HomeCat Behaviorscent markingCat poo smell: we hate it but cats need it


Cat poo smell: we hate it but cats need it — 38 Comments

  1. As I am quite casual (lazy) when it comes to sterilizing my home (our home – my cats and I) as far as subtle odors go. I believe domestic cats have altered their habits to adjust to communal living with us, so I’m not OCD about clean up, just hygienic, and my felines love their home just fine. That’s the ultimate test for me. I can tell when they’re uncomfortable about something, and even I am uncomfortable with scented cat litter as it wreaks of what I call “laundry detergent smell”. And if that’s more repulsive to me than a wif of cat poo or pee, then it must be to them as well. My cats’ home is theirs’ too.

  2. What I wake up to every morning at 2AM is atrocious. I always announce, “You guys eat too well.” And, “How can anyone miss a great big box like this?” (I have 10 litter boxes total).
    But, that’s the way it is.
    Some cover poo; some don’t. Often there are poo tracks across the kitchen floor from one having stepped all over the uncovered.
    The smell is attractive, and I will see a cat lying or even rolling around in a box sometimes.

    • My cousin had a little dog named Dasher who would routinely roll in cow manure. We thought he was just weird, but he had a bit of a herding dog in his nature, and I guess the cows accept the dog better if he smells like a cow instead of a dog. So there was a reason, in his little brain, some instinct that was telling him to conceal his scent. Once on a long walk in the woods with Dasher tagging along I tinkled behind a tree. After I finished Dasher rolled around in my pee. I was 13 or 14 at the time and I only know it happened because I recorded that little incident in my journal.

      • Our late dad had a German Shepherd who loved to roll in cow platts every chance she got, she would come happily home from her walk wagging her tail while ponging to high Heaven lol

        • As my aunt would say of Dasher, “Then he wants you to pet him!” I don’t know what breed Dasher was– just a mutt, I suppose. German Shepherds are my favorite breed.

  3. Wow never thought I’d see a topic like this. I cant struggle with the Smell. I noticed Jasmine is much happier when I have cleaned out her Litter box. Have noticed though she doesn’t really seem to need it as much now, which is always a good thing. I just keep it for her just in case. She seems to like to hide it well. She is a very Super Confidently Kitty. She has struggled a lot as Have the other, as have people in the house now for 4 weeks Sigh. Don’t think she has really liked it which is no surprise, but I hope she will be ok when I will be moving in the nxt month or so- have found a cat friendly Home.

        • Monty loves pooping in leaves outside. Jeff put all the leaves from our back yard in big piles in the back against the fence. Monty loves using the leaf piles as a litter box. If we don’t put some leaves for him along the edge where no one walks he will go in the middle of the yard. Jeff tries to keep the yard itself clear of leaves for this reason.

          A few years ago we noticed that it looked like gnomes had raked our yard, leaving many small piles of leaves. Jeff cut the grass for the last time of the year and then the truth was revealed. Under every little pile of leaves had been a small pile of poo.

          When he was very small Monty never pooped outside, but would ask to go in to use his litter box. I would tell him, “You are an animal. Animals can poop outside.” He finally figured it out. It saves on cat litter.

          Is this weird? I love watching him do his thing out there. I’ll look out the window to check on him, and if he’s obviously getting ready to “use it” (as the kids where I used to teach would say) then I will stand and watch the entire operation, from initial sniff, to tentative digging, perching, sniffing, digging, perching again, right through to the end as he spends sometimes two or three minutes sniffing, burying and sniffing some more.

  4. I some times feel/smell my free roaming friends have the smell on their body but I never hated that. My daughter Khadija often keep a nasal mask but I have never. She also wears gloves to handle the feral colony but I never did. I just clean the poop and so do Khadija my daughter. She sometimes hate the smell of poop but maybe I have become TARZAN, I don’t care. 😉

    • You have become cat-like in your behaviour and preferences. You’re a bit like me in that respect. 😉 I can imagine that the feral cat in Pakistan could smell a little unpleasant possibly sometimes compared to the pampered and preened domestic cats in the UK. This is sad but, like you, it would not in any way put me off handing them where possible or being with them.

      • Thank you Michael <3 and I love you very much in this respect that you are a true cat lover and have spent your entire life in understanding cats. My heart goes for you as I always feel that you can understand my spiritual feeling about cats. Thank you again <3 <3 <3

        • In all my years living with, working with and volunteering with cats I’ve never worn masks or gloves, apart from assisting vets with surgery of course.
          Here I am 67 years old and in very good health, never caught anything from cats in my life, living proof that a peck of dirt hasn’t hurt me lol nor have a few bites and a few dozen scratches 😉

          • There is an argument that a bit of dirt and exposure to germs is good for us. Modern society probably values a sterile environment too highly. People should learn to be less squeamish about cat poo and pee.

  5. Not an OCD housekeeper at all. No way, Hoe-zay.

    ‘You are missing out on the pleasures of foreign saliva.’

    (Am reaching for my smelling salts here.)

