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How Long Does Cat Urine Odor Last? A Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Urine

Rachel Giordano

By Rachel Giordano

cat peeing on carpet

Every cat owner knows the frustrations of dealing with cat urine odor. Sometimes you may even wonder if you’ll ever get rid of the smell entirely. Occasionally, a cat may urinate outside the litter box, and unfortunately, the smell can last months or even years if it’s not dealt with promptly.

Let’s say you come home from work and notice the smell right away. Now what? Has the damage already been done? Not necessarily. In this guide, we’ll list the steps you can take to get rid of the smell so that the cat urine odor doesn’t last forever.

How to Clean Up Cat Urine and Eliminate Future Odors

1. Find the soiled area

First thing’s first: you need to find the spot where your cat urinated. If you’re not sure, you can use a UV blacklight to help spot the stain. Make sure the area or room is dark so that you can seek out the stain.

dry cleaning of upholstered furniture
Image Credit: YanGoPo, Shutterstock

2. Decide your method of cleaning

Cat urine odor is potent because it contains uric acid, among many other things such as bacteria, creatinine, and pheromones, but it is the uric acid that creates the strong ammonia smell. Uric acid is not water-soluble, and it will linger and last for years if not broken down.

The best products to break down uric acid are enzyme cleaners because they destroy the organic material that creates the smell. Plenty of products on the market today are safe and non-toxic. Make sure to read the label on any product you choose to ensure the product doesn’t just mask the smell.

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3. Use a towel first to absorb the spot

This applies only if the stain is fresh. You’ll probably want to use an old towel for this purpose. Blot and absorb as much of the stain as you can, and be careful not to rub the stain further, especially if the stain is on the carpet. If the stain is old and already dried, you can use vinegar first to kill some of the bacteria.

cleaning floor carpet with spray rubber gloves
Image credit: Syda Productions, Shutterstock

4. Apply your enzyme cleaner

Always follow the instructions on the cleaner bottle before proceeding. You may have to leave the cleaner on for several hours, and you also may need to apply it more than once. Make sure your cleaner is safe and non-toxic to other pets or children in the home. You can place something over the stain while the enzyme cleaner works its magic, such as a laundry basket or towel.

5. Wait it out

It will take time to see (or smell) if the cleaner worked. Some work faster than others, and multiple applications may be in order. In the meantime, open windows and turn on fans to help air out the area.

woman opening the window
Image Credit: Piqsels

6. Do not use a steam cleaner on carpets

Unless you want the cat urine odor to last forever, never use a steam cleaner or any other source of heat on the stain because it will set in, and that makes for a very challenging feat to get rid of the odor.

7. Prevent future accidents in the same spot

This is an integral part of the whole process because if you let the stain sit for a lengthy amount of time, odds are your feline friend will smell it and continue to go in the same spot. While you’re trying to get rid of the smell, you can place a baking sheet or aluminum foil over the area. In doing so, your cat will not have the chance to urinate in the same spot.

After the spot has dried and the smell is eliminated, you can place your cat’s toys on the area to prevent future soils. If you play with your cat in the same area as the cleaned spot, odds are it won’t soil that area again.

cat playing with owner
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

8. Determine the cause

This is perhaps the most critical aspect of it all. When a cat urinates somewhere besides its litter box, it could mean your cat has an underlying medical problem that’s causing the issue. Urinary tract infections can be a cause, as well as diabetes or hypothyroidism. If your cat is urinating outside the litter box, a trip to your veterinarian is warranted.

If no medical issue is the cause, it could be a behavioral problem. Placing multiple litter boxes around your home may help or possibly change the type of litter you’re using. Be sure to clean the litter box regularly, too.

Final Thoughts

The guide above not only works for carpets, but it will work for cushions or mattresses, too. If the urine is on linens or clothing, do not use bleach. Using bleach will clash with the ammonia in the urine and create harmful gasses.

Before throwing the fabric in the wash, let it soak with cool water. After letting it soak for a bit, throw it in the wash with detergent and baking soda or vinegar. After the cycle is complete, air-dry the fabric (remember using heat is a no-no). Repeat if necessary.

If you follow these steps, your home can be free of cat urine odor. Always follow the directions on whichever cleaner you use, and repeat the steps if necessary. In the end, how long cat urine odor lasts will be up to you.

Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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