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Why Does My Cat Smell Bad?

Discovering you suddenly have a smelly cat can certainly put a damper on cuddle time. There’s quite an array of causes behind an unpleasant feline fragrance – but thankfully, many of them are treatable. In this post, I’ll guide you through common culprits like dental disease and ear infections and look at some solutions to help transform your stinky kitty back into the purr-some companion you love to hang out with.

A cat on a chair

What are the Common Causes of Bad Odors in Cats?

Cats can develop bad odors due to various reasons such as dental disease, skin infections, anal gland issues, ear infections, and urinary problems. Let’s explore these in more detail.

Dental Disease

Dental disease ranks high among the common causes of bad smells in cats. Nobody enjoys a case of cat breath that reeks like rotting fish! It’s often a sign your furry friend may be grappling with tooth decay or gum inflammation – two key indicators of dental diseases.

Pet parents should understand that this foul odor is more than just unpleasant; it’s an urgent call for comprehensive dental care. The presence of harmful bacteria can contribute to severe health problems if left untreated, affecting not only the mouth but also other critical organs like the heart and kidneys.

Your best bet is to start brushing your cat’s teeth regularly and nip any smelly dilemma in the bud fast, making sure their pearly whites remain healthy and their breath stays fresh.

Skin Infections

Skin infections can be another major reason your cat smells bad. Kitty skin conditions often result from fungal or bacterial overgrowth, leading to a foul odor. Yeast infections are especially notorious for giving off a particular stinky smell.

Cats with skin infections may also show signs like redness, inflammation, and excessive scratching. It’s crucial for pet parents to keep an eye out for these symptoms. Immediate treatment of any suspicious skin problems helps prevent unpleasant odors and improves your furry friend’s overall wellbeing.

Anal Gland Issues

Our purry furry friends use anal glands, located at their rear end, to mark their territory and communicate with other cats. Problems arise when these glands become blocked or infected, causing a foul odor that’s hard for pet parents to ignore.

Often misinterpreted as litter box issues, anal gland complications can turn your lovable kitty into a smelly cat faster than you could write a catchy song about it! So, regularly checking your cat’s rear area is crucial in preventing bad smells from anal gland problems.

If you notice a fishy smelling fluid or see your feline frequently scooting across the floor, an immediate vet visit might be in order.

Ear Infections

Ear infections can be a common cause of bad odors in cats. When bacteria or yeast overgrow in the ear canal, it can result in a foul smell. This is often accompanied by symptoms such as redness, swelling, discharge, and constant scratching at the ears.

If your cat has smelly ears, it’s essential to address the infection promptly to prevent further discomfort and potential hearing loss. Consult with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment options, which may include cleaning the ears and administering medication such as antibiotics or antifungals.

Regular ear hygiene will also help prevent future infections and keep your furry friend smelling fresh.

Urinary Problems

Urinary problems can be a common cause of bad smells in cats. Cats with urinary tract infections or other issues may produce strong-smelling urine that can leave an unpleasant odor in your home.

Additionally, if a cat is not properly hydrated, their urine becomes more concentrated and develops a stronger smell. It’s important to monitor your cat’s litter box habits and the appearance and smell of their urine.

If you notice any changes, such as increased frequency or difficulty urinating, or if there is blood in the urine, it could indicate a urinary problem that requires veterinary attention. Your vet will be able to diagnose and treat any underlying health issues contributing to the smelly urine and help alleviate any discomfort your furry friend may be experiencing.

How to Address and Eliminate Bad Smells in Cats

Now we’ve seen some of the common causes, let’s take a look at how to address and eliminate bad smells in cats. It’s super important to prioritize regular dental care, as well as proper hygiene and grooming practices. Treating skin and ear infections promptly, addressing anal gland issues, and managing any urinary problems that may be contributing to the odor is also a must.

a cat being stroked

Practice Regular Dental Care

Maintaining good dental hygiene is essential for your cat’s overall health and can help keep bad odors at bay. One of the ways to maintain regular dental care is by brushing your cat’s teeth regularly. This can be done using a specially designed cat toothbrush and toothpaste to gently brush your cat’s teeth. Introduce the toothbrush gradually and allow your cat to become accustomed to it.

