You are here:

Cats/cat smell


QUESTION: My senior cat (she will be 17 in October) got a clean bill of health last fall. Excellent blood work. Recently I've noticed a bad smell where she sleeps on the bed, almost like a burning smell. It seems to be cumulative (gets worse as the week goes on). The cat herself does not smell bad. What could be causing this smell?


Congratulations, at 17, your cat is quite geriatric, and you must have been doing something right for her to be so long lived.  

I am not a vet, but I do have some thoughts.  Cats tend to have very oily coats. So, I am wondering if she is leaving oil behind that oxidizes and begins to smell, even if she does not!!!!!!!! I am also assuming there is no litter pan issues with her.

Have you ever given your kitty a bath?  If not, come back to me and I will give you some guidelines. You might want to try to give your cat a bath to see what, if anything, it does for the smell.  Sometimes, a geriatric cat will exude odors when they secrete oil. I am assuming the oil oxidizes to make the odor.  When cats wash, they should get rid of the excess oil and, very often the odor.

Another possibility is that the cat may not be bathing itself as thoroughly as she should which may also lead to an odor, but I would believe the cat herself would have an odor.

Other things which may have an effect might be a disease she has that causes her to leave an odor even though she seems to have none. Even though she had a clean bill of health last fall, she could be having some issues now. I would also ask the vet if they have seen this before.

If she has some diarrhea, it is possible she is leaking a bit. She would clean it off of herself, but some may remain on the bed?!?!?

Please let mw know what you find out.

Best regards...Norm.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks, Norm. She has had a bath on occasion. I went ahead and gave her one over the weekend. I hate to traumatize her since she's so old, but it went all right. She has not had any litter box or diarrhea issues. So I guess I'll wait and see if the smell comes back now that she's been washed in the tub. I never thought of oxidation of oil as a possibility.  I was hoping it wasn't a sign of disease, but I will check with the vet if I notice the smell again. Thank you!


Thank you for sending me the update.  I would be interested to know if the smell comes back or your vet has anything to say.

BTW, a really good e-mail list for feline health questions is the Fanciershealth list.  You just need to send an e-mail to

There are a couple of top notch cat vets who monitor that list plus lots of advice from cat breeders from around the world.

Best regards... Norm.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Norman Auspitz


I can answer most non-veterinary questions about cats. My particular expertise is pedigree cats, breeding and showing. However, I am versed in feline behavior, cat breeds and their characteristics, general feline husbandry, and the like.


I judged for the Canadian Cat Association from 1975 until 1982. I am currently an approved allbreed judge for the Cat Fanciers'' Association (the world''s largets cat registry), and have been judging for them since 1991. I have been breeding pedigreed cats since 1971 and have been exhibiting pedigreed cats in shows since 1970. I obtained my first pedigreed cat in 1970 and have never looked back. In 1971, I obtained my first Abyssinian which has become my primary breed. In addition, I have bred Manx and Persians. Currently, besides the Abyssinians, I am also breeding Maine Coons.

Cat Fanciers'' Association, inc. (CFA) and the Manx, Maine Coon, and Abyssinian breed councils. I am currently Abyssinian breed council secretary.

Cat Fancy Magazine, The Abyssinian Chapter in The Cat Fanciers'' Association Complete Cat Book, and Articles for various editions of The Cat Fanciers'' Association Yearbook

I received a B.S. from Drexel University in 1968, a M.Math from University of Waterloo, in 1970, a Ph.D. from University of Waterloo in 1975, and a MBA from McMaster University in 1980. I received my approved allbreed judging status in the Cat Fanciers'' Association in 1999.

Awards and Honors
We have produced a number of Cat Fanciers'' Association (CFA) National winning Abyssinian and Maine Coons. We have produced a number of Abyssinian and Maine Coon Distinguished Merit females (an award for a top producing cat), including the first Distinguished Merit Abyssinian in the red (sorrel) color. I am the CFA Abyssinian breed council secretary and belong and/or hold office in a number of cat clubs. I am also a member of the CFA Judges Association.

©2017 All rights reserved.