How to Get Rid of Cat Spray Smell | Fast, Effective + Easy


Jul 22, 2023
How to Get Rid of Cat Spray Smell | Fast, Effective + Easy
Although this article has been written by a veterinarian and is based on scientific research and expert knowledge, it is intended for informational purposes only. It does not replace consulting your own veterinarian and establishing a patient-doctor relationship. To support our efforts, this site contains affiliate links to products we recommend and find helpful, which may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read more.
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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

In this article, 'neutered' refers to a cat who has been castrated (male-specific term) or spayed (female-specific term), also known as 'fixed'. 'Intact' refers to a cat who has not been castrated or spayed, also known as 'entire'.

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.

Video: A Cat Spraying (Urine Marking)

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?

Cat sniffing sprayed urine

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?

Peeing vs spraying urine in a cat
Cats usually squat to pee and stand to spray, however, some cats may pee standing up or spray squatting.

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.

Cat urine shown with UV blacklight
Urine stains that were previously unseen glow under the UV light.

Simple Solution Urine Detector

Simple Solution Urine Detector

  • Urine glows in the dark under the UV light
  • Helps you find all the odorous urine so it can be properly cleaned
  • Look for urine on both horizontal and vertical surfaces

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:

  • Carpets 
  • Rugs
  • Couches
  • Curtains
  • Bedding
  • Walls
  • Hardwoods
  • Softwoods
  • Tiles and grout 
  • Concrete 
  • Plastic
  • Stainless-steel 
  • Leather 
  • Linoleum

Mister Max Anti Icky Poo Odor Remover

Mister Max Anti Icky Poo Odor Remover

  • A highly effective, non-toxic enzyme cleaner
  • Permanently removes odors
  • Can be used on almost any type of surface or material
  • Both unscented and scented versions are available
  • Can also be used for other smells, such as feces, vomit, sweat, skunk, sour milk, tobacco, etc.

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:

  • Upholstery
  • Bedding
  • Fabric toys
  • Clothing
  • Water-safe surfaces
  • Not leather 

Simple Solution Cat Extreme Stain and Odor Remover

Simple Solution Cat Extreme Stain and Odor Remover

  • Enzymes break down and permanently eliminate the smell of urine
  • Can be used on fabrics and water-safe surfaces
  • Removes tough stains
  • Also effective for feces and vomit

What NOT to Use to Get Rid of Spray Odor

Urine contains urea, which is broken down by bacteria in the environment to ammonia, the chemical responsible for the characteristic smell of stale urine. Therefore, do not use ammonia-based cleaners, as they smell like urine to cats and can encourage remarking. Bleach should also be avoided as it can react with ammonia resulting in harmful gases.

We also find enzyme-based products far more reliable, effective, and better smelling than using a combination of baking soda and vinegar.

Bleach ammonia-based cleaner vinegar not recommended for cat spray odor

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.

Diagram showing the layers of carpet, backing, padding and subfloor, and how urine can penetrate and be absorbed into the lower layers and beyond the surface of the carpet

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.  

Machine Washable Items

For removing cat spray odor from items that can be safely washed in the machine (always check the label), such as clothes, bedding, cushion covers, bath mats, and certain shoes, the best way to do laundry is to put the items into the machine tub (or a bucket or bath) and cover them with water until submerged. Add a ¼ to ½ cup of Anti-Icky-Poo Odor Remover to the water, let everything sit for 12-24 hours, and then wash as normal.

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.

Anti Icky Poo Carpet Injector

Anti-Icky Poo Carpet Injector

  • Helps tackle urine that has soaked deep down into the fabric
  • Use it to inject enzyme cleaner into the carpet pad, a cushion, a pillow, or a mattress

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.

lifting up the carpet to be able to treat the backing, padding and subfloor with enzyme cleaner
Lift the carpet to saturate the backing (underside of the carpet that secures the tufts and provides structure), padding (cushioning, spongy layer), and subfloor (flooring underneath the carpet, often made from concrete or plywood).

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.

