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How To Find Hidden Cat Pee & Get Rid Of The Smell: 5 Easy Steps

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

Spraying carpet cleaner on the carpet

Cat pee is an unpleasant smell, to say the least, but it can be even more frustrating when you can’t even find the source of the odor. Our cats are champions at locating the most random, out-of-the-way spots to pee outside the litter box. Before you can get rid of the smell, you have to find the hidden cat pee!

In this article, we’ll teach you how to locate hidden cat pee spots in your house. We’ll also cover how to clean and deodorize those areas once you find them. Finally, we’ll give you some tips on keeping your cat from peeing outside the litter box at all.

hepper single cat paw divider

Before You Begin

Before you start your cat pee hunting and cleaning mission, you’ll need to gather some supplies. Your nose will serve you well as you search for cat pee spots, but you’ll need a few other things as well:

  • Blacklight
  • Towel or cleaning rag
  • Cold water
  • Enzyme-based commercial cleaner or vinegar (white or apple cider)
  • Laundry detergent (if items are machine-washable)
  • Baking soda

Once you have your supplies collected, it’s time to get cleaning!

The 5 Steps to Find & Clean Hidden Cat Pee

1. Find The Cat Pee

To find the hidden source of cat pee, start by following your nose. Once you have a general idea of where the smell is coming from, use a black light to locate the specific spots your cat has peed. You may need to wait until after dark for this to be most effective.

Once you find the pee spots, your next steps will vary slightly depending on whether you’re dealing with carpet, mattresses or cushions, or linens.

black light illuminating spot
Photo Credit: In The Light Photography, Shutterstock

2. Rinse With Cold Water

Once the pee spot is on your radar, rinse or soak it in cold water.

Carpets

For carpets, rinse the area thoroughly, making sure to use enough water that it soaks through into the padding. Don’t scrub the area during this step. Absorb the excess water with towels or use a wet/dry vacuum to remove it.

Avoid using hot water or a steam cleaner because these can set the pee stain and odor into the carpet and make it harder to remove.

Mattresses or Cushions

If the pee spots are on mattresses or cushions, apply cold water or rinse in the sink if they are small enough. Use enough water that it can soak down into the interior layers of the mattress or cushion. Blot up the water with towels before moving on to the next step.

Linens (Clothing, Blankets, Etc.)

For pee spots on linens or other machine-washable items, rinse the materials with cold running water. Squeeze out excess water before moving on to the next step.

cleaning the sofa with a blue microfiber cloth
Photo Credit: TFEX_SHUTTER, Shutterstock

3. Break Down The Smell

Simply cleaning up a cat pee spot won’t get rid of the smell. You’ll need to apply a product that will work to break down and neutralize the cat pee odor. This product could be a commercial enzyme cleaner, such as Hepper Advanced Bio-enzyme Pet Stain And Odor Eliminator Spray, or a homemade vinegar and water solution.

Carpets

To eliminate the smell of carpet pee spots, soak the area in your odor eliminator of choice. For commercial cleaners, follow the directions on the label regarding how much to use and how long to leave it soaking.

If using a vinegar solution, mix one-part apple cider or white vinegar with one part water. Soak the area for at least 15 minutes or allow it to dry completely for old smells and stains.

Mattresses & Cushions

If using vinegar and water, follow the same directions as you did for the carpet. For commercial cleaners, make sure you choose one that will work on mattresses and cushions. Follow all directions for best results.

Commercial cleaners may discolor certain materials. Test a small area of the mattress or carpet before using it on a larger spot.

Linens

Depending on their size, linens can often be soaked in a bucket or the sink. Again, if using a commercial cleaner, test for any color issues and follow the directions. If you’re using vinegar and water, you may need to soak the items as long as overnight, depending on how old and set in the pee spot is.

young woman cleaning the carpet
Photo Credit: sebra, Shutterstock

4. Clean The Pee Spot

After deodorizing, you can focus on cleaning up the pee spot.

Carpet

For a commercial cleaner, follow the directions, which typically include scrubbing the pee spot and vacuuming the area once it’s dry.

If you prefer natural cleaning methods, try mixing a paste of baking soda and water to scrub the carpet. Baking soda will also help deodorize the pee spot. Allow the paste to dry completely, and then vacuum the area thoroughly.

Mattresses And Cushions

Similar cleaning techniques should work for mattresses and cushions. Any machine-washable pillows or cushions can be treated like linens, described in the following section.

Linens

Machine washable items can be tossed in the washer using a cold water cycle. An enzyme-based or oxidizing laundry detergent is your best option for removing any lingering odor. You can also add a cup of vinegar or baking soda to the wash cycle for further destruction of the pee smell.

After washing, air-dry the laundry rather than using the clothes dryer. The heat of the dryer can permanently set any odor that isn’t quite neutralized. If you have space to dry the items outside, sunshine can also help kill the cat pee smell.

cleaning carpet with sponge
Image Credit: Stephen VanHorn, Shutterstock

5. Repeat As Needed

Depending on how long the cat pee was hidden, you should be prepared to repeat the cleaning and odor neutralizing steps described here. You may also need to switch from using only natural cleaners to a commercial enzyme option.

Because removing the cat pee smell can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, preventing any outside-the-box urination is always preferable. We’ll discuss how to do that next.

hepper cat paw divider

Diagnosing & Preventing Litter Box Issues

To keep cat pee in the box where it belongs, here are a few steps you can take.

First, make an appointment with your veterinarian to check your cat for a medical condition that could be causing them to pee outside the box. These could include a urinary tract infection or arthritis that’s making it too painful for your cat to climb into the litter box. Treating any diagnosed conditions is the first step to solving litter box issues.

Check Your Litter Box Setup

Once medical issues are ruled out, consider your litter box setup. Make sure you have one more litter box than the number of cats in the house. The boxes should be placed in quiet, private locations where your cat won’t feel trapped when using them.

Most cats prefer unscented, clumping litter, but it’s most important to stay consistent with the type you’re using. Scoop the box at least once per day.

two cat litter boxes on wood floor indoors
Image Credit: RacheeLynn, Shutterstock

Could It Be an Environmental Factor?

Finally, consider whether your cat’s inappropriate urination could have a behavioral cause. Home improvements, a new stray cat in the neighborhood, or a new human or pet addition to the household could all stress your cat into peeing in odd places.

To ease stress, give your cat a safe place to hide and ensure they get daily attention from you. Consider using a cat pheromone diffuser or spray. In the most severe cases, your vet can prescribe behavior modifying medications to help calm your cat.

hepper cat paw divider

Conclusion

Finding and removing hidden cat pee smells isn’t the most pleasant of tasks, but knowing the steps to take can make the job easier. Utilizing the right tools for the job–or in this case, the right cleaners—will also help. Litter box issues are a common reason that cats are surrendered to animal shelters, so it’s important to figure out what’s going on with your kitty, as well as learn how to get rid of the cat pee smell.


Featured Image Credit: Syda-Productions, Shutterstock

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