smelly cat

What to Do If Your Roommate’s Cat Smells

smelly cat

The basic ways to stop your roommate’s cat smelling really bad are

  • Finding out if the cat is sick, making its poo and pee smell awful
  • Making sure the litter box is cleaned, which will stop it being worse. Your roommate is not cleaning it.
  • Using techniques to stop the cat using pee and poop to mark it’s territory

This guide gives the full details of what to do and how to do them.


1. Looking at It from a Very Basic Level

You can take a cat out of the wild and semi-domesticate it. But you can’t remove the wild from the animal even though your roommate’s cat’s smell is making you mad.

There are only two ways left to cope with a cat’s natural instincts:

  • Use man made methods to solve the problem such as: Find a compromise: help the cat manage its natural instincts and stay healthy while cooped up in the place
  • Give it away, or hand it in at a shelter

I could never support giving away a cat without trying everything else first. Fortunately, there are simpler ways to work around the problem. I wrote this article to describe better ways to get on with a cat.


1. Figure out Whether the Cat Has a Health Issue

unwell cat

Cats are meticulous creatures dialed into detail – in fact, they spend hours every day preening, so they look their very best. They are also one of very few mammals that kick sand over their pee and poo.

If your roommate’s cat does not smell good sitting on your lap, then something is not working properly in the cat’s system. If it becomes irritable this may signal a medical condition that needs your attention.


Your Roommate’s Cat’s Breath Smells When It Cuddles Up

Well that’s not exactly a romantic moment is it? Cat food should be crunchy, so it scours the teeth clean like toothpaste. Otherwise just like human beings, plaque accumulates, causing deteriorating gums and teeth working loose. However, the actual smell may come from food stuck between its teeth, although I can’t recommend a toothpick.

  • If you give the cat balanced meals, the situation should come right on its own. If it does not, then you could take it to the vet for a professional tooth-clean. Consider following up with regular brushing with cat toothpaste on your finger. The theory is this tastes drop-dead gorgeous, and the cat queues up for more.
  • If crunchy food and periodontal treatment do not do the trick, then there’s a possibility the cat may be ill and need medical attention. This is not a situation to take lightly. That’s because the animal may have diabetes, liver disease, or an obstruction in the intestine …


Something Does Not Seem Right When You Smell the Cat

  • Cats may be cleaner than humans because they can reach spots we can’t. However, if a cat is ill, or has arthritis from aging, it could smell funky because it can’t clean properly. Regular brushing with dry shampoo may be all your roommate’s smelly cat needs.
  • However, if  the skins still smells try investigating further by passing your hands over the animal to find the source of the problem. Allergies, cancers, immune disorders, parasites, wounds going septic, and yeast infections all have characteristic odors.
  • Speak to the vet or animal shelter about this problem. You don’t want an animal suffering. Pets rely on their human carers for help, in return for which we get buckets of love.
get well soon cat


There’s a Horrid Smell Inside the Cat’s Ear

  • Ear problems can start in one or both ears. A musty smell could be due to a yeast infection caused by food or pollen allergy.
  • There could also be something stuck in the outer ear you may be able to remove.
  • However, the problem could be a bacterial infection caused by an allergy, foreign body, or a tumor.
  • Mites leave a dark material that looks like coffee grounds. This can also smell horrid but you can buy a cleansing kit..

If your roommate loves their smelly cat, tell them it needs a medical checkup. If they refuse or can’t afford to, then you may have to do something yourself.


A Tough Call – The Cat Has a Smelly Bum

If your roommate has an old cat with arthritis or other pain, then it may have difficulty cleaning itself. A few wet wipes for babies can do the trick because they should not contain harmful chemicals.

However, the smell may also come from anal glands the cat uses to send ‘cat code’ to other felines. If it gets scared or excited, then it may fire off a load of chemicals. The smell is horrid but fortunately this does not happen in healthy cats


A Cat’s Owner Is the Cat’s Medical Aid

You and your roommate are actually the cat’s parents. It expects you to feed it and care for it, just like when you were a kid.

You should seek medical assistance for the cat – and any animal under your care – just like your parents did, and maybe still do for you. If you are feeling generous register it with a cat medical aid.


2. Stop the Cat’s Litter Box Smelling

cat with litter tray

Animals poop and pee in the wild without worrying. Cats are more modest and kick sand over theirs. This may be to keep predators away. However, being fastidious creatures, I figure they can’t tolerate the smell either.

