Cleaning Cat Urine - Cat Info Detective

Cleaning Cat Urine

Skye Blake looking left through magnifying glass

Greetings cat lovers one and all! Skye Blake here, tracking down products and methods you can use for cleaning cat urine and its odor.

paw prints coming in from a distance

It can be overwhelming and frustrating to realize you have pee to clean up from your normally fastidious kitty.

Even worse than smelling it yourself, your cat can smell it when you can’t and you’re frustrated when she starts peeing there again!

The problem is you didn’t get it clean the first time.

unhappy cleaner

Whether the cause is a medical problem, fear of the litter box, or territorial insecurity, you still have to clean it up.

Peeing or marking outside the litter box is upsetting but can be fixed! You can find ways to understand your kitty and fix the problems.

Don’t Grab Just Any Old Cleaner!

cleaning supplies for killing fleas

To clean up the mess, most people grab the carpet cleaner, dishwashing soap, laundry detergent, even bleach to get rid of it quickly.

Unfortunately, there are specific elements in cat uric acid (thiols) that don’t breakdown or respond to regular cleaners, including homemade ones.

Not only don’t they clean it, some set the urine in the material so it’s more difficult to remove!

living room furniture

Materials like carpet fibers, brick, drywall, and wood are all things you may have noticed can smell bad from cat urine, indoors or outdoors (rain doesn’t wash it away).

Uric acid bonds tightly to anything it touches, doesn’t dissolve in water and can take many years to break down. So the smell never goes away!

natural laundry cleaners

A word about home products for cleaning cat urine. Some people swear by them and they seem to work for awhile.

These are usually some combination of baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide. They remove the yellow color and some odor. But they can’t get rid of thiols in the uric acid.

Sooooo……. the smell seems gone, then it’s baaaack! Arghhh!

Use An Enzyme Product Made for Cleaning Cat Urine

cat on it's side

There is, however, an answer that works… yay! Cat behaviorists and veterinarians recommend enzyme-based cleaners for dealing with urine stains and odors.

Enzyme-based cleaners seem to be a universal recommendation so we’ll focus, for now, on these, rather than chemically-based or other cleaners.

This should give you the greatest chance of success if you use them properly.

ginger tabby lying on floor on his back

Be sure to use a product made specifically for cat urine stain and odor removal. Make sure what you get doesn’t have ammonia, which smells like pee and will attract cats to pee there.

Soaps and other cleaners clean some of the urine and it looks clean, even smells clean when it dries.

But as soon as it’s exposed to humidity, the uric acid salts crystalize again and, voila!, the smell is back! Grrrr!

prohibited sign

Since enzymes have specific targets it’s important to match the enzyme cleaner with what it actually cleans. You must also follow the directions carefully.

Enzymes clean differently from cleaners you’re used to using. It’s not difficult, just different.

To be most successful with cleaning, it’s important you understand a bit about what’s in feline urine, what enzymes are and how they work.

What’s In Cat Pee That Makes It Smell Bad?

Cat with stinky litter box

Cat pee is chemically different from dog or human pee. It contains certain things that any cleaner has to be able to specifically address.

Cat urine contains bacteria, urea, and other things that create that unpleasant odor as it dries. The main culprits are…

Ammonia (“Fishy”)

fish-funny graphic

Ammonia is that fishy smell that assaults our senses when urine breaks down.

It happens when certain bacteria create an enzyme called urease, which changes urea to ammonia and carbonic acid. Cat urine has a lot more urea than dog or human.

Felinine (“Sulfur”)

sulfuric acid

Another cause of the bad odor is felinine, a pheromone found in cat urine after about 3 months of age. It’s stronger in intact males than neutered males or females.

Felinine has no odor but it breaks down into thiols, which are sulfur compounds… eww!

Thiols have that lovely “cat” smell. They’re also what’s in skunk spray that makes that powerful wretched odor! Yuk!

Pyruvic Acid (“Sour”)

man holding nose - silhouette

As felinine breaks down it also creates pyruvic acid (smells sour) and some ammonia.

Both of these add to the already strong ammonia smell from the urea breakdown. Even smellier! Whew!!

What Are Enzymes and How Do They Work?

Scientist holding a beaker-representing enzymes that clean cat urine

Enzymes are not living organisms. They are long-chain proteins made by certain bacteria, which are living organisms.

They make it possible for bacteria to do their work, speeding up the process of breaking down soil and waste materials chemically for bacteria to be able to “eat” them.

The bacteria break them down into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O).

drawing of bacteria

Specific enzymes used to clean cat pee are the only way to get rid of the uric acid salts once and for all.

They break it down into carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia, gasses that dissipate into the air.

This is why it’s important to follow the instructions. You must give it time to do this process by air drying overnight.

Enzymes are different from one another.

They’re very specific to the type of material or surface they work on and must be activated to work properly (such as having damp conditions).

vacuum cleaner; cleaning fleas, cat pee

As long as the dirt exists (in this case urine compounds), and is wet enough, the enzymes and bacteria will multiply and continue to work.

This can continue for hours or days after application. Once the dirt is gone the enzymes and bacteria stop working.

Enzyme cleaners can get into cracks and crevices that others can’t reach. This makes them effective for tile, brick, and concrete, as well as carpet and wood.

What Enzyme Cleaners Work Best for Cat Urine?

Spray bottle for enzyme cleaner-cat urine

Disclosure

You’ll see enzyme cleaner brands listed on this page from which I receive a small commission if you buy them.

This helps me stay on the trail of new and exciting discoveries for you!

Only cleaners made specifically for cat urine are listed, although some include other pets. They must have good reputations and reviews.

