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How to Get Rid of Cat Smell in an Apartment: 10 Effective Options

Written by: Sophie Jeffares

Last Updated on July 2, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

woman with smelly cat

How to Get Rid of Cat Smell in an Apartment: 10 Effective Options

Whether you’ve moved into a new apartment previously occupied by messy cats or you have your own smelly cat, living with the smell can disrupt your peace and comfort. Even if you are used to the scent of cats, your guests will certainly notice it as they walk in the door.

Cat excretions like urine, feces, and vomit can be the source of some disgusting scents and stains. But even without these, the smell of cats can come from excess dander and fur in the home. To improve your living conditions and ensure you’re not hit with a whooping cleaning bill when you move out, there are a few solid options for erasing the cat smell in your apartment.

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The 10 Ways to Remove Cat Smell in an Apartment

1. Spot Cleaning

If you’ve identified a soiled spot in your apartment, you want to tackle it head-on. It’s best to clean a pet stain as soon as possible. Of course, this is not always possible as many messes can go unnoticed for some time, or you may discover some old stains. In this case, spot cleaning can still work; you may just need more patience and elbow grease!

For spot cleaning, consider:
  • Commercial pet cleaner
  • Dish soap and warm water
  • Vinegar and warm water

Use a damp cloth to aggravate the spot from the edges inwards. Gentle swirling and dabbing motions are more effective than back-and-forth wiping, as all you will do is move the grime around and deeper into the flooring.

Cleaning white sofa
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

2. Enzyme-based Sprays

In terms of purchasing a commercial pet cleaner, we recommended using an enzyme-based spray. These cleaners break down the acids in pet stains and neutralize the bacteria. This process completely breaks down the stain and the odor, not just covering it. This means you can remove the scent of the stain properly, so your cat is much less likely to re-soil this area.

When looking for a spray that will suit you best, pick a product formulated for the specific area you are trying to treat. Cleaners are available for hardwood floors, carpets, and upholstery. Using the current type of cleaner will be the most effective in lifting odors and preserving your flooring.

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3. Deodorizers

Cleaning the odor source is the most effective way to reduce foul scents. However, not all spots are easy to clean, and the cleaning process for old stains may take some time. For a “quick fix,” you can utilize a deodorizer as a backup for your cleaning process. Deodorizing works by the agent binding to the scent-causing molecules and changing the structure so that our scent receptors no longer pick up on it.

Unfortunately, not all deodorizers will work so well that they mask the smell from your own cat, so the lingering smell may encourage them to re-soil these areas.

You can purchase deodorizers from most places where you purchase your cleaning supplies. You can also utilize a cheap but effective homemade method of using baking soda. Baking soda is neutral in pH and will neutralize acidic or basic structures to reduce their odor output.

Spraying sofa at home
Image Credit: y_seki, Shutterstock

4. Air Out the Apartment

To immediately notice a difference in the odor in your apartment is to ventilate the space. The emitted odors will build up in the air in closed-up areas, and the smell will only worsen.

Opening windows and doors can encourage airflow through your apartment, moving odor particles up and away. You can increase the airflow by turning on a ceiling or floor fan. Not only will excellent ventilation help control odor, but it will also help control the amount of dander and fur that builds up in pet homes.

It’s not just the windows themselves that make a difference; the curtains do too! Open your curtains as much as you can to let as much sunlight into your apartment as possible. The UV rays can assist in removing odor from soiled surfaces.


5. Dust, Vacuum, and Mop

Your weekly cleaning done right can keep the cat smell in your apartment to a minimal level. We often clean our floors by vacuuming and mopping but often forget about dusting. Before you clean your floors, dust all your furniture, and don’t forget those hard-to-reach places. Dust and dander can settle in the strangest of places, and if they build up over time, they can contribute to pet smells in the home.

Dusting can disrupt them to places where they can ventilate out of the home or be vacuumed up. In terms of vacuums, they effectively pick up a whole range of small junk on our floors, even those we can’t see.

