Has your home gotten a cat stench? Perhaps, you are on your way to getting a feline but want to make sure that your new friend doesn’t drive away people who come over? In any case, this post is just for you.
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Common Cat Odor Sources
Cat odors can come from a variety of sources and while it is unpleasant to sense foul aromas coming from your pal, they can be a symptom of a medical problem. Here are the four most common sources of “cat smell.”
Cats’ ears are soft, warm and damp – a perfect place for bacteria growth, ear infections, germs, and mites. Such issues are annoying and painful to your cat, and if left untreated they can lead to deafness. Plus, ear problems can result in a foul smell, especially in the case of ear mites. On top of that, ears are hard to reach for your cat, so grooming can only do so much. Hence, your furry friend might need some help when it comes to ear hygiene. We’ve dedicated a whole post on how to clean your cat’s ears.
Ordinarily, your cat shouldn’t have particularly bad breath, but if she does, it might be due to her diet or a health issue. A cat that is on a low-quality or highly-flavored formula can get bad breath. Also, food can get stuck between your cat’s teeth, rotting away and producing unpleasant aromas. Advanced age is another factor which can contribute to foul oral smell. With age, your cat’s gums loosen, leaving space for food to settle in around the teeth and under the gums. Gastrointestinal tract and metabolism issues can also lead to bad mouth odor. Thus, if your cat has developed bad breath, you need to visit your vet.
Skin and Coat
Skin produces natural oils which, along with the warm fur, make for a pleasant environment for bacteria growth. Your cat will often groom, eliminating most of the odor, but when skin cells and fur shed and stick to surfaces, they begin to decompose. This can cause the familiar “cat smell” that makes people stay away from certain homes. If you forget to dust and vacuum your home, this will leave even more time for fallen skin cells and fur to remind guests that there’s a pet in the house.
The most widespread culprit for “cat odor” is urine. “Inappropriate elimination,” as vets call urinating and pooping outside of the litter box, is a nightmare for any pet owner. Such behavior is especially concerning because urine smell doesn’t go away without proper treatment. When it comes to why your cat pees outside the litter box, there could be a myriad of reasons. The end game is that your home and clothes are carrying a pungent smell that can do anything from ruining your date to harming your health. This is why we’ve dedicated the next section to the problem of inappropriate cat urination.
Doing inappropriate things out of spite is only familiar to humans. If your cat is eliminating outside her litter box, it’s not because she is on a mission to crush your last nerves. Usually, it’s due to health issues or problems with the litter box.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract conditions affect the upper and lower parts of the urinary tract and the kidneys. All UTIs can manifest in incontinence/ inability to hold in urine and pain while urinating. Cats with UTIs might not be able to hold in or might associate the litter box with pain, thus avoiding it.
Diabetic patients cannot process sugar properly, which causes an overload on the kidneys. As they work harder to process the sugar and eliminate it from the body, they also drag along fluids, leading to higher water consumption and more frequent urination. If your cat is diabetic, she might not be able to hold until she reaches her litter box.
Something similar happens to cats with a hyperactive thyroid. The thyroid gland plays a role in most bodily functions, including the kidneys. When the thyroid goes into overdrive, it causes the whole body to act out. This results in drinking more water and more frequent urination.
Cats can soil themselves due to stress. It can happen from a sudden noise, an unexpected pickup or some more permanent stressor. To avoid causing your cat to pee herself, do not make any sudden moves around her, always pick her up gently and try to provide her with a calm and stress-free environment.
Cats in advanced age can develop incontinence, UTIs, and arthritis. The former two can result in a senior cat not being able to hold it in until she reaches her litter box. Arthritis, on the other hand, makes it difficult and painful to get into the litter box, so your cat does it the easy, less painful way.
You should clean your cat’s litter after every time she goes to the toilet. If you forget to do it occasionally, it is unlikely that your cat will refuse to use her litter box, but if having a dirty one becomes a thing – then this one’s on you. The litter also needs timely change with a fresh batch. If you have trouble with this, consider getting a self-cleaning litter box.
If your pal’s litter box is in a hard to reach area or if it is not designed well, your cat might not be able to get inside. Keep the litter box in an easy-to-reach spot and consider your cat’s age – senior cats and kittens need litter boxes with lower sides, as they might not be able to jump over higher ones.
“Spraying” refers to cats literally spraying a surface with urine to leave their mark and attract the opposite sex. Male cats tend to spray more often than female ones, and their urine odor is quite stronger due to the high levels of testosterone. To avoid such behavior, you need to get your cat neutered/spayed.
