How to Get Rid of Cat Odor in Apartment?

A cat makes a wonderful pet for many reasons.

Having a cat is a welcoming presence to come home to after a day at work, even if, unlike a dog, he doesn’t come running to the door to greet you.

And in contrast to dogs, cats don’t need to be walked several times a day. They don’t need to be bathed, nor do they have to be house-trained in terms of bathroom habits.

All you need to do, even with a kitten, is to introduce him to his litter box. Perhaps guide its paw in a gentle digging action.

Not only does his instinct to do his business take over but also to cover it with clean litter after he’s finished.

While dogs can be faithful companions and provide protection, cats are by far the easier pet, especially if you live in an apartment.

What is not so easy, however, is dealing with the cat odor coming from the litter box. But it is doable, in fact, preventable if you are diligent about the litter box.

A Clean Litter Box is an Odorless Littler Box

You have a big choice in which type of litter you use since, believe it or not, there are at least eight types of cat litter on the market.

They all use different materials to absorb urine and its problematic odor and each purports to go the extra mile.

But whether it’s clay corn or coconut husk, wheat kernels, walnut shells, or wood pellets; biodegradable, clumping, or odor absorbable, the ultimate truth is, and this warrants an asterisk

The only way to get rid of cat odor in an apartment is to get rid of the dirty cat litter causing it!

How to Get Rid of Preexisting Cat Odor in an Apartment

But whether you own a cat or not, what do you do should you move into an apartment already filled with stale cat odor.

If you are shown an apartment, and you sniff that telltale odor suggestive of ammonia, the most prudent move to make is to thank the rental agent or landlord and move on to the next apartment on your list.

But if despite the cat odor you absolutely love the layout or the fact that it has a terrace with a panoramic view, roll up your sleeves.

You have work to do.

Because carpets are the usual culprits when it comes to cat odors we will devote a large part of this article to them.

Vacuum the Carpet in the Apartment

If the apartment is carpeted, you can try neutralizing it.

Try Vacuuming with Baking Soda First

Reach for the baking soda and get out the vacuum cleaner.

First, run the vacuum over the carpet, sprinkle baking soda over it, then vacuum, sprinkle, and vacuum again.

Just as it absorbs odors in a refrigerator or freezer, baking soda will go to work on the cat odor.

It will go deep down into the fibers of the carpet where it can absorb and neutralize the odor.

If time permits, it will help if you let the baking soda remain in the carpet overnight and vacuum it up in the morning.

And in some cases, this may need repeating for several days, but if the odor is not too deeply embedded, you may eventually have a carpet that smells like …..nothing at all.

In other words, it’s neutral.

And when you’re finished, be sure to empty the canister since the pungent odor contained in the dirt and carpet fibers can build up.

Add humidity to the mix and when you vacuum again it will only add to your problem

The Wet Way

If the dry vacuum doesn’t work, you might try a wet vacuum cleaner.

A wet vacuum when paired with carpet cleaners can not only get rid of cat odor, but, if there are any stains, can work on them as well.

But test a small area first to make sure the cleaner doesn’t discolor the carpet. If it does, or if you prefer natural remedies, there are a number of spray-on solutions you can try.

Renting a carpet shampooing machine from your local supermarket or hardware store is another wet way to go.

When used with the recommended shampoo, such a machine can be quite effective because it sprays shampoo and water deep into the fabric of the carpet, then extracts it, and with it the cat odor.

And since it leaves the carpet almost dry, it reduces the chance of mildew and mold growing, adding to the odor problem.


Vinegar has been an unsung hero until recently, confined to salads and pickles.

But if you’ve been using spraying vinegar and water on your counters and sinks in place of commercial spray cleaners you’ll be pleased to know it can also take odors out of carpets.

Combine one part vinegar to two parts water in a spray bottle. Shake and spray. Spritz it on the entire carpet and let it dry.

The vinegar smell will fade out and with it the cat odor.

If perchance it does not, repeat the process, but this time with 2 teaspoons of baking soda added to the mix to increase its odor-neutralizing power.

