How to clean up cat pee to remove the smell?
February 16, 2023 11:36 AM   Subscribe

So I just brought home my first cat fosters... and one of them peed everywhere. Everywhere being my wood floor, my tile floor, and inside my closet. I wiped/soaked up the pee with paper towels. Then I wet-swiffered twice. It still smells fairly intensely like cat pee. Is there something else I should be doing or some other product I should be using? These are two fairly recently neutered male middle-aged and senior cats. Thanks!
posted by ClaireBear to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also: the cat who peed has pee all over himself. I'm terrified to bathe him, remembering how we needed three people to bathe my childhood cat when needed, but I'm wondering whether I should give it a shot. He is very stinky, and I'm wondering whether the pee smell is from his body rather than the pee I cleaned up. Help?
posted by ClaireBear at 11:37 AM on February 16

Nature's Miracle or another similar enzyme based cleaner is what you will need. Use liberally. (On the floor. Not the cat.)
posted by cgg at 11:37 AM on February 16 [29 favorites]

For the flooring, you probably need an enzyme cleaner like Nature's Miracle or Simple Solution. You are going to want to use a lot, especially if there is carpet involved. You should also try to keep the cats away from the areas if possible since they may inevitably associate it with a toilet.

For the cat -- you might try wiping him down with a hypoallergenic bathing wipe. Nothing with fragrance. They market these for pets but I'm not sure if they make a difference versus a human one.
posted by sm1tten at 11:41 AM on February 16

Agree with cgg - you need an enzyme based cleaner to actually get rid of the smell and prevent the cats from peeing there again. You should be able to get Natural's Miracle or I use Skout's at any pet store.
posted by machine at 11:41 AM on February 16

Agree with the above.

As far as cleaning the cat himself, you don't have to douse him. You can get a rag or some paper towels and wet them with warm water. Rub the cat on stinky areas with the wet rag whilst soothing him. Rinse rag and repeat if you want. He will likely finish grooming himself once he's damp.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 11:43 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]

I'm adding to the recommendation for Nature's Miracle. For the cat you can get a foam shampoo that doesn't need to be rinsed off, so you just rub it all over them and then they're clean. We try to do that instead of bathing our cat if its ever necessary.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:46 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]

During a literal pissing contest between our two male cats, we found that Anti-IckyPoo worked much, much better than Nature's Miracle or any other pet odor elimination product. We buy the unscented version, so there isn't an obvious "perfume covering cat pee" smell.
posted by briank at 12:30 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]

Nature's Miracle changed their formula a few years ago and it works far less well and smells worse now. Anti-Icky-Poo or BAC work far better for me.

And yeah don't try to immerse the cat but even a damp washcloth will help stimulate him to groom himself.
posted by leslies at 12:41 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]

Washcloth, mostly dripping wet. Best done in a tub/shower/sink. Poor thing is probably miserable being so stinky. Make sure he knows where the litter box is, if they used different litter it might not be obvious to them. Bentonite clay litter tends to read the most "pee here" to cats, then you can gradually switch to your preferred kind.

And don't worry, modern products are amazing. I am a fan of Trixie Urine Stain Eliminator - looks like a few online pet shops carry it in the US, though Amazon doesn't - which has a faint almond smell and somehow works into the surfaces to kill all the urine chemicals. I've had a cat with Issues for years and guests swear the house doesn't smell.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:53 PM on February 16

Warm, soapy water is much less expensive than all those specialty cleaners – and in my experience, it works about as well.
posted by akk2014 at 1:35 PM on February 16

You need the THORNELL Cat Odor-Off to help with the smell.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:39 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]

You really do have to soak carpet with enzyme cleaners (and let it air dry for for best results ime), bc the pee has gone in deep if you didn't catch it immediately. The hard floors shouldn't be as much of a problem.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:00 PM on February 16

Response by poster: Is this a time-sensitive thing? It looks like a couple of those enzyme cleansers I would need to order and couldn't arrive before the weekend. Nature's Miracle I can get locally today, but it would be a 2-mile walk (I'm currently carless), and I'm sick. I will do the walk if need be, though.

Also, any tips on how to use this stuff on hardwood? Just spray, leave a few seconds, and then wipe?
posted by ClaireBear at 2:48 PM on February 16

Hydrogen peroxide and ammonia mixed 50:50 by volume fresh. Apply liberally to the area then follow with a wet washclosh, and a dry wipe. For carpet, place folded dry towel on top and stand on it to blot.

