Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat, It’s Not Your Fault

Why Your Cat Smells Bad

melon madness interactive cat toy

The song “Smelly Cat” performed by Lisa Kudrow’s character from “Friends,” Phoebe Buffay, has a point. Have you ever wondered why cats and their feces can have such a foul odor sometimes? If your cat smells bad, read on.

Inspired by the recent rendition of the song performed in a duet with Lady Gaga during the “Friends” reunion special, we thought, why not look into this?

Does what you feed your cat have anything to do with why they’re smelly?

Let’s take a look at the lyrics:


Smelly cat, smelly cat

What are they feeding you?

Smelly cat, smelly cat

It’s not your fault

[Verse 1]

They won’t take you to the vet

You’re obviously not their favorite pet

Smelly cat, smelly cat

It’s not your fault

[Verse 2]

You may not be a bed of roses

You’re no friend to those with noses

I promise you before we’re done

All the world will smell as one

Of course, the song is famously vague. The listener never finds out what the cat’s owner feeds them or even the source of the smell. Is it body odor? Or was it what was left behind in the litter box?

The fact is, sometimes kitty parents have a smelly cat on their hands. Let’s look at some common causes of cat odor.

What are they feeding you?

No species’ feces are pleasant-smelling. If they’re smelling extra terrible, it could have something to do with your cat’s diet.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they can’t survive off eating plants, grains, and the like. It’s possible they ate meat contaminated with bacteria like E. coli, which causes upset stomach and — you guessed it — stinky poop.

If they are sensitive to the food you feed them, check the ingredient list and report back to your veterinarian. They may recommend an elimination diet.

Rear-end problems

Smelly cats might have simply expressed their anal glands. Just like with dogs, cats sometimes release the contents of their anal glands. This is normal and results in an overwhelming, foul fishy smell.

Another cause of stinky rear-ends is diarrhea. If you have a long-haired cat, this can get caught in the fur around their bums.

Bad Breath

cat smells bad smelly cat

Dr. Karen Moriello, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, explains in Ettinger’s Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine that one category of smelly cats is felines with halitosis (aka bad breath).

Dental disease is one of the most common causes of bad breath in cats. It’s important to get your cat’s teeth cleaned regularly and practice prevention.

You can brush your cat’s teeth at home yourself and give them chew toys. Petstages dental chews for cats are made to improve your cat’s dental health by massaging the gums and cleaning soft plaque and tartar off the teeth.

Don’t rely on cat chews alone. VCA Animal Hospitals warns:

At-home prevention is as important as regular teeth cleaning by veterinarians. In fact, unless you provide teeth cleaning for your cat at home, feline periodontal disease will progress regardless of the care provided by your veterinarian.

Prevention is the best method for keeping bad breath and dental diseases at bay.

Stinky Skin Conditions

Luckily skin disorders are not as common in cats as they are in dogs, but they do happen. Cats are notorious groomers, which might be why they don’t have as many skin problems.

Ear infections can be a source of cat odor as well. Common ear problems in cats include ear mites, inner ear infections, outer ear infections, allergies, and polyps.

Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat, It’s Not Your Fault!

For a comedic song that has made its mark on pop culture, “Smelly Cat” inspired us to learn a thing or two about feline health.

Next time your cat smells bad, take them to the veterinarian to check for any of the aforementioned conditions.