No poop smells particularly pleasant, but occasionally my cat’s poop is completely unbearable. Sometimes, things are so bad that my cat’s poop stinks up the whole house! I know immediately that she’s pooped in her litter tray from an entirely different room in my home.
Indeed, stinky cat poop can be a real (and pretty disgusting) problem. Usually, cats smell better than dogs, but their poop says otherwise! So, why does my cat’s poop smell so bad? Surely I can’t be the only one with this smelly poop problem, so what is the reason for this outrageous stretch?
As it turns out, all sorts of things can cause cat poop to smell disgusting. This could be a result of something they’ve eaten, or could even indicate an underlying digestive disorder. In this article, I go through the top seven causes of smelly cat poop and tips to prevent their poop from giving off such a terrible smell.
Top 7 Reasons for Smelly Cat Poop
Your cat’s poop can tell you a lot about what is happening inside the body. Specifically, it can give us a clue about the health of their digestive tract and what they have eaten. Smelly cat poop is no different. All the causes of stinky cat poop are related to your cat’s digestive system. The top seven issues responsible are:
- Food intolerances
- Consumption of bacteria
- Side effects of medication
- Digestive disorders
- Infections of the anal glands
- Intestinal parasites
- High-protein diets
Below I talk about each of these in more detail and how they cause your cat’s poop to stink. So, let’s get to the bottom of this smelly situation and have clean, fresh-smelling homes once more.
1. Food Intolerances
Just like humans, cats can have intolerances to certain types of foods. This is where the body struggles to digest particular foods or substances in the food, resulting in foul-smelling stools and cramping.
Food intolerances could be caused by several things, including:
- Not producing enough of an enzyme that is needed for digestion
- General sensitivities to certain types of food
- Recurring and extreme stress and other psychological factors
- A symptom of irritable bowel syndrome in cats
These intolerances can cause several digestive issues and make your cat’s poop smell worse than it usually does. You might also notice other symptoms, including diarrhea or constipation. In fact, food intolerances are of the most common reasons why you might see a cat not pooping but acting normal.
All cats are completely different and so the foods that are causing their tummy upset can be anything really. The grains in cat foods might not agree with some felines, whereas others will have sensitivities to certain vitamins. However, the majority of cats with food intolerances have trouble digesting the protein found in cat food.
Food intolerances are not to be confused with food allergies. The two are similar – both cause digestive issues after eating particular foods. However, food allergies cause a direct reaction with our cats’ immune systems. While food intolerances cause nothing but a little discomfort and stinky poops, allergies can have much more severe and problematic reactions.
2. Consumption of Bacteria
The second reason for your cat having stinky poop is that there are bacteria present in their stools. For cats to have bacteria present in their feces, they must have ingested bacteria through their diet. Your cat has likely developed a bacterial infection from this, which can cause:
- Bloating and stomach discomfort
- Diarrhea or loose stools
So, where do these bacteria come from? Well, cats are predominantly carnivores and even well-fed domestic cats will still hunt prey. But these small animals can carry all kinds of bacteria. Two possible examples are salmonella and E. Coli bacteria, which are the most common cause of foodborne illnesses. If your cat eats these infected animals, the bacterial infection will be passed to them.
Depending on the type of bacteria, your cat might need a course of antibiotics. However, this is usually only the case if the food poisoning is severe and your cat has extreme symptoms. It is best to take your cat to the vet and ask for their advice on this one.
3. Medication Side Effects
Some medications that your cat is on for another illness can alter their digestive system and the body’s chemical balance as a whole. Many medications can cause changes to your cat’s bowel habits, so check the pamphlet to see if there are any associated digestive side effects.
One of the most common medications that cause foul-smelling poop in cats is antibiotics. These types of medication will disrupt the healthy bacteria in the gut while killing off the bad bacteria in the body. Until the good bacteria return to their usual numbers, your cat’s poop will likely be stinky!
