Why Does My Cat Smell Bad?
One of the best parts of owning a cat is the low-maintenance aspect. Usually, a simple, once-a-day scoop of the litter box is about all the maintenance a cat needs other than food and water—and of course affection.
But sometimes, these normally very clean creatures can develop grooming or skin issues that can cause them to smell bad.
If your cat normally kept him or herself clean but suddenly develops an odor or poor grooming habits, it may be time to take them to the vet or give them a little extra boost to keep them fresh.
The common reasons a cat may develop odors include:
- Mouth Issues
- Old Age
- Fur Issues
Some of these issues can be corrected and some will mean that you will need to give your cat extra care.
Bad Odors Could Be a Sign of Illness
One of the first suspects causing your cat to smell bad may be some type of illness. They could either have an illness that makes them too tired to groom themselves or the illness itself could be making them smell bad.
Check your cat for other signs. Have they lost weight? Been in a fight? Are they still eating? All of these could lead to problems with cleanliness and grooming.
Check Your Smelly Cat for Signs of Infection
Sometimes, if an animal has an infection, they may smell bad. Infections can hide, especially if the cat has longer fur that could hide any injuries or wounds easily. Check the cat carefully, noticing any tender spots. Also check for fleas, as reactions to flea bites can turn into scabby sores that can, in turn, smell bad.
If your cat does have an infection, they most likely will need an antibiotic issued by a licensed vet to help clear it up.
Could It Be Bad Breath? Mouth or Tooth Issues in Cats
Sometimes cats, especially older ones, can develop bad breath. This, in turn, affects the quality of their saliva. So when they groom themselves, the bad smell from their mouth transfers to their coat.
If you have more than one cat and that cats groom each other, it may also make the other cats smell bad.
You will need to examine your cat's mouth and see if their breath might be the culprit. Bad breath is usually caused by tooth decay or can also be a sign of chronic illness such as kidney failure.
Either issue will require a vet visit for either a tooth extraction and cleaning or possible treatments to help the cat with kidney function loss (usually this is a condition that can't be reversed, unfortunately).
If the problem was tooth decay, consider changing the cat food you are using to a higher quality, premium cat food and make sure the cat gets either dry cat food or dry treats every day. The dry food or treats helps to clean the teeth and mouth and premium foods contain less additives and sugars which contribute to tooth decay.
As an added bonus, premium food can help reduce the incidents of smelly, solid waste from your cat as well. Less additives equals less waste.
High Maintenance Fur Can Smell Bad
Some cats have high maintenance fur. It may be extra long or dry. The dryness can also be cause by bad diet as well as genetics, so a switch to a better cat food may help this issue.
Cats such as Persians may get tangles in their fur making that spot hard to clean. Having a regular scheduled brushing or groomer visits may help cut down on this problem for cats with hard-to-maintain fur.
Old Age Can Lead to Bad Odors
When cats get older, just like people, routine tasks become harder. Your cat may feel too tired or stiff to thoroughly groom him or herself any more.
Your cat may not only smell bad, but their fur is likely to look a bit disheveled and not as smooth and shiny as it was when they were younger. If this happens, it may be time to think about washing your cat or having him or her groomed professionally.
How To Clean Your Cat
If you need to bathe your cat, you have several options:
- You can bathe them at home in a bathtub or sink.
- You can use pet wipes or dry shampoo
If you are bathing your pet the traditional way, be sure to get some help, have plenty of dry towels ready and take your time. Most cats don't enjoy the experience but will tolerate it if the environment is quiet and it is an owner that they trust.
An alternative is to purchase pet wipes or dry shampoo. These are especially good if your cat is older or is sick and you don't want to stress them out too much.
How to Prevent Odor Problems
Some of these issues are preventable. Once corrected, you don't want the smell issues to come back. You can keep your cat cleaner by:
- Keeping them inside
- Taking them to regular vet check-ups
- Brushing them
- Switching to a premium food
Unless your cat has a rare genetic condition, it should not smell bad. Trying to find what is wrong and correcting the problem will make you and your cat happier and less smelly.
Why do you think your cat is experiencing odor issues?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Since we have moved homes, my cat is over-grooming herself and has a bald patch on her side, she also smells odd. What do you think the problem is?
She is likely stressed from the move. She probably smells bad because of the over grooming and she may even have an infection. I would suggest finding a vet and having her checked out. She might need some temporary medication until she settles into her new place. Cats don't love change.
Can I spray perfume on my cat?
Unless it is a powder specifically designed for cats, do NOT spray your cat with human perfume. Cats are neat and lick themselves. The chemicals in human perfume may sicken or kill them. I have read of people putting items such as essential oils on their cat. This is also a bad idea. The cats with the oils on them got really sick, and some died. Cats have sensitive livers and kidneys; using strange chemicals on them may cause irreparable harm.
I have a kitten who is 12 to 14 days old. I have cleaned and washed it, but it still smells really bad. I have also observed that he has some red marks on his face. Can you tell me what happened to him?
It may have an infection. Contact a vet and have him checked out.