How to Get Rid of Cat Spray Smell | Fast, Effective + Easy
It can be highly distressing if a cat starts spraying urine inside or outside your home. It creates an awful smell, and it's tiresome and expensive to clean and replace spoiled items continuously. The smell of cat spray is unlikely to fade for some time and usually lingers for months or years without proper cleaning.
In this article, find out how to get rid of cat odor affordably, effortlessly, and effectively to keep your home smelling fresh and clean. We will share the best cleaning technique, including how to find all the urine in the house, and it may help save items you thought you had to throw away.
Topics covered include:
- Why cats spray and if it's the same as peeing
- What cat spray smells like and if the odor eventually fades away
- How to locate all the cat spray when your house smells but you can't find it
- The most effective cleaners and technique for getting rid of cat spray smell from any surface or item
- Tips for tackling really tough odors
- How to protect your furniture and walls from cat spray
- Proven solutions to stop your cat spraying
Why Do Cats Spray Urine?
When a cat sprays, also known as marking, they typically squirt urine onto a vertical (upright) surface, such as a wall or door. Usually, they are standing, with an upright and quivering tail, an arched back, and may tread with their back feet.
Sprayed urine deposited into the environment serves as a chemical message for other cats. When another cat comes along, they sniff the mark to gather information. Spraying is a normal feline behavior for intact (not spayed or castrated) cats, allowing them to communicate with each other, such as indicating their territory or attracting a mate. Intact adult males spray the most, but intact females also spray, especially when in heat.
Although neutering will reduce the chances of a cat spraying, 10% of castrated males and 5% of spayed females will still spray.1 If a neutered cat sprays inside the house, it often indicates underlying stress due to a perceived threat to their territory, such as:
- Conflicts with other cats (inside the home or stranger cats in the garden)
- A lack of resources or space in a multicat household
- A new pet or person
- A change to their environment or routine
Since cats spray urine to leave important messages for other cats, they will notice when the smell starts to fade, and it's time to top it up with fresh urine. This is a reason why effectively cleaning and neutralizing cat spray is so important, because if the smell cannot be detected, they won't feel the need to refresh fading scents.
Medical causes of cat spraying are less common but include urinary tract infections, cystitis, hyperthyroidism, exposure to sex hormones, or any illness that causes them to feel vulnerable and anxious.
For further information on the behavioral and medical causes of spraying, read Why Do Cats Spray?
Is Spraying the Same as Peeing?
Spraying and peeing are different behaviors. Whereas spraying urine serves as a form of communication between cats, peeing is the physiological process of emptying the bladder to excrete excess water and waste products. Usually, a cat squats and deposits urine onto a horizontal (flat) surface, such as the bottom of the litter box, a bed, or a rug. If a cat urinates outside their litter box, it is typically because they either don't like their litter box setup or due to a medical condition. If you think your cat may be peeing rather than spraying, read Why Cats Pee Outside the Litter Box and What's the Solution?
However, it's not always easy to tell if a cat is spraying or peeing, as some cats spray while squatting, and others pee while standing. Also, some owners only find urine and don't catch their cat in the act. Therefore, there are other clues to look for and differences to consider in order to determine if your cat is peeing or spraying. For further information, read Is My Cat Spraying or Peeing?
What Does Cat Spray Look and Smell Like?
Whether a cat is peeing or spraying, they are expelling urine from their bladder, which is yellow in color with a pungent ammonia-like smell. Some owners report that sprayed urine is darker, thicker, and more pungent than regular urine, but this may be due to the urine being more concentrated if the cat didn't have a full bladder at the time of spraying. It has also been speculated but not proven that urine mixes with anal gland contents prior to being released.
Tomcat (intact male) urine is particularly smelly and intense, whether peed or sprayed, partly due to high levels of an amino acid called felinine. There is a positive correlation between the amount of felinine in the urine and testosterone levels in male cats.2
Does Cat Spray Smell Eventually Go Away?
Although the smell of cat spray may fade over time, it is very persistent and can last for months or even years without proper cleaning.
How long the smell lasts depends on the amount of urine present, the type of surface sprayed, and the degree of ventilation. For example, if a large amount of urine has built up over a long time on an absorbent surface, such as carpet, upholstery, or concrete, in a room with little ventilation, such as the basement, the smell may never completely disappear. In contrast, if there's only a small volume of urine on a non-porous surface, such as glazed ceramic tiles or a stainless steel oven, and the room has open windows and doors providing ventilation, the smell may not last as long.
The best way to eliminate the smell of cat pee is to clean the area or item appropriately and as quickly as possible. If you wait for the smell to fade, it will be unpleasant, take a very long time, and although the odor may subside, it will often become noticeable again on hot, humid days. In addition, as the scent fades, your cat will likely respray the area to refresh their mark. Therefore, it's essential to find all the sprayed urine in your home, completely remove the odor so it's undetectable to your cat, and then put measures in place to prevent them from respraying.
