What's That Musky Odor Coming From My Cat?

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, explains how some cats produce anal gland secretions when excited.

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Q: My 5-year-old spayed Bengal queen is very clean by nature, and I keep her well-groomed. She has had several litters and was an excellent mother. She is affectionate but has a strong character and does not suffer fools gladly. She can be a little aggressive with her claws and teeth when she is in play mode.

My question concerns her “musky” odor. It does not come from her coat, which she grooms daily. She is strictly an indoor cat, and the odor does not emanate from her perineal or rectal areas.

I suspect it comes from the “marking” glands on the sides of her mandible, that I see her rubbing against furniture legs, wall corners, etc. — but when I put my face close to hers there is no discernable odor. This musky, feral smell is becoming noticeable in the house. Air fresheners do not dispel it; they just mingle another scent with it.

Do you have any suggestions ?

A: I do not think the scent is coming from the facial glands around her mouth and lips. As you noted, the secretion from these glands is odorless to humans. Although you do not believe that the smell is coming from her perineal or anal area, I suspect that this musky smell is, in fact, coming from her anal glands.

Cats have two small glands just inside their anus. These glands are similar to those used by skunks for defense, although they no longer serve much of a purpose for cats anymore. When cats become excited or frightened, they may suddenly release the contents of their anal glands. As a veterinarian specializing in cats, I’ve had many cats spontaneously release their anal glands in the exam room. The smell quickly permeates the room and is unpleasant, to say the least.

I’m not sure if something is triggering your cat to release her anal glands. She is a feisty cat by your own admission, and I wonder if, when she aggressively plays, she’s expressing these glands. The smell can permeate her fur and linger for a while, making her coat smell musky.

I do not know of any particular product that is designed for reducing or eliminating the smell. I do think that she should be examined by your veterinarian in case she’s one of those cats who just happen to produce an excessive amount of anal gland secretion. If that’s the case, she may need to have these glands expressed by your veterinarian on a regular basis.

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What's That Musky Odor Coming From My Cat?

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Reader Comments

lori    Ypsilanti, MI

3/3/2015 7:33:19 PM

This funky smell is given off by our cat when we're loving him up. Sometime when he's extremely relaxed he let's off that stink. It stinks but I take it as a compliment :)

Dawn    Batavia, NY

11/27/2014 7:58:22 AM

Maybe you should keep your ******* comments to yourself. I have 7 cats and am reading up on this because my daughter's cat is staying with us and I have never smelled anything so aweful coming from a healthy cat. Some of us "fat lazy people" are just concerned on a day the vet is closed. So **** you and your ******* opinions!

Melissa    Sacramento, CA

11/12/2014 7:56:50 PM

My cat has this problem, it started when a mouse invaded her cat space. She started peeing on everything and now my house and her face smell funky..what can I do the mouse is gone but the funk has remained with my cat

ron    porter, ME

8/7/2014 7:50:12 PM

I have to ask you this odor coming from your cat you say it's coming from his mouth others say it's coming from his anal its a musky odor tell me do you have clumping or scented letter in your cat's litter box if it's an indoor cat and do you leave it a few days because you realize this is standing in his own urine in teddy in a perfumed clumping litter then cleaning himself after.putting this of Roma all over himselfI, noticed the same on my cat and yes it does seem to come from his face dominantlyI got to thinking about this smell .damn close to the smell of his litter box up close

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