Apart from regular brushing, providing your cat with dental treats and toys can also be beneficial. These are designed specifically to help clean your cat’s teeth and promote oral health, as they can aid in removing plaque and tartar buildup.

Scheduling regular professional dental cleanings with a veterinarian is important. These cleanings can help remove stubborn plaque and tartar that cannot be completely eliminated with at-home care. During these visits, the vet can also check for any signs of dental disease or other issues.

Diet also plays a crucial role in your cat’s oral health. A proper diet can contribute significantly to good oral health. It’s important to avoid feeding your cat sticky or sugary foods, as these can promote plaque formation. Instead, opt for quality cat food that supports oral health.

Lastly, it’s essential to monitor your cat for signs of dental problems. Be vigilant for signs of dental disease such as bad breath, swollen gums, drooling, or difficulty eating. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian.

Treat Skin Infections Promptly

Skin infections, a common cause of bad odors in cats, can be managed and eliminated with the right care and treatment. If your cat has a foul smell coming from their skin, try the following:

Start by gently cleansing the affected areas with an antifungal or antibacterial shampoo specifically formulated for cats,  making sure to follow the instructions on the product label. Your veterinarian may also prescribe topical treatments, such as creams or ointments, to address the skin infection. These medications can help reduce inflammation, eliminate bacteria or fungi, and foster healing.

However, while cleanliness is vital, be careful not to over-bathe your cat. Excessive bathing can strip their skin of natural oils, potentially exacerbating the infection. Always follow your veterinarian’s advice on the frequency of baths during the treatment period.

Another important step in managing skin infections is maintaining cleanliness in your cat’s environment. Regularly disinfect their bedding and living areas to prevent reinfection or the spreading of the infection to other parts of their body.

Preventing further irritation of the affected area is also crucial. If your cat is scratching or licking excessively, consider using an Elizabethan collar, also known as a cone, to deter them from further irritating the skin and to allow it to heal properly.

If your vet does prescribe oral antibiotics or antifungal medications, make sure you adhere to the recommended dosage and duration of treatment. These medications work internally to combat bacteria or fungi, helping to resolve the infection.

Address Anal Gland Issues Fast

Anal gland issues in cats can often lead to unpleasant odors. But luckily, there are several steps you can take to address these issues and eliminate the stink!

A cat under a blanket

Regular expression of the anal glands involves gently squeezing the anal glands during grooming to help release built-up fluid, thereby preventing impaction. Another measure you can take is to adjust your cat’s diet. Incorporating more fiber into their meals can promote healthy bowel movements, reducing the risk of anal gland problems.

Maintaining proper litter box habits also plays a crucial role in managing anal gland issues. By ensuring that your cat has regular access to a clean litter box, you can help prevent discomfort and potential infections.

If you try all these options and your cat’s anal gland issues persist or worsen, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian. They can provide a proper diagnosis and outline appropriate treatment options.

In some cases, these treatments may involve medications prescribed by your vet. These can help alleviate anal gland issues and mitigate any associated odors, improving the overall comfort and wellbeing of your best pet pal.

Treating Ear Infections – at Home and At the Vet

Ear infections, a common source of unpleasant smells in cats, should be promptly addressed to ensure the health and comfort of your furry friend. Here are some measures you can take to treat and prevent ear infections.

Firstly, taking your cat to the vet is crucial. A veterinarian can examine your cat’s ears and identify whether an infection is present. They may conduct a swab test to pinpoint the specific type of bacteria or yeast causing the issue.

Cleaning the ears is another important step. If your cat is prone to infections, your vet may advise regular ear cleaning. This should be done using a cat-friendly ear cleaning solution, and as always, following the instructions given by your vet.

