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Why Does My Cat Smell Like Poop? 5 Possible Reasons

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

woman covering her nose because of the smelly cat

Unlike canines notorious for their strong odors (wet dog smell, anyone?), cats are generally odor-free pets. After all, cats prioritize their appearance much more than dogs. However, if you notice your cat still smells like the litter box even when they’re nowhere near it, you might wonder why. Here are five possible reasons your cat could smell like poop.

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The 5 Reasons Why Your Cat Smells Like Poop

1. Poor Grooming Habits

While cats are usually picky about their appearance, a common cause of poop odor is poor grooming habits. Physical conditions such as arthritis and obesity can make it challenging for your cat to reach their backside and keep themselves clean.

Older cats may let their grooming slip due to dementia or other cognitive issues. Long-haired cats may be more at risk of collecting poop on their rear, but it can happen to any kitty.

What to Do About It: Talk to your veterinarian about treating physical conditions that may prevent your cat from grooming properly. Your cat may need to lose weight or take supplements to support joint or brain health. Older cats may need your help to stay clean. Consider a sanitary trim and wipe your kitty’s rear as needed to control poop odor.

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2. Litter Box Issues

Your cat may smell like poop because the litter box is dirty or doing a bad job controlling odors overall. The litter’s quality is key when it comes to keeping odors under control, and if yours isn’t up to the task, your kitty may carry the poop scent even when they leave the box.

If you slack on keeping the poop scooped, your cat could also stay stinky, especially kittens who may find playing in the litter box fun.

What to Do About It: Scoop your litter box at least once daily. Ensure you have enough litter boxes for the number of cats in the home, plus one extra. You can also change the litter to one with better odor control.

However, you’ll want to make the transition gradually so your cat can get used to the feel of the new litter. Otherwise, they may start avoiding the litter box, which is a whole other issue.

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3. Tummy Trouble

Cats can develop a variety of digestive issues that could cause them to smell like poop. For example, they may have trouble breaking down and absorbing nutrients in their food, leading to diarrhea or gassiness.

These problems could easily result in an extra-smelly kitty. Long-haired cats are also more likely to get diarrhea matted in the fur around their anus, causing the poop smell to linger. Other potential causes of digestive signs include food allergies, parasites, or sudden diet changes. Constipated cats can also smell like poop because they’re unable to rid themselves of the solid waste.

What to Do About It: Because diarrhea and other digestive signs can indicate so many issues, you must take your cat to the veterinarian to determine what’s happening. Your vet will examine your cat and may suggest various diagnostic tests. Treatment will depend on what condition your cat is ultimately diagnosed with.

sad orange tabby cat lying down and being petted by a hand
Image Credit: Alexander Andrews, Unsplash

4. Diet

Your cat’s diet could be the culprit if they smell like poop. While all commercial cat food is required to meet the same basic nutrition standards, the quality of diets can vary. Some cats may have trouble digesting certain ingredients and develop stomach problems as a result.

Other cats may have food sensitivities or allergies that could also contribute to lingering odors. Be careful about suddenly switching your cat’s diet, even if you suspect they would benefit from a change.

What to Do About It: Talk to your veterinarian about changing your cat’s diet. They may suggest a diet trial to confirm or rule out food sensitivities. Never switch your cat to a homemade diet without consulting your veterinarian. Cats can develop dangerous nutritional deficiencies if their diet isn’t properly balanced.


5. Anal Gland Issues

All cats have two small glands on either side of their anus filled with a smelly fluid. This anal gland fluid is usually described as having a “fishy” smell, but the odor changes if the glands become infected.

If your cat smells like poop, it could be related to their anal glands. Typically, the glands empty naturally as your cat poops and won’t leave a lingering odor. If you notice a strong smell but can’t find any poop to explain it, anal glands might be to blame.

What to Do About It: If your cat has an anal gland infection or abscess, you’ll need to see your veterinarian for treatment. Some cats must have their glands expressed regularly to prevent them from becoming infected again. Your cat may also need more fiber in their diet to make their feces firm enough to empty the anal glands naturally.

sick cat
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

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What Are Other Causes of Bad Smells in Cats?

In addition to their rear end, there are several other potential sources of bad odors from your cat’s body.

  • Your cat’s mouth is a common cause of foul odors. Dental disease, gingivitis, infection, and mouth tumors can all be sources of bad smells. Ask your vet about preventative care for your cat’s mouth and treatment of any medical problems.
  • Cats can also develop skin or ear infections that cause them to stink. You may notice a yeasty odor or a rotting smell if your cat has a skin abscess or ear issue. Often, you’ll see other signs like hair loss, scratching, or visible draining wounds.
  • If your cat starts to neglect their grooming, their coat may become greasy and develop an odor. Some chronic medical conditions, like kidney disease, can also give your cat’s breath a distinctive scent.

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Conclusion

If your cat smells like poop, these five possible reasons could be to blame. Because they’re so careful about personal grooming, almost any strong odor from your cat probably isn’t normal. Check your pet for clues about where the smell is coming from, and make an appointment with your veterinarian if you suspect a problem. The sooner your vet can diagnose what’s going on, the faster you can start treatment and spare your nose from the poop smell.


Featured Image Credit: Stanislaw Mikulski, Shutterstock

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