We need to delve into the science of why your roommate’s cat’s pee and poop smell so horrid. Once we understand this, I’ll share my ideas about how to make the situation somewhat better (but never ideal).


Stuff you may not want to know about cat poop

  • No poop smells particularly nice because it is waste material the body throws away. Therefore, if we feed cats food they cannot digest, it figures their business will stink more. So no titbits from the table please. Stick to decent cat foods from trusted brands
  • The cat’s digestive system will generally sort these problems out after a few days. Use the time constructively by promising never to feed it table scraps again. But you probably will if you love cats as much as I do.

Living with pets – including smelly roommates’ cats – introduces a whole new ball game in our lives. It’s actually better for some of us to never own pets. That’s because they can be higher maintenance than a lover, and that’s some.


The Bottom Line About Your Roommate’s Cat Pee

  • Pussy cats use their pee to leave ‘cat code’ messages for other felines. Therefore their pee needs to have a smell so they can find them
  • The bacterium in the pee soon decomposes and emits a horrid ammonia smell. When other chemicals join the party, it’s like keeping a skunk!

Cats know about this, of course. That’s why they flick sand over their pee. However, if we keep them cooped up in an apartment, we remove this option.

A tom cat’s testosterone spikes their pee to make it smell more ghastly. However, an old cat’s pee can smell even worse if that’s possible. That’s because their kidneys have lost their efficiency. But then even old folk have peeing problems too.


The human solution, get kitty cat a feline toilet

cat on toilet

The principle is dead simple. Put some cat litter in a plastic container with high sides so the cat can’t flick the litter into the next room when it buries its poo. Buy decent quality cat litter that absorbs the pee, and our problems should be over. But did we ask the cat if it agreed?

Cats’ litter boxes probably contained scrunched-up newspaper or wood shavings In times past. However, nowadays we use an inch (or more) of loose, absorbent granular material. This may be a derivative of clay, recycled paper pellets, or a silica-based variant.

Some suppliers add baking powder to neutralize the pee smell. Your cat is not alone in facing up to this challenge.

Cats use their front paws in a backward sweeping motion in the wild to bury their pee and poo in the sand. Hiding the smell this way helps keep them safe from predators. It can be a good idea to fill the litter box with natural dirt at first. However, this does not cloak their business as well as commercial cat litters do.


Here’s What You Do If the Cat Ignores the Litter Box

Cats are fussy creatures, and they like things just right. It follows they won’t use the litter box if it stinks of ammonia or yesterday’s poo. We’ll talk a little later about litter box maintenance. But first, there are other, deeper reasons why a cat may do its thing outside the box.

POSSIBILITY ONE: The cat has a medical problem …

cat with litter tray poop
  • Your roommate’s cat causing smells may actually have a medical problem. A urinary tract infection, or crystal, as it its pee may make is sore when it wees. Ask a veterinarian for advice.
  • If the cat associates the kitty box with this discomfort, then it will not use it, period. If it pees on your bed instead it is not having a go at you. It is desperate to release the pressure, and you may know the feeling.
  • Avoid future urinary tract infections by giving it high-quality holistic food with all the ingredients it needs. Make sure there is always adequate fresh drinking water handy. Water cleanses the kidneys by flushing out the toxins.

POSSIBILITY TWO: Your roommate has a fussy cat …

  • Cats don’t like change. Once they get used to a particular kitty litter, this becomes the trigger that starts the movement. Changing brands with different scents can start a feline revolt you definitely don’t want.
  • You wouldn’t want to use a loo in the middle of the living room, would you … cats feel the same way. Avoid a smelly roommate’s cat by putting the box somewhere quiet with a privacy cover on top. Ian – so cleverly written
  • The cat may take the hint sooner if you close it in a room at night with a clean box with fresh litter. Choose the room carefully, just in case the cat decides it only poops there in future.


