Why do My Cat’s Stools Smell so Bad?

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While stools do not normally have a pleasant smell, sometimes stools or feces can smell extremely strong and putrid. The cause for foul smelling stools in cats or humans can be very similar. It can be the food eaten, the bacteria in the colon1, and on occasion serious health problems. Additionally diarrhea and the presence of excess gas can cause bad odors.

Many feline disorders are accompanied by diarrhea and foul smelling stools. In most cases, fortunately, the condition will be temporary, either self-resolving or readily remedied with a change of diet2. “In some instances, however,” according to Tom Ewing, of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, “diarrhea can be a manifestation of a deeply rooted, possibly life-threatening condition.”

What causes smelly stool in cats?
In kittens, foul fecal odors are often associated with the introduction of new foods or with inflammation from parasites. In most cases, any fecal abnormality in an adult cat—if not clearly attributable to a dietary problem—is likely to be directly associated with the gastrointestinal tract and will most often be the result of an inflammatory or infectious disease or even cancer2. Your veterinarian will help you find the cause so appropriate treatment can be undertaken.

  • Diet as a cause of smelly stool in cats: Since people often vary their cats’ diet, it is sometimes difficult to determine what food ingredient is the offending agent. Sometimes an elimination diet (avoiding one ingredient at a time for a week or so), may help you narrow down the cause. Some cats are hunters and their prey can also cause smelly stools. Imagine your cat eating bugs, rodents and small reptiles and the smell may not be such a mystery—yummy! Surprisingly, vitamin supplements can also produce smelly stools. There are very few reasons to use vitamin and mineral supplementation in cats and today’s cat foods are well balanced so pet parents are more likely to cause problems by supplementing cat food. [Editor’s Note: Never add any sort of vitamin supplement to your cat’s food without talking to your veterinarian.]
  • Bacteria as a cause of smelly stool in cats: Infectious enteritis may allow bacteria like E.coli or Samlonella to set up housekeeping. These organisms, as well as some viruses, can cause inflammation and result in diarrhea and gas that can be very foul smelling
  • Parasites as a cause of smelly stool in cats: Some intestinal parasites of cats cause diarrhea and gas. In particular, Giardia can produce chronic, foul smelling feces with or without diarrhea. Coccidia and Trichomonas are also parasites that can cause intestinal inflammation, diarrhea and odor.
  • Digestive disorders as a cause of smelly stool in cats: Conditions like mal-digestion and mal-absorption often result in rancid smelling stools. This can be associated with undigested and unabsorbed fats and starches.

Diagnosing the cause of smelly stools
Diagnostics will probably begin with blood tests and a fecal test to check for parasites. Depending on the cat’s age, the duration of the problem and other clinical signs, more tests may be necessary to evaluate digestion, the possibility of retrovirus infections—such as FIV and FeLV—and the possibility of hormonal abnormalities like excess thyroid production.

In most cases smelly stools of a few days duration in an otherwise healthy cat are not serious, but if diarrhea and foul odors persist or are accompanied by listlessness, blood in stools, vomiting or diarrhea, it could be an emergency. Consult your veterinarian at once. Do not try to treat without a veterinarian’s supervision.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


1. Kahn, April. "What Causes Foul Smelling Stool? 6 Possible Conditions." Foul Smelling Stools: Causes, Signs, & Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2014.

2. Ewing, Tom. "Diarrhea." College of Veterinary Medicine - Cornell University. N.p., 30 Aug. 2010. 2014.

Reviewed on:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

But why does my cat smell like poop?

Well, for starters, maybe it’s not the cat that’s producing the nasty odor. Chances are it’s something as simple as a change of diet, dirty litter, or a stressful environment.

Change of diet

Feline creatures, especially indoor cats, have different nutritional needs than humans. As such, they need lots of meat, fats, oils, Vitamin A, and most importantly – taurine. Furthermore, their stomachs are quite sensitive. A sudden change of diet could cause gases, flatulence, diarrhea, and unpleasant smells.

Feeding your furball with high quality cat food is important for its well-being, so don’t ever opt for cheaper choices and don’t make any drastic changes between the types of food you’re serving to your pet…and if you do, take it slow!

Dirty litter

Maintaining the litter box is just as essential as maintaining your cat’s well-balanced diet.

This means cleaning up after your kitten and refilling its litter. That’s probably the last thing you want to do after a long day at work, but if you start neglecting it, your home will start smelling like poop pretty soon.

Many low-quality litter granules can’t absorb the odor and excrement properly and if they get stuck to your kitty’s paws and fur, this will most definitely result in your cat smelling like poop. Fortunately, there are automatic self-cleaning litters. But if you can’t spend a small fortune on one of them, just opt for high quality litter granules.

Dirty cat

Even though cats constantly clean themselves, sometimes poo, especially runny poo, may get stuck on their fur around the rear area. If you happen to own a long-hair breed like the Persian or the Maine Coon, there’s a big chance the fur will attract nasty particles.

If your cat smells like poop, check the fur around its bottom for any pee or poo stains. You may need to trim it regularly in order to avoid such issues in the future.

Cats that are allowed to roam outside are less hygienic than indoor cats. Thus, it might have caught a feral cat’s smell or could have rolled in something nasty outside. If you’re allowing your pet to roam in the yard, make sure you treat it for fleas and parasites, use cat wipes, and bathe it regularly.

Infected anal glands

Felines are prone to developing a variety of issues with their anal glands. The glands are located near their bottom underneath their skin and they may get infected, start leaking, or even develop an abscess. In this case, you’ll need to immediately take your cat for a thorough check-up at the vet’s office.

