby cat sitting on a living room floor

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If your cat pees outside the litter box, the smell can be difficult to get rid of. Whether your cat pees on the carpet, a piece of furniture, bed linens, or your clothes, it’s important to neutralize the odor to prevent your cat from becoming a repeat offender (cats often return to a spot where they have previously peed if the odor is not eliminated). 

Here's how to get rid of cat pee smell.

What Does Cat Pee Smell Like?

Cat pee smells like an offensive ammonia odor. Some say that cat pee smells like juniper trees, white spruce trees, mangos, or even basil.

After a cat pees, the bacteria in the urine decomposes and gives off an ammonia-like odor that’s characteristic of stale, old urine. The odor gets worse with time, as the urine begins emitting mercaptans, which are the same compounds that give skunk spray its characteristic bad smell.

Male cats that haven’t been neutered have an even more powerful stench, thanks to powerful hormones they eliminate when they pee.

Cleaning Products To Remove Cat Pee Smell

Several products can help neutralize cat pee odor, including vinegar, baking soda, or store-bought cleaners. Here are some options to help you get rid of the cat pee smell.

  • Enzyme-based cleaners: The enzymes in these products actually break down the acid in cat urine and get rid of the smell. These products, like Nature’s Miracle®, are usually the most effective in removing all traces of cat urine.

  • Baking soda and vinegar: Vinegar is an acid that neutralizes the alkaline salts that form in dried cat pee stains. A solution of one part water and one part vinegar can be used to clean walls and floors.

When you’re trying to get rid of cat pee smell, don’t use any commercial cleaning products that contain ammonia. “Ammonia is one component of cat urine, and if cats smell that, they’re more likely to [pee there again],” says Dr. Bruce Kornreich, DVM, Ph.D., senior associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center.

In addition, ammonia and other chemical cleaners can often set the stain—which is the opposite of what you’re trying to do.

Be sure your pet isn’t around while you’re doing the cleaning and that all areas are totally dry before your pet comes into contact with them again.

How To Get Cat Pee Smell Out of Carpet

As bad as cat pee initially smells, the longer that urine sits, the worse the stench becomes. “The smell gets more concentrated over time,” Dr. Kornreich says.

Additionally, once a urine stain dries, you may no longer see it without using a black light. But you can still smell it, and so can your cat, which can lead them to pee in that area again.

To get cat pee smell out of a carpet:

  1. Locate the stain as soon as possible and blot up as much of the urine as you can with a clean cloth.

  2. Rinse the area with clean water and remove the liquid with a wet/dry vacuum. Don’t use a steam cleaner, as the heat can set the stain.

  3. Generously wet the area with your cleaner.

  4. Let the cleaner sit for 10–15 minutes. Then, blot the spot again with a clean cloth.

  5. Cover the area until completely dry.

  6. For older stains or particularly smelly stains, you may need to reapply the cleaner (repeat steps 3 and 4).

How To Get Cat Pee Smell Out of Cushions

Here a few easy steps you can take to remove the cat pee smell from a cushion.

  1. Soak the affected area of the cushion with water. Blot up as much of the cat urine as possible with a towel.

  2. Soak the cushion by pouring the enzyme cleaner on and around the affected area. Let the solution sit for about 15 minutes.

  3. Blot the cushion with a towel, removing as much of the liquid as possible.

  4. Keep your cat away from the area until it’s completely dry.

How To Get Cat Pee Smell Out of a Mattress

Mattresses require almost the same process as cushions.

  1. Blot up as much of the cat urine as possible with a towel.

  2. Soak the mattress by pouring or generously spraying the enzyme cleaner on and around the affected area.

  3. Let the enzymatic cleaner sit for 15 minutes and then blot it up.

  4. Let the mattress dry. If it’s not dry by the time you go to bed, place several layers of clean towels over the spot and make the bed over it.

  5. Swap out the towels each day until the mattress completely dries.

  6. Mattresses may require several applications to completely remove the cat urine.

How To Get Cat Pee Smell Out of Clothing

  1. Rinse the spot in a sink with cool water.

  2. Add the clothing items to the washing machine. Along with your normal laundry detergent, use 1 cup of baking soda or ¼ cup of vinegar. 

  3. If you can still smell the urine after the wash cycle is complete, add an enzyme cleaner to the load and run the clothing through the wash one more time.

  4. Allow your clothing to air-dry, as the heat of the dryer may lock in the smell before it’s completely gone.

  5. You may need to rewash your clothing a few times until the scent is completely gone.

How To Get Cat Pee Smell Out of Wood

If your cat pees on an area of sealed wood, such as wooden floors, base boards, or wooden furniture, cleanup is pretty straightforward. 

Spot cleaning the area with water and a damp sponge may be all that is necessary. For dried patches or stubborn areas, spot cleaning followed by an enzymatic cleaner is needed. 

  1. Allow the cleaner to sit on the area for the time recommended by on your product’s packaging, and then wipe clean.

  2. Clean the area again, using a sponge and plain water.

  3. Dry the area thoroughly.

Katie Grzyb, DVM


Katie Grzyb, DVM


Dr. Katie Grzyb received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Ross University in 2009. She continued her clinical training at...

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