It can be hard to be around someone who smells like cat pee. The odor can be pungent and impossible to ignore. This may be a family member, a friend, or someone you work with. You aren’t doing them any favors by remaining quiet about it!
Speak up and tell them so they can do something about it. The longer you let it drag out the more it is going to adversely affect you and others around that individual.
Don’t try to ignore the smell or you will be frustrated yourself. Don’t hope it will go away or that someone else will address the issue. Never engage in bullying behaviors or make fun of them with others.
Be the person who sets a great example by stepping up and helping the person identify the problem.
The reason a person can have offensive odor might be because they have multiple cats but it can also be a health-related issue. Either way, be direct with them but nicely. Offer to help them make changes and find a solution too.
If a person has cats, say: “How many cats do you have? I smell cat urine and have concerns you may have too many”. If you know the person doesn’t have cats, say: “Is it possible you have a health issue that needs to be addressed as I smell cat urine when you are around.”
Is It a Cat or Health Issue?
When the person is a friend or family member, you have a better understanding of their environment. They may have too many cats for them to control the odor. It has just gotten out of control and now they feel overwhelmed by it. They may become oblivious to how they smell too until you point it out.
When it is a co-worker or someone you don’t know well, you may not have any idea if they have cats or not. You may need to open up the conversation with that. Ask them if they have any cats in their home. If they say yes inquire about how many. You can continue to share that they smell bad once you confirm they do have cats.
If you know the person doesn’t have cats or they tell you they don’t, the issue is likely medical related. This can be a sensitive subject to bring up with someone you don’t know well. Perhaps they know they have underlying medical conditions and they are pursuing treatment for it.
Respect their privacy if they don’t want to divulge details to you about it. For others, the smell of cat pee from their body may be a symptom of a problem they haven’t addressed yet. Your concerns shared with them can motivate them to schedule a medical appointment.
When the smell is health-related, the person may not produce enough Trimethylamine. In other situations, they may produce too much of it. When they sweat it may come out through their pores and that gives up a smell similar to cat pee. Some individuals have a genetic disorder called 3-Methylcrotonylglycinuria. The body isn’t able to break down proteins correctly.
Address the Topic Privately
Be compassionate when you talk to someone about smelling like a cat. You should address this with them in private. Never do it in a public place or with other people around. They may become upset or cry because of what you share with them.
Be ready for a mixture of emotions. Some individuals will get defensive and others will be embarrassed by it. Do all you can to convey to them you aren’t judging them and you do want to help.
Try to address the issue at a time and location when they will have time to process what you share. Try to allocate time for a discussion. Some individuals will share information about what is going on and others won’t.
Be respectful of it and don’t push too hard if they don’t want to give you details of the situation. If it is someone you work with, ask if you can talk to them after work. Try to avoid discussing it with them on the job.
If you are their supervisor, you may have to bring it up behind closed doors on-site. This is because your relationship is on a different level than just being co-workers. The problem may be offending other employees. It may create unsanitary conditions depending on the type of job they do. It is never fun to talk to employees about such issues but they have to be addressed.
If you fear the person will be mad or act violently when you tell them they have a bad odor, you may be hesitant to share anything with them. Never put yourself in a situation where that could happen. An anonymous note that shares your concerns with them may be best if you feel they may retaliate in some way.
If you aren’t sure how they will react, consider telling them in a public location where there will be other people around. For example, at a park where you can have some privacy to talk but you won’t be isolated from others. Listen to your gut and go with a level of comfort that fits the situation, the known behavior of that person, and your relationship with them.
Practice what you will say to someone when you tell a person smells unpleasant. Your tone, your word choice, and your body language are going to influence how they react to the information. While you want to ease into it and do this privately, don’t beat around the bush. Be direct with them, telling them what they smell like and why you are concerned.
When you tell them why you are concerned, it can put them at ease. You aren’t just picking on them or being harsh. Instead, you are worried about them and you care about them. You want to help them come up with a solution.
Never shame them in the discussion, and don’t say things like “How can you not know” or “What do you plan to do about it?” Use an approach that indicates they don’t have to work out the issue on their own.
Some examples to introduce the topic include:
“I smell a strong odor of cat urine coming from you.”
“Do you know what that smell is?”
“Do you smell cat urine?”
“I smell cat urine. Do you?”
“The smell of cat urine is burning my nose, we need to find a solution.”
“Others have mentioned a smell of cat urine from you. I would like to help find a solution.”
(Perfect when you are the boss and have to address it with an employee)
“How many cats do you have? I smell cat urine and have concerns you may have too many or they aren’t using the litter box properly. I will be happy to come over and help you with it.”
“I smell cat urine around you and I know you don’t have cats. I am worried you may have a health issue. Have you talked to a doctor? Would you like me to help you find a doctor and go to the appointment with you?”
“Is it possible you have a health issue that needs addressed as I smell cat urine when you are around.”
Offer to Help
Be genuine in your efforts to help someone who smells bad. The issue may have created barriers for them with relationships. It may have eroded their self-esteem.
On the other hand, they may have been oblivious to the issue. If they have too many cats, this can indicate they are lonely. Help them find new homes for some of the cats. Help them find ways to engage with people, enjoy hobbies, and stay engaged so they no longer feel lonely.
If they plan to keep their cats, they need a plan of action. Spay and neuter services in the area can be found. Help them identify a place to get it done for a reasonable price. This prevents unplanned litters of kittens which often results in cats peeing all over the home.
Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to make such changes. You may have to contact animal control services for them to complete an investigation. They will remove cats from a home that isn’t safe for them.
It isn’t going to be fun, but offer to help with the cleanup process. This can be time-consuming because the cat pee is saturated into flooring and other areas. Make sure they have a litter box for their cats and that it is cleaned regularly. Wear gloves and get supplies so you can work hard to clean up the home with them and remove the odors.
If the situation is bad enough, it may be better to turn to a professional service. Find out who offers such services in your area. They can come to the home and provide a free estimate of the cost of those services. They have the best practices, the right equipment, and the right products to get the job done. They can complete this cleanup in a fraction of the time it takes people to do it on their own.
When the issue of smelling like cat pee has to do with a medical concern, the person will need support. They may be afraid to get a medical evaluation. They may need help finding a specialist they can see for the issue.
Help them find someone if they can’t get a referral from their regular doctor. Offer to go with them to medical appointments or drive them if they don’t have transportation.
If they know they have an underlying medical condition, what can they do to control the odor? Are they taking medication as required? Do they need to seek a second opinion? If the issue is genetic, they may have had this problem since they were a child. However, it may have developed later in life as their entire body chemistry changed.
Katie Holmes is a senior author at everyday-courtesy.com with over 15 years of experience in marketing and psychology. As a freelance consultant, she also supports companies and executives in overcoming communication challenges. Katie is a passionate digital nomad working on her first book on the art of communication.