Showing posts with label abscess. Show all posts
Showing posts with label abscess. Show all posts

Tuesday 29 August 2023

If your cat smells bad there is something wrong. Time to investigate.

If your cat smells there is something wrong. Time to investigate.
Image: in public domain.

On the website a lady asks if cats smell? She says that her cats don't smell which is normal she says if a cat is healthy. She is seeking reassurances from other users.

Actually, domestic cats do smell slightly when they are healthy. It is a subtle, pleasant smell. Most cat caregivers have kissed their cat on various parts of their body and picked up the smell. It is a pleasant experience.

New cat owners

People who are new to cat ownership might be unsure about how domestic cats smell. This might be because they've read some misinformation on the Internet. Or, they might have a distorted idea about the normal body odour of domestic cats because they have a cat litter tray which is not cleaned enough or, perhaps, their cat is eliminating inappropriately. 

This means that they might be peeing outside the litter box or even defecating outside the litter box due to stress. That by the way will be due to an environmental problem which would be fully in the control of the cat caregiver and it would need to be investigated.

It may be that the entire house smells bad and their cat is picking up some of this odour. There are many possible reasons why their cat might not be smelling nice. Or they think their cat doesn't smell nice. There may be a subjective issue here: the owner's sense of smell might be dodgy or they don't like certain smells. 

It needs to be investigated because this short post has been published to tell people unequivocally that domestic cats don't smell bad. They smell nice.

Some possible reasons why a cat might smell bad

I will try and think of a few reasons why your cat might smell bad. These are some examples.

Oral health

Firstly, he or she might have very poor oral health. Bad teeth and gums are not uncommon in older cats. She might have bad breath. This might give the impression that she smells. This will need to be investigated because poor oral health is painful and it can stop a domestic cat feeding properly or at all if it is very bad.

Ear mites

Image: MikeB

A bad infestation of ear mites can result in a bad smell around the ears. This may give the impression to the owner that there cat smells bad. Ear mites are terrible parasites and they cause a lot of distress to the cat. Urgent medical treatment is required. The owner should not try to clean their cat's ears themselves unless they are very skilled at it. I have a page on that which you can read by clicking on the following link if you wish. Home treatment for cat ear mites.


She may have diarrhoea and be unable to maintain a hygienic bottom. This may give the impression that she smells. If this is the case you need to investigate the underlying cause of diarrhoea which is a symptom of a range of ill health conditions.


He might have an abscess which you've not spotted which is weeping pass which is smelly. That would be unusual for an indoor cat but possible as the most common cause of abscesses are fights. If an abscess is left unattended there will be a big buildup of pus under the skin. It will need to be attended to. It will need to be cleaned out and the cat given a course of antibiotics.

Chemical on coat

Another possibility would be that the coat has picked up some chemical or substance which you've not spotted which smells. Obviously, this should be removed from the coat because anything on a domestic cat's coat presents a health hazard to the cat as they are fastidious groomers normally and therefore will ingest that substance.

Skunk (America)

It is conceivable that an indoor/outdoor cat has met a skunk on their travels and they been left with the owner that that creature chucks and other creatures! Skunks spray to repel potential predators with a foul-smelling, oily secretion stored in their perianal glands.
Not grooming?

Cat fails to groom themselves

And this takes me to the last point and perhaps the most important point. If a domestic cat is not maintaining their own hygiene to a high standard as they normally do by which I mean they are not grooming themselves regularly on a daily basis, it is an indication that they are ill. 

It is an indication that they are not feeling themselves. It may result in the cat smelling not quite right. The usual pleasant nutty smell may no longer be there. This would be a warning sign and the cat caregiver should investigate carefully and it is likely that a veterinarian's visit is required.

Rolling in dirt

RELATED: Why do cats roll in dirt? 3 reasons.


Cats don't normally need bathing and they should not be bathed regularly because it's not good for them. But bearing in mind that this page is about a cat smelling abnormally unpleasant it may be a moment to bathe your cat which of course should be done with care and respect.

RELATED: Do cats really need baths: If so, how often?

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