    ‘I think your reaction was a tad extreme. You could have washed them twice if you liked.’

    To earn tuition for fall quarter, one summer I worked during the summer at an STD clinic at a hospital in Seattle. Did one-on-one intakes of ‘working girls’ and inmates from a local women’s prison. A few of these patients were psychopaths.

    What can I say? There are things that leave scars!

  6. Is an aversion to conventionally unappealing aromas learned or innate?

    Lawrence Sterne, the 18th century English novelist, wrote that people savor their own body aromas, and practice hygiene only because they fear rejection. But is this rejection more than a concept drummed into the public by modern-day ad-men? Napoleon wrote to Josephine: ‘I shall be home in six weeks. Do not bathe, my angel!’ In this regard, adults, according to popular opinion and scientific literature, are more or less human infants at heart.

    Examples? More than heaven has stars. Here are two.

    Thanks to its clamoring male clientele, Japan has a thriving industry in dispensing machines that eject well-worn panties. Second, the rapturous Humbert Humbert buried his schnozz in Lolita’s undergarments.

    The partial negations?

    (a) Lucretius wrote at length about women’s olfactory characteristics. (b) Another ancient writer-philosopher said that women were so noxious, the only decent alternative was intercrural sex with catamites. (Think that’s spelled right.) In the good old days, this practice wasn’t the evil the Church of Rome deserves to be punished for by its battered victims and their attorneys in quest of the Green Cure. It was universal, an honorable way for a lad to move up in the world. (c) Freud wrote that the carnal aromas make the diversion unendurable to many people.

    So opinions differ.

    As for non-carnal aromas:

    Leopold Bloom, the hero in Joyce’s novel Ulysses (underlined) snipped off a ripened crescent of toenail and sniffed it with profound satisfaction. Ten centuries ago, a heroine in Lady Murasaki’s immortal novel sprinkled her excrement with spices in fear her lover would lift the lid of her chamber pot and smell it.

    Above are several snippets from history, literature and psychoanalysis. Here are my personal ‘this doesn’t bother me in the least,’ and also my entrenched aversions.

    I have a shuddering antipathy for the word ‘poop’ – partly because it’s an infantile word, and because the extra ‘p’ at the end suggests an explosive expulsion. ‘Poo,’ however, is as close as it can be, given its meaning, to having a semblance of decorum.

    ‘Pee’ is another down-and-out word, bespeaking, to my mind, a social class that favors tattoos, body-piercings, and black velvet paintings of toreadors with swirling capes, those stab-in-the-eye abominations you see for sale, hanging from trucks parked along freeways.

    As for aromas? I like the smell of rabbit manure, and in years past scooped it up with gloved hands and dumped into a gunny sack. (A fertilizer I quit collecting, as I can no longer bear to see any caged animal.) Neither have I shrunk from sometimes touching horse and cow manure with my bare hands. Moreover, the smell of pig manure triggers a surge of tenderness in my memory, as I loved our farmyard pigs. A rat’s faintly sickroom aroma has the same effect, as I loved my pet rats.

    My two towering horrors?

    Years ago I sat in a chair at the library, and when I came home later that day and prepared to step into the shower, I noticed my trousers stank. Whoever sat in that chair before I did had terminal gangrene. My pants were new, and it hurt me to stuff them into a woodstove and light a match. But that’s what I did. From that day to present, I carry a plastic cushion with me whenever I sit on a bus – which I’ve not done in years – or in a chair at the library, the bank, the dentist, etc. Seattle and other cities, they say, are now supplying bicycles for the public to borrow as they ride to and from their commutes. Words fail. . .

    My second worst nightmare? Saliva. I cannot bear kissing a fellow human, except for a dry peck on the cheek — and cringe to have a speck of saliva on my hands from a dog or a cat.

    Years ago I had for a while – a record short while, be it known – a beau who looked like Marcello Mastroiani. He was a Veteran Administration psychiatrist, a dapper gent pleased with the figure he cut in his Burberry suits and pearly, capped teeth. But the first time he ventured to make his move, I nearly sank to the ground. He thought I had swooned away — which I had. If I’d been plugged in to a monitor, you’d have seen the line flatten. Why? OMG . . .he had end-state pyorrhea. Could I have told him this? I didn’t see how. Suffice to say a green, rotting corpse would have smelled like attar of roses compared to this maniac’s oral cavity. To this day I wonder why Oliver Mellors refused to kiss Lady Chatterley. Did she, too, have purulent gums?

    In blessed contrast to all the above, is there a cat that isn’t sweet-smelling? I’ve kissed my cats throughout the years, and all of them had a woodsy fragrance. Nor is cat urine isn’t off-putting – it’s mildly pleasant in an acrid way – or even their droppings, though the point was made, in an essay on PoC, that it must be unpleasant for a cat to have to use a soiled litter box; which is why I change Sidney’s twice a day. Sid, whom I wish someone would adopt (and I half suspect – wrongly, no doubt – that the lady will change her mind about ‘Downton’) makes it nearly impossible for me to walk anywhere. He entwines himself between my ankles and rubs his cheeks, nose and lips on my pant-legs from ankles to knees, presumably marking me as his own.

