Do you sense a strong, mixed odor the moment you enter your home?
Not just male cats, but female cats can give out a musky smell at some period of life.
In addition to physiological and natural reasons, some medical conditions also tend to do so.
Here we have a comprehensive account of everything you need to know about the musky smell your cat gives.
Why does your cat smell musky?
Which ones are natural, and which ones are the pathological reasons for your cat smelling musky?
Why Does My Cat Smell Musky?
There can be almost a hundred reasons for a cat to smell musky or fishy.
Some are natural, related to puberty, reproduction, age, and mating instincts.
Others are pathological. Let’s see.
1. Mouth Odor
Mouth odor or bad breath can put a serious question on your cat’s grooming!
But cat-smelling musky due to bad breath has mostly dental reasons such as:
- Plaque or tartar accumulating on the teeth
- Loose teeth
- Inflammation and separation of the gums from the underlying structures
- Oral tumors
- Formation of abnormal gum pockets and lodging of food particles there
- Bacterial infections that produce foul odors
Periodontal disease caused by plaque and tartar buildup is the most common cause of halitosis in cats.
Halitosis is an undesirable odor emanating from the oral cavity.
As soon as the cat begins to salivate, plaque-containing bacteria adhere to the recently cleaned and polished teeth.
Gingivitis and feline stomatitis are also the two most common causes of bad breath in cats.
Gingivitis is caused by gum inflammation whenever the plaque mineralizes, forming rough tartar that accumulates more plaque.
Whereas stomatitis is caused by mucous membrane irritation in the rear of the mouth.
Apart from that, some systemic diseases may also be a reason for your cat to smell musky.
For instance, cats with diabetes mellitus present with a fruity, musky smell that will worsen with the disease’s progression.
Cats with liver diseases such as liver cirrhosis and intestinal disease also report bad breath and distinctive odor.
2. Skin Odor
Cats and dogs, in fact, many animals groom themselves.
It is this grooming of their bodies that keep their skin and coat clean and odorless.
But when a cat cannot groom itself due to obesity or arthritis, you may feel that your cat smells musky.
So, the cat’s skin, coat, or fur are huge sources of noticeable smell when grooming or hygiene is compromised.
Moreover, diseases and conditions that disrupt the skin’s protective barrier are common reasons cats smell musky.
The biggest name in this list is skin infections.
Bacterial infections give a range of different odors depending upon the infectious organism.
It may even be a sweet smell. At the same time, yeast infections of the skin tend to have a musky smell.
Infections are usually the result of a wound or injury that wasn’t taken care of enough.
Sometimes your cat gets wounded from a bite of another cat, and that abscess ruptures.
You’ll probably notice a very foul odor, whenever your cat develops an abscess.
This is associated with the pus as it drains.
Moreover, it can be the result of some other disease or a medical condition such as:
- Allergies to certain foods or their specific ingredients, environmental pathogens such as pollen and dirt.
- Parasites such as fleas, ear mites, or harvest mites.
- Immune disorders affecting the skin include bullous pemphigoid, psoriasis, vasculitis, lupus erythematosus, etc.
3. Rear End Odor
Cats are domestic animals known for their fastidious grooming instincts.
Unless your cat has just come out of the litter box, you rarely can smell urine or the remains of feces on its body.
They keep themselves clean and odorless unless they are physically unable to.
It may be due to illness or deformity. And this is when the rear end of your cat smells musky.
Another case where fecal matter and urine smells gain importance is when your cat is a long-haired one.
Cats with long-haired coats cannot groom themselves that well.
They often have fecal matter and urine accumulated near the hind portion of their bodies.
This may itself be a huge source of the quite noticeable smell.
The problem gets worse when the cat develops diarrhea.
Also, urinary tract infection may ensue, and there you have another source of cat odor.
If you feel like rear-end odor is why your cat smells musky, you can help your cat stay odorless:
- Brush his long-haired coat daily
- Use wipes to clean the area around the anus
- Help your cat lose weight.
4. Anal Glands
This is probably the most disturbing conclusion of your cat smelling musky or fishy.
If you have made sure your cat carries no dental problems or skin disorders, it’s time to get its anal glands checked.
Cats have two anal glands. These are sac-like structures located just inside the rectum, and these sacs contain secretions.
These secretions are a part of the animal’s survival instincts.
Cats release these dark-colored anal secretions with pungent smells to mark their territories.
Along with urine, cats tend to spray and release these secretions on various surfaces at a certain stage.
Though with domestication, this became unnecessary, the wild instincts are still there.
Where Do These Secretions Go?
The pair of anal glands release their secretions with the stools passing through the rectum.
Secondly, when cats get extremely excited or anxious, these anal glands let their smelly liquid free.
In these two normal cases, your cat smells musky or distinctive.
When the secretions fail to release, the glands swell, and they can also get infected.
And this may lead to any of the following medical emergencies:
- Clogging and impaction of the gland tubes
- A bacterial infection may develop
- Persistent diarrhea and watery stools may fail to exert pressure on the anal glands. And this can lead to an uncomfortable condition where the secretions dangerously build up inside the sacs.
Therefore, once the anal glands cause such problems, get them expressed from a vet clinic.
The vet can diagnose properly the disease and can prescribe the right antibiotic for treatment in order to drain abscesses or empty the anal glands.
5. Reproductive Instincts In Male And Female Cats
If you have a male cat who hasn’t been neutered yet, the musky smell can most probably be him.
Your tomcat is looking for someone to mate with.
And for that, he is using his urine with specific chemicals to attract his feline partner.
The urine gives an offensive, ammonia-like, pungent smell to us humans.
And in closed spaces such as our homes, the smell gets on nerves.
But for their fellow females, probably it is something really attractive!
In fact, the anal secretions cats use to mark their territories connect with the age of puberty of cats.
What To Do?
The causes of cats smelling musky can have both physiological and pathological bases, as we have seen.
You can consult a veterinarian about that.
But for the ones related to instincts, reproduction, and mating, get your cat neutered to solve them all.
Neutered cats, i.e., those with their reproductive organs removed, give up on such instincts and behavior.
They no more tend to release their anal secretions to mark their territory.
They lose their reproductive and mating instincts and urine spraying to attract females.
Neutering can also help your pet stay on the house’s premises and wander outside a little less.
If your cat begins to smell musky or fishy, there can be many reasons for it.
It may be a normal part of its reproductive life.
It may have reached a certain age.
Or it is its breed that renders it dominant and unyielding, and he instinctively sprays urine all over the place.
Or it may be due to some medical condition or pathology that you urgently need to pay attention to.
We have compiled all the required information you may need for this. We hope it helps!
Lucy is a real-time contributor to Purrfect n’ Pawesome, along with being a freelance writer to various pet forums and platforms. She started writing professionally in the year 2016. Earlier, she enjoyed her community life as a pet rescue volunteer and offered boarding services to pet owners. Her extensive experience in the pet field is now the basis for her writing at this site.
She loves to collect animal facts from around the globe and then transform them into amazing stories for her readers. For Lucy, the mission is to bring pet love to every home and equip the pet parents with the required useful and authentic information to nurture their pet accordingly.
She lives with her two cats and a shepherd mix, whom she loves the most. Despite her extremely busy life, she spends some time with wildlife and outer space to relax her mind and enhance her observation.
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