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What to Do if Your Cat Gets Sprayed by a Skunk

Skunk with tail raised and ready to spray

If your cat got sprayed by a skunk, there's no mistaking that horrible odor. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to get rid of the smell. Cat expert, Wendy Nan Rees, offers practical advice to clean up your cat and your home.

How to Remove Skunk Smell From a Cat

You may say, "I have an indoor cat, so why should I worry about my cat getting sprayed by a skunk?"

I am here to tell you, you just never know what can happen, as I found out this past weekend. I was working for a few days in Las Vegas and got a panic call from my friend Liza. She has a cat that goes outside during the day and comes in at night. Last Saturday night, her cat came into the house with a smell that could "knock out a boxer" to quote Liza.

"Help, what do I do, use tomato juice?"

Yes, you can try tomato juice, but this will not work, at least it never has for me. Nevertheless, people still try it and some swear by it. Here are a few other tips to try if your cat should get sprayed by a skunk.

Remove Skunk Smell From Your Cat

Before you use the following tips to clean your cat, review these bathing tips:

  • Put cotton balls in your pet's ears to protect the inner-ear tissue from the cleaning mixture, which could easily drip in.
  • Apply a drop of olive or baby oil to his eyes to prevent irritation.
  • Make sure to use rubber gloves to protect your hands during the bathing process. Start with your pet's head, taking care not to get the solution into his eyes, ears or mouth.
  • Rub the cleaning mixture evenly into your pet's coat. It will probably be more pleasant to do this outdoors, weather permitting.
  • Rinse the coat well with clean water.

The above steps can be repeated if the smell persists.

Tip One

To get rid of that awful odor:

  1. Mix one quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide with 1/4 cup of baking soda and one teaspoon of mild dishwashing detergent (make sure it doesn't contain bleach or ammonia).
  2. Rub this mixture into your cat's coat. Don't allow any to drip into your pet's ears or eyes.
  3. Next, bathe with a mild pet shampoo and rinse well.

Tip Two

White vinegar or hydrogen peroxide counteracts the natural oil in skunk spray. You need to clean with something stronger than water -- something that can remove oil instead of just spreading it around. Try this popular and highly recommended mixture:

  • 1 liter (or quart) white vinegar, OR 3% hydrogen peroxide (be aware: peroxide may cause bleaching)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon dish detergent (also a de-greaser)

Remove the Smell From Your Home

Use commercial sprays designed to deodorize and neutralize any smells your cat may leave behind on your furniture. Household cleaning sprays and products such as Febreeze, Simple Green or an organic product I make called Cedar Green Mist(TM) can be effective against skunk smell on fabrics and furniture. "Skunk Off" is a spray designed specifically for treating skunk-sprayed pets. Bleach can remove that skunk smell from outdoor structures. Use a mixture of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water (or detergent and water), to clean sprayed areas (such as a porch) that aren't in danger of staining from the bleach.

Get a 4-cup (or larger) microwave-safe bowl and pour 1 cup of vinegar inside. Add several cloves and a bit of cinnamon. Put into the microwave for a minute or two. Caution: Mixture will be extremely hot, so let it sit in the microwave for 15 minutes to cool before you remove it. Now set the bowl where you need to eliminate the bad smell. This will also help deodorize your microwave.

Wash all sprayed clothes and fabrics as soon as possible. The faster you get those smelly things in the wash, the better the chance that the skunk odor will actually wash off. Using your regular laundry detergent is fine although treating the fabrics with an additional cleaner beforehand may help as well.

Be Prepared

Here are a few things you might want to keep on hand. As I said, you just never know when you may need them.

  • Cotton swabs
  • Baking soda
  • Liquid dish soap (many animal rescuers use Dawn)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Garden hose and spray attachment
  • Dog grooming sprays
  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Commercially prepared skunk odor removers

My friend Ruthie once told me that a trick many groomers use is Masengil powdered douche as a pre-bath rinse. Make sure to check with your veterinarian if you have any questions.

Skunks, like many other pests, are attracted to available food such as pet food or scraps in the garbage. They are also attracted to possible nesting places such as sheds, wood piles or crawl spaces around the house and yard. So, keep your garbage tightly closed, and keep your home and yard clean and sealed against unwanted furry visitors.

It is also important to remember that skunks are nocturnal animals, so it is likely that your dog or cat will be sprayed at the most inopportune time, such as a chilly spring evening just as you are about to go to bed. These late night encounters mean that your local pet store that carries skunk odor removal products will probably be closed.

The best way to help prevent your pet from being sprayed is to use a leash and harness when you are in the woods or the country. Skunks can carry rabies, so make sure your pet's vaccinations are current before you visit areas frequented by skunks.

The sooner you wash your pet, the easier it will be to remove the musk. Take care not to get any of the bathwater into the eyes or ears because it can really burn. A small amount of Vaseline applied to the eyebrows is effective for protecting the eyes. If you must pick up your animal to wash in the sink or bathtub, use a towel to avoid getting skunked yourself. Don't let your pet touch anything inside of your house unless you want it to smell like skunk.

I hope you never have this happen to you. I myself have been lucky so far (knock on wood). As I always say it is better to be prepared than have a Saturday night like Liza.

"Remember the animals in your life are not just your pets they're your friends." WNR

What to Do if Your Cat Gets Sprayed by a Skunk