If you’ve ever noticed your cat smelling like metal or iron, then you’re not alone. It can happen for a range of reasons, and not just because your cat has been digging outside in places they shouldn’t be. If your cat has a metallic smell, it could even be a sign of a health issue.
Your automatic assumption could be that your cat is injured. After all, a metallic smell is often associated with blood. It’s pays to feel your cat for any injury or to check their mouth for bleeding.
However, blood is probably not the answer, as I discuss below in my guide to why your cat has a metallic smell.
Why does my cat smell like metal or iron? Your cat most likely smells like iron of metal due to impacted anal glands. They can become full and get a metallic smell, which other people describe as fishy too. However, this isn’t the only reason, with more listed below.
While this is the most common in both male and females, your cat’s metallic smell is not always the fault of the anal glands. Read on to find out why else your cat could be smelling like iron or metal.
I’m going to share with you all you need to know about anal glands, why else you cat could be smelling like iron and when you should be worried about the smell of metal.
Why your cat smells like metal: various reasons
Firstly though, let’s explain any other metallic smells you might be getting from your cat, whether it’s their mouth and teeth, urine, vomit, skin, or after they have been outside.
Why does my cat’s breath smell like metal?
Female and male cats can have metallic smelling breath for reasons as diverse as something they chewed on causing bleeding, dental issues, kidney issue, or an ulcer. The iron smell could also result from your cat licking their backside and the anal glands having leaked.
Many cat owners talk about their cat or kitten having a metallic smelling breathe. It can be alarming at times especially if you think your cat could be bleeding internally.
Here is more detail on those reasons why your cat’s breath has a metal smell to it.
- What have they been chewing on?If your cat has been chewing on rawhide or bone or even some toys, they could have some lacerations in their mouth. These could be bleeding. The most common places to look is on the roof of their mouth and along the gum lines.
- Rotting teeth or gum infection: This can happen to your older cat where their teeth are rotting, falling out or they have a gum infection. Again, check along their gum line and if you’re unsure then take them to the vet for a checkup.
- Teething: Sometimes, when kittens are teething their mouths smell metallic. This is fairly normal and not something to get too worried about. But keep an eye on it and if you’re at all concerned, visit the vet.
- Kidney problems: If your cat has kidney failure, a metallic smell is sometimes an indication of this.
- Ulcers: Your cat could have ulcers in their stomach, and this could be the reason for a metallic smelling breath.
- Anal glands: Yes, back to this one. Your cat could be licking his butt and the metallic smell is transferring to his mouth.
Always make sure you take your cat to the vet if you’re at all concerned about the metallic smell on their breath, particularly if it gets worse or doesn’t go away.
Why does my cat’s vomit smell like metal?
Nasty smelling vomit, and even metallic smells in the puke, can be a sign that your cat has a health problem that needs swift veterinarian advice. Sick cats can puke up vomit that smells like feces.
Alternatively, it could be that your cat has been licking themselves where the anal glands have secreted, and that’s what you can now smell in their vomit.
Why does my cat’s pee smell like metal?
Male and female cat urine can often smell like metal or iron if they have a kidney problem. The metallic smell in the pee could be blood that’s getting passed through them, which in turn could be the result of an internal injury, possibly kidneys.
Most of us are familiar with the smell of our cat’s urine especially if they do it in the house. So, when you start to notice a metallic smell coming from your cat’s urine you may need to investigate further.
An iron smell is often associated with blood. If your cat has kidney disease, they’re likely to be urinating blood. Which could be why you’re picking up a metallic smell in their pee.
The kidney’s role is to manage and balance the waste in the body (both human and animal). When your cat’s kidneys are not functioning properly toxins build up in the body, including the blood. Your cat will become ill.
Incidentally, another sign of kidney disease is an ammonia-smelling breath.
And, just in case. Make sure it’s the urine smelling and not the rear end. You know, it could be the anal glands to blame – again!
Handy Hint: If your cat is peeing in the house, here are some tips on how to get the urine smell out of your wooden floors.
Why does my cat’s skin smell like metal?
Your cat’s skin smells like metal for two reasons; either their anal glands which they use to mark territory have leaked and got into the skin and fur (they might have even rolled in another cat’s anal gland secretion), or they have blood on them which smells like iron.
Once you’ve checked your cat over for an injury, it’s most likely impacted anal glands. Book a vet’s appointment to get them possibly expressed and treated.
It’s also worth investing in one of those specially medicated cat shampoos I’ve linked to on this page. My favorite one even manages to get rid of the smell of fox poo on a cat.
Anal glands: why they make your cat smell
Your cat has a pair of small sacs that sit on either side of their anus. These glands are lined by cells and, here’s the unfortunate part; they secrete an oily substance that smells like a fish that’s been lying in the sun all day.
Other people compare the smell of a cat’s anal glands to a metallic or iron type odor. Kind of similar to how blood smells actually – which is why I recommend you always check the cat for an injury.
If all is fine and well with your cat, this metal smell is not a problem. In fact, it’s his own personal stamp by which all the other cats in town know him by.
What do anal glands do?
The main role of the anal gland is to secrete a scent that’s distinctly your cat’s own signature. This is how they mark their territory and how cats identify each other.
The anal glands produce a brown, sticky fluid which is released when the cat defecates. Next time you see your cat smelling his own poop it’s because he’s checking out the distinct smell from his anal sacs.
Have you noticed how cats are always smelling each other’s bottoms when you take your cat out for a walk in the park? I know I certainly have often thought about it! What they’re doing is picking up on each other’s scent and identifying who’s who in the park.
When to worry about the metallic smell coming from the rear end
Most of the time, your cat will naturally empty the anal sacs through pooping. But sometimes this doesn’t happen and then the smell can become a foul, metallic smell.
If you notice the following happening as well as the metallic smell you may need to express your cat’s anal sacs:
- Your cat is biting or licking the anal region (sometimes it will be fishy).
- He’s scooting on the carpet or floor.
- They’re uncomfortable, in pain or constipated.
Impacted anal glands can also be cause by obesity, food and environmental allergies or an abnormal anatomical structure of the gland. Impacted anal glands can become infected and painful.
I’ve never done this to my own cat and in truth, I would never want to. My vet has done it to our cat though, and the whole procedure lasted about 10 minutes.
Understanding anal sac disease
You may get worried when your vet tells you your little fur-baby has anal sac disease. But he’s simply referring to impacted anal glands.
This is a very common problem among many cats especially small breed cats. When the ducts are inflamed because of any of the reasons mentioned above the sacs become impacted (full and plugged).
What happens when the ducts become full?
The oily fishy smelling secretion thickens, and the sacs become swollen. Every time a cat passes feces, pressure against the plugged sacs causes a lot of pain.
When the secretion is not released, it continues to build up in the sacs. It’s more prone to bacterial infection. When this happens, an abscess can form in the sacs. If it’s not treated or it doesn’t burst, it can spread the infection through the cat’s body.
Your vet will assess the case and treat with antibiotics if necessary. They’ll also express the glands to release the build-up of the fluids. You can also learn how to express your cat’s anal glands.
Ask the vet to show you how it’s done properly.
While anal glands are most often the cause for your cat smelling like iron or metal, there are some other reasons. You may notice the smell coming from other parts of their body.
Next time you smell metal or iron odors on your cat, do a quick check over their body and mouth for signs of a visible injury. If the smell doesn’t disappear after a bath, or comes back very quickly, it’s worth checking in with your vet.
On a lighter note, if you can smell it, imagine what it’s like for cats?