One of the very worst parts of being a cat owner, in my opinion, is litter tray duties. If you leave it just a little bit too late, the whole of the house fills with the pungent stench – and it seems impossible to get rid of. There’s good news on the horizon, though: you can get rid of the cat pee smell, and it’s not as difficult as you’d think.

Let’s dive right in.

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  1. What Does Cat Pee Smell Like
  2. Removing Cat Pee Smell: Clothes, Carpet, Mattress, etc.
  3. Enzyme Cleaners for Cat Pee: How to Use Them
  4. How to Get Rid of Cat Litter Smell
  5. Enzyme vs. Homemade Cleaners for Cat Urine
  6. FAQs
  7. Conclusion

What Does Cat Pee Smell Like

Cat pee has an aroma that many people would compare to ammonia. It’s strong, pungent, and actually quite tough to get rid of, especially if it has been left to… marinate. If you have any bleach-type products in your home, take a look at the label. If it says ‘ammonia,’ then you can be sure that it smells not too dissimilar to cat pee.

In reality, research shows that cat urine isn’t actually that different from the urine of other animals; it’s just a little more concentrated. Urobilogen, a by-product of the waste system, is what gives pee its distinctive yellow color.

Other pee compounds include:

  • Uric acid;
  • Creatine;
  • Urea;
  • Sodium chloride;
  • Detoxified substances (others);
  • Other electrolytes.

It is the urea part, specifically, that causes the infamous cat pee odor by reacting with bacteria in the litter box (or elsewhere.) Various things can make your cat’s pee smell less or more. Female cats tend to be less stinky than their male counterparts. Pee from older cats usually smells older than that of the younger ones because their kidneys are in a more worn or damaged state.

Cat pee that stinks a lot more than usual could be a sign that something isn’t quite right with your pet. Monitor them on your pet camera to check for signs of injury, illness, or general unhappiness.

Removing Cat Pee Smell: Clothes, Carpet, Mattress, etc.

It is impossible to mask the scent of cat pee; instead, you must break down the urine particles with strong enzyme cleaners. Don’t worry; it’s nowhere near as complicated as it sounds.

Better Home & Garden describes enzyme cleaners as, “biological compounds use to break down organic waste.”

Different types of enzymes (biological organisms) will break down different types of mess. Lipase cleans things like oil or fat, and amylase is best used for starch and carbohydrate-based mess. Proteases is an enzyme that breaks down and cleans urine along with wine and other drinks, blood, poop, food, and other protein-based messes. Look for this enzyme amongst the ingredients.

One thing you absolutely should not do is stack cleaning products. You can’t use detergent along with enzyme cleaners because they essentially cancel each other out. There’s bacteria in enzyme cleaners; that’s what helps them clean thoroughly. When you mix the two types of cleaning product, the detergent cleans away the bacteria, which renders the enzyme cleaner ineffective.

Enzyme Cleaners for Cat Pee: How to Use Them

First and foremost, you must locate where the pee is. The smell can quickly fill a room. If you haven’t directly seen where your cat has peed, it might take you a moment to find the area that requires attention.

I have three tips to help you:

  • Follow your nose;
  • Rewind and watch your home or pet camera;
  • Check the usual ‘naughty pee’ spots.

Enzyme cleaners do not work quickly compared to other types, such as bleach. You must give yourself enough time for the product to work, which in some cases can mean leaving the product on the stain or mess for at least 15 minutes. This gives all of the biological enzymes time to work properly, penetrating the mess and completely dissolving it.

You will need to clean the cleaner away properly, which will likely require some scrubbing action if you’re on upholstery or carpet. Rinse, then rinse a little more if you need to. Make sure the area is allowed to properly dry to avoid the smell of damp.

Most enzyme cleaners are completely safe and non-hazardous. They’re great for households with babies, children, pets, allergies, and/or sensitivities. As with most other strong cleaners, make sure you use the product in a safe and ventilated area.

How to Get Rid of Cat Litter Smell

As a cat owner myself, I know how bad that cat litter smell can get… and how quickly. It can often feel like you won’t ever get a handle on it, but I’ve got a few hard-learned tips to share. And trust me, these ones actually work.

