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How to Get Rid of Cat Smell in an Apartment: 5 Proven Methods

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By Nicole Cosgrove

cat is looking at vacuum cleaner of her owner while she is cleaning the sofa

If you are an apartment dweller living with a feline, you know lingering cat smells can be very off-putting. Even if you become so used to the smells that you no longer notice them, you can bet your bottom dollar that guests will.

Cat hair and stubborn stains coming from old cat urine, poop, and vomit can make it seem impossible to know how to get rid of the cat smell in an apartment. These things can also lead to high cleaning bills that go beyond the boundaries of a security deposit. While it may take some time and effort to remove cat smell from an apartment, it can be done and done well. We will go over how to get your apartment smelling fresher in this article.

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Before You Start

The first step in getting rid of cat smell in an apartment involves identifying the source. You should check for cat urine and other smells on carpeting, hardwood floors, furniture, and any items your cat has used, like a pet bed or cat tree. With any luck, you may just find dander and cat hair smells that typically fade with time. But if you discover old and stinky cat pee, poop, or vomit stains, you’ve got some work to do.

One idea is to use a blacklight to find old cat pee and poop stains. Once you’ve identified a stain, outline it using chalk or tape so you can deal with it in normal lighting. If you are ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work, here are the best methods for getting rid of the cat smell in an apartment.

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The 5 Steps to Remove Cat Smell From an Apartment

1. Vacuum and Mop the Floors

Vacuuming floors can work wonders for smells coming from cat hair and dander. So, pull out that vacuum cleaner and give all the floors a thorough cleaning. If you have attachments for your vacuum, use a brush attachment to clean baseboards and tight corners.

As you are vacuuming, you may be surprised at how much cat hair and dander you’re picking up, especially if your cat has long hair and sheds a lot. Once you have vacuumed all the floors, mop all non-carpeted floors using an all-purpose household cleaner mixed with warm water.

Pros
  • Low-cost method
  • Easy to do
  • Can help eliminate cat fur smells
Cons
  • Not effective for urine and poop smells
cannister vacuum
Image Credit: monticello, Shutterstock

2. Vacuum and Spot-Clean Furniture

A great way to get hidden unpleasant odors out of an apartment is to vacuum and spot-clean the furniture, including the cat bed and cat tree, if you have one. Use a brush attachment and get into all the nooks and crannies of your furniture where cat hair, dander, and smells hide.

When you run across questionable stains, get to work on them using a quality cat stain and odor eliminator. Look for a product featuring an enzymatic formula that removes stains and leaves behind a pleasant smell. Even though this product can be pricey, it’s a worthwhile investment as it will do wonders for stinky stains.

It’s always a good idea to take sofa and chair cushions outside to shake them off. You can also use a rug beater to give them a good cleaning. If you use slipcovers or arm protectors on your furniture, toss those in the laundry to freshen them up.

Pros
  • Effective at eliminating cat fur smells
  • Great for tackling smelly stains
Cons
  • Odor eliminators can be costly

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3. Air Out the Apartment

If your apartment is closed most of the time, cat smells can build up and really stink! That’s why it’s a good idea to open the windows and doors to air out the entire apartment. If it’s winter and the furnace is running, turn down the radiators before opening doors and windows to save energy.

If you have ceiling fans, turn them on to circulate the air. A good air out can be very beneficial in removing dander and hair that’s left floating around, especially after vacuuming and mopping.

Pros
  • A good way to get rid of airborne hair and dander
  • Fast and easy
Cons
  • Not useful in eliminating cat pee and poop stain smells
  • May run up a heating bill in winter, depending on how long you air out the apartment
woman standing by window and opening curtains
Image Credit: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

4. Wash Curtains and Other Fabrics in the Washing Machine

Many types of fabrics trap odors, including odors coming from cats. That’s why it’s wise to take down the curtains and toss them in the laundry along with other items like slipcovers and throw blankets. Use some baking soda along with your regular laundry detergent because it’s a substance that’s very good at eliminating odors.

When you take the curtains and other items out of the laundry, hang them up to air dry so they smell fresh and clean. While taking down curtains is a bit of work, it’s a job worth doing as it’s an effective way to get rid of lingering cat smells, including the smell of urine.

Pros
  • Removes trapped odors in all types of fabrics
  • Effective at eliminating tough smells like cat urine
Cons
  • Takes time and effort to take down curtains and re-hang them

5. Clean Your Carpets With a Steam Cleaner

Carpeting is notorious for trapping cat odors, even after a good vacuuming. If some of your rooms have wall-to-wall carpeting, rent a carpet cleaning machine so you can use hot steam to get to the source of cat urine, vomit, and poop smells.

It can be costly to rent a carpet cleaning machine, but it’s money well spent. It also takes a lot of muscle power to run a steam cleaner, so be prepared to sweat! If you don’t want to clean the carpets yourself, you can call a professional carpet cleaning service to do the job for you.

Pros
  • Very effective at getting rid of cat odors trapped in carpeting
Cons
  • Requires muscle power
  • Can be costly to rent a machine or hire a service
carpet steam cleaning
Image Credit: whitejellybean, Shutterstock

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Preventing Cat Odors in an Apartment

To prevent cat odors from overtaking your apartment, you need to do some work! Focus on keeping the litter box clean and add some baking soda to the litter to absorb smells.

Keeping cat hair in check is equally important, as shedding hair can lead to offensive odors. Use a cat slicker brush regularly and give your cat a good brushing from head to tail.

When you see cat hair building up on your furniture, remove it using a pet hair removal tool. If you don’t have a tool, spray some fabric softener on a damp cloth to remove cat hair from your sofa, chairs, bed, etc.

Once you have your apartment smelling fresh and clean, you can keep it that way by brushing your cat regularly and cleaning the litter box out every couple of days. You should also spot-clean any urine stains you find around the litter box so they don’t have time to get stinky.

cat rubbing its head against the owner's legs
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

While cats make wonderful pets, they come with pitfalls like offensive smells. If you’re living in an apartment with a cat, you have less space than you would if you were living in a house. Instead of investing in a gas mask to deal with cat smells, follow the tips above so you can effectively get rid of offensive smells coming from your cat!

See also:


Featured Image Credit: Hananeko_Studio, Shutterstock

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