Cats are one of the cleanest animals. Cats are fastidious at grooming. Because cats are so flexible in their movements, they can reach all parts of their body to bathe. The places they cannot reach with their tongues, such as the top of their head or their ears, are cleaned by wetting a paw and using their foot to rub the area clean. Cats do not usually have a body odor unless there is an underlying health issue.

Why Doesn’t My Cat Smell Good? 

As mentioned above, cats keep themselves clean and odor-free. However, as cats age, they may become arthritic, obese, or ill from a disease process. Their bodies are no longer flexible enough to cleanse themselves and groom the skin when they are younger. The hair starts to look unkempt and perhaps greasy. Their hair begins to give off an unclean odor. 

If you detect an odor coming from your cat, there is a real possibility that something is wrong, health-wise. Try to determine where the smell is coming from. For instance, if your cat has bad breath, it could be a dental problem such as gum disease. 

Diseases, Health, and Dental Issues Cause Unusual Odors in a Cat

Ordinarily, a cat’s mount does not emanate an order. However, dental issues can arise that cause unpleasant orders. Your cat should have a dental checkup every year with a dental cleaning. To do this, your vet must give your cat light anesthesia that will put the cat to sleep until the vet can perform a complete examination. 

  • The vet will scrape all plaque off each tooth and go up under the gum line to remove more plaque. 
  • The vet then cleans and shines every tooth. If the vet finds a broken or decayed tooth, it may mean it needs to be removed to avoid future infection. 
  • The vet cleans out any food from gum pockets because it only sets there and rots, causing an odor.
  • The vet looks for foreign objects lodged in the mouth.
  • Your cat may have some trauma to the inside of the mouth, causing the smell. 
  • Perhaps your cat has a tumor. 

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is another reason causing a mouth odor. When you notice an ammonia odor coming from the cat’s mouth, this is a possible sign of kidney disease.

Diabetes Mellitus

If you smell your cat’s breath too sweet or fruit-like, it may mean your cat has diabetes. If diabetes progresses, this odor may change to an acetone odor.

Liver Disease

Liver problems in cats mean that your cat’s breath may smell like feces. Intestinal blockages can also make your cat’s breath smell like feces.

Skin Odor

Various skin issues cause your cat’s skin to smell off, such as a wound, parasites, immune disorders, cancer, or allergies, disrupting the normal skin progression. Issues like bacterial infections can cause your cat’s skin to smell sweet, and yeast infections cause a musty odor. Wounds such as bits from another animal develop into abscesses that drain. Draining abscesses give off a foul smell.

Ear Odor

Cats are meticulous at keeping their ears clean. It is incredible how they do this by licking their paw and using the foot to wipe out the insides of the ear. Cats can develop yeast in their ears that emit a musty odor. Yeast grows in cat’s ears for a few different reasons.

  • Ear mites
  • Digestion problem
  • Bacterial infections
  • Allergies
  • Polyps
  • Tumors

Rear End Issues

It is unusual to smell urine or feces on a cat as it is too clean. However, if your cat is obese, has arthritis, urinary tract infections, diarrhea, or has another illness, this may prevent them from no longer doing adequate rear-end hygiene, and a smell of urine or feces becomes apparent. 

Your cat may be perfectly OK; however, if your cat has long hair, there may be the problem of feces sticking to the hair and around its rear. Cats with long hair around their rear end need to have this hair shaved at intervals to give your cat a better chance to keep the skin clean.

Every year, the vet may check the two anal glands at each side of the anus during the cat’s wellness exam. Cat owners are usually not aware of these glands until your cat is scared or excited and releases the contents of these glands. In this case, the smell is quite strong. Anal gland odors increase if the cat develops an infection or other affecting these glands, the scent is more persistent.

When to Take Your Cat to The Vet Due to Strange Odors

There are natural things in your cat’s life that may make your cat develop a temporary odor, such as eating stinky fishy moist cat food, getting into the garbage can, or coming against a skunk. However, if the scent you smell is bothersome and you do not know where it comes from, it is wise to make a vet appointment to see if your vet can figure it out. This can be something simple and easy to correct or more serious. 

