Smelly Cat Solutions

Pet Health and Safety  •  Pam Karkow  •  Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Cats are fastidious groomers, priding themselves on their cleanliness. This is why if you are noticing a foul smell coming from your cat, it is important to nail down from where the smell is coming. Odor can be a sign of many different types of conditions, from dental disease to a urinary tract infection. 

If you notice a foul smell coming from your cat, try to locate where the smell is originating and as gross as this may sound, what it smells like. Odors can emanate from the mouth, ears, and skin. Here are common reasons those smells may be present and what to do about it.

Bad breath

If your cat’s breath causes you to turn away, it could be a sign that your pet may have dental disease. Plaque and tartar can build up on your cat’s teeth and cause the gums to become inflamed or teeth to become loose. Furthermore, food or foreign objects can get lodged in abnormal gum pockets, causing bacterial infections and/or trauma to oral tissues. The best way to fight dental disease is to keep your cat’s teeth clean. You can do this by brushing his teeth regularly and keeping up with professional cleanings. See the paragraph about “At-Home Teeth Brushing” in our post, Cat Lover’s Month. Veterinarians recommend a professional teeth cleaning at least once a year. PetPartners’ Wellness Plan can help offset the cost of dental care by reimbursing towards one dental cleaning per year. If your cat’s breath smells like urine or ammonia, and particularly if he seems to be drinking more and urinating frequently, it is important to make a vet appointment right away. Kidney disease is very common in cats, especially seniors. Luckily, there are medications and treatments for kidney disease that can increase your cat’s quality of life and delay the progression of the disease.

Foul smelling ears

If you notice a musty smell coming from your cat’s ears, that may be a sign of an ear infection. When a cat is allergic to food or something in the environment, yeast can grow, causing a foul odor. You may also notice other signs of an allergic reaction like sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes and ears. Your vet can do skin and blood tests or put your cat on an elimination diet to get to the root of the cause. Another reason for ear odor is ear mites. If the odor is accompanied by dark coffee ground looking materials, mites might be to blame. Treatment of mites involves a thorough ear cleaning and topical medication.

Stinky skin odor

Regular self-grooming should keep a cat’s coat pristine, but a cat who is obese, sick, or has arthritis may have difficulty cleaning himself. It is important to feed your cat a well-balanced diet with limited snacks, so he maintains a healthy weight. Underlying health conditions such as allergies, parasites, cancer, and immune disorders can also cause skin odors, so regular vet appointments are key. Your vet can recommend medications for arthritis, such as prescription pain medications and nutritional supplements to help reduce inflammation of the joints.

A smelly cat could mean trouble!

Although it might just be that super stinky can of cat food you fed your cat, chronic bad breath is an indication that something just isn’t right with your cat’s health. Sometimes a good cleaning or topical treatment can take care of the odor issue, but other times the problem is more serious, as in the case of kidney disease.  Knowing your cat’s “normal” and visiting your vet regularly can help you stay on top of his health so you can address any odor issues before they become serious.







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