    • Is an aversion to conventionally unappealing aromas learned or innate?

      This is a good subject because for cats, smelly poo is just dandy 😉 (to quote the kid killer in the UK) but for us it is embarrassing and obnoxious. I think we have become too distanced from nature and ourselves as animals. Therefore I believe it is learned. We need to accept that we are the human-animal and get back to basics and stop pretending we are something we aren’t.

      • I get a migraine when I smell someone who took a bath in perfume. I remember on one occasion I was photographing a family and had to end the session before I liked. The woman’s perfume totally cut off my air. I couldn’t even take in a breath.

        At work we all sweat a lot in the summer when its over 100 degrees and we have to walk half an hour every 2 hours. I keep a ban of febreeze spray in vanilla and barely spray our office. It works.

    • My pants were new, and it hurt me to stuff them into a woodstove and light a match.

      Why didn’t you put them in the washing machine? 😉 I think your reaction was a tad extreme. You could have washed them twice if you like.

      My second worst nightmare? Saliva. I cannot bear kissing a fellow human, except for a dry peck on the cheek — and cringe to have a speck of saliva on my hands from a dog or a cat.

      You are missing out on the pleasures of foreign saliva 😉 Just joking but it seems you must have a completely spotless home or is it just about other people’s and animals’ bodily excretions?

      That must be hard to maintain. I think we have to get a bit dirty sometimes. Don’t get me wrong though, I like a tidy and fairly clean home myself but we shouldn’t waste our time being too house proud.

      • You should watch the TV programme Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, it shows one extreme to the other. One woman vacuums her walls and ceilings every day! Houses without one speck of dirt and others not been cleaned for years, the obsessive cleaners go to muck out the filthy ones, falling over their rubbish.
        What’s it got to do with cats you might say, well on the last one the cleaning mad man baths his cat constantly in flea shampoo and the dirty woman’s cats live in squalor with dirty dishes and litter trays.
        Cats need a happy medium, not either extreme.
        Interestingly two dogs were tested for germs on their paws and were way over the safe limit but they didn’t test the cats lol they probably wouldn’t co-operate.
        Our late mother always said ‘A peck of dirt hurts no one’ and she was right.
        Anyway I love all the smells cats make apart from tom cats urine, that really is a sickening smell but not the cats fault of course, just the irresponsible owners for not having them neutered.

        • ‘A peck of dirt hurts no one’

          As you say a happy medium which suits us and our cats is the answer. Antiseptic homes are not good for cats I believe for several reason one of which is the cat’s owner won’t like the naturalness of a cat. Antiseptic homes are unnatural.

  7. OMG you should have smelled Sealys his first 6 months after we rescued him. His poo smelled like rotting mulch. I often wondered what that poor cat had to eat to survive when he lived as a feral. You could smell it 2 rooms over and KNEW it was his!

  8. interesting subject. . .I am always worried that my cats don’t think I clean the cat box enough!! Although I do keep it clean, at least I don’t have to feel as guilty about it now. . . ♥♥♥

    • I think they don’t want it to be too clean. For a cat “cleanliness” is not scrubbing poo and pee areas with disinfectant. It is grooming themselves fastidiously.

      It is humans using their standards and ideas about cleanliness on the cat environment. I think we could be mistaken.

      I believe that the scent of their pee and poo may calm them because it makes them feel at home. Both pee and poo are used to mark territory for that reason and to provide a signal to others.

      In the wild some species of wild cat use a certain area as a toilet and don’t cover their poo.

  9. There seems to be something to the suggestion that cats are reassured by the pong of their own poo. My recently rescued Turkish Van kitten Zeki took up residence in a litter box for the first 2 days but he must feel alright now because as of today he just uses it for the intended purpose..

    • Every time you comment you provide a picture of a stunning Turkish cat 😉 love it.

      Yes, cats do retreat to their smells for comfort. That should tell us something.

      It is rather hard to pin down the argument because we don’t know exactly what is going on in the brain of a cat with respect to their attitude to the smell of their own poo and pee but one thing is for sure, they don’t relate to it like us.

  10. Interesting subject Michael.

    I’ve always understood that cats buried their waste in order to conceal their scent from predators and avoid offending more dominant cats in the neighbourhood. I’ve noticed that my cats tend to stop mid clean-up to sniff the area and then continue covering up if they think it necessary.

    One of my cats Merlin was rather lazy at burying his poo in the litter box and Sophie would always go in afterwards to finish the job properly. She was definitely the more dominant of the two, so I assumed she did it for hygiene reasons, but now I’ve read this article I’m not so sure.

    • I am questioning really. I am not sure myself. Not all cats bury their poo. A lot of wild cats don’t so the ancestor to the domestic cat didn’t. That is in the DNA. The domestic has adapted to communal or group living and the hierarchy. I just feel that the antiseptic home may be unconducive to an ideal cat environment. The human has distanced himself from nature while the cat hasn’t.

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