Foul Odor from the Skin in Cats

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Key takeaways

Foul odor from the skin in cats refers to a rotten or pungent odor that seems to originate from the skin. Owners may notice a smell on bedding or commonly used surfaces, or on their hands after petting the cat.

  • Skin odor is typically associated with skin diseases, such as infections
  • In some cases, infection of the anal glands or ears may cause skin odor. Diagnostics consist of a physical examination focusing on the skin, skin cytology or biopsy, and bacterial or fungal culture
  • Treatment varies depending on the underlying condition, and may involve antibiotics, allergy medications, and topical grooming products.
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A closer look: Foul Odor from the Skin in Cats


Foul odor from the skin is rare in cats.

Generally, it does not indicate an emergency and is most commonly associated with a lack of effective treatment for skin diseases.

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Possible causes


Risk factors


The main variation in the symptom is the location. Generalized malodor, emanating from every part of the skin, usually indicates bacterial or fungal dermatitis. Localized foul odor, especially from the ears or the anal glands, is associated with specific conditions such as obstipation, abscesses, and certain infections.

Testing and diagnosis


Diagnosis of foul odor involves a thorough investigation of the skin to identify the underlying cause. Diagnostics include:

  • Physical examination
  • Skin cytology
  • Skin biopsy
  • Bacterial or fungal culture

Treatment varies according to the underlying condition. Depending on the cause, treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics or antifungal medications
  • Allergy medications
  • Topical grooming products, such as shampoos and - conditioners
  • Surgical intervention or wound treatment

Similar symptoms


Sometimes the source of foul odor is something stuck in the fur. Further investigation of the skin may help identify the source, and bathing the cat may resolve symptoms. If foul odor is due to a skin condition, it does not go away after a bath.

It is sometimes difficult to localize the origin of the smell. Foul odor originating from tooth decay, fecal obstipation, and feces stuck in the fur around the anus may seem to affect the entire skin surface, despite the smell coming from a localized source.

Associated symptoms


References


Dr. Rosanna Marsalla - Writing for PetPlace
JENNA STREGOWSKI - Writing for The Spruce Pets
Jennifer Coates, DVM - Writing for PetMD
No Author - Writing for River Landings Animal Clinic
The VIN Dermatology Consultants - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Dr. Rosanna Marsalla - Writing for PetPlace
The VIN Dermatology Consultants - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner

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