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Why Does My Cat’s Pee Smell So Strong All of a Sudden? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Lorre Luther

Last Updated on May 17, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

man cleaning smelly litter box

Why Does My Cat’s Pee Smell So Strong All of a Sudden? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

VET APPROVED

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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While cat urine generally isn’t known for smelling great, it’s often a sign to be concerned about when the smell suddenly changes and becomes stronger, as it can indicate that something may be going on.

Conditions that can commonly cause stinky urine include urinary tract infections and diabetes. Urine that is more concentrated, or older and decomposing, will also reek more than normal. A veterinarian should always evaluate cats if their urine suddenly starts to stink, particularly if they’re also showing any signs of illness, such as suddenly peeing outside of the litter box, hiding, withdrawing, or eating more or less.

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What Causes Urinary Tract Infections in Cats?

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, can cause an increase and change in the smell of a cat’s urine. UTIs are usually caused by a bacterial infection, and are not as common in cats as they are in some other animals.

Other signs of a UTI, which are similar to other causes of urinary tract disease, include frequent trips to the litter box, straining to urinate, only passing small amounts of urine, bloody urine and discomfort. If you see any signs that your cat is having difficulty passing urine, then you must take them to your vet immediately. Male cats (and rarely females) can suffer from a blocked bladder, when they are unable to pee, and this is life threatening.

Diagnosis usually involves urine testing to identify the precise cause and ruling out other conditions with similar signs. UTIs are commonly treated with antibiotics, increasing water intake and anti-inflammatory pain medication may be prescribed.

a siamese cat getting examined by a vet at the clinic
Image Credit: Sergey Nivens, Shutterstock

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which a cat’s body has difficulty making or using insulin, a hormone that keeps blood sugar levels balanced. Insulin is required for the transport of the glucose (sugar) in the blood, to the cells of the body where it is needed for energy. When cats have diabetes, their cells can’t get hold of the glucose in the bloodstream, which leads to high blood sugar levels.

Cats can have type I or type II diabetes. Type II diabetes is far more common in cats than Type I. Cats with Type II diabetes are unable to respond to the available insulin adequately (insulin resistance), and they may also have a reduction in the amount of insulin being produced.

A strong fruity or sweet urine smell can be one of the indicators of feline diabetes, it is usually coupled with other signs that may be more obvious. These include drinking more than usual, excessive urination, normal to increased appetite, and weight loss. The diagnosis usually requires blood and urine tests to narrow things down, and the treatment usually involves long term injectable insulin therapy.

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The Importance of Hydration

Proper hydration is essential for cats’ overall health; it’s just as important as ensuring they have access to high-quality food. A stronger ammonia smell from fresh urine may signal more concentrated urine. A lack of fluid intake can be a predisposing factor in the development of feline urinary tract disease, including UTIs. Cats with diabetes (especially uncontrolled) urinate a lot and so need to drink a lot more water to compensate and prevent them from becoming dehydrated.

Providing cats with fountains and giving them more wet food are two ways to boost their water intake.

Fountains

Cute cat drinking from water dispenser or water fountain
Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

Many cats naturally prefer to drink running water, much like they would if left to their own devices. A cat fountain may encourage your feline to drink more. As an added bonus, most include filters that help keep the water fresh as it circulates; remember that they generally need to be changed pretty frequently.

Fountains are available in several materials: ceramic, plastic, and stainless steel. Some models feature multiple tiers and pools to give cats several ways to drink.

Wet Food

cat eating wet tuna food
Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

Increasing the amount of wet food in a cat’s diet is a simple way to boost their water intake. Wet food contains a high percentage of water; it’s often the first ingredient listed on the label of pates and choices with sauces and gravies.

While there are always exceptions, cats usually love wet food. Make sure to follow the feeding instructions on the package to ensure your cat gets the right amount to eat since dry food tends to contain more calories per ounce than wet food.

Bowl Set Up

You can take a few steps to create a pleasant drinking environment for cats, which may increase their interest in hanging out and drinking more. Cats dislike having their water bowls placed close to their litter boxes or food sources, and many prefer not to drink from receptacles made of materials that retain odors over time, such as plastic.

Stainless steel and ceramic models don’t harbor bacteria if properly cleaned and can be thrown in the dishwasher. Washing the water bowl daily will keep bacteria and smells away.

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FAQ

Which cat pee smells the worst?

All cat urine will have some degree of smell, but male cats that have not been castrated are well known for having particularly pungent urine which is related to the hormones they eliminate when they pee. Older cats may also have smellier urine which can be a result of a loss of kidney function. Finally stale, old urine smells particularly strong as it decomposes over time.

How to remove the smell of cat urine?

As cat pee smells worse the longer it sits, clean the litter box regularly and clean up any urine elsewhere as quickly as possible. Enzyme based cleaners help get rid of the smell, but avoid any cleaning products that contain ammonia as if a cat smells it they may be more inclined to urinate in the same place again.

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Conclusion

All cat urine smells to some degree but a significant change or increase in smell may indicate a health problem, and should be assessed by a veterinarian. Conditions that may alter the odor of urine include diabetes and urinary tract infections, and more concentrated urine will have a stronger smell.

As well as appropriate diagnosis and treatment from a veterinarian, having access to fresh water and encouraging cats to increase their intake, is vital for those suffering from many of the conditions that are related to stinky urine.


Featured Image Credit: xamnesiacx84, Shutterstock

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