Consider investing in a vacuum specialized for pets, as this will have the best suction to effectively gather pet hair and dander around the home for the deepest clean.

a woman vacuum cleaning the carpet
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

6. Deep Clean Furniture

Keeping a cat off your furniture is a futile exercise. We’ve all just accepted that our cats will do as they please, including rolling all over our couches, our beds, and basically, anywhere they please. Their activity on furniture can leave behind fur and dander, so deep cleaning furniture is a must.

Use a handheld vacuum or your regular vacuum with a brush attachment to clean all soft furnishings. Any items with removable covers like couches can be stripped and laundered. Handheld steam cleaners also do a fantastic job at deodorizing and refreshing upholstery, a worthwhile investment for any home with cats.

Don’t forget your cat’s own furniture! Clean cat trees and cat bedding often.


7. Hire a Carpet Cleaner

If you have your own carpet cleaner, great! Using it often will help keep cat smells at bay. But not all of us have this appliance, so hiring it is a great alternative.

Carpet cleaners can really get down and dirty and lift all sorts of things from your carpet your vacuum can never dream of. If the source of cat smell is in your carpet, it won’t stand a chance with a good cleaning. Suppose you prefer not to do this labor-intensive job yourself. In that case, many professionals can complete it for you.

man in blue uniform cleaning carpet with vacuum cleaner
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

8. Wash All Fabrics in the Home

Deodorizing your apartment mostly focuses on cleaning substances that have collected soilage either from pet excrement or built-up of dust, dander, and fur. But it’s not just your furniture and your floors that can collect these substances. Fabrics like curtains, pillow covers, rugs, and bedding can all collect odors. They should all be laundered often and thoroughly deep cleaned in case you are totally deodorizing your home from top to bottom.

You may wish to remove some of these items, like rugs, from your outdoor space for cleaning to reduce the dust from them being released into the air of your apartment, just to settle again on the carpet.


9. Use an Air Purifier

After all your hard work cleaning, you want to keep your space as fresh and clean as possible. To prevent odors from building up again, you can utilize an air purifier alongside a regular deep cleaning regime.

Air purifiers are designed to filter the air and pull out unwanted particles in the air. In homes with pets, air purifiers can reduce the amount of dust and dander in the air and prevent them from settling into your carpet and furniture. Not only will they assist in keeping your apartment fresh, but they can also help you breathe easier with fresher air for you and your family.

air purifier in living room
Image Credit: Yuttana Jaowattana, Shutterstock

10. Prevent Spoilage

Cat smell will dissipate over time if you practice the above cleaning regimes and home ventilation. But to keep it at bay for good, you should also focus on preventing the smell’s source.

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Possible Problems

If the smell arises from your cat soiling outside of the litter box, there are a few things to consider here. Cats naturally like to use a litter box for their toilet habits, so if they are not using it, there is a reason.

Litter Box Issues

The shape, size, and type of litter box may not be comfortable for your cat. Additionally, they may not like the litter you use or the place you have put the box. You can experiment with different strategies here until you find the one your cat likes.


A Hormonal Response

Urine is often used by cats, both male and female, to scent mark. This marking of their territory is usually a hormonal response. They send messages to other cats in the home or the area.

Spaying or neutering your cat will drastically reduce, if not eliminate, the scent-marking behaviors of cats.


Medical Problems

Toileting outside the litter box is a prevalent sign that they are suffering from a urinary or renal problem. A trip to the vet and some thorough testing can rule this out.

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Final Thoughts

Ultimately, there are several ways to tackle the cat smell in your apartment. There is no quick fix or no-fail choice; how you get rid of odors will depend on their source. Locating the source of the smells can help guide you where to start in getting rid of them.

Often, the best way to get rid of cat smell efficiently is to use multiple tactics at once. In small spaces like apartments, odors often get into all sorts of places and linger for a long time, so a multi-prong approach can help you in your battle.

See Also:


Featured Image Credit: Jihan Nafiaa Zahri, Shutterstock

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