It’s 5am. You’re peacefully sleeping with your spouse and duck in your bed.
Your unconscious mind is suddenly confronted with a smell so noxious that it triggers you to wake up. Groggy, you look at the foot of your bed and see your rotund, orange tabby cat loudly purring and staring back at you. In a moment of horror, you realize that the smell wasn’t a dream: your pet has been doused in skunk spray, and he is happily spreading the odor throughout the house, including your bed.
Gag. This actually just happened to us.
Funny thing: as this took place, my wife (The Tyrant) said she was dreaming about walking through a perfume section at a mall when she was suddenly sprayed with a new fragrance that woke her up. For the record “Ode de moufette” would not be a popular perfume, despite what Pepé Le Pew may believe.
If you’ve never smelled skunk before, count yourself lucky. It smells like burning car tires and sulfur – and it does not dissipate with time. In fact, unlike other smells, you don’t seem to get used to it with time; it gets worse and starts to cause a slight burning feeling in your nasal passages.
This wretched scent is so bad that it even scares off wolves, bears, and coyotes. Skunks can hit their target from as far away as 10 feet, so Bob the Cat didn’t even have to be that close to Pepé to get sprayed. Bob is likely not blameless even though he’s confined to his yard with an electric cat fence/collar: skunks do NOT just spray willy nilly. Once they’ve exhausted their defensive spray, it can take them up to 10 days to reload, leaving them defenseless in the meantime. Bob must have given the skunk good reason to fire away.
How To Get Skunk Smell Off Your Cat (or Dog)
Unfortunately, we had another cat get sprayed by a skunk a few years back, so we knew what to do and we had the ingredients on-hand.
Doing nothing is NOT an option because the smell can linger on your pet’s fur for days or weeks, and all the while your pet will be spreading that awful smell around your house. If that’s not motivation enough for you to take action, then consider this: that malodorous spray comes from a skunk’s anal glands. Motivated yet? We thought so.
Below, we’re going to tell you exactly how to permanently knock out the skunk odor on your pet (we’ve done this twice on two different cats, so we know it works). First, we should say that if your pet was sprayed in the eyes, is foaming at the mouth or has injuries on it (from an actual physical encounter with a skunk), you should plan to bring your pet straight to the vet.
If your pet is physically fine, other than being godawful smelly, follow these instructions to get the skunk smell off your cat (or dog):
- Bribe a friend: Unless your cat likes to be bathed (doubtful), you’re going to need two people (one to hold the cat, the other to apply the various applications and wash the cat… and maybe take a picture or twenty). Both people would be smart to wear rubber kitchen gloves throughout the process. This keeps you from getting skunky and provides a bit of extra protection from errant cat claws.
- Ingredients: Get Dawn liquid dish detergent, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, animal shampoo, and a bucket (“recipe” down below). Bring all “ingredients” to your bathtub and mix right before you’re going to use it; don’t pre-mix this in a sealed container ahead of time (as in hours, days or months).
- Get the cat wet: While one person holds the cat, the other person pours warm water over the cat (use warm water throughout these steps). Be careful not to pour water down the cats ears or into its eyes.
- Now you’re ready for the FIRST wash: You’re going to use straight Dawn detergent here. FYI: this is the same stuff that animal rescue folks use to wash animals caught in oil spills. It truly is “tough on grease” and it will help to start breaking apart the oily disgustingness of the skunk spray. Once lathered, rinse the cat, while one person continues to hold and comfort the poor creature.
- SECOND wash: this wash is a combination of 1 quart peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, 1 tsp Dawn liquid detergent, all mixed together in your bucket. Once mixed, scrub the cat thoroughly with it. This wash oxidizes the thiol compounds (the most offensive part of the skunk spray). Once fully lathered, let the mixture sit on the cat for 5-15 minutes (the longer the better if your pet really smells), then rinse the cat. Our cat tolerated about 10 minutes before he started to feel cold.
- THIRD wash: this is the final wash to help get rid of any remaining offensive odors and mask whatever lingering odors remain with something more pleasant. We used a natural, clove-based flea & tick shampoo that we had from when someone originally dropped off stray cats on our doorstep. Once fully lathered, rinse the creature.
- Blow out & style: You’ve survived! Now, it’s time to towel, blow dry or air dry your pet, while providing plenty of reassurance that it’s still loved.
Final note: despite what some people say, NO, tomato juice does not effectively get rid of skunk spray. It will temporarily make your pet smell more like a tomato though.
We hope this article helps you and your pet survive a skunk-spray emergency.