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How to Get That Catty Smell Out of Your Home

With regular care and focus, you can keep that cat smell at bay ... and visitors coming back to your home.

 |  Oct 9th 2012  |   18 Contributions


When were you first introduced to “cat smell"? I was seven. The girl down the street had a few cats (my family did not), and I hated going to play at her house because it reeked. Now, whenever I smell “cat," I think back to little Julie’s stinky house. 

Now that I have two cats of my own, I’m extremely careful about making sure my house does not smell like cats. And when I say, “smell like cats,” I don’t mean how they smell when you bury your face in their soft, lovely fur to give them a kiss. That’s a nice smell. I mean all of the other smells combined that make a house smell like cat.  

That cat smell can come from one specific thing, or a combination. Bacteria are often the cause of unpleasant odors. So if you get rid of the bacteria, you can get rid of the smell. No amount of air fresheners or potpourri will solve your problem. It may cover it up for a bit, but you need to get to the source. 

There are a few places to target when trying to keep your house clean and odor free. Focus on these and your home should smell sweet soon. 

Change your cat's litter regularly, and replace the box once a year. Gray kitten in box by Shutterstock

1. The Litter Box 

This may be the biggest source of cat smell in your home, so turn your attention here first. 

Scoop the litter boxes daily, if not more often. And, of course, get the waste out of your house! You might consider using a product like the Litter Genie, which stores scooped cat waste in plastic bags inside an airtight container until you’re ready to go to the garbage. 

Use unscented litter. Like air fresheners, scented litters only “mask” smells. Plus, lots of cats are turned off by scented litters and may choose another location for bathroom purposes.  That will definitely make your house stink!  

Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the litter box. Many people swear by this method to help minimize odors. 

Change the litter frequently. Experts recommend a couple of times a month. Also, each time you change the litter, wash out the box with mild soap and water. 

And don’t forget to replace boxes completely once a year. No matter how well you wash them, over time, plastic boxes can trap bacteria and begin to smell.  

2. Outside the Litter Box 

You may not realize your cat is choosing somewhere other than the litter box to do his business until you stumble upon face-melting stench behind the TV, for example.  Your cat may be marking his territory by spraying or might not be happy with the litter box situation. 

Do a check of your carpets, walls, and furniture to make sure your cat has not been marking them or using them as his potty spot. Use an enzymatic cleaner to clean the targeted items or simply toss them in the garbage. 

Clean up spilled cat food every day. Cat on wooden floor by Shutterstock.

And, by the way, if your cat is peeing or pooping outside the box, take him to the vet. This behavior can be a symptom of many medical issues. 

3. Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum 

Regular, thorough vacuuming makes a big difference in the smell of your house. Vacuum carpets, throw rugs, couches, chairs, and even draperies at least once a week to capture hair and dander. This regular attention will also help you quickly discover if your cat has been peeing where he shouldn’t. Baking soda also works wonders as a carpet deodorizer. Sprinkle a bit on the carpet, wait an hour and vacuum it up. 

4. Cat Breath 

Most healthy cats should not have bad breath. But if yours does, not only can it contribute to an overall smelly environment, it can often be a symptom of a mouth infection or other medical issue with your cat.

Siamese cat gets exam by Shutterstock

Take your stinky-breathed kitty to the vet for a checkup. Regular dental care can help cure a cat of bad breath. 

5. Grooming 

Grooming your cat regularly can also help eliminate pet odors in your home. Grooming removes hair and dander and makes it easier for your cat to clean himself. If you have a longhaired cat, some trimming around your cat’s more “delicate” areas can help prevent bits of smelly feces from clinging to his fur.   

Groom your cat weekly to cut down on fur and dander.

6. Air Purifiers 

Lots of people swear by air purifiers to help reduce allergens in the air and eliminate odors. You can purchase a large one for big areas or even small ones, like the Critter Zone, which are designed for smaller, especially smelly areas like near the litter box. 

7. Furnace Filters 

You should clean or replace your furnace filters regularly. These filters trap fur and dander and clogged filters can contribute to smells throughout your home. And, a clean filter means a more efficient system so it’s good to do this for multiple reasons. Some experts recommend once per season, but I recommend once a month. 

Regularly wash your bedding -- and your cat's. Calico cat on bed by Shutterstock

8. Blankets and Cat Beds 

Make a habit of washing your blankets and cat beds regularly. You may not think they smell, but cat fur, dirt and paws that have been in the litter box all contribute to smelly bedding. 

9. Food and Water Area

Don’t leave food out for long periods of tim,e and clean up the feeding area between meals.  You may not realize it but water bowls can be a perfect breeding ground for bacteria so change your cat’s water bowl or bowls at least daily and wash them out with soap and water to keep smelly bacteria from growing in the stagnant water. 

With regular care and focus, you can keep that cat smell at bay….and visitors coming back to your home. 

Sponsored by Dyson 

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