whole house smells like cat urine

No one likes the smell of cat urine. The ongoing smell has stopped many people from dropping by apartments and homes of cat lovers as well as drive feline owners nuts trying to cover it up.

Ways exist to not just cover up the horrible odor of cat urine but to eliminate it. It involves cleaning up the mess quickly, using an enzyme product on the spot, and following up with a cold-water wet vacuum.

Eliminating cat urine from your home takes some work but a little knowledge and some effort to do it.

Why Does My Cat’s Pee Smell So Bad?

Cat urine is not unique to that of other animals but it does have a distinctive smell that gets worse over time. The biggest problem is cats can pee in hidden areas outside the litter box that you may not notice until it starts to smell.

Dogs, on the other hand, have accidents in open areas you see right away.

Bacteria in cat urine break down quickly if left unchecked and that creates the ammonia odor most associated with cat pee.

Mercaptans start emitting as the urine continues to decompose. Mercaptans are elements associated with the awful smell of skunk spray.

Do some cats’ urine smell worse than others?

Some cats have smellier urine. Older cats are known to have kidney issues and that causes urine to smell worse. Male cats that haven’t been neutered also have powerful smelling urine. That’s because they have all their hormones that include testosterone.

The smell is functional for cats in the wild as it signals to male cats to avoid their territory and lures female felines for mating.

Unaltered males will also spray around the house to mark their territory while female cats will spray to let the tomcats know they are available to mate. This is why it’s best to get your animals fixed no matter the sex.

There Are Five Areas Where Cats Urinate

There are five areas where cats will likely urinate and each area requires a different way of cleaning to eliminate the odor. The five areas are:

  • Carpets
  • Wood Floors
  • Tile
  • Furniture
  • Clothes

Know the Process for Eliminating Odor

The beginning process for cleaning cat urine is the same no matter which area your feline pees in. There are six steps to cleaning the area.

1- Blot the spot. It’s important to blot up as much urine as you can from the spot right away. Do not wipe as that can spread the urine and the stain. Paper towels are best for this as long as they are absorbent.

It may take a while to get all the wetness up if it in carpet or furniture but keep at it until you are sure you’ve gotten up all you can. With carpet or furniture, be sure to press down on the spot with disposable gloves on your hands.

Urine will go deep into the carpet pad or furniture padding or foam, so you will need to use extra effort to get it up.

2- Use cold water to dilute it and soak it up with a vacuum. You will need to dilute the area with clean, cold water and then vacuum it up with a wet vacuum. The alternative is to blot it up as you did originally and use a dry vacuum.

It is crucial you don’t use hot water or a hot steamer vacuum. Heat in any form will set the stain and the smell.

3- Use an enzyme cleaner. A variety of enzyme cleaners, both homemade and mass-produced, exist to specifically remove cat urine. There are specific products for a variety of surfaces, so research what kinds you will need. Don’t just spray the enzyme cleaner over the spot. Pour it on the spot. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before removing it.

4- Blot it again. There are two options to do this and which you choose depends on the significance of the stain. For minor urine stains, you can blot up the enzyme-soaked area as you did the urine. However, some urine has gone so deep into the carpet or furniture that you will need some additional steps to remove it.

In those cases, put some paper towels on the spot and add weight on top of the paper towels. Make sure the weight won’t be something that absorbs the cat’s urine or that it won’t matter if it does. It needs to be fairly heavy and cover the entire spot, like bricks or a heavy plastic tub.

Check back in a few hours and you will see a large dark spot on the paper towel where the urine was pulled up. Repeat this process over a couple of days until the spot left on the paper towels is relatively clear. Then, rinse with cold water again and vacuum up.

5- Spray with an air fresher. You will need an air freshener that eliminates odors so choose either a commercially-produced one or make your own.

Don’t let your cat return to the spot. Two methods will prevent your cat from returning to the spot while you are cleaning it. You can put an aluminum foil or a baking sheet over the area to prevent your cat from getting to it again. Another easy option is to put an upside-down laundry basket over it.

Do I Need Special Products for Certain Areas?

Each area where a cat urinates will need specific ways and products to be successful in removing both the stain and odor. Below are tips for each area.

How do I remove urine from carpets?

Carpets can be tricky because both the carpet and the pad underneath are like sponges and absorb urine quickly. Urine left in the bottom of the pad can evolve into a mold problem later. It’s best to take some time to make sure you’ve blotted up everything as it can take up to 12 hours to get it all.

