My car smells like cat pee, now what?

Before you consider trading in your car, we’ve got a few tips that will help you banish that pungent odor for good. 

Cat pee may have a strong smell, but it’s not the end of your car seats.

Why a Cat Pee Smell Is So Strong

Cat pee is one of those odors that isn’t hard to miss and it tends to stick around.

This is thanks to the high concentration of urea, ammonia, and other waste products. When urea breaks down, it releases ammonia, which has a very strong, pungent odor. 

Cats are also carnivores, meaning their urine contains high levels of proteins and other compounds that contribute to the intensity of the smell. If cat pee is left untreated, bacteria can further break down the urine, making the odor even worse over time. 

This combination of factors makes cat urine one of the most potent and persistent smells to deal with.

Common Areas Your Cat May Urinate In Your Car

If a cat is stressed or anxious and manages to get into your vehicle, they’re very likely to pee on your floor mats, car seats, or under the seats, anywhere that’s carpeted is a top pick.

However, your car’s door panels and center console aren’t safe either.

What tends to make it worse is that the urine then seeps into the fabrics and gets worse the longer your car stays closed.

How to Deal with a Cat Pee Smell In a Car

Let’s delve into the steps you should take if you’ve just opened up your car door and were hit by the distinct smell of cat pee.


Immediate Actions to Take

When you notice cat urine in your car, acting quickly is essential to minimize the smell and prevent it from setting in. Here are the immediate actions you should take:

  • Blot the Area: Use paper towels or an old cloth to blot up as much urine as possible. Press firmly to absorb the liquid but avoid rubbing, which can spread the urine further into the fabric.
  • Remove the Floor Mats: If the urine is on a floor mat, remove it from the car so that you can clean it separately.
  • Ventilate the Car: Open all doors and windows to air out the car. This helps to dissipate some of the odor and keeps the smell from becoming overwhelming.

Cleaning Solutions and Methods

Once you’re ready to start cleaning, here are some of the best cleaning solutions and methods to use:

Enzyme Cleaners

Enzyme cleaners are specifically formulated to break down the proteins in cat urine, eliminating both the stain and the odor. Here’s how to use them:

  • Blot up as much urine as possible with paper towels or a cloth.
  • Saturate the affected area with the enzyme cleaner. Ensure it penetrates deep into the fabric or carpet.
  • Let it sit for the recommended time on the product label (usually 10-15 minutes).
  • Blot the area again to remove excess cleaner.
  • Allow the area to air dry completely. This can take several hours to a day.

Vinegar and Baking Soda Solution

You will need equal parts white vinegar, water, and baking soda.

  • Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the solution onto the affected area and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Blot the area with a cloth to absorb the solution.
  • Sprinkle baking soda over the area and let it sit for a few hours or overnight.
  • Vacuum up the baking soda residue.

Lemon Juice and Baking Soda Solution

You will need lemon juice, water, and baking soda. 

  • Mix 1 part lemon juice with 2 parts water in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the mixture onto the urine spot and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Blot with a cloth to remove the solution.
  • Sprinkle baking soda over the area and let it sit for a few hours or overnight.
  • Vacuum up the baking soda.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Dish Soap Method

This method combines the stain-lifting power of hydrogen peroxide with the grease-cutting ability of dish soap.

  • Mix a cup of hydrogen peroxide with a teaspoon of dish soap in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the mixture onto the affected area, ensuring it’s well-saturated.
  • Sprinkle baking soda over the area for additional odor absorption.
  • Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Blot the area with a clean cloth to remove excess liquid.
  • Vacuum the area once it’s dry to remove any remaining baking soda.

Deep Cleaning Techniques

If after trying the above techniques you are still unable to remove the odor, you may have to resort to deep cleaning. You may even want to do this right from the beginning if you are strapped for time.

You can either hire a professional carpet and upholstery cleaner or you can take your car to get washed and valeted professionally. 

Recommended Cat Odor Neutralizers

If you’re keen to use a ready-made cat odor neutralizing spray, there are a few that come highly recommended.

Nature’s Miracle Advanced Cat Stain and Odor Eliminator

This advanced enzyme-based cleaner targets and breaks down the proteins in cat urine and other organic stains. Great for targeting those smells at the source. What’s more, it’s ideal for use on a variety of surfaces, including upholstery, and hard floors. It’s a well-known and trusted brand among pet owners.

Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Professional Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator

This is another popular enzyme-based cat odor spray that is safe for both pets and children, so ideal for use in your car. Not only does it work on a variety of surfaces, but it’s great for deep cleaning too. Along with being highly effective on tough stains and odors, it also comes with a money-back guarantee. 

Angry Orange Pet Odor Eliminator

Another spray worth mentioning is this citrus-based cleaner. Derived from orange peels, this deodorizer has strong odor-fighting capabilities. The pleasant citrus scent makes it ideal for use in your vehicle and it can be used on different surfaces too. 

How to Prevent a Cat From Urinating In Your Car

Prevention is always better than cure, so here’s what you can do to stop your cat from using your car as their personal litter box in the future.

  • Visit the Vet: Rule out any medical issues such as urinary tract infections or other health problems that might be causing your cat to urinate outside the litter box.
  • Reduce Stress: Ensure your cat feels safe and calm. Cats often urinate inappropriately due to stress or anxiety. Provide a comfortable carrier for travel and consider using calming aids.
  • Clean Thoroughly: Ensure any previous urine spots are cleaned with an enzyme cleaner to remove all traces of odor. Cats are likely to return to areas where they can still smell their urine.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Reward your cat with treats and praise for using the litter box at home and when they behave calmly in the car.
  • Restrict Movement: Use a pet barrier or a crate to limit your cat’s movement within the car. This reduces the chance of them finding a spot to urinate.
  • Use a Cat Repellent. Consider spraying a safe cat repellent onto your car seats and floor mats to deter kitty from coming back.

Final Thoughts

Discovering your furry friend has done its business in your car is less than ideal. Fortunately, you can get your car smelling normal again and prevent your kitty from repeating the same behavior again. 

1. How can I get cat pee out of my car vents?

Start by turning off the system and removing the vents if possible. You can now apply water and dish detergent onto a disposable scrub pad and clean the heat vent covers and the ridges. After the system dries completely, spray hydrogen peroxide to disinfect the remaining microbes and kill the bacteria.

2. Will a cat urine smell go away in my car?

It can go away, but it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Removing any affected surfaces and ventilating the car is the first step. You should then clean the affected area with a vinegar solution or a special cat odor and stain remover – enzyme-based cleaners are best.