Other health problems

My Cat Smells Like Death - Bad Breath and Other Causes

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. January 31, 2019
My Cat Smells Like Death - Bad Breath and Other Causes

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When you say to yourself my cat's breath smells like death, you will need to make an important distinction. This distinction is whether you are asking if your cat smells very bad or if they smell like they are dying. While neither are positive signs for your cat's health, one is more worrying than the other. Another factor involves working out from where the smell is emanating. If your cat has bad breath, the smell coming from their mouth could have various causes. If the bad smell is coming from the other end, we will need to consider different possibilities.

If your cat smells bad, AnimalWised brings you some of the possible reasons for their foul odor. Once you work out why your cat stinks, only then can you know what to do about it.

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?
  1. My cat's breath smells really bad
  2. My cat has bad breath and is drooling
  3. My cat's butt stinks
  4. Other reasons your cat smells like death
  5. What you should do if your cat smells like death

My cat's breath smells really bad

If your cat has bad breath (otherwise known as halitosis), then it is important to distinguish the source. We also need to determine what we mean by a ‘bad’ odor. If your cat has just eaten, then their breath is going to smell like cat food. As cat food is made from meat products which is not necessarily edible for humans, the smell is often distasteful to us. This doesn't mean the cat doesn't enjoy it and we need to know this is a normal smell.

When a cat's breath smells like rotten meat, then we need to know this might be a sign of a problem. Some people feed their cats a raw food diet. If this is the case, we will need to ensure the meat we give them is fresh and not rotten. Unfortunately, if our cat's mouth smells like rotten meat, it can be a symptom of an underlying health problem. The teeth and gums of our cat are a good indicator of their overall health. If a foul smell is emanating from their mouth, the problem might be one of the following:

  • Periodontal disease: if your cat has a fishy smell coming from their mouth, then it is possible they have a dental problem. Periodontal disease, otherwise known as gum disease, is “the most common oral disease in cats”[1]. The acuity of the disease is variable. In early stages, you may see gingivitis which will present as reddened and inflamed gums. If the problem is not resolved, periodontitis can occur. This can lead to receding gums and even the loss of teeth. Halitosis is a possible symptom of gum disease.
  • Faucitis: the cause of gingivitis is often due to a bacterial infection. This bacteria can also extend to other parts of the mouth resulting in faucitis. Faucitis is “characterized by vesicular, ulcerative, and later, proliferative lesions in the mucosa”[2]. Halitosis is often an accompanying symptom. Treatment will depend on the cause of the faucitis, which could be a viral or bacterial infection, requiring the use of antibiotics.
  • Feline coronavirus (FCoV): this is a viral infection which leads to the cat becoming immunodeficient. This means they are less able to fight off disease and can become very weak. Accompanying symptoms include fever, loss of appetite and lethargy, but you can also look at their gums. If you look at the mucous membranes in their mouth, you will see your cat has red gums and bad breath. There is not cure for feline coronavirus, but you can treat the symptoms and do things to bolster their immune system. Prevention is possible by carrying out an appropriate vaccination schedule.
  • Feline calicivirus (FCV): this is another viral infection which has gingivitis and halitosis as symptoms. Its severity will depend on the type of pathogen which causes it as some are more aggressive than others.
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV): sometimes known as feline HIV/AIDS, this is a virus which is also prevented via vaccination. The symptoms of this disease are various, but they are not always obvious to begin with. The cat may be asymptomatic for a long time and you don't recognize the symptoms. Smelling bad breath from your cat's mouth might be the first sign of the problem.

If your cat smells like death, then it is possible you will worry your cat is doing to die. As you can see from some of these conditions mentioned in this article, some are life threatening. If you see your cat has bad breath, then it is always important to determine the cause. Go to the vet to achieve a diagnosis and they will suggest the right course of treatment.

My cat has bad breath and is drooling

Many of the above conditions involve the cat having a repressed immune system. This means their entire body is suffering and their mouth is showing the symptoms. You will need to look at concurrent symptoms to know what might be the cause. If you see your cat is drooling as well as having bad breath, it is usually a sign the problem is advancing. Immunodeficient cats are also more likely to get other diseases such as cancer. This is why it is important to take your cat to the vet if you notice their breath starts to smell for seemingly no reason.

