Article at a Glance…
- The best cleaners for cat urine that I’ve found are: Urine Off (vet recommended!), Nature’s Miracle (fragranced) and Anti-Icky Poo (fragranced or non-fragranced versions available).
- The above are all enzymatic cleaners, meaning they react to break down the smell-causing components of cat pee.
- Don’t use general cleaners like bleach or fragranced sprays. Not only are they toxic to cats, sometimes their smell can make the cat pee more where you use it.
There are a lot of negative stereotypes about cat owners. One common misconception which I find particularly upsetting is that all homes with cats stink of cat urine. Unfortunately, when you have a new kitten, some accidents outside the litter tray are unavoidable. When cats are older, bad habits can form. Especially if you don’t have an effective cat urine cleaner.
It’s a viscous circle. Once the cat pees in the wrong place once, that becomes his new toilet because of the lingering smell of cat urine. I know how frustrating it can be. We had this problem with our first cat. Don’t worry, I’m going to share how we overcame this problem.
Why does cat pee smell so bad?
Understanding why cat urine smells the way it does will help you to pick the right cleaning product. Cleaning is simple chemistry at the end of the day. Cat urine is made up of lots of different chemicals. Many of them are the same as those in human urine, but something which makes it extra pungent is pheromones. Pheromones are biological substances used by the cat to communicate via smell (source). The odor is used to mark territory and attract mates, among other things.
Humans usually can’t smell cat pheromones, but there are a few exceptions. A chemical called felinine is released into the urine of mature cats (source). Felinine breaks down into other compounds, one of which is a pheromone called MMB. MMB evaporates easily and gives the characteristic foul smell we associate with cat urine. Males produce twice as much felinine as females so their pee smells the worst (source).
As well as cat pheromones, cat urine contains other smelly components such as urea, uric acid, bacteria and ammonia (source). The longer the urine stain remains, the more uric acid crystals are broken down by bacteria. And guess what? The products of this breakdown stink too! This means that the smell of cat urine actually gets worse over time.
The urea crystals can be tricky to remove and the smell will return if the remaining amount is consumed by bacteria. It’s worth bearing in mind that even if an area smells fresh to you, cats may still smell urine remnants. Cats have a more sensitive sense of smell than humans so they may continue using the same (wrong) area as a toilet despite your cleaning efforts.
Why is my cat peeing outside litter box?
There are numerous reasons why your cat may be peeing in a “forbidden” place. It will ttake a bit of detective work but here are a few starting points:
- The litter tray isn’t clean enough. Some cats will only use a spotless litter tray.
- The texture of the litter hurts the cat’s feet or he just doesn’t like the type of litter.
- The cat doesn’t like the location of the litter box. You should have several litter boxes around the home. One for each cat plus one extra at a minimum.
- The cat doesn’t like the litter box itself. Try removing the cover or getting one with low sides for easier access.
- The cat has found an area it prefers to use as a toilet because of smell, texture etc.
A big part of the problem is that once the cat has marked a spot with urine odorants, he will keep returning to that area to urinate. This is why it’s essential to remove 100% of the stain and smell to stop kitty re-offending.
What about spraying?
You’ve probably heard of male cats “spraying” or “marking”. Is this the same as urinating? The answer is yes. The only difference between cats spraying and urinating is that spraying is a release of a small amount of urine onto a vertical surface while the cat is standing up. With urinating, the cat usually squats and releases a larger amount (source).
Spraying is usually done by un-neutered male cats to mark their territory. However, female and neutered cats can spray in rare cases. Stress is another trigger for spraying. Cat spray is cleaned in the same method as cat urine.
There are some points you need to be careful about when your cat is peeing outside of the litter box. Both with respect to your cat’s health, and the cleaning products used.
If your cat has suddenly started peeing in the wrong place despite usually using the litter tray or outdoors, this is a warning sign. It could signal a medical condition such as a urinary tract infection, bladder stones or inflammation causing pain and urgency to urinate. Kidney and liver diseases, nerve and muscle problems are also a possibility (source).
Pet owners need to be careful about the type of cleaning products used around the home. Your cat’s paw pads are in contact with the floor and he constantly licks himself clean. If you clean your floor with bleach, your cat will end up licking up bleach residue and other toxic chemicals.
Many traditional cleaning products contain ammonia. To cats, the smell is very similar to urine. As well as being toxic, these products will make the cat continue to urinate in the same area. For this reason, many pet owners use diluted vinegar or other animal-safe cleaning options.
Be Careful With Air Fresheners
If you are thinking of using an air freshener spray to get rid of the smell of cat urine – don’t. Although a small number are advertised as safe for use around animals, the vast majority are not. Volatile organic compounds, i.e. the scented chemicals that evaporate into the air, can “affect the blood, brain, heart, liver, kidneys, skin, and the respiratory and nervous systems of both people and their pets”, according to PetMD. “Natural” alternatives such as essential oils, are often just as harmful to animals. The best approach is to eliminate the odor at its source by using a cleaner especially designed for cat urine.
