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How to Get Rid of Cat Urine Smell From Your Whole House

Est. read time: 10 min.

Yikes! You just stepped into your home only to be greeted by the unmistakable smell of cat urine. Even the slightest whiff can leave pet parents scratching their heads, trying to find the underlying cause of this unwanted behavior. Whether your cat is spraying to mark territory, frustrated by their litter box, or simply misbehaving, the pervasive smell of urine permeating your house warrants immediate attention.

In this article, we delve into identifying why your cat may be urinating outside their litter box, understanding why the odor is so strong, and, most importantly, providing effective solutions to eradicate the smell of cat urine—for good.

What does strong-smelling cat urine mean?

The urinary system that produces and facilitates the exit of urine has several primary functions: the most notable of these is the excretion of waste products from metabolism. With this in mind, cat urine inherently possesses a strong-smelling odor. This is primarily because cat pee contains urea and uric acid, substances that continue to last on surfaces such as wood, carpet, and fabric for years after it is released from your cat’s body. When the urine decomposes, bacteria break down the urea, releasing ammonia. This sharp, acidic smell can be temporarily neutralized with baking soda, soap, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide. However, if not completely removed, humidity can cause uric acid to recrystallize, and you guessed it—the smell will return.

When you smell the strong scent of cat urine, you’ll want to discover why your cat is utilizing spaces outside their litter box. The first thing you should do before you begin to get rid of cat odors in your house is identify the source. 

Identify the culprit

Cat urine is a notoriously foul-smelling substance. When you aren’t able to catch your cat in the act, it becomes harder to find the area your cat is marking.

1. Is cat urine truly the issue?

The first step is to ensure that the ammonia smell is truly coming from cat urine. There are other sources—like mold and boxwood shrubs—that smell similar, so start ruling those out before blaming the cat.

What does cat pee smell like? 

Cat urine has a strong, distinct odor usually described as pungent or ammonia-like. This is due to the release of ammonia gas as the urine decomposes. The smell can intensify over time, particularly in humid conditions or if not cleaned up promptly.

2. Is the litter box accessible?

If you’re certain cat urine is the culprit, ensure that your cat has constant access to a clean litter box.  If the litter box is in a hard-to-reach location, older cats may find it difficult to use. Similarly, high-traffic or noisy areas may deter your cat from doing their business in the right place. 

3. Are you using the right litter?

You should also ensure you’re using high-quality litter. Cats are particular, so be sure to find one that your cat finds appealing. Once your cat has access to a clean litter box, you can begin to identify other steps you should take.

4. Is the litter cleaned regularly?

Cats can be picky when it comes to litter cleanliness. If the litter box is too messy or they smell other cats' waste, they may go elsewhere instead. If that is the issue, you may need to clean the litter box more frequently or invest in a self-cleaning litter box that automatically cycles waste, leaving your cat with a fresh place to go every time.

Identify the source of the smell

Your house smells like cat pee but you can't find it? Start investigating the source of the odor. Is there an unlucky spot in your home? Or is the urine odor more widespread? You’ll need to narrow down the areas of the urine within your home by sniffing around. Sometimes, a black light can be used to find the urine, but this is not always effective. 

Common spots include:

  • Corners of rooms: Cats often choose corners to mark their territory. Corners are also quiet and secluded, giving them a sense of security.
  • Furniture: Couches, chairs, and beds are common targets, especially if they're made of absorbent material.
  • Curtains and drapes: If your cat can reach them, these can be a target, especially if they touch the floor.
  • Rugs and carpets: These provide a soft and absorbent place for your cat to urinate.
  • Potted plants: The soil in potted plants can mimic the texture of a litter box, making it an attractive place for a cat to urinate.
  • Laundry: Piles of clothes, especially soiled ones, can attract cats as they often prefer soft, warm places.
  • Personal belongings: Items like shoes, bags, and even personal bedding can be targeted if the cat is trying to mix their scent with yours.
  • Empty boxes: Some cats treat an empty box like a litter box without the litter.

Still unsure where it could be? Try our questionnaire to help you find spots to investigate and how to properly clean the affected area.

Underlying causes

If your cat is urinating outside their litter box, it's important to investigate and understand the underlying cause. It could signify a medical issue, stress, or dissatisfaction with the litter box situation.

