It’s a tale as old as time, or at least as long as humans have kept cats in their homes. Your cat has decided it doesn’t like its litter box anymore and it peeing all over the place. What you thought was a spilled drink ended up being a puddle of pee. You can get your house smelling fresh and clean again by getting rid of the cat pee smell but first, you need to figure out why your cat has abandoned her litter box. A little investigation can go a long way to long-term fixes.
How to Determine Why Your Cat is Peeing Around the House
There isn’t just one reason behind your cat’s lack of interest in her litter box. Cat behavior consultant and founder of, The Cat Analyst, Rita Reimers notes that some of the most common reasons include medical issues, insecurity, displaced aggression, unclean litter boxes, boxes that are too small or boxes in “hard-to-get-to” places. If you have more than one cat, Reimers also says, “Intimidation by other cats may also cause a kitty to seek other places to go.”
Laura Speirs, associate certified cat behavior consultant and founder of The Kitty Sitter and Kitty Counselor, says that dissatisfaction with the litter box, such as “dislike of the configuration (covered, round, too small, etc.), placement in the home (inconvenient, hard to get to, by a loud washer or furnace, not enough boxes) or type of litter in the box” could all contribute to your cat’s failure to use the box.
Cats overwhelmingly prefer a large, uncovered box with sandy, unscented, clumping litter that is soft underfoot,” Speirs says. Your life changes might also inadvertently play a role. “Changes in routine or the household, such as a new boyfriend, new baby or new cat without proper intro” could cause a cat to stop using her box, adds Speirs.
What can you do to remedy these situations? Keep things clean. “Be sure to scoop the litter at least twice a day and completely empty and wash out the pan at least every other week. Cats won’t use a very dirty box. To them it’s like how we feel when we use a Porta John or outhouse,” says Reimers.
How to Get Rid of Cat Pee Smell
If your kitty is still having litter box issues, check out these tips for snuffing out the smell from different types of surfaces:
Fabrics (Such as Couch Cushion Covers), Bedding, and Small Rugs That are Machine Washable
Toss in the machine as usual. Add one pound of baking soda along with your regular detergent, suggests the Humane Society of the United States. You can also try an enzymatic cleaner if the scent lingers after the first wash. These cleaners are available at most pet care stores.
Carpets and Non-removable Upholstery
Start by soaking up the wet spot. Get as much urine out as you can by using a layer of paper towels covered by another layer of newspapers, recommends the Humane Society. Next, blot the area with clean water or run a wet vacuum over the spot. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also suggests using an enzymatic cleaner to get rid of the scent.
Kitty marked up your wood floor! Some clear coats and varnishes may react to the acid in your cat’s urine and stain the floor. A simple surface cleansing with water and your regular floor cleaner might mask the scent, but it won’t solve the problem. You may need to strip the spot to completely remove the stain.
How to Keep It Fresh
Getting the stain out is only half the battle when it comes to getting rid of the cat pee smell. The scent of kitty may still linger. Over time your nose may get used to the once totally offensive odor, but your neighbors and guests definitely won’t. Never use an ammonia-based product. This may make matters worse, as your cat can easily mistake the ammonia’s scent for his own.
Sprinkle baking soda on the surface or place a naturally activated charcoal odor absorber nearby. These suck in the smell, instead of covering it. Fragrant chemical air fresheners may work for a moment, but won’t do the trick in the long term.
Yes, urine all over your favorite rug stinks — literally! But that doesn’t outweigh the benefits pets bring. Once you’ve nixed the smell, you and your cat can get back to what’s really important — playtime and head scratches.
Erica Loop is the mom to one teenage son, two Olde Boston bulldogs, and a very shy cat. She’s also a freelance writer, educator, and the creator of the blog Mini Monets and Mommies.