I’m embarrassed to admit it.

Eight years ago, my Siamese cats peed everywhere but their litter box.

On my couch. On my handwoven Turkish rug.  On the bookshelf that held a prized music collection. Piece by piece, cat pee destroyed my handsome furniture and cozy home.

To say it stressed me out is an understatement.

It frustrated me that my cats were peeing outside their litter box. And that there were no quick fixes.

So, I dusted off my psychology degree to investigate the possible root cause of my cats’ troublesome behavior. At the same time, I was determined to prevent our house from smelling like a jumbo litter box.

In this post, I’m going to share with you the cleaning recipes I use to get rid of cat urine smell.

how to get rid of cat urine smell
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Follow your nose: How to Find The Cat Urine Smell

Cat urine is pungent and yet, it’s not always obvious where it’s coming from.

A black light highlights cat urine in a pale shade of purple. But, this works best in the dark.

The best any time method I have found is to channel my inner Inch High, Private Eye. In other words, I get down on all fours and use my sniffer and my hands.

I won’t lie. It’s gross. But, the goal is to act fast and avoid letting the cat urine sink in.

Once you’ve confirmed the location, let the cleaning begin.

Cats are habitual. They might urinate outside the box once because of a specific incident.  But the scent lures them back.

That’s why it’s so important to annihilate the cat urine smell.

Regardless of where you find the urine, soak up as much of it as you can with towels. Then, break down the uric acid that causes the foul odor.

cat urine detector light

How to remove cat pee from hardwood floors, tile, and concrete

For hardwood floors, or tile, a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water followed by isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide will do the trick.

  • Mix 1:1 ratio of vinegar to cold water in a spray bottle
  • Spray soiled area and let sit for 15 minutes
  • Wipe and air dry

If the smell persists, repeat. When cat urine has seeped beneath the floor or sat for a period, start with an enzyme cleaner.

When you no longer smell cat urine, wipe with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

For tile floors and concrete, I alternate between an enzyme-based detergent like Free & Clear, and an enzyme cleaner, like Odor Xit. It usually requires several cleanings over several hours and even days to allow for drying in-between applications.

A little bottle of OdorXit concentrate can last for months.

How to clean cat urine from fabric and rugs

If the soaked area is fabric—couches, rugs or clothes—use an enzyme-based solution. And be quick. The longer it sits, the harder it is to remove the odor. Don’t be shy.  Spray it or pour it right onto the carpet and brush it in. Then use a small carpet & upholstery cleaner to soak it up. Let it air dry. Repeat multiple times, if needed.

Tip: Remove cushion covers quickly to avoid urine seeping into the cushion which is almost impossible to remove!

This is also true for mattress covers. If you act fast you may be able to prevent urine from seeping into the cushion. Then, simply toss the cover into the washing machine.

If the item is machine washable, even better. Use cold water so the stain or odor won’t set.

My favorite enzyme cleaner is Free & Clear Method laundry detergent. It contains the protease, cellulase, and amylase enzymes which break down the odors in cat urine. And doesn’t leave behind a toxic or perfumed aroma.

Tip: Add a 1/2 cup of baking soda to neutralize the odor.

See related:

3 stress-free spring cleaning for you and your cat

An ounce of prevention

The best way to get rid of cat urine smell from your home is to keep it where it belongs.

In the litter box.

Truth is there will be accidents. But when your cat develops a habit of peeing outside the litter box, it’s time to dig deeper.

First, have your vet rule out medical issues. Urinary issues in cats can be deadly.

Second, follow this simple checklist to keep your cat happy:

  • Set up one litter box for every cat, plus one extra
  • Keep litter boxes in a quiet, yet convenient location
  • Make sure your cat likes his litter
  • Scoop litter at least once per day
  • Clean the box, the surrounding area and refresh the litter monthly
  • Avoid scented deodorizers in or around the box

See related:

Stop litter box stress with 3 easy tips

Cats communicate with their scent. While the stench is unpleasant to us it is natural for cats. So give your cat a desirable place to soak their scent without destroying your home. And for those unfortunate times when the cat pees outside his litter box, act fast and neutralize. It’s the best way to keep your home fresh and prevent future accidents.