How To Make My Cat Smell Good

At the first thought that your cat is smelling a bit off, please give them a quick once over. Look for skin issues like skin wounds. Check their ears and rears, and simply look them over well. 

Cats take such great care of themselves that they never need human help. Rarely do we give our cats a bath, and we have been in cat rescue for over 30 years. I cannot see any cats so upset as putting them in the sink or tub for a bath. The flip side is we have had a couple of cats through the years that really liked water and enjoyed a bath. 

If you want to help make your cat smell better, you can take some natural approaches. Never apply a human-grade product to your cats, such as oils, deodorants, perfumes, or others. These things can cause skin problems, injure, or kill your cat when they lick these things off. 

We have had several aged senior cats who could no longer keep themselves clean and smelling as fresh as a daisy, so we had to lend a hand. Most cats hate, hate, hate baths, so never upset a cat by putting them in water. Specialty pet stores sell containers of kitty wipes that have various scents and are safe for the cat. You can use these wipes to cleanse their hair, rear ends, and inside the ears. Whenever we use these wipes, our cats never seem to mind and tolerate this well. 

I am a firm believer in feeding our cats high-quality grain-free moist and dry food. These foods help curb any digestive issues or allergies your cat may have. Our six cats eat high-quality dry and wet cat food. Years ago, we knew no different, and our cats ate cheaply. You may as well say our cats were on a fast-food diet every day, and they loved it. This diet is not good. 

A Personal Story of Frustration

Our sweetie cat, Isabella, who is 12 years old, developed IBS last year, and we have been fighting vomiting and diarrhea since then. She used to weigh 16 pounds, and her weight plummeted to 7.2. However, since feeding her a grain-free diet, she recently gained a pound and a half. I noticed with Isabella that she had more problems every time she ate any food that was not grain-free. The vet agreed that she was obese before, but now she appears to have a healthy body weight. However, she is still fighting IBS.

She has natural remedies for IBS. However, if it is not a shot, forget it. She fights like a banshee to get her to take medicine, and it’s not worth upsetting her like that. I put small amounts of medication in her food, and she always sniffs it out and refuses to eat the food. She cannot afford to turn down her food.

Even though her diarrhea smells so bad, she works hard to keep herself cleaner than clean. When she was first diagnosed with IBS she had an odor in her ears. The vet informed us that when a cat has IBS it is not uncommon for it to develop a musty smelling yeast in its ears. She did allow me to give her antibiotic ear drops and this cleared up the yeast infection.

The following are what I do to give our cats at hand at maintaining good odor-free hygiene.

  • Brush your cat daily, especially the side of its mouth. Ours love that. 
  • Buy a holistic or natural grain-free dry and moist cat food and treats.
  • Use kitty wipes on their fir weekly and as needed.
  • Wipe its ears out with kitty wipes.
  • Many cat owners brush their cat’s teeth. I think you have to start this when they are kittens. I cannot see any of our seniors and even the two younger cats allowing us to brush their teeth. Pet stores have available dental treats, and we do give these to our cats, and most of them like that. 
  • Make sure they drink plenty of water.
  • Talk to your vet about adding a dental supplement to their water to help cut down plaque.
  • If you can bathe your cat without too much fighting, use hypoallergenic shampoo for cats. Never use a human-grade shampoo on your cat because their skin will not adapt well to human shampoo and may cause skin problems.
  • Consider buying a waterless shampoo for cats. This product has many natural ingredients that make your cat smell sweet and lovely. Only use a product that is pH balanced for cats. Never put shampoo on your cat that contains dyes, additives, sulfates, or preservatives. Always use a shampoo product that will not harm your cat. After a cat takes a bath, they spend a lot of time licking their fur and grooming. You never want to use a product that hurts your cat when they ingest it into their body from licking. 
 
Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.