Showing posts with label periodontal disease. Show all posts
Showing posts with label periodontal disease. 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?

Sunday 3 October 2021

Health tip: checking your cat for gum disease

A lot of cat owners are understandably unaware of the state of health of their cat's gums and teeth. You might get a glimpse of your cat's gums when they yawn but it might not be enough. And the upper outside area of the gums, at the back, is where gum disease can often start. The same, by the way, applies to people. 

If you want to reduce bleeding gums when you brush your teeth you should always focus strongly on the outside upper at the back of the mouth and eventually the bleeding will go away. In addition, you should use a good mouthwash occasionally. 

I'm digressing but the same problem exists with domestic cats and it is perhaps the single biggest reason why domestic cats are put under a general anaesthetic. In fact, Dr. Bruce Fogle in his book Complete Cat Care states that "I anaesthetize more cats to treat the tooth and gum disease than for any other single reason".

Use cotton buds to check for blood on cat gums
Use cotton buds to check for blood on cat gums. Photo: Words added.

Certainly, gum disease and dental health is in the top 10 or perhaps top five of all domestic cat health problems. It is, therefore, important to check gum health from time to time. Bruce Fogle states that an easy way to check your cat's teeth and gums regularly "is by running a cotton bud around the gum line". This means gently placing a cotton bud under the cheek against the gums around the upper teeth at the rear of the mouth, as mentioned. A cat should accept this especially as it can be done quickly. If you encounter blood or signs of pain you should take your cat to your veterinarian.

Sometimes veterinarians say that you can check oral health by bad breath but this is rather vague. Also, bad breath can be caused by kidney, liver disease, feline leukaemia or by a bowel infection. Indeed a foreign body such as a bone stuck in the mouth or on oral tumour and older cats can cause bad breath. So the cotton bud check is a good one. I would recommend it.

Sunday 1 August 2021

The link between gum and kidney disease in cats

There is a link between periodontal disease and kidney disease in cats but, as I type this, I'm not sure what that link is. What I mean is I'm not sure if periodontal disease can cause kidney disease or vice versa. I know that kidney disease can cause bad breath in cats which is ammonia smelling. 

Periodontal disease in cats. Left: Gingivitis. Middle: Teeth cleaning kit. Right: Commercial feline dental food.
Periodontal disease in cats. Left: Gingivitis. Middle: Teeth cleaning kit. Right: Commercial feline dental food. Image: MikeB

I am researching as I am typing this. It seems that periodontal disease can increase the risk of kidney disease and liver and heart disease. Further, a study in humans, specifically 699 African Americans, showed that periodontal disease can make people more prone to kidney disease. The study found that African-Americans with severe gum disease were over four times more likely to develop chronic kidney disease.

The study also appears to have concluded that if periodontal disease is properly treated and eliminated that has a positive effect on the onset of chronic kidney disease i.e. the onset can be prevented.

Another study discusses an "imbalance of the body's oxygen producing free radicals and its antioxidant cells could be the reason why gum disease and chronic kidney disease affect each other..."

In this study over 700 patients with chronic kidney disease were examined both orally and using full body examinations including blood samples. The aim was to test the hypothesis that periodontal disease and kidney function affect each other. The results show that a 10% increase in gum inflammation reduces kidney function by 3%. And a 3% worsening in kidney function translates to an increase in the risk of kidney failure over a five-year period from 32%-34%. Interestingly, the study found that a 10% reduction in kidney function increases periodontal inflammation by 25%.

The researchers found that the link between gum disease and kidney disease was caused by "oxidative stress" which is a biological process. It is an 'an imbalance between reactive oxygen species and the body's antioxidant capacity which damages tissues on a cellular level'. I have quoted that verbatim by the way because I don't understand it :) !

The study is the first to try and 'quantify the causal effect of periodontitis on kidney function' and vice versa as well as the first to elucidate the pathways involved. They suggest that further studies are carried out. The study was carried out by Dr. Praveen Sharma and team at the Periodontal Research Group, University of Birmingham's School of Dentistry.

An important point I forgot to mention is that 85% of cats have gum disease at 2 years old or later and sometimes at aged one. This shocking stat from my reference book tells me that gum disease may be why kidney disease is too prevalent in domestic cats. Elderly cats often die of it. Perhaps owners should be cleaning their cat's teeth as a default. No exceptions. At the moment it is rare.

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