8 Natural Ways To Reduce Unpleasant Cat Odor

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No matter how much you love cats, you probably don’t want your home to smell like one. However, it’s a fact that being a pet parent to a cat brings with it inevitable unpleasant odors like cat urine and pet hair.

So, how can you reduce the cat odor in your home? And should you be worried about your cat’s smell? Let’s find out about the natural ways to control pet odor and when the smell might indicate a problem.

Quick Overview

01

Cat odor can be due to natural pheromones or bodily fluids, but smells can also be caused by health issues like infections and bad teeth.

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If it’s not a normal cat smell, your cat might need treatment from a veterinarian before using natural methods to remove the smell.

03

Pet-safe deodorizers, proper litter box cleaning, and regular vacuuming should help to reduce cat smells around your home.

Why Do Cats Smell?

Cats smell—it’s a fact of life. However, cats shouldn’t smell unpleasant, and as long as you take a few basic measures, they shouldn’t make your home smell unpleasant either. Some cat smells are normal, but others could indicate a health issue. Read on for some of the causes of cat odor in your home.

1. Pheromones

Some very sensitive people might be able to smell feline pheromones.

Cats communicate using smells. When they scratch with their claws, rub against furniture, or knead with their paws, they release pheromones. These feline smells give other cats information about their age, health, sex, and territory. Feline pheromones are usually hard for humans to detect, but if they build up or you have a particularly sensitive sense of smell you might notice them.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Like Me But Not My Husband?

2. Cat Hair

Cat hair itself doesn’t have much of an odor, but it can harbor bacteria or yeast, which might smell unpleasant.

When dead cat hair builds up on your cat or in the environment it might lead to a smell. This is due to the presence of yeasts and bacteria and other debris on the hair.

3. Urine

Why is my cat peeing outside of the litter box

The smell of cat urine is unmistakeable—and it is especially pungent if you have an unneutered male cat.

One of the major contributors to unpleasant cat smell is cat urine odor. Whether it’s in the litter box, on the carpet or rug, or in your cat’s fur, urine smell could be the issue. If your cat is urinating outside the litter box, it can be really distressing for you as a cat owner, but it’s usually for a reason.

Cats often change their urination habits when they are stressed or unwell, so ask your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist about possible causes.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Guard Me When I Go to the Bathroom?

4. Feces

Like cat urine, cat poop has a strong, unpleasant odor.

It goes without saying that cat poop smells, so litter boxes and fecal accidents around the house could be the cause of foul smells. However, even if you clean your cat’s poop from the litter tray immediately, if they are longhaired and have feces on their tail or in their fur the smell will persist.

Also Read: How To Clean A Cat’s Butt In 6 Simple Steps

5. Dental Disease

Bad breath in cats is never normal and should be checked by a veterinarian.

If your cat has bad breath, it might make your home or the room they’re in smell bad. Many cat owners assume that it’s normal for a cat’s breath to smell, but the smell is usually due to excessive bacteria and dental disease. Other causes of smelly breath include kidney disease, tumors, and wounds in the mouth, so make sure you see a veterinarian if you think your cat’s breath is smelly.

6. Skin Infections

Untreated skin issues often come with an odor, which can spread throughout your home.

Yeast and bacteria can cause skin infections, which might lead to unpleasant smells. If your cat’s skin looks scurfy, oozy, scabby, or red, they might have a skin infection that’s causing them to smell more.

Also Read: Common Skin Problems In Cats: Causes and Treatments

7. Abscesses

An abscess is an infection under the skin that requires treatment from a vet.

If your cat has an abscess, which often occurs after altercations with other cats, you might notice a wound or swelling with a scab. The pus within this abscess will smell and could be contributing to those nasty cat smells around your home.

Also Read: How To Clean A Cat Wound

8. Anal Glands

If an unpleasant odor is coming from your cat’s rear end, anal glands might be the culprit.

You might be surprised to hear that it’s not just dogs that have anal glands—cats have them, too. It’s less common for cats to have problems with their anal glands becoming blocked or full, but when it does happen it can cause an offensive odor.

When Should You Take Your Cat To A Vet?

If your formerly odorless cat is suddenly smelling foul, seek the advice of  your vet to determine the cause.

If your cat’s smell is strong or has changed suddenly, there could be an underlying medical reason. This is especially true if they have other symptoms, like passing urine around the house, straining to urinate, dribbling, scratching, sore skin, or a reduced appetite.

If your cat is well but is choosing to toilet outside the litter box, they might be stressed, and seeking the advice of your vet or a veterinary behaviorist would be sensible.

Natural Ways To Reduce Unpleasant Cat Odor

#1 Brush Them Regularly

Brushing daily or every other day will keep hair in the house to a minimum.