Invest in a Boxed-in or Covered Design

I can’t tell you how much difference a lid has made to the level of cat pee stench in my house. It doesn’t completely contain it, of course, but it does hold the smell in for much longer than conventional cat litter trays.

Check Your Litter Material

Some materials smell quicker than others, so my advice is to try a few different types and brands of cat litter. Now, there’s a chance that your cat will get grumpy about the changes, which in turn could encourage unwanted peeing behavior. However, I feel that it’s important to add, my cat has never really cared much. She’s the fussiest thing in the world, but she’s chill about a litter brand change.

Scoop/Clean More Frequently

If you’re only scooping out the poop and pee a couple of times per month, there’s no wonder your litter tray smells terrible. You should get rid of any poop immediately. Clumping cat litter allows you to scoop out clumped balls of pee, too.

When it comes to a complete litter change, replacing the whole lot with new stuff, there’s no fixed rule. If you have one cat in your home, you’ll probably find that you’ll need to do a complete change once every three or four weeks. The more cats you have, the more frequently you should do it.

Get Your Cat Checked By a Vet

Super smelly urine could be a sign that something isn’t quite right with your four-legged friend. Several health conditions have urinary issues as a symptom.

Alongside stinky pee, avoiding the litter tray, spraying, and not urinating enough can be signs of diabetes, UTIs (urinary tract infections,) kidney disease, stress, depression, anxiety, and more. Drinking and urinating more are associated with diabetes, so, as vet Dr. Catherine Henstridge states on her Tiktok guide to spotting the condition: “knowing the signs are important!”

By taking your cat to the vet, you can be sure that a medical issue isn’t causing the problem.

A few other things to consider include:

  • Scented cat litter (not great for the fussy ones);
  • Provide more than one litter box for multiple cats;
  • Put the litter box in a well-ventilated area.

Enzyme vs. Homemade Cleaners for Cat Urine

Bicarbonate of soda is great for getting rid of bad smells, including cat pee. Once the mess has been mopped up or cleaned away, sprinkle the powder liberally over the stain and leave for a few minutes before then vacuuming it up.

Dr. Ellen Marcinkiewicz from The Vets recommends a mixture of white vinegar and water in a ratio of 1:1 as a detergent, of sorts. Once you’ve cleaned the area thoroughly with the mixture, then rinsed it clean, sprinkle bicarbonate of soda over the patch as described above.

You should avoid using cleaning products that have strong scents, and bleach-based products aren’t a good idea for carpets, soft furnishings, and other materials that might become discolored. These types of cleanings products can also cause your pet to become ill, especially when they are mixed – at which point the gases and fluid could become hazardous to humans, too.

According to research, hazardous cleaning ingredients for pets include:

  • Ammonia/ammonium hydroxide;
  • Hydrogen peroxide;
  • Phthalates;
  • Chlorine;
  • Phenol;
  • Benzalkonium chloride;
  • Isopropyl alcohol;
  • Formaldehyde.

If you do find yourself in a position where you believe your pet has been poisoned by household cleaning items, seek medical attention immediately.

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My house smells like cat pee but I can’t find it – help!

If you’re followed your noise, watched the pet camera, and checked all the regular spots, it’s time to put your detective hat on. Can you see stains anywhere? Is your cat avoiding one certain area? Or hanging around in that area a lot? If your cat peeing outside of the litter box is a frequent problem, it might be worth investing in a black light, which can be purchased cheaply online and will highlight any areas that need attention.

How to get cat urine out of the couch after it has dried?

Do you have access to a suction/carpet cleaner-type device? It’s a great tool for exactly this purpose. Alternatively, wet the area and use an enzyme cleaner, the vinegar-water mix, and/or bicarbonate of soda. It’s a good idea to blot the stain. Rubbing can spread the stain and smell further.


Bad smells are, unfortunately, a part of pet ownership. Whether it’s stinky butts, stinky breath, or a stinky cat litter box/house, there’s a remedy – and a reason! If your cat’s pee smell has become a problem, make sure that you take them to the vet to get checked over. It takes a quick chat to get the right advice or peace of mind.

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