You’ll then want to begin working on cleaning up the urine (which we’ll explore more below). After you’ve cleaned up the contentious spots, consider the underlying question: Why is my cat urinating outside the litter box? Ask yourself the following questions: Is my cat being territorial? Has anything changed in my home to spark a behavior change? Does my cat have any underlying or undiagnosed medical conditions? 

After you’ve explored those questions, your next step will depend on your answer. Consider moving your litter box to the area they prefer. Destress your home and help your cat acclimate to changes. If all else fails, reach out to your veterinarian to ensure that no sicknesses are ailing your feline.

5 steps for removing cat urine smell

Whisker cleaner spray in front of Litter-Robot 4

Wondering how to get rid of cat urine smells? Whether they’re old stains or new spots, it’s important to remove cat urine smells as soon as possible. 

Step 1: Absorb any wet urine

The first step in cat smell removal is to absorb any wet urine. Use an old towel and absorb as much urine as possible by blotting the area as soon as you notice a spot. 

Step 2: Use an enzyme cleaner

For old and new stains alike, you will want to apply an enzyme cleaner for cat urine to the soiled area. Enzymatic cleaners are effective cat urine removers because their specialized enzymes target and break down the molecules responsible for cat urine smell. 

Apply the cat urine cleaner directly to the trouble spot and leave it to dry naturally, or wipe it up after 15 minutes. Do not rush the drying process. 

Step 3: Cover the area that is being treated

Many cats become curious when they see their favorite piddle area treated with something other than their urine. It is best to close off the room or use a laundry basket to cover the area—while still allowing proper airflow—to keep your feline out of the way during the cleaning process. 

Step 4: Keep airflow moving

You will want to use fans and open windows to help odors escape your home. Don’t let the odors continue to linger. 

Step 5: Identify why your cat is having accidents

Last but not least, find out what is causing your cat to pee everywhere in the house. Then take proactive steps to help resolve future cat urine issues. 

How to prevent your cat from peeing in the same spot

Siberian cat inside Litter-Robot 4

The easiest way to get rid of cat urine smells in your house is to avoid them in the first place. Helping your cat with litter box training and having a constantly clean litter box is a great place to start.

Litter-Robot 4 provides your cat with a litter box that is always clean—which will ideally lead to them acting out less! Litter-Robot’s fresh bed of litter, tightly sealed waste drawer, and optional cleaning wipes keep odors at bay, assisting with any multi-cat territorial issues in your home. This can be especially important within smaller apartments or townhomes, where the potentially territorial nature of multiple cats could compound any issues your cats have with their urination habits. 

With a healthy diet, a clean litter box, and plenty of attention from their loving parents, you should see your cat make drastic improvements. However, if your cat seems to be urinating more frequently, or continues to pee outside the box, ensure that there are no medical conditions with your veterinarian. 

Remove cat urine smell for good

How to get rid of cat odors in the house is a top concern among pet parents. Removing cat urine smell is important to tackle as soon as you notice it. The smell can be a huge turn-off—not only for you and your family but for visitors as well. Remove cat urine smell by utilizing an enzyme cleaner to rapidly treat any spots where your cat misses the mark, and ensure they have access to a constantly clean litter box. The most important thing to remember is there is a root cause to your cat's behavior. Identify it to ensure that your cat stops urinating in the wrong places. You will then have a fresh-smelling home free from cat urine odors! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal for my cat to pee outside the litter box?

No, it is not normal for cats to pee outside the litter box. They may do so if they are stressed, have a medical condition, or do not have access to a clean litter box.

Will the cat pee smell eventually go away?

Uric acid is what causes cat pee to smell so pungent. It can remain on surfaces for years and will continue returning unless properly treated.

Why does my house smell like cat pee when I don't have a cat?

Multiple things can cause your house to smell like cat urine, even if you don’t have a cat. Investigate if there is mold, leaking Freon, sewer gases, smelly plants, spoiled food, or even stains from previous pet owners.

Why does cat pee smell so bad?

Cat urine smells particularly bad due to its chemical composition. It contains urea and uric acid, which, when broken down by bacteria, release a strong-smelling ammonia gas. Over time, if not cleaned properly, the uric acid can recrystallize and rerelease the ammonia smell, causing a persistent and unpleasant odor.



White cat sitting on toilet next to self-cleaning Litter-Robot with Litter-Robot cleaner spray above - why does my whole house smell like cat urine?