Getting rid of the cat smells

12 Replies

I've seen a number of posts on BR about houses that have bad aromas from trash, dead animals, etc., but I haven't found the best advice yet on getting rid of cat smells.  Here's the situation:

3 BR 1 bath SFR in western New York. The house was built in 1975. Stereotypical eccentric cat lady/widow has lived there for 20+ years. At least 4 cats have lived in the house with her at all times, and any number of feral cats come and go at will because she left lots of food out for them. I did not last more than a few minutes in the house before gagging from the aroma. My first thought is that the house needs to be gutted and rebuilt because that's the only way to get rid of the pervasive aroma of cat urine and ammonia. The kitchen and bath need to be updated, and gutting the rest of the house might be the best solution.

Are there any viable alternatives to a complete gut job here?

Thanks for any advice.

I use peppermint essential oil and denatured alcohol in a spray bottle.

@John Franczyk I haven't tried it yet but I am about to buy an ozone machine for a cat house I am rehabbing. I heard about this from other experienced investors. I have 2 going so it makes sense to buy but you can also rent.

I had a house with a similar situation to yours (just the basement though). Honestly, it is so hard to get rid of the smell. You can try all the chemicals you want and there will still be that smell when you walk in. We tried for a couple weeks to clean up, use chemicals, etc. We thought we had it, but I had a friend come in one day and say...'smells like cat pee'. At the end of the day, we just took it down to the studs and replaced it all. 

If you're already doing drywall work in other areas of the house, might as well do the whole thing. It will ensure that the smell is gone and you won't run into issues when trying to rent/sell. You'll spend more time using chemicals and cleaning it than ripping it all out and starting fresh. 

Just handled two houses who had long term tenants with way too many cats (I inherited tenants from former owner). I’m extremely allergic, so it was a good test. At the start, I couldn’t be in either house for more than 15 minutes before I was sneezing like crazy.

I learned that cleaning the central AC (vents, ducts, coils) made a huge difference (and changing the filter a few times over a week). Next most important was a thorough clean of the tile floors, and all walls and doors about 2 feet up from the floor. Painting the walls, doors and baseboards (Kilz first followed by a good quality paint) ensured the odor was gone and no more sneezing for me.

In my two examples I didn’t have wood or carpet flooring....if I had, then probably I would’ve had to address that too.

Good luck!

Good suggestions by other posters.  Search the BP forums for "cat odor" and you will find even more great tips.

Updated over 1 year ago

Check out this thread about Brian Burke's Cat Litter House Flip:

Update on my cat/dog house and I had the flooring ripped out to the concrete. The worst room was the front room and it was carpet on top of old linoleum tiles. All gone along with 95 percent of the smell and it was pungent. I will still treat the floor with the odor treatment ordered from Amazon and run the ozone machine but I have little worry that the smells will persist after we are finished. #worsthouse2besthouse

We've had really good results using scoe 10x (ordered online) in dealing with cat urine issues.


@John Franczyk Does the house have rugs? Because if so and the cat/cats did the business on the rugs over years I just feel like over time if you use any sprays or anything it may just slowly come back. May want to think about replacing the carpets. Maybe getting a good cleaning crew in there to just thoroughly go through the house to clean it. Rugs just collect and collect. @Jim Hern Has some great ideas too the dander and everything is everywhere vents and filters should be cleaned as well.

Many methods to get results however without combining them with a complete tear out of all of the worst effected areas the smell will return on the first humid day in the summer.

Eliminating cat pee is a combination approach part of which will be to remove the most contaminated areas.....sub floor, drywall etc.

Nature’s Miracle enzyme cleaner is a terrific product to use on porous surfaces to remove the smell where it ks cost prohibitive to remove the material. Think grout between tile. Old carpet would likely need to be removed and replaced. Even enzyme cleaner has a hard time getting to all parts especially when it is old.

I once owned a house with such smell..They had dogs and cats. Got a great deal on it. I replaced all carpet with tile and painted all walls and ceiling and the smell was gone.. Sold the house after a few months with $60k profit.. Spent less than $2k for tile and paint..

Has anyone on this thread just tried to use Kilz oil based primer to get rid of the smell?

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