How Can I Find All the Cat Spray in My House?
Use an ultraviolet (UV) blacklight, such as Simple Solutions Urine Detector, to find cat pee in your home. Shine the flashlight throughout your home, and any urine present will be seen as a fluorescent yellow or yellow-green stain. It's best to do it at night and with the lights off so the glow is more noticeable.
Look for splattered urine on both horizontal surfaces, such as carpets, and vertical surfaces, such as the walls. On a flat surface, stains may appear as puddles. On an upright surface, stains may appear as streaks flowing downward. Outline any urine you find with chalk or Painter's Tape (as it peels off easily afterward without leaving marks) so that you will remember its location and size.
The Best Cleaner for Removing Cat Spray Smell
The best products to neutralize cat spray urine and permanently eliminate the smell are enzymatic cleaners, which break down the source of the odor and don't just cover it up. Our favorite is Anti-Icky-Poo Odor Remover by Mister Max, which is extremely effective and can be used on nearly any material. If any visible stains remain after removing the odor, treat them with Stain Remover by Mister Max.
Anti-Icky-Poo Enzyme Cleaner can be used to get cat spray smell out of the following:
- Tiles and grout
We also love the enzyme products by Simple Solution, which effectively remove cat odor and stains, and have a very pleasant, clean fragrance.
Cat Extreme Stain and Odour Remover by Simple Solution can be used to get cat spray smell out of the following:
- Fabric toys
- Water-safe surfaces
- Not leather
The Best Technique for Getting Rid of Cat Spray Smell
This technique will get rid of cat urine sprayed on walls, carpets, wood, couches, flooring, tiles, mattresses, or clothing. Although this approach is highly effective at eliminating cat urine smell, checking and following the directions for the product you are using is recommended.
Step 1. Blot the Urine
If the cat pee is fresh and still wet, it should be blotted with paper towels. Make sure to blot and not rub to avoid spreading the urine further. If the urine is on fabric, such as the carpet or a couch, press firmly to absorb as much of the urine as possible.
Step 2. Spot-Test
It's always best to test a small, inconspicuous area with your enzyme cleaner first to ensure it does not cause any damage.
Step 3. Soak With Enzyme Cleaner
Saturate the urine on the carpet, rug, couch, curtain, bed, wall, or floor with an enzymatic cleaner plus 2x the surrounding area so that any splashes are included. When treating carpet, coach foam, or a mattress, you must spray enough so that it penetrates deeper rather than just spraying the surface.
Step 4. Blot After 10 Minutes
We recommend letting the enzyme solution sit for 10 minutes, then blotting the area with paper towels to soak up as much urine as possible. The more urine that can be removed, the better.
Step 5. Soak the Area Again
Saturate the urine and surrounding area again. This time do not blot.
Step 6. Leave to Air Dry
Leave the enzyme solution to dry for 24-48 hours. Do not use a fan to hasten the drying time, as the area must stay wet to allow the enzymes to work.
Step 7. Urine Smell Sniff Test
If you can still smell cat urine once the enzyme cleaner has dried, resoak the area and leave it to air dry again. Sometimes it's beneficial to have a friend or family member help you with the sniff test since our noses can become habituated to the smell. Repeat soaking the area and leaving it to air dry until the smell has gone.
How to Tackle Really Tough Smells
1. Inject Cleaner
If cat urine has penetrated a couch, pillow, mattress, cushion, or the padding layer of your carpet, the Anti-Icky-Poo Carpet Injector allows you to infiltrate Anti-Icky-Poo Enzyme Solution further inside to target the source of the odor.
2. Peel up the Carpet
If cat urine has built up in the same spot over an extended period of time, if possible, you may need to lift your carpet to be able to thoroughly soak all the individual layers with an enzymatic cleaner, including the backing, padding, and subfloor.
3. Use an Odour-Blocking Primer
Kilz Maximum Stain and Odor Blocking Primer can be used on various surfaces with pet odor, including wood, brick, ceramic tile, drywall, masonry, painted metal, and plaster. For example, if a cat has sprayed the walls and it has also dripped down into the subfloor, and you have treated the area with enzyme cleaner 2-3 times, but it still smells, apply two coats of odor-blocking primer to the wall and subfloor, as per the instructions.
4. Use a Pressure Sprayer
If you have a large area, such as a basement or multiple walls, or an outdoor odor to treat, use a pressure sprayer, such as the affordable and reliable Chapin Garden Sprayer, with a Gallon of Anti-Icky-Poo Enzyme Cleaner to cover the entire surface.
5. Replace the Carpet
If cat urine has built up in the carpet over time and the smell can't be removed, either replace the entire carpet or, if the affected area is not too large, just a section of carpet, known as carpet patching. Treat the subfloor with an enzymatic cleaner and apply a couple of coats of Kilz Maximum Stain and Odor Blocking Primer once dried, if required.