Kilz Maximum Stain & Odor Blocker Primer

Kilz Maximum Stain & Odor Blocker Primer

  • A primer that can be used on subfloors, wood, brick, ceramic tile, drywall, masonry, painted metal, and plaster
  • Effectively seals and blocks strong pet odors and stains

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:

  • Neuter your cat if they are intact
  • Get rid of all cat spray odor
  • Resolve conflict between cats in the same household
  • Resolve conflict between your cat and outdoor cats
  • Create the perfect litter box setup
  • Minimize new and changing smells
  • Create a positive and enriched environment
  • Encourage more pleasant marking behaviors
  • Use calming pheromones
  • Use calming supplements
  • Administer anti-anxiety medications

For further information on each step, read our guide on how to Stop Cat Spraying: 11 Solutions for Urine Marking Cats.

Discover 11 Proven Solutions to Stop Your Cat Spraying

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).

Da Bird Handmade Feather Toy

Da Bird Handmade Feather Toy

  • Handmade fishing rod-style toy
  • Extremely high-quality and durable (mine has not broken, unlike others)
  • Irresistible to cats as its sound and movement mimic a real bird
  • Have regular play sessions where your cat sprays, such as on the bed or couch, to change the function of the area

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.

Feliway Classic Pheromone Spray

Feliway Classic Pheromone Spray

  • Contains a synthetic feline facial pheromone that cats deposit when they rub their face on a surface to mark it as safe
  • Facial marking is a relaxed form of marking, unlike urine marking, which is normally due to stress and anxiety
  • After cleaning, spray the area every 24 hours to help your cat feel relaxed and reduce their need to urine mark

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.

Recommended Barriers for Cat Spraying

furniture protectors

furniture protectors

Furniture Protectors

  • Large transparent self-adhesive plastic sheets and optional twist pins
  • Intended to protect furniture from scratching but will also protect it from sprayed urine
  • Easily cut to size and customizable
View on Amazon
Tall Baby Gate

Tall Baby Gate

Extra Tall Cat Gate by WAOWAO

  • If your cat sprays in one area of your house, prevent access with an extra tall baby gate
  • Over 55 inches (140 cm) tall, which most cats will not be able to jump over
  • Narrow spaces between bars stop most cats from squeezing through
  • Comes in a variety of widths to suit most spaces
  • Sturdy and easy-to-install design
  • Please note if your cat is extremely athletic, it may not be effective
View on Amazon
Pee Pads

Pee Pads

Amazon Basics Pee Pads

  • Intended for training puppies but can also be used to protect walls and furniture from cat spray
  • Highly absorbable and leak-proof
  • Replace with a new pee pad each time your cat sprays
View on Amazon

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.

Motion Activated

PetSafe SSSCAT Spray Pet Deterrent

  • Place them in areas where your cat sprays urine
  • When your cat is within 3 feet, it releases a quick burst of spray to startle them and deter them from urine marking
  • Odorless and harmless

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.

Recommended High-Sided Litter Boxes

Richell High Wall Cat Litter

Richell High Wall Cat Litter

Richell High Wall Cat Litter

  • Has a height of 12.5 inches to contain urine spray
  • No gaps or joinings for sprayed urine to leak out off
  • Roomy and spacious to help your cat feel comfortable
  • The grated step helps reduce tracking
  • Includes an attachable scoop
  • Made in the USA and comes in black, pink, and cream
View on AmazonView on Chewy
Doggy Bathroom Litter Box

Doggy Bathroom Litter Box

Doggy Bathroom Litter Box

  • Designed for puppy indoor potty training but can also be used as a cat litter tray
  • Has a height of 16 inches to contain urine spray (even for taller cats)
  • Spacious inside to help your cat feel comfortable
  • Clips can be used to secure pee pads vertically, so cleaning is easier
  • Available in grey, navy, and pink
View on Amazon
Cat Litter Box Pee Shields

Cat Litter Box Pee Shields

Cat Litter Box Pee Shields

  • Can be attached to any open-top litter box to help contain urine
  • They are 11.5 inches tall and will significantly extend the height of the litter box
  • Flexible and easy to attach via velcro adhesive strips
  • Easy to detach for cleaning
View on AmazonView on Walmart
IRIS 132 Quart Plastic Storage Container

IRIS 132 Quart Plastic Storage Container

IRIS 132 Quart Storage Container

  • Can be converted into the perfect litter box by leaving the lid off or cutting a low entrance on one side
  • The entrance can be cut by using a dremel and smoothing the edges with sandpaper
  • Has a height of 17 inches to catch any sprayed urine
  • Is spacious inside to ensure your cat feels comfortable
  • Made in the USA
View on AmazonView on Walmart

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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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