If your cat’s smelly poops are because of the medication they are taking, the smell should go once they finish their course of treatment. In the meantime, try and encourage your cat to drink plenty of water and avoid eating anything that could further upset their digestive balance.
4. Digestive Disorders
Several digestive issues and gastrointestinal conditions can cause your cat’s poop to smell. These problems disrupt digestion and mean the body doesn’t absorb everything it usually does, particularly fats and starches. These are then eliminated in the feces and make their poop smell.
There are many different digestive issues your cat could be suffering from. These can generally be grouped into two categories: mal-absorption and mal-digestion. All of these can cause a range of symptoms alongside poop that smells, including:
- Bloating and gas
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Amboninal pain
- Overgrooming of the tummy
Cats will usually also experience either diarrhea or constipation. Diarrhea is obvious to spot as you’ll see wet and watery stools in the litter tray. Whereas if your cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing happens, they may well be constipated. If you notice these abnormal GI symptoms I suggest taking your cat to the vet for a checkup.
5. Anal Glands Conditions
Every cat has two anal glands in its bottom which are what cats use to help mark their territory. Every time your cat poops, these sacs produce a dark liquid which is what contains the marking scent. When these anal glands become infected or blocked it can make your cat’s poop stink. Several issues can arise in the anal glands:
- Clogged: The anal glands can get clogged so they cannot empty their fluid. This often leads to constipation and makes pooping extremely painful.
- Infection: Bacteria can enter the anal glands, causing them to become infected. When this happens, the infection must be treated immediately before it becomes an abscess.
- Abscess: Untreated infections can turn into an abscess. This is where the glands swell and fill with pus. They need to be drained before they rupture.
Smelly poop is just one sign that something could be wrong. Cats with anal gland problems will lick and bite their tail more frequently. They also often scoot their hindquarters along the floor to scratch the area and chase their tails. Swelling of the area at either side of the anus can give a further indication that something is wrong.
6. Intestinal Parasites
Parasites are little creatures that live on or in your cat and use them as a host. The most common parasites in cats are fleas which live in your cat’s coat and feed on its blood. However, cats can also contract internal parasites that live in their intestines.
There are several different types of intestinal parasites that cats can contract from various sources. The most common in cats are worms, but protozoan parasites can also enter your cat’s body. Here’s a brief overview of just a few parasites that fall within these categories:
- Roundworms: These parasites affect up to 75% of cats and are even more common in kittens. They live in the intestines and live on the food your cat eats. Each worm can grow up to 5 inches long while eggs are passed out in the stools.
- Hookworms: These worms are much smaller and hook into the wall of your cat’s intestines. From here, they feed on your cat’s blood rather than their food. Most cases are mild and if your cat has diarrhea but seems fine hookworms could be why.
- Tapeworms: Tapeworms have a long but flat shape. They imbed their heads into the membrane of the small intestine and take up nutrients from the diet as they get absorbed into the small intestine. These are usually contracted by eating infected fleas.
- Isospora: These are protozoan parasites that are usually contracted by eating infected feces or flies. They don’t usually cause problems in adult cats but can cause foul-smelling poop. In kittens, the infection can be more dangerous and cause vomiting and diarrhea.
- Giardia: This is a rare parasitic infection that only 5% of cats ever pick up. Most cats won’t show any signs of ingesting these parasites but are still infectious. Others will suffer from stinky cat poop and acute or chronic diarrhea.
- Toxoplasma: Cats are the most common host of this parasite which is usually passed through eating infected prey. Although common in cats, it rarely results in disease. It can be passed to humans, with pregnant women most at risk.
If you notice signs of parasites or eggs in your cat’s stools, symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, or know another infected cat has been nearby, speak to your vet. Treatment of these infections usually required medication from your vet to help eliminate the parasite from the body.
Parasitic infections are also highly contagious. Most intestinal parasites produce eggs that are passed in your cat’s feces. These can easily be ingested and passed back to your cat. Therefore, it is important to scoop the litter body daily and keep your home clean. For as long as these eggs remain present, reinfection is likely.
