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How Long Does a Cat’s Scent Last? Vet-Approved Facts & Tips

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	Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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No pet owner wants the smell of their home or their clothes to be a telltale sign they own pets. Aside from litter box odors, cats typically don’t smell too much unless there is an underlying reason. Our treasured feline companions are exceptionally clean animals and experts at self-grooming, which prevents them from smelling like those stinky dogs.

If you do have a lingering cat odor, it typically only lasts until the next cleaning. If your cat is emitting an unusual odor, it is likely due to an underlying health issue that should be addressed. Keep reading to learn more about why your kitty may have a lingering odor, what you can do about it, and some extra tips on keeping your home free from pet odors.

divider-catclaw1 The 5 Potential Reasons Your Cat Has a Bad Odor

1. Digestive Problems

Your cat may be smelly if they are suffering from some sort of digestive problem. This could include diarrhea, constipation, gas, or even issues with their anal glands. There’s usually an underlying cause when cats are suffering from one or more of these clinical signs, so it’s a good idea to have your cat checked out by the veterinarian if these problems persist longer than a couple of days.

Sick cat in animal hospital
Image Credit: Kachalkina Veronika, Shutterstock
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2. Mouth Issues

Bad breath can get pretty intense and emit a very strong odor. This can be caused by advanced dental disease as a result of plaque and tartar build-up. The amount of bacteria results in a very foul-smelling odor that can only be solved by getting proper dental care.

Other oral issues could also cause odors, including mouth ulcers, growths, or lesions caused by stomatitis. The key to eliminating these odors is by having the underlying condition properly treated by a medical professional.

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3. Skin Infection or Wound

Skin infections or wounds can lead to foul smells. Skin infections often carry a smell when they are the result of the overgrowth of fungus or bacteria. There are often plenty of other telltale signs of skin infections, including red, inflamed skin, excessive grooming, a greasy coat, and hair loss in the affected area.

Wounds can emit an odor if they were to become infected and begin to drain a foul-smelling discharge. Veterinary care will be needed to properly diagnose and treat the issue at hand in both cases.

cat scratching skin
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4. Lack of Grooming or Ineffective Grooming

Your kitty may give off a bit more of an odor if they aren’t grooming as much as usual. This allows buildup on the coat that is typically taken care of with frequent cleanings. They could have also gotten into something stinky and it’s just too pungent to clean off with that tiny sandpaper tongue.

If your cat isn’t grooming as much as normal, it’s a good idea to rule out any underlying health issues that could be causing their behavior change. You can help remedy these odors by bathing your kitty in a nice-smelling cat shampoo.

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5. Ear Infection

Ear infections can be quite smelly, especially when they are related to yeast overgrowth. They can also give off an odor if the infection is bacterial in nature. You may notice a lot of head shaking and scratching of the ears if your cat comes down with an ear infection.

Set up an appointment for your veterinarian to examine your cat’s ears to figure out the culprit. Yeast infections are easily combated with antifungals, while bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics.

veterinarian examines a cat's ears with an otoscope
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3 cat divider Top 6 Tips to Keeping Your Home Free From Pet Odors

Odors are a very normal part of owning pets and while it can be a bit bothersome, there are plenty of things you can do to help keep these smells to a minimum. Whether you are cleaning up a new home that had pets at one point, or you are trying to keep your home pet odor free, here are some tips for keeping smells under control.

1. Clean & Vacuum Regularly

It can be difficult to find the time when you have a busy lifestyle, but the best way to keep your home odor free is by cleaning and vacuuming regularly. Keep up with regular dusting, wipe down counters daily, and vacuum the floors and furniture to remove any excess cat hair.

The longer surfaces sit without a thorough cleaning, the longer the odors will linger and the more difficult it will be to remove the smell.

cleaning carpet with a vacuum cleaner
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2. Clean with Natural Deodorizers

When you are needing to get the odors under control, you want cleaning agents that are not only safe but can deodorize rather than just masking the lingering scent. Baking soda is an excellent choice for odor-neutralizing.

You can sprinkle it on the carpet to help absorb odors then vacuum it up after a couple of hours. You can also use it in conjunction with hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar, which makes very powerful natural cleaning concoctions.

Lemon is also a very powerful cleaner, although cats aren’t too keen on citrus smells. There are lots of DIY recipes available online for natural deodorizers, you’ll just need to find one that works for your situation at the time.

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3. Purchase an Air Purifier

Air purifiers have many benefits, and controlling unpleasant odors is one of them. Air passes through the machine and filters out particles from the air to leave your room with the freshest, cleanest air possible.

They are highly effective against pet odors but also help relieve allergy symptoms, reduce airborne illnesses, and eliminate dirt, dust, and harmful chemicals from your indoor environment.

There are plenty of air purifiers on the market to choose from, but we recommend HEPA purifiers with an activated carbon filter for the best results.

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4. Use an Enzyme Cleaner to Clean Up Messes

Enzymatic cleaners can be found in pet stores, local department stores, or online. These cleaners are effective against cat odors because they can break down the odor at the source. They are even powerful enough to combat smells like ammonia, sulfur, and other compounds found in cat urine.

Enzymatic cleaners contain enzymes, which are needed to break down these compounds that cause the most unpleasant, lingering odors. Make sure to read the instructions and warning labels so that you are using them safely and effectively.  Keep cleaners out of reach from your cats, other pets, and any children in the home.

cleaning couch with disinfectant spray
Image Credit: AngieYeoh, Shutterstock
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5. Use a Carpet Cleaner or Spot Cleaner

Carpet cleaners and/or spot cleaners are not a bad investment for pet owners. At some point, you’ll end up having to clean up accidents or other messes that leave behind stains and odors. Full-size carpet cleaners are great for cat and dog owners that have large areas of carpet to cover and want to do a complete cleaning.

Spot cleaners are great for furniture or small areas that have been soiled. We recommended having either one or both of these on hand to help with odors because they are highly effective at stain and odor removal and are very helpful when the time comes.

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6. Remodel the Home

If you are in a home that is filled with the overwhelming stench from cats or other pets, you may need to do a remodel. If anyone living in the home has allowed the pets to use the bathroom on the floor without properly cleaning the areas, this can permanently damage the floors, especially carpets.

Depending on the severity, you may want to call in a professional cleaning service to see what can be done. In severe cases, the floors may need to be replaced and you may even want to repaint throughout the home to mask the odors that have set into the walls.

two cats looking at each other
Image Credit: Magui RF, Shutterstock

divider-catclaw1 Conclusion

Cats aren’t smelly animals by nature since they are very clean and groom themselves a lot. So, their overall scent typically doesn’t last very long. It’s usually the smell of the litter box or areas in the home where they’ve had accidents on the floor that will cause the most intense, lingering odors.

If you notice your cat is smelly, it could have gotten into something and may just need a bath. They could also be suffering from a health condition that needs to be addressed, in which case you’d need to call your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause.

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