Cat Odors Explained

Cats are naturally clean creatures and quite finicky about self-grooming, so finding one with strange odors can be confusing.

There could be multiple reasons behind the unpleasant odors ranging from a poor diet to health complications.

Let’s study the reasons below:

Causes of Cat Odors

Cat Odors Explained

If you are experiencing a pungent whiff every time your cat is around, you may need to look closer. Knowing what is causing the foul smell can help you identify the problem. Here’s a list of the most likely causes:

Bad Breath:

Also known as Halitosis, bad breath is a common problem. While diet may be one of the reasons, it could also be an indication of a graver health concern. If your feline’s breath smells unusually unpleasant, it could be due to diseases such as

Periodontal disease
Tooth resorption and decay
Tartar build-up
Ulcers in the mouth
Liver issues
Kidney disease

Get in touch with a vet to rule out any health issues.


Diet can cause odors. If your cat has a fish-based diet or consumes poor-quality cat food, it will likely pass stinky stools. Overeating could also be a cause for concern.

Ear infections:

Cats with dirty ears or allergies are prone to ear infections. Signs that indicate a yeast or bacterial infection in the ear include tilting or shaking the head, scratching, and discharge. These can be a painful nuisance for your kitty and require veterinary care.

Anal glands:

Smelly anal glands are a common concern for cats that are obese or suffering from arthritis, as both these issues make it harder for the cat to groom itself.

Glands on either side of the rectum secrete a stinky fluid during defecation. If the stool is not firm, the glands won’t fully clear, causing the smell.

Stressed and excited felines also release this pungent fluid. This smell can get worse if the glands are infected or have tumors. This may require veterinary treatment.

Skin Infections:

Skin infections can lead to pus and discharge, which smells. These infections may emerge as a result of different illnesses and problems, including wounds, allergies, parasites, cancer, immune disorders, rashes, spots, benign lumps, and tumors.

It is crucial to take your cat to the vet to determine the underlying cause of the infection and get suitable treatment.

Dirty Litter Box:

If your cat seems to be in perfect health but still smells, it could be due to a dirty litter box. Change the litter frequently and replace the box if needed. Using a deodorizer also helps.

Engaging in Unhygienic Behavior:

While it is common knowledge that cats are innately clean and spend much of their day self-grooming, there may be some exceptions. Older cats find it more difficult to invest the same energy in grooming. Cats with longer hair also tend to have urine and feces sticking to their butt or legs.

Frequent accidents out of the litter box could also be a reason for the stench.

Cats with kidney issues or unneutered male cats have foul-smelling urine due to urinary tract problems and pheromones, respectively.

Poor diet, food allergies, digestive issues, bad-quality litter, medicines, and infections can all be possible underlying reasons for smelly feces.

For certain causes and concerns, you will need to make a trip to the vet. However, others can be remedied at home. We’ve shared a few helpful tips below:

  • Regularly brush your cat’s teeth and seek professional help for additional dental care. Get your kitty checked by a vet to determine the cause of the smell and get appropriate treatment.
  • Feed natural or high-quality food to minimize unpleasant excretions.
  • Prevent ear infections by cleaning your cat’s ears regularly.
  • For anal gland issues, a veterinary visit is required. Tumors or infections need to be treated with medicines or even surgery.
  • Ask your vet for recommendations regarding medicated shampoos or other medications in the case of an infection.
  • Regularly groom older cats for a happy, healthy, clean kitty! Wash and trim the hair if poop or litter often gets stuck to their butt or feet.
  • Thoroughly clean your cat’s litter box daily. Check and clean the area around the litter box as well. You can also use a deodorizer to get rid of the smell.
  • Use enzymatic cleaners after bladder or bowel accidents.

We hope this blog post helps you understand why your cat may be smelly. If you have any questions, take guidance from a licensed vet on PetMyPal. This app is especially helpful for non-emergency concerns, allowing you to connect virtually with a vet from the comfort of your home.

Emma Ken
Latest posts by Emma Ken (see all)

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