Here’s a step-by-step guide showing you how to get skunk smell off your cat or dog in one treatment. Since we’ve gotten skunk spray off of our cat six times, we now consider ourselves experts!
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 skunk odor throughout the house, including your bed.
Gag. This actually just happened to us. (Update: In 2017, this happened twice, and in 2018 it happened to us four times in just two months. Our cat seems to really enjoy getting sprayed by skunks.)
Funny thing: the first time 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.
How and why do skunks spray cats and dogs?
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 the Cat is likely not blameless even though he’s confined to his yard with an electric cat fence/collar.
Skunks do NOT just spray for the heck of it. It’s a last resort. Once they’ve exhausted their defensive spray, it can take them up to 10 days to reload, leaving them defenseless in the meantime.
That means Bob the Cat must have given the skunk good reason to spray him.
Yes, you HAVE to get the skunk spray off your cat (or dog)
Unfortunately, we had another cat get sprayed by a skunk a few years back. The good news: we now keep all the skunk spray removal ingredients from that original episode on-hand at all times, similar to a first aid kit.
How long does it take for the smell of skunk to go away?
If your cat or dog is sprayed by a skunk, doing nothing is NOT an option because the smell can linger on your pet’s fur for up to three weeks. All the while, your pet will spread that awful skunk smell around your house, which can also last for three weeks.
If that’s not motivation enough for you to take action, then consider this: that foul-smelling skunk spray comes from a skunk’s anal glands. Blech. Motivated yet? We thought so.
Below, we’re going to tell you exactly how to permanently get skunk smell off your cat or dog in one fell swoop.
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.
How To Get Skunk Smell Off Your Cat (or Dog)
If your pet is physically fine, other than being godawful smelly, follow these instructions to get the skunk spray smell off your cat (or dog):
Step 1. Get another person to help.
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.
Step 2. Gather the ingredients.
To remove the skunk spray, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Dawn liquid dish detergent,
- hydrogen peroxide,
- baking soda,
- animal shampoo, and
- a bucket
The “recipe” is down below. Bring all “ingredients” to your bathtub and mix right before you’re going to use them.
Step 3: Wet the cat with warm water.
While one person holds the cat, the other person needs to pour warm water over the cat. Be careful not to pour water down the cats ears or into its eyes.
Step 4: First wash.
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 the poor creature in place and try to comfort it.
Step 5: Second wash.
The recipe for the second wash is:
- 1 quart peroxide,
- ¼ cup baking soda,
- 1 tsp Dawn liquid detergent.
Mix all ingredients together in your bucket. Then scrub the cat thoroughly with the mixture.
This wash oxidizes the thiol compounds in the skunk spray (the most offensive part of the skunk smell). 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 off the cat using warm water.
Step 6: THIRD wash.
This is the final wash to help get rid of any remaining offensive skunk smell 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.
Step 7: Blow out & style the cat.
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. Treats come in handy here.
Other questions about how to get rid of skunk smell in your house or on your pets…
Does tomato juice get rid of skunk smell on cats and dogs?
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 don’t think skunk marinara is that much of an improvement over pure skunk smell.
Does Febreeze, citrus oil, or vinegar get rid of skunk smell?
No. Febreeze does not get rid of skunk smell. Neither will citrus oil or perfume. Neither will vinegar.
You have to break apart the oils in the skunk spray and thoroughly remove the volatile compounds using the methods and ingredients recommended above.
How do you get the skunk smell out of your house?
Yes, we’ve had to figure out how to get skunk smell out of our house and belongings as well. (Thanks, Bob!) First, open all your windows, then go through this list as necessary:
How do you get skunk smell out of carpet?
Lucky enough, you can remove the skunk smell from your carpet using the exact steps and ingredients listed above.
How do you get skunk smell off of tile or hardwood floors or walls?
Scrub any spots with skunk spray on them with hot soapy water using dawn dish detergent. Use a sponge on your walls, not anything abrasive, or you risk scrubbing off your paint.
How do you get skunk smell out of clothes and bedding?
Set your washer on a high water heat setting and run it through a cycle. Smell and repeat as many times as necessary.
How do you get skunk spray off of upholstery?
Getting skunk smell off of your upholstery is the trickiest of them all. You want to be careful not to make the colors run or stain.
Combine 1 quart peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, and 1 tsp Dawn liquid detergent in a bucket. Test an inconspicuous spot on the chair/sofa using a rag or washcloth. If it doesn’t stain or cause the fabric colors to bleed, scrub the skunk-sprayed spots until clean.
You’ll need to rinse and wash the washcloth as you go. Repeat as many times as necessary into the skunk smell is gone.
How can you keep your cat or dog from getting sprayed by a skunk?
Skunks are nocturnal creatures with poor eyesight, but a keen sense of smell and hearing. As mentioned above, they only spray when they feel surprised, threatened, and/or attacked.
A few tips for keeping your dog or cat from getting sprayed by a skunk:
- Don’t let your pet out at night unless you’re walking them on a leash.
- Keep your pets in a fenced back yard where skunks are less likely to have access.
- Put a bell collar on your pets so that skunks can hear them and (hopefully) get away before a smelly encounter happens.
How do you avoid getting sprayed by a skunk?
For the past two summers, we’ve had a momma skunk raise her young under our porch (The Tyrant fell in love with the creature and feeds it).
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Well, looks like we now have a pet skunk to go along with the rest of the animal zoo. The Tyrant has been sweet talking and leaving treats for this skunk for months and it appears smitten. Here it is munching on some duck food kibble she offered it. #petskunk #lawd #skunk
We’ve also had to trap and release skunks from ground hog traps.
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“Honey, I don’t think that’s a groundhog.” We set out traps so we can relocate the groundhogs that have been fattening themselves for winter hibernation on some of our garden beds. Note to self: close the traps before dark or you’ll catch other critters too. This cute little skunk spent the night in a cage, but at least it got to dine on apple slices and peanut butter. It was not at all aggressive. We walked very slowly towards it and covered the cage with a blanket just in case it felt threatened enough to spray. Once the trap’s door was opened, it hung out inside for a few more minutes before scurrying off into the woods. Gorgeous little critter. #skunksofinstagram #skunk #skunkfest
So we know how NOT to get sprayed by a skunk ourselves:
- If you go outside at night, turn on the lights and bring a flashlight so you can see any potential skunks.
- Make noise (clapping or whistling is good) so any skunk know you’re there. If they can’t smell or hear you, you can surprise them.
- If you see a skunk, stop, make some noise, and let it move away on its own. Don’t act threatening or go within 15 feet of the skunk.
We hope this article helps you and your pet survive a skunk-spray emergency.