Elsie has experience using different enzymes to remove cat odor in the home and likes to share advice to help other cat owners.
Learning how to get rid of cat urine smell isn't something I took upon voluntarily. Until a year ago, I'd never experienced a cat inappropriately urinating outside of the litter box. I have three cats, so then the difficulty became determining which of them was actually creating this cat urine odor. Finally, one day I caught the perpetrator in action. I knew pet odor removal was difficult, as I have dogs with their share of odor-producing problems. However, it's truly a whole different ball game to remove cat urine.
Alright, now let's take a look at why cats urinate in the house and how to get rid of the smell in three easy steps—it's not as hard as you think.
Common Causes of Cats Urinating in the House
Bottom line, determine what's causing the urination and discover whether or not you can fix it!
This can also be caused by a behavioral issue, stress is a common cause. New mothers will often complain their cats have begun urinating in the newborn baby's crib. Similarly, the behavior may coincide with a new pet in the house. A move may also be enough to amply stress out a cat. Sometimes, the precipitating change may be small, so if there's nothing blatantly obvious, look for something a bit more subtle. Even rearranging furniture is a cat stressor.
It's also wise to consider any problems your cat might be having with the litter box itself. Make sure you're keeping it clean enough, scooping it out twice a day is advisable. Make sure there are enough litter boxes for the number of cats you have. At least 1 for every 2 cats. If you're dealing with urinating in the house and you have multiple cats, I'd advise you to get another litter box.
Cats are also very sensitive to changes in their litter. If you've recently begun using a new kind of litter, you might want to return to the old litter. Obviously changing from clay to crystals is a big change, but even if you're still using clay and change brands, they may very well notice. So, revert back to the litter you used before the problem began.
Cat Urine Composition: Why Is It so Hard to Clean?
Have you ever had the experience where you think you've successfully eliminated the urine odor, only to have it reemerge a few days later? Cat urine removal is more difficult than any other pet odor removal because of its composition. Once a cat urinates, the urine tends to grow different types of bacteria, as well as creatinine, electrolytes, urea, proteins, sodium and uric acid. The uric acid crystals are the main reason the car urine smell is so hard to eliminate. The bacteria combines with the uric acid and literally adheres to surfaces. It's further complicated by the urea, which has a sticky consistency and is very resilient. Urea is an ammonia compound, a by-product of protein metabolism. That's why cat urine has such a distinctive ammonia odor. Finally, cat urine is quite concentrated.
So, how do you get rid of cat urine smell? The only kind of cat urine remover that actually works is an enzyme cleaner. Enzymes are the only way to actually break down these crystals and bacteria. Other methods merely mask the urine odor, and in no time, the cat urine smell will return.
Step 1. Locate the Source of the Urine Odor
Unfortunately, it's not always possible to locate all of the pet stains. You would be very wise to invest in a blacklight for this purpose. The pet urine will glow when exposed to the blacklight. It's a fantastic method for discovering just how naughty your kitty has been. Blacklights are fairly easy to find, your hardware store is a good first stop. Some pet stores also carry them, I purchased mine from Petco.
Step 2. Determine the Reason Behind the Behavior
How to get rid of cat urine smell? Well, your first line of defense is to determine if there's a reason for your cat not using the litter box. There are a number of health reasons that may cause a cat to begin urinating outside of the litter box.
Some diseases cause an increase in urine output, such as feline diabetes and chronic renal (kidney) failure. When a cat that has always used the cat pan suddenly begins inappropriate urination, a trip to the veterinarian is always the first step. The cat could also have something as simple as a bladder infection, and with treatment will stop urinating in your house.
Step 3. Remove the Odor From Carpet and Fabrics That Can't Be Washed
Learning how to get rid of cat urine smell is difficult enough, but when carpet's involved, it's a whole new beast. Obviously, the sooner you find the cat urine (or any pet urine), the better. You want to physically remove as much of the urine as you possibly can. All pet stains are difficult to remove, but concentrated cat urine is the worst of the pet stains. So, it's worth your while to get a highly absorbent cloth, old diapers work wonders for this. Normally the pet stain you're seeing on the carpet is just the tip of the iceberg, there's a lot more urine that's soaked down into the carpet pad. Blot, blot, blot, then blot some more. Stop when you're not seeing any more dampness on the cloth.
The only two products I've had any success with are Nature's Miracle and Anti Icky Poo. Do NOT use any other products, like a carpet stain remover, before you use the enzyme cleaners as they can impede the action of the enzymes! Do not dilute these products, they are to be used full strength. They are very safe, natural, environmentally-friendly products, as well. So, you don't need to be concerned about your family members or pets.
Anti Icky Poo Cat Urine Odor Remover
Tips for the Best Results
You will need to saturate the carpet and carpet pad thoroughly to remove the smell. You cannot expect to spray a little enzyme cleaner onto the carpet, let it sit, and voila, the carpet stains and odors are gone.
