Why Does My Vagina Smell Like Cat Pee?

Most women have a vaginal scent, which is totally normal. A slightly sweet smell is usually an indicator of healthy bacteria (Lactobacillus). Dehydration, certain dietary changes, and douching can upset this delicate balance and result in a funky odor.

However, an unpleasant odor should be a cause for concern. This can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV), trichomoniasis, or an STI like chlamydia.

1. Bacteria

Various types of bacteria live in your vulva, making up what’s called your vaginal flora. When they’re in balance, they prevent infections that cause a foul smell.

If you’re noticing an earthy or musty odor, it could be body odor (BO). It can also be caused by a yeast infection like thrush. To help avoid these, try to drink lots of water and wear loose, breathable underwear. You can also use a lubricant that is labeled as “vaginally safe” and doesn’t contain scented oils.

Sweat released from your eccrine glands throughout the body and apocrine glands in the groin can blend with certain bacteria found around the genital area, which creates an ammonia smell. You can reduce these odors by washing your vulva daily with warm water and unscented soap. Also, avoid wearing tight underwear, especially thongs. And, if you sweat heavily, try to wear cotton underwear and avoid tight jeans or shapewear that will hold in the heat and moisture.

Some STIs, such as chlamydia, can cause a strong, cat pee-like smell in your vulva. If you have this problem, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics that will clear up the odor and any other symptoms associated with chlamydia. Typically, these will be antibiotics that are considered safe for pregnant women, such as penicillin or cephalosporin. In addition to antibiotics, you can use a vaginal gel, such as RepHresh, which rebalances the pH level of your vulva.

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2. Dehydration

Every woman has her own personal scent down there, and that’s totally normal. However, a sudden and persistent smell that’s fishy or resembles cat urine may be an indication of a health issue that requires treatment.

The vulva has its own bacterial community, which helps keep the area at a healthy pH level and protects you from infections. But when this balance is disturbed, bacteria can overgrow and create foul-smelling metabolites that resemble the smell of cat pee. Several factors can disturb this balance, including using feminine hygiene products that contain perfumes, soaps and talcum powder, douching and hormone changes.

If you’re experiencing a sudden and persistent vaginal odor, talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to determine what’s going on and recommend an appropriate course of action.

Sometimes, the vulva can smell like ammonia due to the presence of period blood, which has a strong ammonia-like odor. The odor can also be caused by certain foods that cause the body to produce more urine, such as asparagus, garlic, cruciferous vegetables, fish and high-protein foods. If you’re concerned, it’s worth keeping a food diary to see if you can identify the source of the problem. You should also speak to your doctor if you experience pain, itching or discharge with an ammonia-like odor. They’ll be able to prescribe medications that will clear the infection and help the odor go away.

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3. Sweating

There are two types of sweat glands: eccrine (which span the entire body and open onto the skin), and apocrine (which develop around hair follicles and open onto the surface of the skin only in the areas where you grow hair). Eccrine sweat has no smell, but the odor from apocrine sweat can combine with bacteria to produce a foul odor.

When you sweat, the apocrine glands can also release proteins that are then carried into the genital tract, where they can cause an unpleasant odor. The odor is typically a tangy fermented odor, similar to the smell of sour bread or Greek yogurt. If this odor becomes more pungent and is accompanied by other signs of infection, such as itching, pain, rash or irregular vaginal bleeding during menstruation, you should see your doctor right away.

Infections that can produce a fishy odor include trichomoniasis, which is caused by a protozoan and is sexually transmitted; and pelvic inflammatory disease, which is an infection of the vulva or fallopian tubes. If these infections are paired with a frothy green or brown discharge, they need to be treated promptly with antibiotics.

Remember, all vaginas have a natural odor that can change with the seasons, exercise and even the hormone levels during your menstrual cycle. But an off odor is never normal and may indicate an infection that needs to be addressed.

4. Food

If your vagina smells slightly tangy or sour, it’s no cause for alarm. Your vagina has a delicately balanced microbiome, and an overpopulation of the friendly bacteria lactobacilli can lead to this aroma. Consuming probiotic foods (like yogurt, kefir, and some fermented bread) can help increase these bacteria and the tangy scent they create.

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However, if your vagina smells like ammonia or has a strong metallic scent, that’s a sign there’s urine residue on your vulva or you’re dehydrated. These odors can also signal an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection, and should be treated with prescription medication.

In early pregnancy, a strange odor can sometimes result from food cravings and dietary changes, such as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, garlic, and foods high in protein or vitamin B-6. These can affect the concentration and odor of urine, which resembles cat pee. Wearing a panty liner, drinking plenty of water, and strengthening pelvic floor muscles to prevent urinary incontinence during this time can help.

Vaginal odor can be an uncomfortable topic, but getting to know your body can help you figure out what is normal and when it might be a sign of an issue. A visit to your gynecologist can help, especially if the odor is accompanied by itching or thick discharge. And if you decide to try a natural product, like RepHresh vaginal gel, be sure to speak with your doctor before you start it or any new health-related regimen to ensure it won’t interact with any medications you’re taking.

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