Cats aren't known for being stinky, so noticing that there's a foul smell coming from your cat can come as a surprise. If you've narrowed the smell down to one or both of your cat's ears, there could be a serious medical issue going on. Here's what you need to know about this stink and what you should do about it.

Source of Smell

If one or both of your cat's ears stink but look normal from the outside, it's highly likely that your cat has an ear infection.

When cats get ear infections, a bad smell can come from the ear because the immune system is trying to fight off the pathogen responsible for the infection. Fluid like pus can come out of your cat's ear and tends to smell unpleasant, as it's dead white blood cells mixed with the pathogen responsible for making your cat sick. Bacteria and viruses can produce foul smells, too, so that may also contribute to what you're smelling.

Types of Infection

There are two main types of infections that a cat can get in its ears: an injury-induced infection, and an illness.

Injuries to the ears are very common in cat fights. Other cats may scratch or bite the ear, introducing bacteria and dirt under the skin through the wound. Since ears also tend to be very warm, it's an unfortunately perfect place for pathogens to reproduce and multiply. Without being quickly cleaned with an antibacterial, this can quickly turn into an infection in your cat's ear.

Alternatively, an illness may have infected your cat's ears. This can be from bacteria being introduced through the bloodstream or from the sinuses, or your cat may have simply developed a secondary infection while sick. Fighting off pathogens can temporarily exhaust and weaken the immune system, allowing more bacteria to strike.

What to Do

Whether or not you see signs of an injury or pus, you should take your cat to a vet right away. Ear infections can spread to other parts of the body and will continue to make your cat sicker. Although your cat's immune system is likely trying to fight off the illness, it may not be able to do it alone.

Your veterinarian can quickly determine if your cat has an infection to the ear through a visual examination. If a wound is found, it can be cleaned and treated with antibiotics. Viral or bacterial ear infections can be treated with oral antibiotics or ear drops. With these helpful medications, your cat's immune system can beat the infection, and their ears will smell normal again soon.

Ear infections are a big problem for cats and one that demands the attention of pet parents. Don't hesitate to contact a clinic such as Cats Only Veterinary Hospital for your cat if its ears start to smell bad.