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How to Clean Cat Pee From a Carpet + Why Scrubbing Actually Makes the Odor Worse

Plus, the black light trick to find hidden stains

Cats are considered to be rather clean animals, but if you’re a kitty lover, you know that as clean as they like to keep themselves, there are times when they can make quite the mess for you to deal with. And nothing’s worse than when a cat pees on the carpet as the urine smell can be hard to get rid of. Making matter worse, our furry friends often return to to the scene of the crime, making for repeat offenses that get tougher and tougher to remove. That’s why we turned to the pros for their best tricks for how to clean cat pee from carpet — and how to ensure the unwelcome behavior doesn’t become a habit.

What causes cats to pee on carpet

cat on carpet
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“There are two types of behavior that lead to urine stains in cats: ‘normal’ urination, when the cat is relieving itself, and marking urination,” explains veterinarian Jean-Pierre Lautier, pharmaceutical manager for AB7/ALZOO. Marking urination can be a sign of stress, with your cat trying to set safe boundaries to alleviate their stress. For urination that isn’t marking, it can be a simple case of repeated behavior. “Cats are generally clean and adopt a single place to relieve themselves,” adds Lautier. In other words, once they pee on an area of the carpet, they’ll return to it every time.

Not sure what’s causing the change in behavior? It might be an issue with the litter box. “It could be the location, the type of litter used, the cleanliness of the box or even the number of boxes available,” adds cat trainer and behaviorist Albert Colominas, founder of Outdoor Bengal. While finding cat pee in your carpet is not ideal, it is possible to clean up — especially if you catch it early!

How to clean cat pee from carpet

Vinegar and baking soda can get cat pee out of carpet
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If you need to eliminate a urine spot, the best tools for the job can be found right in your pantry: vinegar and baking soda. “Vinegar acts as a natural disinfectant and deodorizer,” says Colominas. “It helps to neutralize the ammonia smell in cat urine, and it’s a product we all have at home.”

First, if the urine is still wet, you’ll want to blot up as much as possible with paper towels or a clean cloth. Next, mix equal parts white vinegar and water together and pour over the stained area. You can also add to a spray bottle and spray thoroughly until you’ve saturated the area.

A helpful hint on how to clean cat pee from your carpet: “A lot of times a cat will stick to corners of the house or along the wall — rarely will they urinate in the middle of the room, shares John Mickel, owner of Dynamite Carpet Care in the video below. For repeated stains, you may want to lift up the corner of the carpet. See this in action in the video below:

After letting the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes, blot the area again to remove excess liquid. “This step helps to lift the urine residue out of the carpet,” says Colominas.

Once the area is dry, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto the spot and let it dry completely, which could take anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight. “The drying process is what pulls the remaining urine and odor out of the carpet,” Colominas adds. Then once the treated area is completely dry, vacuum up the powder residue from the carpet.

How to get rid of stubborn cat pee smells

Though vinegar and baking soda are great at neutralizing and absorbing the smell, you may find that the odor of urine continues to linger, which may also be the case if you weren’t able to catch the stain right away. In this case, your best option is to use an enzymatic cleaner. “These cleaners are specifically designed to break down the urine at a molecular level, which really helps in neutralizing those persistent odors,” says Colominas. “Just apply it generously and let it do its magic, usually for several hours or overnight, depending on the severity of the smell.”

Ones he recommends: Nature’s Miracle (Buy from Amazon, $12.70) , Simple Solution (Buy from Amazon, $8.90), Rocco & Roxie (Buy from Amazon, $19.16), and ALZOO Concentrated Stain & Odor Remover (Buy from Amazon, $14.49). Just be sure that whatever cleaner you choose is pet-safe!

How to find “hidden” pee spots

Another reason you may be noticing an odor is there are cat pee spots you may not know about in your house. “Here’s a neat trick: use a black light to find all the urine spots,” advises Colominas. “Cat urine glows under a black light, and this can help you spot any areas you might have missed, especially on darker carpets.”

What *not* to use to clean cat pee from the carpet

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There are some products you’ll want to avoid using to get pee out of the carpet, as they can actually make the problem worse.

  1. Skip ammonia-based cleaners. “Cat urine naturally contains ammonia,” explains Colominas. “When you use an ammonia-based cleaner, it can mimic the smell of urine, potentially encouraging your cat to urinate in the same spot again.”
  2. Avoid using bleach. You’ll also want to skip bleach for a similar reason. “In addition to the fact that it can discolor the carpet, the particular smell of bleach seems to encourage cats to urinate on treated areas,” adds Lautier.
  3. Don’t scrub. Lastly, whether you go for the vinegar and water solution or a store-bought cleaner, it’s important *not* to scrub the stain. Otherwise, you risk pushing the urine deeper into the carpet fibers and making removal even more difficult. Stick to blotting!

How to prevent a ‘cat pee in the carpet’ cycle

One of the best ways to ensure your feline friend doesn’t pee in the same spot is to make sure you’ve gotten all of the urine out of the carpet — eliminating the smell is key to avoiding a repeat perfomance. But there are other also other steps you can take to encourage Fluffy to properly use her litter box.

“One technique is to use absorbent pads for toilet training dogs and cats,” says Lautier. When you’ve noticed urine on the carpet, blot up some of it with the absorbent pad. Then clean the stain as described above.

Next, place the absorbent pad (without any litter), inside the litter box and set the entire box near where your cat has been relieving himself. “If the cat urinates on the pad, you’ve got a winner,” adds Lautier. “Then add absorbent granules and finally remove the under-pad. You can then gradually move the box to a more convenient location.”

You can also provide your cat with positive alternatives to the carpet, like a new litter box placed in that spot. Simple deterrents can also be effective to keep your pet away from the spot so he no longer has a desire to relieve himself there. “You can place furniture over it, use double-sided tape — cat’s don’t like the sticky feel — or aluminum foil — they don’t like the texture — or a commercial pet repellent,” says Colominas.

If you notice your cat continues to pee in other areas of the house, it might be worth a visit to the veterinarian or contacting a cat behaviorist to determine the root cause of the issue.


To learn more about cat behaviors, click here:

Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? Vets Decode the Secret Messages They’re Trying to Send

Why Do Cats Cover Their Face When They Sleep? Vets Reveal How It Keeps Them Safe

Can Cats Eat Turkey? Vet Reveals What Holiday Foods Are OK — And What to Skip

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