Leaving any part of the urine in your carpet will show up as a stain weeks or months later. One trick is to spread a lot of baking soda on the soiled area after vacuuming up the water rinse.

This helps absorb more of the wetness and smell. Leave the baking soda on for an hour or two before vacuuming it.

Products are on the market specifically made for carpets that won’t bleach out the area. Be sure to read the label and use it on a test spot before putting it into action on a urine stain.

How do I get the urine stink out of wood?

Floor cleaners are available that are specific to both wood floors and pet urine. These are formulated so they don’t hurt the color of your wood floors. However, unsealed floors can present another problem. Those with unsealed wood floors should first blot the area up.

Then pour white vinegar on the area and let stand for five or 10 minutes. It may need odd to put smelly vinegar over a stinky urine stain but the vinegar counteracts the urine and breaks it down because it neutralizes the alkaline in the urine.

Blot up the vinegar drenched area and follow that up with a sponge soaked in vinegar, gently rubbing it into the stain for several minutes. Use a clean, cold water rinse and blot that up until there isn’t any moisture left. Then use an enzyme cleaner.

If the stain remains, the only option is to sand the area down to get rid of the stain and smell. A remaining stain means the urine has soaked into the wood. You will also need to restain the area after you sand it.

It would be best to seal the wood once you finish the project to ensure your cat’s urine won’t soak through again if it decides to mark the spot again.

How do I get urine out of tile?

Getting urine off of tile is an easy job if your tile is sealed. All you need to do is wipe it up and clean it with a favorite all-purpose cleaner. However, if you have unsealed tile, the urine can soak into the grout and that is more difficult to clean.

If you have sealed grout, you can use an enzyme cleaner to eliminate odor. Be sure to spray directly on the area, let sit for 10 minutes and wipe up.

Unsealed grout will require the same process, except you may need to do it several times to get rid of the urine smell. White vinegar and baking soda can work here as well.

How do I get cat urine out of furniture?

The process is the same as cleaning up carpet but you will need to allow for more time to dry. In some cases, cushions and pillows can dry outside after you have gone through the cleaning process.

You will need to put a towel over couch areas or over the mattress to soak up excess water after rinsing. Place some aluminum foil over it as well to keep your cat from going there.

How do I get cat urine out of my clothes?

Cats tend to urinate in clothes left in a heap, whether it’s on the floor or in a laundry basket. Resist the urge to throw all of them into a washer. That will set the stain and the smell. First, separate the urine-soaked clothes from all the rest.

Second, rinse the urine are with cold water and then blot with paper towels. Again, do not scrub as they will make the urine go deeper into the material. After the item is blotted, put clothes into a sink or buck full of water and a half-cup of oxygen bleach.

Make sure it isn’t chlorine bleach as that will ruin your clothes. Let sit for two or three hours.

Next, put the clothes into a 1:3 ratio vinegar-water solution. You will want to put some baking soda on the stain too before putting it into the solution. Let sit for up to 15 minutes and then wash the clothes using a cold water setting and no detergent.

Hang the clothes to dry rather than putting them into the dryer. Heat will cause the odor to set.

What Products Should I Use?

There are plenty of commercial products to use to get cat urine out of your house. Just be sure the product has enzymes and is good for the type of surface you have. Enzymes break down the cat urine’s acid, eliminating the smell.

A key thing to remember is to avoid chemicals that contain ammonia. Since a cat’s urine breaks down to ammonia, adding an ammonia-based cleaner will amplify the smell.

What if I wanted to make my cleaning products?

You can make your cleaning products that are all-natural to clean and deodorize your cat’s urine from around your home.  A half and half mixture of white vinegar and water is a solid one to use. The vinegar smell will go away in a few days.

You can also mix baking soda with water and use that as part of your rinse on the spot. There is an air freshener recipe that works well on carpets, furniture, and other items that are cloth-covered.

  • 1 C. crushed herbs like rosemary and lavender
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda

Mix and sprinkle on the stain. Let sit for 20 minutes before vacuuming. Store extra of the mixture in an airtight container.

Why Does Your Cat Pee Outside the Litter Box?

Several possible reasons exist as to why your cat isn’t using the litter box including:

  • Poor health, including kidney problems or arthritis.
  • Being unneutered
  • The litter box needs to be changed more often.
  • Too many cats using the same box.


It can be difficult to get the smell of cat urine out of your home, but not impossible. Once the smell and stain are eliminated, you must consider how to prevent your favorite fur baby from repeating the behavior. That may take some observation but will be well worth the effort.