7 Reasons Your Cat Smells like Poop: a Vet Explains

Many pet owners who have a newly adopted kitten will discover that for something so little and cute, they can produce some rather smelly feces which goes beyond the usual odour one would expect from cat feces.

7 reasons your cat or kitten smells like poop & what to do

A clean and healthy kitten should not have a foul odor. However, kittens are still learning and they may not be as efficient at grooming themselves or burying their feces as an adult cat.  If stress or diet change make the kitten’s stool loose, more of it may end up on the kitten.

1. Making a mess in the litter tray:

Kittens need time to mature both mentally and physically to be able to use a litter box without making a mess.  In the beginning, kittens will often attempt to bury their feces and end up with some on their own paws. With age and practice, this will improve as the kitten grows up. To help your kitten in the meantime, ensure that they have a large litterbox that allows them room to move around and out of the way of their feces. Also, keep the litterbox very clean so there is less mess to step in.

2. Improper grooming:

The kitten’s mother teaches her kittens all things cat, and that includes grooming. But as with any young, it can sometimes take a little while to get the hang of things. Some kittens just aren’t as efficient at grooming yet, but this will come, in time. To keep your kitten clean and smelling nice, you can help by brushing them and cleaning off any mess with a moist warm washrag.

3. Sudden change in diet:

Kittens can be sensitive to dietary changes. Find out before adopting a kitten what it has been eating and stay with that brand in the early days. If you do want to change the type or brand of food, do so over a few days. Add a small amount of the new food to the usual diet, so say 80% regular food, 20% new food, and increase the quantity of the new food while decreasing the quantity of the old food.

4. Cow’s milk:

When a kitten weans, most of them become intolerant to lactose, which is the natural sugar in the milk. Kittens produce an enzyme in their small intestine called lactase which breaks down lactose in the milk and converts it into glucose and galactose, to produce energy. As kittens wean, the body greatly decreases or completely shuts down lactase production, as it is no longer necessary. To avoid this issue, simply do not offer your kitten dairy products.

5. Dietary indiscretion:

Kittens are curious and sometimes eat things that they shouldn’t including kitchen scraps, plants, and other random objects. These can cause gastrointestinal disturbances such as flatulence, smelly feces, and diarrhea. It is essential to keep these things out of your kitten’s reach, not only to avoid loose stool, but toxicity and illness as well.

6. Giardia:

Giardia in cats

A parasitic protozoa which may infect the small intestine affecting many mammals, Giardia can be a cause of diarrhea in a kitten. Infection occurs via the fecal-oral route, resulting from contaminated water, food, environment, fomites (inanimate objects), and direct contact with an infected animal or person. The incubation period is anywhere from 1 to 14 days.

Symptoms of giardiasis include foul-smelling feces, greasy or bloody feces, abdominal pain, and flatulence. Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe appropriate treatment to control the parasite.

7. Roundworm:


Roundworms are a common parasitic worm that can be transmitted to kittens via the mother’s milk. Other modes of infection include exposure to eggs in the environment or ingesting infected hosts (rats, mice, etc).

Roundworm symptoms include stunted growth, pot-bellied appearance, diarrhea, and roundworms in the vomit. Treatment for roundworms will be prescribed by your veterinarian and typically consists of an oral anti-parasitic medication to kill the worms.

Other Medical Conditions:

If your kitten has a foul odor of any kind that isn’t easily explained by one of the above reasons, it should be taken to a veterinarian. Abscesses, ear infections, wounds, and illnesses may all cause your kitten to not smell as it normally should.

What can I do about a kitten who smells like poop?

If your kitten smells like poop, first check his hindend area and if it is dirty, gently wipe it clean with a moist, warm washrag. Most kittens are adopted between 10 – 12 weeks, and while they are ready for their new home, they still more to learn about how to use the litter tray and groom themselves. The good news is cats are fastidiously clean and this is only a short-term issue.

If more of the kitten is covered with feces, you can give the kitten a bath in lukewarm water and an appropriate pet shampoo that is suitable for kittens.

If the kitten is displaying additional symptoms such as diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, pot-bellied appearance, failure to grow, or an unkempt coat, seek veterinary advice. Kittens are quite fragile and can dehydrate quickly.

How do you get dried poop off a cat?

Most cats will clean themselves, however, young cats may have difficulty cleaning themselves. The best way to remove dried poop from a cat is with unscented baby wipes or a damp washcloth. If the cat is seriously soiled, it may be necessary to either trim the soiled fur or bathe them. Bathing a kitten, regardless of them being dirty, is a good idea as it will teach them to accept water and bathing.



  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio

  • Dr Whittenburg, Hospital Director

    Dr. Jamie Whittenburg (DVM) is the director of Kingsgate Animal Hospital, a full service veterinary hospital in Lubbock, TX, and a medical director at Cat World. She graduated from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. Dr. Whittenburg then went on to pursue post-graduate training at Texas A&M University. She worked as an associate veterinarian in Fort Worth before the Hub City called her home. In Lubbock, Dr. Whittenburg continued her work as an associate veterinarian and in academia. On May 1st, 2013, she opened her own hospital, Kingsgate Animal Hospital, in her hometown of Lubbock, TX. She has a special interest in feline medicine and surgery.