Not All Enzyme Cleaners are Created Equal

cat with eyes closed; cat pee smell

The product you use must be specifically made for cat urine.

This is because cat pee contains different chemicals than dog and other animal urine (see the explanation above).

The best quality cleaners are usually more expensive but lesser quality ones often have to be applied frequently, so you end up using a lot more.

Use Enzyme Cleaners by Themselves

kitten peeking around door; watching somebody clean cat urine

Don’t combine with other cleaners since this will reduce or destroy the effectiveness of the enzymes.

If you’ve put other cleaners on first and haven’t gotten them completely out, the enzymes may not work properly.

In this case, try using a pre-enzyme before the enzyme cleaner (MisterMax Anti-Icky-Poo P-Bath Pre-Treatment is one example.)

tabby cat face upside down

You can use some cleaners, but not all, directly on pets or people (e.g., for skunk smell removal).

Read the labels closely to be sure you’re getting what you need.

Enzyme cleaners can also be used for eliminating outdoor urine and other odors.

Black cat and cocker spaniel dog lounging together

They’re primarily marketed toward dog owners, but might also do well for cat urine odors on patios, around doors, etc.

One possibility is Simple Green Outdoor Odor Eliminator for Pets – 32 oz – Hose End Sprayer & 1 Gallon Refill

No matter which one you buy, be sure it’s specifically for cat urine and follow the instructions carefully.

The Basics of Using Enzyme Cleaners

tabby cat lying on a rug-floors are often places where cat urine needs to be cleaned

Here are the basic steps for using enzyme cleaners…

  • If the stain is fresh, blot up as much as possible
  • Be sure the product works on the surface you’re cleaning (carpet, wood, brick, etc.)
  • Carefully follow the instructions on the bottle
  • Soak the area well (don’t just spray lightly). Cat pee wicks down into carpeting and other materials. Get the enzymes deep into cracks and fibers
canister vacuum
  • Let the enzymes stay on as long as possible
  • Then blot up as much of the cleaner as you can
  • Let it air dry for the amount of time specified (usually overnight)
  • Cover the area so it can dry slowly. Tarp, foil, or plastic bags placed loosely over the area work well.
silver tabby kitten on a bed; cleaning cat urine

The longer it’s wet, the more active the enzymes will be, and the more pee will be cleaned.

Covering it keeps your cat from peeing where the enzymes are working.

It also keeps people from walking or sitting on it.

Silver tabby kitten looking scared - on sofa by pillow

This can work even on mattresses and pillows where the pee has soaked down in… as long as you make sure the cleaner soaks in where the pee is.

Once the treatment is done, use a black light to be sure all urine is gone.

If anything still shows up, treat it again or reactivate the enzymes with water.

Enzymes Are Environmentally Friendly

flying birds

Enzymes are environmentally safer than other cleaners and don’t have to be combined with detergents, abrasives, etc.

Their pH levels are neutral which makes them non-caustic.

Since they simply convert pee to carbon dioxide and water, enzymes don’t kill anything and don’t go down the drain into wastewater.

There’s Hope to Clean ALL the Cat Urine!

vacuum cleaner head; cleaning cat urine, fleas

As you can see, there’s hope to finally get rid of all the cat pee stains in and outside your home.

If you clean cat urine carefully and make changes to help your cat be secure in his world, you’ll be able to live stain-free and happy with your little buddy!

Follow this trail for more info about getting your kitty happily back in the box…

List of Enzyme Cleaners

disinfectant, spray, trigger, enzyme urine cleaner

Disclosure

Here’s a list enzyme cleaner brands from which I receive a small commission if you buy them.

(Helps me stay on the trail of new and exciting discoveries for you!)

List of Cleaners

Only products made specifically for cleaning cat urine are listed, although some include other pets.

They must have good reputations and reviews to be listed here…

ginger, orange, white kitten on step with head cocked to side curiously
Angry Orange
tuxedo cat sleeping on blanket with paws over eyes
Bubba’s
Wet-vac vacuum cleaner
Mella Magic
cleaning, clean, enzyme cleaner
MisterMax Anti-Icky-Poo
tabby cat lying on a rug
Nok Out
cat sleeping on a step
Rocco & Roxie
Ginger, orange tabby lounging on chair
Simple Green
dark tabby at shelter on cat tree
Simple Solution
upside down white kitten
Urine-Off

Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?Deciphering Cat Pee Patterns
Location, Location, Location…the Box?Symptoms of Illness in Your Cat
The Territorial CatWhat’s the Best Cat Litter Box?
What Are the Best Types of Cat Litter?Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Box?

Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary are always preferable and have the most reliable information because primary sources are original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

So, when I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

(Links below are for your information only. I make no money from them.)

“DIY Cat Stain & Odor Remover That Actually Works”, by Chrissie Klinger, Hills, November 14, 2016

“Enzyme Science”, About Cleaning Products

“How to Clean Urine in 6 Steps”, Feliway

SCOE10X

“How to Remove Cat Urine: Why an Enzyme Cleaner Must Be Used”, CatCentric, by Laurie Goldstein, November 2011

“How Bio-Enzymatic Cleaners Work”, by Selmene Ouertani, Ecomastery Project, October 5, 2017,

“The Top Five Uses for Enzyme Cleaners in the Home”, National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors

“Why You Should Use Enzyme Cleaners for Your Home”, Pro-Tek Products

The Cat Whisperer by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com

Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011,

Total Cat Mojo by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017,

“A Major Urinary Protein of the Domestic Cat Regulates the Production of Felinine, a Putative Pheromone Precursor”, Science Direct, Chemistry & Biology, Volume 13, Issue 10, October 2006, Pages 1071-1079

Updated April 1, 2022

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