If your kitty is scooting on the floor, has trouble with doing its business, and is constantly licking or even biting the area around its rear end, it’s probably suffering from anal gland infection or inflammation. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics or, if needed, even empty the glands.

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Many feline health conditions may manifest themselves in diarrhea—the abnormally frequent passage of watery, sometimes oddly colored (gray or yellow), and uncharacteristically foul smelling stools. In most cases, fortunately, the condition will be short-lived, either self-resolving or readily remedied with a change of diet. In some instances, however, diarrhea can be a manifestation of a deeply rooted, possibly life-threatening condition.

A wide range of afflictions can cause fecal matter to move through a cat’s intestinal tract too rapidly. This results in the insufficient absorption of nutrients, water, and chemicals called electrolytes—substances such as potassium that regulate the flow of water molecules and electrical charges across cell membranes. When this occurs, the animal’s bowel movements may be frequent and perhaps uncontrollable, and its evacuated fecal matter will be soft, watery, and possibly streaked with mucus or blood.

The condition may be of brief duration, readily treatable, and ultimately harmless. An abrupt change in diet, for example, may cause a cat to experience diarrhea for a few days, says Richard Goldstein, DVM, an associate professor of small animal medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Likewise, a stressful situation—a long automobile trip or a weekend stay at a veterinary clinic—may produce a brief episode of loose bowels. Kittens may be at elevated risk as their digestive systems adjust to the introduction of solid food.

In most cases, any abnormality in defecation in an adult cat—if not clearly attributable to a dietary problem—is likely to be directly associated with the gastrointestinal tract and will most often be attributable to an inflammatory, infectious, or neoplastic disorder, says Dr. Goldstein. But extended or recurrent bouts of diarrhea may also indicate a serious underlying condition whose sources are external to the intestinal tract, such as a hyperactive thyroid gland, a disease of the kidney or liver, a neurologic abnormality, a viral infection, an immune system abnormality, feline distemper (panleukopenia), or lymphoma, a tumor that develops in an animal’s lymph nodes.

Diagnosing an excretory system disorder and identifying the specific cause, he adds, will depend largely on the specific cat’s age and the intensity of the clinical signs. “There’s usually nothing to worry about if a cat has diarrhea for a day or two,” says Dr. Goldstein, “especially if it is eating, drinking, and behaving normally. But if the diarrhea persists for longer than a day or two and the cat is also showing systemic signs, such as poor appetite, lethargy, or vomiting, you could have a medical emergency on your hands. You’d be wise to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.”

Dr. Goldstein urges owners to avoid trying to relieve any excretory system disorders without the advice of a veterinarian. “In many cases,” he says, “putting a cat on a bland diet may help some conditions, but I wouldn’t make any drastic diet change without talking to a veterinarian.”

He points out that there are many medications and other therapies available that may effectively relieve feline diarrhea. “It’s most important, though, for a veterinarian to examine an affected animal as soon as the clinical signs are noticed,” he advises. “Above all, don’t just go ahead and try to solve the problem by giving your cat a human medication as some over the counter medications can be harmful to cats.”

It’s neither diet nor parasites, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Our adorable feline companions never fail to make us smile, but those smiles can quickly turn into frowns at the thought of cleaning their litter box. And even the most technologically-advanced litter box still can’t hide the odor emanating from fresh cat poop.

But why does the excrement from cats boast a higher stink factor than that from dogs or other animals? Some people have attributed it to diet, digestive disorders, or the presence of parasites. But now a daring research group from Iwate University has busted those myths, identifying exactly what it is within cat feces as that culprits that contribute to their legendary odor.

▼ These respectable scientists sacrificed their noses and sanity
to enlighten humankind.

Their results have been published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology. One of the group’s researchers, Associate Professor Masao Miyazaki, concluded that their breakthrough findings will lead to further development of technologies aimed at reducing feline poop odor.

▼ Odorless cat crap may become a reality someday.

So what exactly did they find? The answer is simple: sulfur compounds. Anyone who’s ever been to a natural outdoor hot spring in Japan can attest to the rotten-egg smell sulfur can produce.

The research group found an abundance of sulfur compounds in male cats practicing territorial marking, and also that the same sulfur compounds were noticeably absent from dog feces.

These volatile sulfur-containing compounds radiate out from fresh poop, causing us to wrinkle our noses and regret our life’s choices. But here’s the kicker: they become a lot more stable when bound to metal ions.

▼ So does that mean the unpleasant compounds can be
confined in poop and never reach our noses if it’s bounded somehow?

Technically, yes. It sounds deceptively easy, but developing technology to take advantage of the group’s findings will require a great deal more research, and that’s only half of the equation. Other components like butyric acid and propionic acid also contribute to the odor, which while allowing cats to differentiate between individuals, also make our quest to eliminate them all the more difficult.

Now we know there’s nothing wrong with cats when they have smelly excrement. They just naturally stink a whole lot, which on an evolutionary level might have been due to their noses being far less sensitive compared to dogs.

So unless people start teaching cats to use human toilets and flush the nasty things down to oblivion, smelly kitty poop will be lingering for a little longer.

Chronic, or long-lasting, illness can cause your cat to stop or drastically reduce his grooming frequency. This leads to a general decline in the hair coat. Greasy fur, mats, excess dandruff, and odor (especially from the rear end) will all begin to occur. If you notice that your cat's rear end odor seems to be accompanied by a decrease in grooming (especially if he is older), make an appointment to take your cat to the veterinarian.

There are several possible causes for an increased odor from your cat's rear end. The above list may help you narrow them down so you can help. Your cat doesn't enjoy the odor either.

Watch the video: 5 Remedies for Cat Diarrhea

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