In most cases, medication is necessary to treat the ear infection. Your vet will likely prescribe topical ointments or drops to be administered directly into the ear canal.  When applying the medication, gently massage the base of your cat’s ear to distribute the medication evenly throughout the ear canal, optimizing its effectiveness.

Even if your cat shows improvement after a few days of treatment, it’s essential to complete the entire prescribed course of medication. This prevents relapses and the development of resistant bacteria.

Lastly, preventative measures can help reduce the chances of recurrent ear infections. Regularly keeping your cat’s ears clean and dry is important. However, avoid using cotton swabs or other sharp objects inside their ears, as these can cause further damage. By following these steps, you can effectively manage and prevent ear infections in your cat.

Managing Urinary Problems in Your Kitty

Urinary problems, a common source of unpleasant odors in cats, can be effectively managed and addressed with the right approach.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to ensure that your cat has constant access to fresh water. This promotes proper hydration, which is essential for urinary health. Feeding your cat a balanced diet appropriate for their age, breed, and health condition is another important step. Your veterinarian can provide specific dietary recommendations tailored to your cat’s needs.

To encourage regular litter box usage, keep the litter box clean and, if you have multiple cats, consider providing multiple boxes. Monitoring your cat’s litter box habits for changes or signs of discomfort, such as straining or frequent urination, can help detect urinary issues early.

Seek immediate veterinary care if you notice any blood in your cat’s urine or if they’re having difficulty urinating. These could be signs of a urinary tract infection or blockage, which require prompt attention.

Exercise and play are also important for your cat’s urinary health, as they help prevent obesity, a risk factor for urinary problems. Your veterinarian may recommend specially formulated urinary health diets or supplements to support bladder health.

Finally, minimizing stressors in your cat’s environment can help, as stress can exacerbate urinary issues. Providing plenty of hiding spots, vertical spaces, and quiet retreats can make your cat feel more secure and relaxed, and subsequently improving their urinary health. With these measures, you can effectively manage and mitigate urinary problems in your purry, furry friend.

When Should You See a Vet?

If your cat has a persistent or severe odor, shows other accompanying symptoms, experiences changes in behavior or appetite, or if you suspect any underlying health issues, it is important to seek veterinary care for your smelly cat.

Persistent or Severe Odor

If your cat has a persistent or severe odor, it’s important to take notice and address the issue. A strong and foul odor that continues for an extended period of time may be indicative of an underlying health problem that requires veterinary attention.

While some temporary smells can be attributed to certain behaviors or diet changes, a lingering odor could suggest something more serious. It’s crucial to pay attention to any accompanying symptoms such as changes in behavior or appetite, as these can provide valuable clues about your cat’s overall health.

Remember, addressing a persistent or severe odor promptly is key in ensuring the wellbeing of your kitty pal.

A cat with its paws on the table

Key Takeaways

  • Bad odors in cats can be due to various reasons such as dental disease, skin infections, anal gland issues, ear infections, and urinary problems.
  • Regular dental care can prevent bad breath associated with dental diseases in cats.
  • Prompt treatment of skin infections and maintaining a clean environment are key to preventing unpleasant smells.
  • Anal gland issues can be addressed through regular expression of the glands and dietary adjustments.
  • Proper ear hygiene and veterinary intervention can effectively manage ear infections.
  • Ensuring proper hydration, a balanced diet, and clean litter box habits are crucial to managing urinary problems.
  • Persistent or severe odor in a cat can indicate serious underlying health issues, warranting immediate veterinary attention.


In this post, we’ve seen how a smelly cat can be a sign of underlying health issues that should not be ignored. From dental disease to urinary problems, it’s important to address and eliminate the bad smells for the wellbeing of your furry friend.

Regular veterinary care and proper hygiene practices can help keep your cat smelling fresh and clean. Remember, a happy and healthy cat is a cat that doesn’t smell bad – so keep sniffing out those odors and look out for your best pet pal!