If a cat has urinated outside her litter box and the owner didn’t clean it, the feline is likely to repeat her behavior on the same spot. The most effective way to deal with cat urine is to use specially formulated detergents – you’ll see the best ones in the last section of this post. Homemade remedies only mask the odor for some time but can’t get rid of it.
Problems with cat odor shouldn’t be taken lightly. Smells from your pet can make people avoid you and your home and can be signs of medical issues. Plus, inappropriate urination, a primary culprit of “cat smell,” can ruin your stuff and even poses health dangers.
Cat odors can destroy both your social life and your property. When it comes to your cat urinating outside the litterbox, you need to take prompt measures. Cat urine is potent and acidic. Apart from the awful smell, untreated urine spots can damage fabrics. Also, untreated can urine spot will tell your cat that she has already peed in this area, so it’s okay to do it again.
There are many homemade recipes on the internet that claim to help with cleaning cat urine spots. Vinegar and baking soda are among the more popular, but unfortunately, their effect is short-lived. Another popular remedy is bleach. Bleach is disinfectant but is powerless when it comes to cleaning. With cat pee, you need to attack both fronts – disinfect the area and break down the urine, so it’s easy to clean. Cat urine contains ammonia, which combined with bleach creates highly toxic nerve gas.
Cat urine smell is unpleasant but also dangerous to your health. Long-term exposure to untreated cat urine odors can irritate your airways or lead to even more severe issues. Cat urine is made of mostly water, but also contains other chemical elements known to cause health issues – ammonia is only one of them. So, if you had to treat a urine spot, it’s a good idea to close your cat in another room and air out the area where she has done her business. If you already suffer from breathing problems such as asthma or have allergies, you better call somebody to do the cleaning instead of you.
Nature’s Miracle Odor & Stain Remover is among the more popular cleaning enzymes for pet related odors and stains. It comes in a variety of formulas for various surfaces and also in a stronger “advanced” option.
Simple Solution is another popular choice for pet owners. The formula also comes in a variety of sizes and for different surfaces. Plus, the company produces pet diapers and training pads.
Air fresheners are toxic and only mask smells. To battle unpleasant odors, you better opt for a HEPA air filter. The GermGuardian AC4825 captures allergens and odors and sanitizes the air with UV-C light.
Another good option with a HEPA filter is the LEVOIT LV-H132. It works for allergens such as dust and smoke and eliminates odors. This one, however, does not have a UV light which according to the manufacturer “produces trace amounts of measurable ozone, a harmful air pollutant.”
If you regularly forget to clean your cat’s litter box or are away from home for a long time, you should consider getting a self-cleaning litter box. They are pricey but can save you lots of trouble down the road. The fanciest option is the CatGenie Self Washing Self Flushing Cat Box – it cleans and even disinfects your cat’s toilet.
For a more budget-friendly self-cleaning litter box, you can opt for the PetSafe ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box. It utilizes special crystals that absorb the smell and dehydrate poop and urine, and you can go a whole week without having to dispose of the poop and urine that collect in a tray.
If you have a senior cat or a kitten who have trouble getting over the high walls of regular litter boxes, there are low-side alternatives. Like the Lucky Champ Litter Pan which has a low front entry ideal for senior cats and kittens. The Dog Litter Pan by PuppyGoHere is made for toilet-training puppies and kittens, but the low front entry also works well for older cats.
To avoid toilet smells, you also need a good-quality litter. The ökocat Natural Wood Cat Litter is made from natural materials, clumps well, and is scent and dust-free with seven-day odor control. There is also an option with softer pellets and one for long-haired cat breeds to minimize litter tracking. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on when to replace the litter.
Your cat might occasionally need a bath, especially if she’s at an age where she no longer can properly groom herself. Bathing your cat will get rid of dead skin cells and loose fur, so they wash away instead of sticking to surfaces, leaving a distinctive scent. Some options to consider are the Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo and the Pro Pet Works Natural Oatmeal Dog Shampoo. Both of them are made from natural ingredients and do not contain soap which is drying to the skin and can cause irritation.
As we mentioned, parasitic infections can also cause bad smells. To prevent and fight fleas, ear mites and the most common types of internal worms, you can ask your vet for a prescription for Revolution or Advantage Multi. Both anti-parasitic products work for a variety of issues, and both of them are indicated for a regular preventative application.
- If you feel odor coming from your cat, you shouldn’t brush it off as it might be a symptom of an illness.
- The most common reason for cat odor is because of urine spots. They need immediate and adequate treatment.
- There are plenty of products on the market that will help you with cat odor.
- When it comes to litterbox hygiene, the responsibility falls on your hands.