How to get cat pee out of carpet – avoid smells and stains at all costs

If your kitty missed the litter tray, learn how to get rid of cat pee smell fast and avoid any long-term staining. Experts share the best way to get cat urine out of carpet.

A white cat on white carpet under a table
(Image credit: Sjale / Getty)

Want or, rather, need to find out how to get cat pee out of carpet? We sympathize. Although cats are generally clean animals and normally prefer peeing in their litter boxes (or outside, if they've been trained that way), in some circumstances, cat pee accidents can happen. And while having the best vacuum for pets on hand will help with all that fur, it won't help with pee.

Of course, you can clean up cat pee from a hard floor in a matter of seconds, but getting rid of cat pee smell and any staining can be difficult with this absorbent floor covering. We've asked animal experts to share the best way to clean a carpet when cat pee is involved. Thankfully you can make use of natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda to swiftly remove any staining and odor without posing a threat to tiny paws.

Why does my cat pee on my carpet?

First, though, you need to find out why your cat is peeing on your carpet if it's happening regularly. Urinating on floors is not normal adult cat behavior and is always caused by either a medical or psychological issue.

Dr Mikel Delgado, a Cat Behavior Expert with Rover, strongly recommends taking your cat for a check-up with a veterinarian 'to make sure there isn't a health issue causing the behavior.' 

If a medical issue has been ruled out, you need to 'make sure that your litter boxes (yes, you should have at LEAST one per cat) are large, clean, with a soft, clumping litter, and placed in safe locations that are easy for your cat to access.' Cats are fastidious and will not use a litter box that's dirty and smelly. 

Finally, 'make sure that you are providing a loving and enriched environment for your cat.' Cats may pee on floors if they are stressed or very bored. If you've just moved house and your cat has peed on your carpet, it is likely a one-off due to the stress of the move. Plug in a Feliway diffuser to help them adjust and you should see the problem go away. 

However, if you've tried everything and the behavior persists, 'your veterinarian can help you find a qualified behavior professional if you need help with your cat's litter box habits!'

In some cases, particularly with very old cats and very young kittens, accidents may be difficult to avoid, so you may just need to rethink your flooring or use waterproof mats for a while. 

How to get cat pee out of carpet

Don't panic, though: it is possible to get cat pee out of carpets – you do need to act quickly, though. The less time the stain has to absorb into the fibers, the better your chances of getting rid of the staining and smells. Samantha Bell, Cat Expert at Best Friends Animal Society, has developed her own 10-step method after hosting 'many foster kittens and senior cats who weren't able to make it to the litter box in time.' You will need (all from Amazon):

1. Soak up as much urine as you can

Using paper towels, absorb as much of the urine stain as you can before you do anything else. Dispose of the paper towels in your garbage.

2. Apply vinegar

Bells says: 'I pour white cleaning vinegar on the area, a few inches outside the pee zone. After letting it sit for 5 minutes or so, I blot the vinegar with a cloth.'

3. Sprinkle on the baking soda 

Bell recommends sprinkling 'a big handful of baking soda onto the area'. Be generous here and make sure the baking soda covers all of the affected area

4. Add bleach 

Be careful with this step and only use bleach if your carpet is light or white. Skip this step if you have a dark carpet.

5. Mix with the detergent

Next, 'make a mixture of ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide and a teaspoon of Dreft baby detergent and drizzle it over the baking soda'.

6. Massage in 

Wearing rubber gloves, work the mixture in as deep into the carpet as you can. You may find it easier to use a brush or a cloth to do this, but just using your hands is fine. 

7. Let sit for 20 minutes

Now, let the mixture sit on the carpet for 20 minutes. 

8. Blot the area again

What you don't want is a stain from all your cleaning agents in place of the urine stain, so carefully blot the area once more using a cloth or paper towels. Make sure the stain isn't oversaturated.

9. Leave overnight

Now, leave everything to absorb and dry out overnight. Alternatively, you can speed up the process by placing a portable heater next to the stain, or using a hairdryer to help it dry quicker. 

10. Vacuum

Finally, take your vacuum to finish the job. 'I vacuum up what’s left the next day, and, voilà! No more cat urine, and it smells fresh and clean!'

Here, you can also get your favorite air freshener and give it a good spray in the room to banish any lingering smells.

A tabby cat lying on a carpet

(Image credit: dnsphotography / Getty)

How do I get dried cat urine out of carpet?

The above method works for fresh cat urine stains, but what if the one you have is dried and old and still smells? We'll be honest here: it's much harder to get rid of dried urine stains because they will have penetrated deep into the carpet fibers – and possibly into the underlay of your flooring. 

Adriana Aziz from cleaning agency MaidForYou advises that 'the best method to get cat pee and its smell out of a soiled carpet is to first use a carpet steam cleaning machine to clean the carpet and then use a product like Nature's Miracle Urine Destroyer For Cats (available from Amazon). Blot the stain and leave for 15 minutes. Rinse and repeat until the smell has gone or subsided.'

Our experts all agree that if you have tough cat urine stains, you need to use a cleaning product specifically formulated to act on cat urine. Veterinarian Alex Crow, who works with Happiest Dog, explains that 'these enzyme cleaners are meant to break down the dried uric acid crystals from a pee stain, which gets rid of any strong odor. Unlike other non-enzymatic cleaners, it actually gets rid of the stain and smell, not just masks it. This also helps for your cat to not pee there again, as if they smell urine, they will think it is okay to pee there again.'

Top tip: 'Depending on the brand of cleaner, most of them require you to let it sit to absorb the stain and odor, and then you simply clean it up. Always test the product on a small area of your carpet first to ensure it does not cause any discoloration or damage.'

What is the best cleaning product for cat urine?

Nature's Miracle was mentioned by nearly all of our experts as their top choice.

Alternatively, Delgado's favorite product is Mister Max Anti Icky Poo Unscented'because it is effective and doesn't make your house smell like pet cleaner -- most importantly, they have a special carpet injector method to address any urine saturation in the carpet padding.'

How to get rid of cat pee smell? 

While the staining that urine causes to your carpets is a problem, the lingering smell of cat pee is a potentially worse issue, because the ammonia smell can be so hard to get rid of. 

The real answer to the question depends completely on whether the urine has seeped through the carpet and onto your flooring underlayment. Aziz explains that 'f the urine has seeped underneath the carpet, that means that it's penetrated the carpet fibers and seeped into the floor underlayment. If that is the case, while you may be able to clean the carpet fibers, the smell will not be removed without removing the underlay.'

Flooring expert from Flooring Masters, Ralph Severson, agrees, telling us that he has 'spoken with dozens of people who purchased homes that had smells of cat urine in the carpet or in the drywall, and could not get rid of the odor with any cleaning methods. The drywall or the carpet has to be removed and replaced. It's the only way.'

Severson generally isn't a fan of carpeted flooring in homes with pets: ' The fact of the matter is that you cannot get deep into the fibers of the carpet. It is never truly clean. For anyone dealing with a carpet that smells of cat pee, rip it up, and replace it with a laminate floor. It is much easier to keep clean, and will not hold on to pet odors.'

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.