What are your best tips for getting rid of cat urine smell? Share them in the comments below.

Save this post for later:

Guide to remove cat urine smell
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  1. avatar
    E. Gayle Shanley-Fitzsimmons says:

    Hope this works!

    1. avatar
      traci says:

      I hope it works for you. Let me know.

      1. avatar
        Rose Bonilla says:

        Do you dilute the “The Method Free and Clear” laundry detergent? I have 4 cats who keep peeing in one spot on a laminate floor that’s by their litter boxes. Litter boxes are kept clean.

        1. avatar
          traci says:

          I generally wipe up the urine, and then I put a dollop the size of a nickel or quarter onto a wet towel and spread it onto the floor. I let it sit for at least 15 minutes before removing it with wet towels.

          Sometimes, I will alternate between the odorXit and the laundry detergent. It can take multiple applications with time in between to dry. If the smell is stubborn, I’ll usually sprinkle some baking soda on it and let it sit for hours. Then I start the process again (detergent + odorXit).

          One thing you can try is to put a pee pad under (or around) the litter box so that the cats don’t keep hitting the floor while you are trying to remove the odor. I hope it helps.

    2. avatar
      Sandra M Hennebeck says:

      Cat pees in box but poops on the floor. Has done this since a kitten (past owner). Usually in the pathway to and from box or by his food and water. Mostly right where we walk. Done by the book, outside/inside the “box”, talked to people in the parking lot, HELP.

      1. avatar
        traci says:

        One of my guys does this sometimes when he gets “backed up”. My vet suggested giving him something to loosen the stool every few days and that mostly works. It’s a flavorless powder that I add to his wet food. Ask your vet about it.

  2. avatar
    Sandra Hopkins says:

    I have five cats and five litter boxes the advice given above is very useful ..thanks

    1. avatar
      traci says:

      Thanks! I’d suggest adding one more box, if you have the room.

  3. avatar
    Courtney says:

    Another thing to consider, if your cats normally do use the litter, is if they start all of the sudden peeing on your couch or other places there may be a health problem going on. I had my cat for a year, when she started peeing on my couch. Taking her to the vet, I found out she had kidney stones. Now she’s on prescription cat food. Recently she started peeing on the couch again, 5 years later. This time it was a UTI. If you don’t fix the health problem, they will just keep doing it,

    1. avatar
      traci says:

      This is such an important point. The first thing to do when facing litter box avoidance is to rule out medical issues. I wrote about it in “Crystals in Cat Urine: How to Spot Early Warning Signs.” Thanks for your comment!

  4. avatar
    Pat says:

    My Boy Cat (fixed) has started spraying after we brought in a new kitten. He seems to like her but continues to spray. I’m at wits end… it’s an emotional thing, definitely not physical. I’ve bought a black light and clean, clean and clean more. I’m ready to move out and leave the house to the cats ! Any ideas ????

    1. avatar
      traci says:

      I’ve been there, and it’s stressful! Assuming your vet has ruled out a medical condition, you can try giving your cat more territory by building up vertical space with tall cat trees and climbing walls. And, you might try some pheromones to help your cats relax in each other’s presence. Here’s a list of the cat calming aids I use to help keep the peace. Good luck and keep me posted.

  5. avatar
    Jennifer Moyer says:

    I have a male cat that marks. We have tried a variety of medications and hopefully the newest one will at least lessen the marking. My question is, I have cleaned every surface that has been marked (which is just about every part of my little home – walls, doors, windows, carpets, sofas, stove, fridge, furniture) using every type of cleaning product you mention in your article. My house still smells – is there anything you can recommend to just clean the home odor? I have one of those air purifiers but it doesn’t seem to do anything… any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

    1. avatar
      traci says:

      If repeated cleanings and airing out your home is not working you may have to replace what you can. The urine can seep through crevices. Sometimes, letting baking soda sit on the area for awhile can help.

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