Smelly cat, smelly cat, it's not your fault.
August 19, 2007 11:49 AM   Subscribe

What might be the cause of my cat's new odor?

Last Monday or Tuesday night, my cat (Wampa) was outside for several hours, an activity that is not unusual for her. I let her in the house early in the morning, and then got back in bed and went to sleep. Wampa also came to bed a short while later.

A short while after that, I started to notice an odor that I couldn't quite place, but I was sleeping with the windows wide open so I imagined it was from something outside, which also isn't unusual.

A short while later I had an epiphany and recognized the odor as skunk. I was pretty sure it was skunk, but I'm familiar with skunk odor and I just wasn't 100% sure. Then I fell asleep.

Later that day when we were all awake and out of bed, and after I had not noticed the smell for a while and had forgotten about it, Wampa came to me and I realized the odor was coming from her. It was strong enough that I could smell it when she walked by, but it wasn't overwhelming. It smelled, again, kind of skunky. I presumed that she had been sprayed by one while she was outside cavorting.

But now it's been almost a week and she still smells. The smell is definitely concentrated around her face. And it just doesn't smell quite like skunk anymore. It smells more like, well, burning rubber or something that you'd smell on the highway. (Though not skunk, which you might also smell on the highway.) But I've never had a pet that was skunk-sprayed before ... does the odor change/morph over the course of a week? How long does it take to go away (sans bath)?

And, what ELSE might it be?

My cousin had a cat who would get an infection from time to time and when it flared up he smelled. But it wasn't the same smell.

Does anybody have any ideas? She is otherwise acting 100% normal. No excessive licking or any other odd behavior.

To the vet next weekend if this doesn't go away. I mean if this is just what it's like when a skunk gets ya, that's fine. It's just not quite what I imagined that would be like.
posted by iguanapolitico to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
And it just doesn't smell quite like skunk anymore.

The smell may have "funkified" by now. Assume 'Wampa' did get sprayed by 'Pepe Le Pui.'

Some suggest that you bathe your pet in tomato juice, if sprayed by a skunk. Others suggest hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and liquid detergent*.
posted by ericb at 12:07 PM on August 19, 2007

I doubt she got sprayed directly, you would really, really, really have noticed. If she just got a little bit, yeah, the smell does stick around and does change slightly.

There are also a couple of plants that smell vaguely like skunk, she might be getting into one of those (possibly regularly).

If it's at all possible, I would give her a good scrub with tomato juice and keep her inside for 12 hours/a day, then have someone who isn't accustomed to the smell give her a sniff.
posted by anaelith at 1:12 PM on August 19, 2007

Whenever I think "smelly cat", I think "infected gland". Check her for lumpiness/sores.
posted by tehloki at 2:01 PM on August 19, 2007

Growing up, the family had a (nosy) dog got sprayed directly in the face by a skunk. Big yellow stain on his face.
The smell right away, up close sort of smells like... metal. Has a very faint skunky smell. Later, after several baths in a solution of hydrogen peroxide, dish detergent and baking soda, his stink diminished. Slightly skunky, but so different than what you expect when you pass a dead skunk on the road or you get a whiff of it in the air randomly. Um, wouldn't recommend bathing the cat in peroxide, baking soda and dish detergent. That has all the makings of a pissed off cat with soap in his eyes.

The other thing is, check him for wounds. I think outdoor cat, I think cat getting into fights. You'd be surprised the amount of damage cats and other animals can do to each other as far as gouges and cuts. Infected cat wounds are going to stink to high hell.

The vet will be able to best advise one way or the other.
posted by jerseygirl at 3:39 PM on August 19, 2007

Well, it's sounding like it may have indeed been skunk. I've read awful things about skunk spray: that one will have to deodorize the whole house, etc; but it does sound like she may have just gotten a whiff of it. There are definitely lots of skunks around, so the odds of it happening aren't low.

I don't think I'll actually bathe her in anything, as she's a real horror when it comes to being manipulated. She's as sweet as can be when it's on her terms, but she doesn't even like to be picked up.

The fact that it's concentrated around her head also leads me to believe that since I can't see any wounds, she probably just bothered the skunk enough to get a tiny bit in the face.

I've just realized that it's time for her shots anyway, so I'll take her in for another opinion. :) Thanks a lot, all.
posted by iguanapolitico at 5:21 PM on August 19, 2007

It could be contact with a dead animal. Cats love that stuff.

My dog used to roll in dead squirrel mess in the yard, came in smelling faintly of skunk but somehow not skunky.

Try baby wipes or a dry shower of baking soda.
posted by cior at 7:17 PM on August 22, 2007

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