How to Get Rid of Cat Pee Smell That Just Won’t Go Away

The stain has been cleaned and dried, yet somehow that ammonia-like odor is still lingering. Here's how to get rid of it once and for all.

Adorable cat near litter tray indoors. Pet careNew Africa/Shutterstock

It’s bad enough that your cat left you a little accident that you have to clean up. But even worse? A cat pee smell that sticks around even after the mess is gone. The odor can linger if the urine was sitting there for a while before you got a chance to blot it up and disinfect—and the accidents can be annoyingly easy to miss, says Jennifer Gregory, brand manager of Molly Maid. “It can be difficult to spot cat urine on carpet unless you smell it, witness it, or step in it while wet,” she says. By that time it could be too late, and the odor has already taken root.

If your cat’s spraying is becoming a trend, schedule a visit with the vet to rule out any health problems that are keeping your kitty from making it to the litter box, and watch for these 13 other signs your “healthy” cat is actually sick. In the meantime, use these expert-approved tricks for getting rid of cat pee smell from the house.

How to get rid of cat pee smell from carpet

As with pretty much any stain, no matter what the material, the key is to act fast. “If you can blot up as much of the pee from the spot as possible, you are halfway there,” says Gregory.

Next, apply a bacteria- or enzyme-based cleaner like this one to the area, suggests Merry Maids cleaning expert Debra Johnson. The good bacteria and enzymes help break down the smelly bacteria that are leaving an odor. Johnson recommends pressing the cleaner in with plastic so it can penetrate more deeply, then leaving the plastic over the stain while the product works its magic. If needed, follow up the cleaner a cup of vinegar mixed into a gallon of water, then apply more of the pro-bacteria product.

How to get rid of cat pee smell from furniture

Cat urine can smell like ammonia, so ammonia-based cleaners are a no-no for cat pee stains, says Gregory. “If they smell a spot with pee, they will keep peeing there,” she says. “They will see this as a signal that is the place to go back to.” But vinegar has the opposite effect, telling your cat to keep out. Wet the urine stain with a vinegar solution, and as the vinegar evaporates, it’ll take the cat pee smell with it. For other messes around the house, use these 17 tricks for hard-to-clean household objects.

How to get rid of cat pee smell from hard surfaces

After blotting away any urine, mix a tablespoon of dish soap into two cups of cool water, suggests Johnson. Using a microfiber cloth, wipe down the soiled area with the solution, then use a clean cloth to dry the spot. If any odor lingers, sprinkle baking soda on the stinky spot and leave it for at least half an hour. “Baking soda neutralizes odors instead of just masking them,” says Johnson. Once the baking soda has had time to get rid the space of the cat pee smell, vacuum it up. Just make sure you close off the room to your cat and other pets while the baking soda is still lying around—while it’s not harmful in small amounts, it could be toxic if your furry friend ingests a lot of it.

How to get rid of cat pee smell from clothes

Rinse out the stain with cool water before tossing a cat pee-stained article of clothing into the wash. If the urine smell sticks around, try rewashing with a cup of baking soda or a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar—or better yet, an enzyme-based cleaner, suggests PetMD. Let it air-dry, because the heat from the dryer could make the smell worse if the wash cycle didn’t get rid of it completely. While you’re addressing your cat’s pee problem, watch out for these other 14 cat health symptoms you should never ignore.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.