Types of cat urine cleaning products
Cat urine is such a tricky cleaning issue that there’s a whole range of products dedicated to removing it. There are a few points to consider when making your choice. For starters, where is the stain? Fabric, carpet, hardwood? Many products are suitable for all of these but cleaners with hydrogen peroxide can lighten wood surfaces. If the stain is on a cushion or throw, the best course of action is to wash it with a biological washing powder. This works in the same way as the enzyme cleaners I’ll discuss below.
What is an enzyme cleaner?
Enzymes are biological substances which speed up chemical reactions. In practical terms, a cleaning product containing enzymes helps break down some of the more stubborn components of cat urine such as pheromones and uric acid. Often, cat urine cleaners include harmless bacteria which also help break down the odor. Another common ingredient is a type of solvent such as isopropyl alcohol. This dissolves and washes away the broken down constituents.
How to use an enzyme cleaner for cat urine
The technique for using an enzymatic cleaner is a bit more complicated than regular cleaning products. Make sure to follow the package instructions, but the general method is as follows:
- First, dry up the stain as much as possible with a paper towel
- Soak the stained area completely with enzyme cleaner. This step is very important. If the urine has soaked through the carpet you will need to allow the cleaner to soak the same area.
- Cover the area with aluminum foil and leave it overnight
- Remove the aluminum foil and allow the area to air dry
- You may need to repeat this procedure multiple times with old or stubborn stains
Cat urine Cleaner reviews
It’s hard to compare different brands of cat urine cleaner because they don’t go into much detail on the ingredient list. And that’s okay, because they all work in pretty much the same way. It’s hard to say which is the best cat urine enzyme cleaner as the only real difference is that some include fragrances and the exact enzymes/bacterial strains used.
To be honest, if you don’t have success with one of products below, it’s most likely because you haven’t soaked the area completely or the urine has altered the dye in the carpet or fabric to create a permanent stain. One other way in which people slip up is using a traditional cleaning solution on the stain before using an enzyme cleaner. Not only will this deactivate the enzymes, but it can set the stain.
Urine Off comes with a veterinarian’s recommendation. This is reassuring as not only do vets have to deal with lots of animal stains, they also know what’s safe for your pet. I couldn’t find a complete ingredient listing for this product but it’s listed as a “bio-enzymatic formula” with “pheromone blockers”. There’s no added fragrance so you can be sure it’s not just masking bad smells. There is a 30 day money back guarantee, so there’s no harm in giving this a try. Many people report great results with this product and it’s also one of the cheaper options.
Urine Destroyer – pretty aggressive name, huh? This product contains what it calls a “bio-enzymatic odor lock” and “oxygen boosters” along with isopropyl alcohol and a fragrance. It’s extremely popular but the smell isn’t to everyone’s taste. Better than the smell of cat pee, I say! The price is also on the lower end for enzyme cleaners.
Don’t let the silly name put you off, Anti-Icky Poo is strong stuff. It contains both enzymes and live bacteria. It comes in scented and unscented varieties. This product promises to “get the stink out or your money back”, no matter how long ago you ordered (source). In addition, the same brand also makes a treatment to undo the damage of bleach and chemical cleaners. Usually traditional cleaners will set the urine stain and inactivate enzyme cleaners, but the pre-treatment from Mister Max allows their enzyme cleaner to work despite previous chemical use on the area.
This is another super popular product. It contains enzymatic bacteria along with a fragrance and surfactants (soap) to break down dirt. It’s certified safe to use around children and pets and has a mint scent. It has a 60 day money back guarantee, is cruelty-free and a portion of the profit is donated to animal charities.
This enzyme cleaner from Rocco & Roxie is one of the most popular brands around for cleaning pet urine. It contains enzymatic bacteria, surfactants and a fragrance. It’s certified safe around children and pets and has a money back guarantee.
If your cat still keeps peeing in the wrong place after you’ve removed the urine stain and odor, here are some other tips you can try:
- Move the cat food or some treats to the area in question. They don’t like to pee where they eat.
- If the cat is acting out from stress, try a Feliway plug-in
- You can use a type of litter that attracts cats to train them to use the litter box
- A temporary solution is to cover the area with a kitty pee pad to absorb future messes.
I hope this information has helped you figure out the best cat urine remover and how to solve your kitty pee problems. I know it can be frustrating and even infuriating, but please have patience. Remember, your cat isn’t doing this just to spite you, although it may feel that way sometimes!
My top pick is Anti-Icky Poo. The reason is because it can be used even if you’ve already applied bleach or chemicals to the stain – you just need to pre-treat. I also like that it has an fragrance-free option since heavy scents give me migraines Do you have any other solutions for getting rid of cat urine smell? I’d be interested to hear them in the comments if so :).