Why Does My Vagina Smell Like Cat Pee?

Every woman’s vagina has a natural scent, usually a musky or slightly sour smell. A change in this odor is not normal and should be addressed.

Healthy urine is transparent or light yellow in color and shouldn’t have a strong odor.

It’s worth contacting your healthcare provider if you notice any changes in the color, smell, or texture of your vaginal discharge. Most changes will not require medical attention but some do.

1. Sweating

The body has two types of sweat glands: eccrine, which populate your armpits; and apocrine, which are typically located in areas where hair follicles don’t exist, like your groin. Sweat from the apocrine glands mixes with bacteria on your vulva and can produce a strong, ammonia-like odor. The smell is more noticeable in the heat and during times of emotional stress.

Foul vaginal odor can also be caused by pregnancy, sex or illness. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) causes the fishy, foul-smelling smell most commonly associated with stinky vaginas. The condition is treatable with antibiotics. Another infection that can cause a stinky vagina is thrush, which is treatable with antifungal medication.

A foul or rancid odor can also be the result of a forgotten tampon, especially if it sits in place for over a day. Leaving a tampon in for too long can cause toxic shock syndrome, so always remove it as soon as you remember.

A foul odor can also be the result of certain foods, such as garlic and asparagus, that have a unique scent when they break down in the body. Keeping a food diary may help you pinpoint what’s causing the change in odor. The odor can also be the result of certain medications, such as birth control pills or a steroid, and even cancer. Any changes in odor or discharge should be evaluated by a doctor.

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2. Dehydration

The gynecologist’s take:

A hefty urine odor down there could mean that you’re dehydrated. “Without enough water, the urodynamic system concentrates urine and its odor-producing compounds,” says Roskin. Drinking plenty of fluids can dilute the odor, she notes.

Alternatively, the smell could be a sign of an STI. Some sexually transmitted infections—especially trichomoniasis, a common and easily treated condition that smells like rancid fish—involve the vaginal canal, so you’ll usually notice a bad odor along with other symptoms.

Other causes of stinky vaginal odor include a diet high in protein (asparagus, brussel sprouts, garlic, and curry, for example) that can lead to a higher concentration of ammonia in the urine; certain medications, especially those that contain sulfa drugs (like Bactrim) that can make pee smell fishy; or douching, which changes the normal balance of good and harmful bacteria and throws off the pH environment in the vagina. Health experts do not recommend douching or using products designed to flush the vagina, such as douches or diaphragms, since they disrupt the body’s natural bacterial flora.

If you’re not dehydrated and a strange vaginal odor is present, the odor may simply be due to trapped sweat from exercise or wearing tight, non-breathable knickers. Showering more frequently and switching to cotton underwear might help. But if the odor doesn’t go away with hygienic measures, or if it’s accompanied by other signs of an infection, consult your ob-gyn.

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3. Yeast Infections

Yeast infections make your vagina smell like cat pee because the fungus that causes them combines with fecal matter, which has an ammonia-like scent. Yeast infections are most common in women and can be caused by anything that changes the balance of your vaginal bacteria. This includes pregnancy, breastfeeding, using birth control pills and hormone changes related to your menstrual cycle. Douching and the use of a diaphragm can also change the mix of bacteria in your vagina. Douching can irritate the lining and hold in urine, which allows bacteria to multiply. The use of a diaphragm makes it harder to urinate, so urine sits in the bladder longer and becomes more concentrated with uric acid, which can lead to an infection.

If you notice a strange odor that resembles ammonia, it’s important to see your doctor to get the right diagnosis. Your doctor will perform a pelvic exam and can do a wet mount of your discharge to look for the presence of yeast or other organisms that may be causing your symptoms.

A healthy vagina should have a slightly tangy, vinegar-like smell, similar to sour pickles or sauerkraut. This odor is normal because it reflects the acidic environment that helps protect against harmful organisms and pathogens. A fishy odor that won’t go away could indicate bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection like trichomoniasis, both of which have unpleasant odors. A foul odor can also be a sign of a condition called rectovaginal fistula, a rare disease that causes an opening between the rectum and the vagina to leak fecal material into the vagina.

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4. Food

All women have a natural scent down there, and it’s totally normal for your vagina to smell like your own unique fragrance. But if you start to notice that your body is giving off the odor of cat urine, this could be a sign of an infection.

Another possibility is a food-based odor. Sometimes certain foods can change the flora in your vagina, and that can leave behind a distinct smell. It’s best to keep a food diary when this happens, so you can figure out which type of food is giving you this odd aroma.

Also, if you are currently on your period, the odor may simply be from oxidized blood as it exits your body. This is totally normal, and will go away once your menstrual cycle ends.

If you aren’t on your period, and you still notice an unpleasant odor down there, then this is most likely a sign of a yeast infection, or something else that needs to be checked out by your gyno. You should never ignore any funky odors, as they can indicate serious issues down there that need to be taken care of as soon as possible. So make an appointment with your gyno asap.

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