The enzymatic cleaners are expensive and slow to act. Unless it's an expensive couch or carpet, or some sort of delicately dyed wool or silk, this solution (pun intended) is cheap, fast, and effective.
posted by dum spiro spero at 3:38 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]

Leave more than a few seconds - the enzymes need to break down the proteins in the pee residue. Spray, leave, then come back when it's dry and wipe down with soapy water, is what I've generally done.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:39 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]

Personally I'd treat asap and then also order the better stuff and treat again.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:40 PM on February 16

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! I really appreciate all the advice. One more question: will this damage hardwood to leave it on for a while before removing? Anyone used it on hardwood?
posted by ClaireBear at 4:44 PM on February 16

White vinegar diluted 1:1 with water.

posted by MissyMonster at 5:10 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]

I tried to post a link without luck, but a quick google of ‘white vinegar for cat pee’ will bring up a helpful article on PetMD. Good luck!
posted by MissyMonster at 5:17 PM on February 16

Properly sealed hardwood should be all right even if you miss a spot and have to come back to it later. I've successfully treated a hard-to-reach-for-humans spot that was left for several weeks.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:20 PM on February 16

You can definitely use it on hardwood and I ended up painting clear Kilz odor-blocker after I trained my errant pee-er to use the box again.

It sounds like you may also need to train them to not pee all over the place, I learned this technique from a Boston-based cat behavioral specialist.

The process takes about 2-4 weeks, but it absolutely works to perfection. What you do is get fairly large dog crates, and put in the cat and their box. The cat is going to stay in the crate until it has figured out the whole box situation. Hang water on the side; don't leave food in there. Maybe a toy or two or a little box to sit in. Put the box in a space where they can be part of the family and not isolated.

Use Dr. Elsey's Litter Box Training litter.

Then buy McDonalds chicken nuggets or some other very high value treat. Hang out with the cat AND EVERY TIME THEY USE THE BOX, say YAY and give them a piece of nugget. Cats go crazy for the nuggets and very quickly associate using the box with yums.

After consistent box use for a few days, open the door but keep the box in the crate. As the cat only uses this box, you can slowly begin the process of moving the box to where you want it to be and get rid of the crate. Every time the cat uses the box, give it a treat. Also if you can, get a few new boxes and put that special litter in them. Get quite a few boxes; 3 or even 4. You can remove one in time, but the more nice boxes they have, the more they will use them.

I never thought this would work, but it actually did with all of my cats.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:19 AM on February 17

We swear by Kids'n'pets as our enzyme cleaner. Maybe it's available near you.
posted by lizjohn at 7:13 AM on February 17

I'm seconding the Thornell! Had a kitty who peed next to the front door CONSTANTLY for about a year in a rental. Blasted the carpet, wall and subfloor with a whole bottle and the smell was completely gone on a day. No damage to paint, plaster, carpet fibers or wood...just no more cat pee.

The enzyme cleaners just don't work for older smells, in my experience, and often will have the stinkies come back if the area gets wet. The Thornell cleaner really actually zapped it all.
posted by Grim Fridge at 8:37 AM on February 17

Nature's Miracle is pretty much just perfume now. I've recommended the Thornell Odor Off multiple times over the years, it really does work if it can get to all surfaces. In some cases like fabric items I use Odor Off, let it dry, and if it still smells wash the thing in cold water only- no heat on odors- and then Odor Off again and the pee smell is gone. I've also used a small amount in the "bleach" dispenser on our washing machine for beding and things like that. Air dry.

If you need an enzyme cleaner Green Pig Pet Stain and Odor has worked really well for us- I can visibly see it's effect on stains- and it has very little scent (so it's not just a perfume).

Thornell Cat Odor Off can also be used on animals directly when properly diluted. Try wetting a soft cloth and wiping down the worst parts first.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:14 PM on February 17

Ditto enzyme cleaners.

Fostering cats is a bit of a shock to new folks as the cats really really want to mark their territory in new surroundings, or are extremely fearful.

PLEASE watch the 5 tips for new foster daddies/mommies from Jackson Galaxy

Some are a bit too late, but it's a good time to start...
posted by kschang at 1:59 PM on February 17

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the speedy and helpful aid here, folks! Yes, I did it because I missed my late cat and am not yet in a position to adopt again. I guess I went in expecting fostering an adult cat to be basically like owning an adult cat; I guess unsurprisingly, it's been a bumpier and more dramatic ride than I'd anticipated! (less than 36 hours and so much pee, many hisses, food fighting, a surprisingly deep bite on my hand, and losing one cat in my place for a long time...)

Anyway, the very fearful cat seems to be mellowing a bit (not running and hiding with every tiny sound outside), so hopefully we're making the initial stages of progress! Again, all the answers were great and I appreciate the help!
posted by ClaireBear at 9:55 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

So you know how some people evangelize, like, coffee preparation or organizational products? I evangelize antibiotics after cat bites. Please get in touch with your doctor if you haven't already. You need antibiotics. Cat bites *require* antibiotics, and the situation could rapidly become dangerous if you don't get started ASAP.

Good luck with your fosters!
posted by cooker girl at 6:40 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]

I was scratched by my cat and ended up having to have my knee cleaned out from the infection. I was sick quite a while and had outpatient IV antibiotics for weeks. Please please give your doc a call.
posted by kathrynm at 10:34 AM on February 18

Response by poster: Thanks for the heads up! I will pursue the antibiotics idea. And thank you all again for the help - all the answers were really useful!
posted by ClaireBear at 9:50 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]

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