Essential Oils

If you’re not familiar with essential oils, they’re concentrated liquids extracted from fragrant plants.

Since their scents are strong, essential oils are a natural and effective way to deodorize carpets and upholstered furniture.

Stronger scents include cinnamon and peppermint. Lavender, lemon, and grapefruit impart a fresh scent.

Take your preference and combine 15 drops with 2 cups of good old baking soda in a container or slotted jat.

Shake well and sprinkle the fragrant powder over the carpet and upholstery. If the cat odor is mild, leave it on the rug a minimum of one hour before vacuuming it up.

A stronger odor may warrant leaving on overnight.

Enzymatic Cleaners

Enzymes are proteins that accelerate chemical reactions by either building up or breaking down substances.

Enzymatic cleaners use enzymes that speed up the rate that bacteria feed on organic matter like urine, feces, or blood, and in so doing, eliminate their odors.

Enzymatic cleaners are readily available in both concentrated and prediluted strengths at pet supply stores and home improvement centers.

Just read the directions and follow them.

Getting Rid of Cat Odors on Hard Surfaces

Cat odors may emanate from the floors if the cat has urinated on them.

In other cases, the odor may be embedded in the walls, especially around windows, or on entry doors.

Since cats are territorial, especially unneutered males, they usually mark their territory by backing up and spraying urine.

HEPA Air Purifiers

HEPA (which stands for high-efficiency particulate air) air filters are marketed to allergy and asthma sufferers for their ability to filter out pet dander, pollen, and other allergens that can stimulate an attack.

However, there are also models engineered specifically to eliminate cat odor.

Look for a HEPA air purifier that has an activated charcoal filter in it.

These are highly effective because activated charcoal will attract and absorb odors and chemicals so that the HEPA filter can catch and trap them,

Ozone Generators

Ozone generators intentionally make ozone out of oxygen.

Enerzen Ozone Generator 6,000mg Industrial O3 Air Purifier Deodorizer Sterilizer (6,000mg - Black)

You probably know that ozone is a gas that has three atoms, one more than oxygen. Ozone is a powerful gas since it wants to shed that third atom and when it does, it can alter chemical substances in the air.

Although ozone in concentrated amounts can be harmful to some individuals, those that are marketed as air purifiers are generally safe.

So you might want to rent or buy an oxygen generator/air purifier to work on cat odors that have not penetrated too deeply into the wall or floors.

Odor-killing Paint Primers

If you haven’t moved in yet, you might ask your landlord to repaint the walls and suggest he use an odor-killing paint primer.

There are several on the market that is formulated to work on not only cat odor but also odors left behind by food, and tobacco.

If the landlord balks at that, you can offer to pay for the work, or better yet, do it yourself.

Solid Odor Absorbers

You can also go old school with a solid odor absorber formulated to deodorize the air by capturing and encapsulating cat odor, replacing it with a pleasant scent such as lavender or ocean breeze.

OdoBan Solid Odor Absorber for Home and Small Spaces, Original Eucalyptus, Lavender and Citrus Scents, 14 oz, 3-Pack

These products come in various size jars, some of which can cover areas as large as 450 feet and last for up to 90 days.

If the odor plagues your whole apartment you might want to get several of them. And although scented candles don’t capture and encapsulate smells,

it’s a good idea to supplement the solid deodorizer with candles that give off your favorite scents.

If All Else Fails

If none of the above work because the odor has thoroughly penetrated the floor right down to the subfloor, you might want to go for gold, take a Hail Mary pass, cross your fingers, take a deep breath and ask your landlord if he will replace that section of flooring.

He/She may say yes or may say no. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

And if you feel like unwinding with a vodka cocktail while you wait for his answer, save some vodka to spay on the carpet.

Not only is vodka good at removing spots, but it also takes up odors.

Blot it dry after 15 minutes, and sprinkle some baking soda to soak up any remaining moisture.

And just as vodka is unique among liquors in that it can not be detected by smell, it won’t leave your carpet with whiskey breath!

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