Follow the Enzyme Cleaner Directions to a T
You will literally douse the area with the enzyme cleaner. You will need to follow the directions exactly as they are written on the product you're using. Often, the area will need to be left alone for 24 hours for the enzymes to do their job. Bear in mind, it can take up to two weeks for the carpet to fully dry, so until it's dry there will still be an odor. Sometimes, a second or even third treatment will be necessary depending upon the extent of the problem.
Use a Watering Can
If you have a lot of square footage to cover, I'd recommend you use a garden watering can. It's tempting, I know, to rent a steam cleaner from Home Depot or Lowe's and load it up with carpet stain remover, but I promise, you're wasting your time and money. Carpet stain removers are worthless for cat urine odor.
Keep the Cats Away From the Area
Here's where the problem comes in. Cats like to urinate where they smell cat urine. And, it takes up to two weeks for the area to fully dry. It's a bit of a conundrum, especially if the area you're trying to treat isn't one you can keep the cats away from. You have two great options here: You can use aluminum foil or a plastic chair mat (The kind used in office settings to allow a chair to roll over a rug). The bottom of the mat has spikes so that it may stick to the carpet, so you will be turning this over spike-side up.
Cats do not like to walk on aluminum foil, they don't like the noise it makes, nor do they like the way it feels under their paws. Obviously, the chair mat is quite uncomfortable to walk on when it's turned over, the spikes HURT! So, you will want to cover the treated area with either option during the 2 week drying time to dissuade the cats from re-soiling the area. The only disadvantage to the aluminum foil is that it doesn't stay put. So, there will be a lot of foil rearranging in your future with this option. The advantage, however, is the enzyme cleaner will dry faster since the foil can't lay flat on the carpet as the chair pad will.
Video: Anti Icky Poo
When to Admit Defeat
If you've ever owned a cat who's urinated outside the litter box in your house, you are familiar with how difficult it is to remove cat urine. I once moved into a house where the previous owner's cats were relieving themselves on the carpet and tried everything I could to remove the cat urine odor. Even with repeated attempts, we were unable to eliminate the cat urine smell. It had made its way through the carpet, and seeped all the way into the sub floor. We had no choice but to remove the carpet and sub floor and simply start from scratch in that area. If you have a bad enough problem, unfortunately no amount of cleaning will remove cat urine.
Time to Get Clean
I hope that this article helps you successfully remove the smell of cat urine. If you have any other tips or tricks, let me know in the comment box below!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Donna Rayne from Greenwood, In on December 24, 2019:
Elsie, this is a wonderful article and I learned a lot. Does this product work on dog stains as well? How about old stains that you didn't know were there? Thank you for sharing this informative article! I appreciate it!
Dr Cat Pee on September 15, 2014:
Great article. One thing many people don't realize is that using bleach on cat pee can be dangerous, for the same reason that you should not mix bleach with ammonia.
Donald from Florida on May 29, 2013:
I have to be honest here. As a cat owner and lover we too have had the experience of cats going outside of the litter box. For us it was a brand new microfiber couch with non-removable cushions. Yes this was our fault for letting the litter box sit for a full day without cleaning. But Natures Miracle is the best stuff that worked for us and we tried them all. Thanks Wordscribe for this hub. Great hub and an interesting read!
Melanie Chisnall from Cape Town, South Africa on May 01, 2012:
Every month I buy a bottle of baby powder and I sprinkle some into the new cat litter each time it's changed. What a difference - and a much more pleasant smell! Great hub :)
Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on December 19, 2011:
Thanks for the comment, A1Sparkles.
A1Sparkles from Philadelphia PA on December 19, 2011:
Urine in carpets never drys, and any product you add must be extracted.
Try using a wet vac to rinse the urine and chemicals out.
If possible pull up the carpet and replace the padding.
Ruglovermary from Victoria, BC on December 07, 2011:
Thank you for writing a very thorough article about Cat urine removal. It is one of the hardest odours to get rid of. I deal with cat urine on area rugs and it is very hard to remove from Persian wool rugs.
By the time you notice that your cat has peed on your carpet or rug it usually is not the first time it has happened and the more the urine crystallizes the harder it is to remove completely.
Again I am glad that you described how cat urine becomes smelly and how to remove i and not just mask it.
Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on October 26, 2010:
Yes, having enough litter boxes is key, Lorlie. And making sure there are enough on each level of the house. They are private about their business, aren't they? Well, I have one who isn't, bless her. Thanks for coming by.
Laurel Rogers from Grizzly Flats, Ca on October 26, 2010:
Hey wordscribe! I have four kitties at the moment, and I've found my best defense against problem urinating is 2 boxes. It's true, having plenty of available litter encourages them to use it.
Cats are such private creatures, they all need their own 'space!'