6. Hire Professional Cleaners
Sometimes it's best to seek the help of professionals who have experience dealing with pet odors to request a deep clean of your home. If they cannot help you, it may be time to accept the item needs to be thrown out and replaced.
How to Stop Your Cat Spraying Indoors
Although medical causes of urine spraying are less common than behavioral causes, it's recommended to consult your vet to ensure your cat is healthy and rule out any underlying medical issues.
If the cause of spraying is behavioral, usually related to stress or anxiety due to a perceived threat to their territory, the key to stopping the unwanted behavior is to create a safe, stable, and positive environment for your cat. In addition, calming supplements, pheromones, and medications may also help. The following steps will help stop your cat spraying indoors:
For further information on each step, read our guide on how to Stop Cat Spraying: 11 Solutions for Urine Marking Cats.
How to Protect Your Furniture and Walls From Cat Spray
It's essential to address the underlying cause of your cat's spraying by modifying their environment and behavior. However, since it may take several weeks to resolve the issue, in the meantime, there are ways to protect your house from sprayed cat urine and deter them from marking the same spot once it has been cleaned.
1. Change the Function of the Area
Cats are far less likely to spray where they drink, eat, sleep, and play. Therefore, in the target area, place a water bowl, food bowl, cat tree, bed, or some catnip, such as Yeowww Organic Catnip. You can also have regular play sessions, such as on the couch or bed, with fishing rod-type toys, such as Da Bird or PurrSuit (UK).
2. Use Feliway Classic Pheromone Spray
Feliway Classic is a synthetic feline facial pheromone spray that mimics the pheromones produced by a cat's chin and cheek glands. When cats rub their face on objects, they deposit facial pheromones, marking the environment as safe and secure. Urine spraying is typically triggered by stress and anxiety, whereas facial rubbing is a much calmer form of marking.
Once a urine mark has been thoroughly cleaned and dry, spray it with Feliway Classic to have a calming effect on your cat, increase their sense of security, and reduce the need to mark with urine.
It should be used once a day for a minimum of 30 days. If you notice a significant reduction in spraying, you may choose to continue using it long-term.
3. Create Physical Barriers
Block access to the room they tend to spray in, for example, by keeping a door shut or using a very tall baby gate. If your cat sprays the couch, use a waterproof barrier, such as transparent plastic Furniture Protector Sheets, to protect your furniture and simplify cleanup jobs. Pee Pads can also be attached to the wall or another surface to offer protection and changed each time your cat sprays them.
4. Aversive Techniques
Try covering the area they spray with aluminum foil, placing potpourri at the site, or using a lemon-scented fragrance or motion-activated device to make the site unpleasant for your cat. However, use aversive techniques with caution because if they cause stress and anxiety, they may intensify spraying. If you use an aversive technique, it should not be associated with you. For example, don't spray your cat with water or shout at them, as doing so may damage your bond.
5. Use a High-Sided Litter Box
If it's impossible to stop your cat spraying or you need an easier way to clean while you gradually improve their behavior, place a high-sided litter box in the area your cat currently sprays to contain the urine. If your cat only sprays inside the litter tray, switching to one with high sides is recommended.
Key Points: Removing Cat Spray Smell
- Cat spray has a strong and persistent odor that can be difficult to remove and lasts a long time.
- Cats spray urine to leave important chemical messages for other cats, and if the smell is not effectively neutralized, they may top up their mark as it starts to fade.
- Use a UV light, such as Simple Solutions Urine Detector, to identify all areas where cat pee has been deposited to ensure a thorough cleaning.
- Soaking the affected areas with an enzymatic cleaner, such as Anti-Icky Poo Odor Remover or Cat Extreme Stain and Odor Remover, is the most effective and simplest method to neutralize odors.
- Always leave the enzyme solution to dry for 24-48 hours without using a fan or trying to speed up the process, and repeat soaking with enzyme cleaner if necessary.
- You may need to peel up the carpet or use an injector to remove tough odors. An odor-blocking primer, such as Kilz Maximum Stain & Odour Blocker Primer, can also be used on walls and subfloors.
- To stop your cat spraying, you need to address the underlying cause.
- While modifying your cat's behavior to prevent spraying, which can take several weeks, protect a target area by changing its function, blocking access, using aversive techniques, or placing a high-sided litter box in the location.
- Hart BL, Cooper L. Factors relating to urine spraying and fighting in prepubertally gonadectomized cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1984 May 15;184(10):1255-8.
- Tarttelin MF, Hendriks WH, Moughan PJ. Relationship between plasma testosterone and urinary felinine in the growing kitten. Physiol Behav. 1998 Aug;65(1):83-7.