You may wonder “why does my cat’s urine smell bad”?

A living body produces waste. Waste usually does not smell so good because it’s full of “bad things”. Carbon dioxide (breathed out) does not smell (unless your cat has oral issues which causes stinky breath). Feces (poop) smells pretty darned bad. But urine can be somewhere in between “odorless” and “really smelly”. Why? It depends on a number of factors.

Is your cat “fixed”? (neutered/spayed)

  • Cat urine contains hormones, in order to  let them send messages to other cats. These hormones (such as testosterone) add a strong smelling scent to urine. Fixed cats smell less than intact ones. Think about what “tomcat spray” smells like. It’s incredibly strong smelling! Getting your cat fixed is not only healthier for them, and reduces the number of homeless kitties out there, but it helps you out because urine smells less strong.

Dehydration (not drinking enough = concentrated urine)

  • Cats evolved in arid/dry areas of the world. They did not to drink a lot of water (because there wasn’t a lot of water to drink). Cats of today get most of the moisture that they need to survive out of their food. This isn’t a problem when cats eat raw (ex. nice juicy rodents or birds). Or when they eat wet/canned food (which is up to 80% moisture).  But when they eat a lot of dry food, they tend to get dehydrated. All the normal waste products that have to be expelled get concentrated into a urine which is not only darker in color than it should be, but also stronger smelling. Just like with people and every other living thing, cats need to drink more water. Encourage your cat to drink by offering more water bowls . Or offer bowls made from different materials (ex. stainless steel, glass, etc). Try placing them water in different areas of the house (not near the food bowl or litter boxes though). Try a using water fountain, or a dripping tap…most cats enjoy running water. How much water does your cat need? Here’s a handy chart : https://pee-off.com/cat-pee/cat-drinking-much-water/

Too much protein or a poor quality of food

  • A poor quality (cheap) cat food is made out of a lot of crummy quality ingredients. Have you heard the saying – “garbage in, garbage out”? Some high-end cat foods can have too much protein for the life stage of your cat, and she or he can be diagnosed with proteinuria (too much protein in the urine) which can also cause a foul odor in pee.  Sometimes a particular ingredient can cause a problem. Many cat foods are chicken-based…try alternating with a rabbit or fish based food now and then.

Bladder infection

  • Cats can get urinary tract infections just as people can. But unlike people they do not complain about it. Eventually, you will be able to tell when your cat is sick. A strong smelling urine is one symptom, as is noticing blood in the urine, or that your cat is yowling or meowing or fussing when they go pee. You might notice your cat licking or grooming their belly or under-parts more than usual. Sometimes they will pee places that they shouldn’t when they have an infection. It is very important to get your cat to the veterinarian right away if you notice these symptoms (more common in male cats) because the infection can quickly spread to the kidneys and become life threatening.

It’s really not the pee at all, it’s the box!

  • If you’re noticing that “P-U”, the litter box is much stinkier lately, you might think there is something wrong with your cat. But it may not be that the urine is stronger – it might be that the litter box needs a good cleaning. You should be scooping out solid and liquid waste every day (more often if you have more than one cat) but just scooping is not good enough. All the litter should be changed a minimum of once a month, but more frequently is better (whether you think it was used or not…it’s touched used potty litter, so the bacteria is growing on it). When you remove all the litter, you should also clean out the box with warm soapy water, with a few drops of bleach. Litter boxes are plastic, and they get little scratches in them with use, and in the scratches bacteria grow and thrive and part of bacteria’s life cycle is to make waste products (which make smells).