If you take your cat to the vet because of bad breath, you may also see some lesions in their mouth. Lesions or ulcers are often concurrent problems in cats. A study from 2016 reviewed some of the various infectious diseases which can lead to oral lesions (and also bad breath). As well as some of the above diseases, they also found that “[other] immune-mediated disorders, eosinophilic granuloma complex, gastrointestinal system disorders, diabetes mellitus, hepatic disorders and chronic renal failure”[3] are all related to these mouth problems.

My Cat Smells Like Death - Bad Breath and Other Causes - My cat has bad breath and is drooling

My cat's butt stinks

While gastrointestinal issues can lead to foul smells coming from a cat's mouth, it is also possible there are other places they smell. However, this may not be the only reason for a bad odor coming form their rear. Gastrointestinal issues can lead to defecation problems, the most common of which is diarrhea. However, diarrhea and its associated terrible smell is also a symptom of many other health problems.

While foul smelling stool is one of the reasons your cat's rear, it is not the only one. Here are some possible causes of why your cat's butt smells:

  • Internal parasites: when a cat eats something they shouldn't, interacts with infected cats or even ingests stool, they run the risk of ingesting parasites. During a parasitical infestation, the parasites can drain nutrients from the cat's food which results in malnutrition. In turn this causes malabsorption resulting in diarrhea. In a 2013 study, it was shown that diarrhea was the most common symptom to alert owners of an endoparasite with 70.2% of all cats indicating diarrhea as the reason for submission[4].
  • Stress: while we may think our cats have little else to worry about other than where their next nap will take place, there are many things which can cause them stress. Foul smelling stool and flatulence are both symptoms of stress in cats, so your cat's rear smelling like death could be associated with environmental stress problems. Not only that, but if your cat has a condition such as feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1), then stress can cause a flare up, resulting in diarrhea as a symptom[5].
  • Anal glands: foul smelling stool is not the only reason a cat might have a smelly rear end. Cats have anal glands which are used for marking territory and recognizing other cats. They can be emptied spontaneously, especially during times of stress. They can also become infected or blocked due to hygiene or infection reasons. The resulting smell can be very pungent and can lead us to worry about our cat. The vet can express these glands or treat any of the underlying cause, although it is also possible to express them at home.

Other reasons your cat smells like death

It may not be that your cat has bad breath or a problem with their rear end. It could be that your cat has a general bad odor. As cats are very hygienic animals, this still indicates a problem. If your cat stops grooming themselves to the point they smell bad, then it is a sure sign of a problem. It is also possible there could be other external factors causing malodorousness in your cat. They include:

  • Depression: while it is possible depression is concurrent with stress, there are not exactly the same. Cats are not as psychologically sophisticated as humans, but they can still exhibit depressed behavior. This may result in stopping grooming and, eventually, foul smells. Their depression may also be the result of a physical ailment which has it as a symptom.
  • Obesity: when cats become too fat, they cannot reach certain areas of their body for cleaning. There also may be related gastrointestinal issues with obesity which add to foul odor.
  • Foreign substance: perhaps one of the most obvious reasons for a cat smelling bad is that they have something bad smelling on their coat. Cats often roll over on the ground. While they are usually careful not to do this on something they shouldn't, accidents happen. It is also possible something foul smelling has landed on their coat. If this substance is unpalatable, it may result in your cat from stopping to groom.

What you should do if your cat smells like death

If your cat smells very bad, it is important to work out the reason. As you can see the possible reasons for your cat smelling like death are various. There are many symptoms which are related and which can present for more than one cause. This is why it is so important you take your cat to the vet to achieve an appropriate diagnosis. The resultant treatment will be according to the cause.

With parasites causing bad smells in your cat, the vet will get rid of them with antiparasitical medication, whether internal or external. If there is an infection, then antibiotics will likely be used.

If your cat is smelling due to obesity or even diabetes, then lifestyle changes may be required. They will need a change in diet and you will need to find ways to encourage exercise. When a cat stops grooming, you can encourage them with different products such as malt paste. However, it is important you know the reason why they aren't grooming beforehand.

Bathing your cat is an option if you are sure the smell is coming from an external source. Cats will generally not need a bath unless they have become particularly dirty for whatever reason. If you have never done it before, we can help by providing some information on how to bathe your cat for the first time or watching the video below.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Smells Like Death - Bad Breath and Other Causes, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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Hot Bot
I always think my cat smells bad, but my friend says she is fine. I'm going to check these other symptoms to make sure. Thabk you!
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My Cat Smells Like Death - Bad Breath and Other Causes