Build up of dead hair is one of the common causes of unpleasant cat smell in the household. To stop the hair from being deposited around your house on your carpets and soft furnishings, try to start a grooming routine when you brush your cat regularly.

Also Read: Best Toothbrushes For Cats

#2 Keep Their Fur Short Around Their Rear End

A sanitary trim removes excess hair around a cat’s back end so it doesn’t collect pee and poop.

To stop urine and feces from clinging to your beautiful longhaired cat’s fur, try clipping the hair short around their back end (you can ask a groomer or your veterinarian to do this for you). This will keep them clean and help to reduce foul smells.

Also Read: Can You Shave A Cat?

#3 Clean Their Litter Box Regularly

Scoop the box at least once a day, and clean it and change the litter weekly.

It might not be your cat that smells, it might just be their litter box. Keeping their litter box clean and fresh is important to prevent behavior problems, but don’t overdo it. If the litter box smells strongly of cleaning chemicals or deodorizers, they might not want to use it either. Scoop the box daily at a minimum and change the litter weekly. You can also experiment with different types of cat litter to see which absorbs the smell best.

Also Read: The 6 Best Automatic Self Cleaning Litter Boxes

#4 Use A Covered Litterbox

A covered litter box is good at containing odors, but make sure your cat likes using it.

If you’re keeping your cat’s litter box clean but the smell is still bothering you, you could try a covered litter box with a cat flap door. This will help to contain the smell, but beware that not all cats like to feel so restricted when they’re going to the bathroom.

Also Read: Choosing the Right Location for Your Cat’s Litter Boxes

#5 Wash Cat Beds, Blankets, And Soft Furnishings Regularly

Wash pet blankets and other bedding regularly to help cut down on unpleasant cat odor.

The fabrics where your cat spends most of their time will become smelly due to the buildup of cat fur, pheromones, and debris. To reduce the smell, make sure you wash these fabrics regularly. Try to avoid using any detergent or fabric sprays that aren’t specifically pet-safe, as your cat might  develop allergies or irritation.

#6 Use Pet-Friendly Home Fragrances

Pet-safe deodorizers can help minimize unwanted smells in your home.

Fragrances like reed diffusers or plug-ins can be good at masking the smell of pets. However, they can sometimes irritate the airways and might contain essential oils that are harmful to cats. Unless a product says it is pet-safe, it’s not worth taking any risks, so check the label and ingredients carefully. Even if it’s nontoxic, watch out for your cat sneezing or showing signs of breathing distress.

#7 Clean Up After Any Accidents

Enzymatic pet cleaners are specially formulated to eliminate all traces of odor.

If your cat vomits or passes urine or feces on the carpet or any other home furnishings, it’s important to clean it as quickly as possible. Absorb any excess with a paper towel or an old rag, then use a pet-safe enzyme cleaner spray bottle and let it soak in.

Once the area is clean and dry, you can also sprinkle some bicarbonate (baking soda) to absorb any odors, then vacuum it afterward. Always remember to keep your cat away from any areas that you’re treating to prevent harming them.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Lick And Clean Themselves?

#8 Remove Hair

When vacuuming, concentrate on the places your cat spends the most time.

Vacuuming is a crucial part of keeping your home free from pet smells. It might seem like a full-time job, but regular vacuuming will remove pet hair from the environment and keep your home smelling fresh.

Also Read: Best Robot Vacuum Cleaners For Pet Hair

Cat Odor: Final Thoughts

happy cat

With a little effort, you can successfully reduce pet odors in your home.

It’s not always easy to keep your home smelling fresh as a daisy when you own a cat. However, as long as you regularly groom your cat, keep their litter box clean, and use the vacuum, you shouldn’t be offended by your cat’s smell. Remember, if your cat’s smell is different or unpleasant, it could be a sign of a health problem.

Also Read: How To Mask The Cat Smell In Your Home

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get rid of my cat’s pungent smell?

If your cat smells strongly, there could be a health problem like a skin infection or bad teeth, so take them for a checkup at the veterinary clinic. It's also worth increasing your home cleaning routine and dealing with any behavior problems if they're peeing around the house.

How can I make my cat smell good naturally?

Cats naturally have a smell, it’s part of how they communicate. However, ensuring that they have a good diet, keeping their fur short around their bottom, and removing dead hair by brushing might help them to smell better.

How do you make a room not smell like a cat?

Vacuuming and washing soft furnishings where the cat sits will help to remove pet hair and other sources of smells. If you decide to use air fresheners or fabric sprays, you should always check that they are not toxic to cats and use them sparingly.

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About Dr Hannah Godfrey MRCVS

Hannah graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, UK in 2011 and began work straight away at a busy mixed practice. Initially, she treated all species, but as the small animal hospital became busier, she focussed on small animals. She has a passion for soft tissue surgery as well as canine and feline dentistry, having completed additional training in both areas.

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