Why Does My Cat Smell So Bad?

Cat with open mouth
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Catch a whiff of your cat's stinky breath? He may have periodontal disease or stomatitis.

We tend to think of cats as ultra-clean creatures. They’re known for meticulously bathing themselves, and they’re fussy about the state of their litterboxes. But sometimes cats, well, they stink.

If your stomach starts to rise up into your throat every time you get a whiff of your cat, there’s something wrong. Most malodorous cats have some type of health problem that your veterinarian can and should diagnose and treat. To take your cat’s personal scent from funky to fine, see if he has one of the following problems.

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Does your cat have stinky breath? He may have periodontal disease or stomatitis. By our best estimates, about 70 percent of cats 2 years or older suffer from dental disease, most likely because their teeth never get brushed. And it only gets worse with age.

Even worse is a condition called stomatitis: a severe, painful inflammation of a cat’s mouth and gums. Cats with stomatitis develop painful ulcers in the mouth, and bad breath is a common sign of the disease.

Sometimes dental disease isn’t the problem. A cat with breath that smells like urine may be in the early stages of kidney failure. Foul breath may signal digestive tract or liver disease. Bad breath can also be a sign of oral cancer.

No matter what the cause, bad breath in cats needs to be checked out. A professional cleaning, regular home care, medication or treatment for an underlying cause can help to bring his breath back to normal.

Take a whiff of your cat’s ear. If it smells yeasty or foul, especially if there is an accompanying discharge, that’s a good clue that he needs an inspection for infection or other problems.

Feline ear infections can be related to allergies, ear mites, foreign bodies stuck in the ear, skin conditions such as seborrhea, or tumors or polyps in the ear. Depending on the cause, the problem may be treatable with medication — or it may require deep cleaning or even surgery.

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