Cleaning Cat Urine - Cat Info Detective

Cleaning Cat Urine

Skye Blake-updated, white background

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

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

paw prints coming in from a distance

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.

Let’s discover more…

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page.

Sources are given at the bottom of each page for those who want to do more snooping.

Don’t Grab Just Any Old Cleaner!

cleaning supplies for killing fleas

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.

Discover more at “Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?” and “Deciphering Cat Pee Patterns“.

unhappy cleaner, cleaning cat pee

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, but some also 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!

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

Cat with stinky litter box

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

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, cleaning cat pee

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 three 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, cleaning cat pee

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!!

Home or “Natural” Cleaning Products

baking soda for litter box odors

So, what cleaning products do you use to deal with the mess?

Some people swear by using “natural” products they have at home.

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.

disinfectant, spray, trigger, cleaning cat pee

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

You need a product made specifically for cat urine stain and odor removal.

It can’t have ammonia, which smells like pee and will attract cats to pee there.

Soaps & Other Cleaners

Graphic of green soap bottle, cleaning cat litter, cat pee

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, et voila, the smell is back! Grrrr!

Enzymes – the Magic Formula

The only cleaners currently available that are effective against thiols are enzymes.

Scientist holding a beaker-enzymes - vet, cleaning cat litter

Since enzymes have specific targets it’s important to match the enzyme cleaner with what it actually cleans… be sure it’s for cleaning cat urine.

You must also follow the directions carefully.

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

Discover more about enzymes, why they work, and what cleaners are available at “Enzyme Cleaners for Cat Urine“.

If you need help getting your cat to use litter boxes again, start with “Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?“.


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re 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.

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

List of Sources

“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 11, 2024

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