Keep a clean litter box in the apartment

  • Cats may be intelligent, sensing creatures with minds of their own, but they don’t have reverse thumbs that enable them to grasp, and pick up things. However, they are superbly equipped for the wild where they can pee and poo as they go to a new place every time.
  • They can’t clean their litter box either, even if they wanted to. That’s our job as owners, carers, custodians, call it what you want.
  • Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a spare kitty box handy. Just in case the cat has a whoops moment after you gave it the wrong food or it went on a hunt.
  • Pick up the poo as soon as it dries out (or when you get home) shake off the litter, and flush the poop down the loo. Recycle any litter the cat flung out its box.
  • Change the sand as soon as it smells of ammonia. Trust me; this is never going to smell nice again. Pour it into a plastic bag and put it out with the garbage.
  • Finally, clean the tray with a moist tissue or wet wipe, and add that to the garbage. Then refill the tray with fresh litter and fit the modesty cover.
  • Your roommate’s cat with the smelly litter box will be so pleased you did all that for it. It may even wrap its tail around your legs in a sublime gesture of gratitude, although of course, it cannot speak American.  


3. Learn How and Why Cats Mark Territory with Pee

cat mark territory with pee

Your roommate’s kitty cat may snuggle up with you under the blankets, but the truth is it still close to its roots when it lived in the wild.

Cats stake their claim to their territory by leaving their scent. Therefore, to them at least it’s a natural thing to label your apartment too.

  • They may rub up against you, and your furniture to leave their mark
  • They may urinate their characteristic smell that says this place is mine

Scent is the way cats speak to each other unless they actually meet. If you have several cats and one has visited the vet, the others may put it on notice until the medical smells wear off. Cats do not like change, and this is how they may protest.



Cats’ cheeks, bodies, and paws have glands that leave a subtle scent where they rub. This includes on you, the lounge suite, and even your pillow. This tells other cats that you belong to it. However fortunately, the scent is largely undetectable to humans.



Your roommate’s cat creating a smell is not just sharpening its claws on your furniture. It is also leaving its scent there too. Don’t punish the cat for doing what comes naturally. Purchase a scratching post and encourage it to use it.



Cats pee by squatting on a horizontal surface, and we all hope that’s the litter box or in the garden. This is a natural cat thing to do, although as I mentioned it does smell of ammonia as it breaks down.

However, when cats spray urine to mark their territory, they back up to a vertical surface with a quivering tail and let go. Both males and female cats do this, and it has nothing to do with a dirty litter box.



  • Your roommate’s cat may have a medical problem like a urinary tract infection or a blockage in the system. If it tries to pee for a long time or cries out when it does then it needs urgent medical attention.
  • Your roommate’s cat is looking for a mate to party with. You could stop this by having it neutered before it is five months old. You could also try it with an older cat, although the spraying may be an embedded habit.
  • Your roommate’s cat may be causing smells in the house because it is feeling stressed. Remember, cats don’t like change in their environment. This includes their owners having babies or a new roommate moving in.
  • If you and your roommate have more one cat, then you first need to figure out which one is the guilty party.
  • You could try locking a cat in a room one at a time to see what happens. However, this may stress the innocent cat so much it sprays too.
  • You might prefer to add cat-safe fluorescent dye from a veterinarian to one cat’s food at a time, so its pee glows under ultraviolet or infrared light.
  • If neither method works, then your roommate’s cat is entertaining a gentleman caller, or you will have to ask the it  some serious questions.
  • However, it the smell turns out to be your roommate’s cat, you don’t necessarily have to throw your hands in the air in desperation.



  • Ask the veterinarian to confirm you are giving the cat holistic food that contains all the necessary ingredients to promote a healthy urinary system.
  • Cats tend to mark in the same place. Clean the soiled area thoroughly. Avoid strong-smelling materials, so it doesn’t try to mask them.
  • If the cats still keeps spraying there, then try to break the habit by blocking it off with furniture or anything else you can lay your hands on.
  • You could also try playing with your cat, or feeding it nearby. If the cats stops peeing there then perhaps it does not like the smell of ammonia either.
  • Possibly your roommate’s cat needs a program of anti-anxiety medicine while you are making these changes. Ask the vet which medicine is best.

That’s about all the advice I can give on this particular subject. If none of it works, try finding it a new home with a large garden where it can spray to its heart’s delight.

A Few Final Thoughts about Cats According to Me

cat on window sill smelling flowers

Cats are sensing creatures, and sometimes almost semi-human in the way they understand our moods. Jane Goodall commented we cannot share our lives with cats, without acknowledging they have personalities and minds and feelings too.

Having a pet is a two-way street. I have tried to share my thoughts about engaging with a cat by sensing and attending to its needs. We have to do so, because if we do not then it will drift away, leaving us the poorer while it explores new pastures.

Writer: Richard Farrell

richard ferrell writer