7. High-Protein Diet
Finally, stinky cat poop could be caused by a high-protein diet. This is because the more protein-rich your cat’s diet is, the fewer other nutrients that are ingesting such as fiber. These other elements are needed for healthy digestion, so eating too much protein can impair this function.
The majority of protein is found in animal products such as meat and fish. Now, cats are carnivores and so the majority of their diet should consist of protein. However, make sure you’re not only feeding your cat meat and fish. They still need a varied and balanced diet for good gastrointestinal health.
Good quality cat foods have been developed with this in mind. Using quality ingredients, the recipes will be perfectly balanced to give your cat exactly what they need. Just make sure you’re using the right cat food for your cat’s age. This ensures the nutrients they are eating match what they need for their stage of life.
Tips to Stop Cat Poop Stinking Up the House
It is all well and good knowing why your cat’s poop smells so bad. But a more important question is, “What can we do to stop it?”. I’ve had times when my cat’s poop stinks up the whole house, so I have learned several tips and tricks that help me deal with this smelly issue.
Of course, your first point of call should always be your vet. If you’re dealing with stinky cat poop, there is probably something wrong with your cat’s digestive health. Treating any underlying condition should mean your cat’s poop starts smelling slightly less pungent.
Then, make sure you keep on top of cleaning the litter box. If you scoop the litter box at least daily and clean it once per week, you’ll find that smelly cat poop becomes much less of an issue. But if you’re still struggling after this, here are some other things to try at home.
1. Use Air Fresheners
If you can’t get rid of the smelly cat poop, the next best thing is to cover up the smell with something pleasant. I like to use air fresheners rather than diffusers of scented candles. This is because the best products actually trap and eliminate the odors, rather than just masking them with an artificial fragrance. This makes them much more effective in removing horrible poop smells.
Many people ask, “Are air fresheners safe for cats?” and in many cases yes. As long as the spray you use doesn’t contain any essential oils or nasty chemicals, you should be okay. These things can be toxic to cats and could cause irritation. Never spray the air freshener directly on your cat either, and make sure to choose a fragrance that you like!
2. Change the Cat Litter
Some cat litters are much more effective at trapping and eliminating odors than others. As such, it could be worthwhile swapping to a different and more absorptive litter type. While it can be tempting to use a fragranced cat litter to cover up the smell, I’d avoid this. These artificial fragrances can deter cats from using their litter trays.
If you don’t want to change the cat litter, using a litter deodorizer is another option. This is an odor-absorbing powder that you sprinkle in your cat’s litter tray to capture unpleasant smells. You can purchase deodorizers from your local pet store or make your own at home using baking powder.
3. Upgrade the Litter Box
Changing your cat’s litter box can also drastically help you deal with stinky cat poop odors. Stainless steel cat litter boxes are particularly effective here. Unlike plastic trays, strainless steel litter boxes don’t absorb any odors. This means they won’t start to stink over time and can be used for years.
Swapping to an extra large litter box with an open top could also help. Smaller enclosed litter boxes will trap odors inside. This might sound like a good thing for you, but it makes the litter box an extremely unpleasant place for your cat so they might stop using it. Also, a litter box that displays your cat’s waste in clear sight makes it much easier to remember to clean it.
4. Purify the Air
Finally, I recommend looking at air purifiers for cat owners. These units filter the air in your home, removing everything from unpleasant odors to allergens and larger airborne particles. Look for air purifiers with true HEPA filters combined with a carbon filter for the most effective odor-eliminating powers.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Why does my cat’s poop smell so bad? As we’ve learned, it usually highlights something dodgy happening in your cat’s digestive system. Take them to the vet for a checkup so if something is wrong they can make a speedy recovery. Once they’ve recovered, their stinky cat poop should be no more!
You can further stop your cat’s poop from stinking up the whole house by practicing good litter box hygiene. Try new litters, air fresheners, and air purifiers for that extra boost of freshness in your home.