Bad Breath in Cats: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

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The problem of ongoing bad breath in cats can arise due to multiple health problems. In this article, we’re going to talk about different causes, treatment, and prevention methods regarding bad breath in cats.

>> You might also be interested in What to Expect After Neutering Your Cat and 6 Cat Breeds that Don’t Shed.

cat yawning bad breath

Just like humans, cats can also suffer from bad breath. It’s normal for cats to have a little odor in their mouth, but if you are noticing a strong unpleasant odor, it isn’t normal. Mouth odor is called halitosis and it can be a symptom of something else that’s going wrong.

Causes of Bad Breath in Cats

Bad breath in cats can occur due to various reasons. You should be caring for your cat’s teeth, just like you do your own, and that means brushing her teeth as well. If you’re not taking care of your cat’s teeth properly, problems can arise that may lead to something even worth, so it’s a good idea to stay on top of the situation, so it doesn’t escalate.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons behind bad breath in cats.

Periodontal Disease

cat teeth

Periodontal disease is the most common cause of bad breath in cats. Odor-producing bacteria can grow in the mouth and cause bad breath that will only get worse over time. It is an infection that can arise if dental plaque builds up on teeth surfaces, especially around the gums.

If the plaque isn’t removed regularly, it can harden into tartar. Tartar has a rough surface, making the accumulation of more plaque easier. Tooth loss, bleeding gums, and pain can result from periodontal disease. Just as you go to the dentist to have plague and tartar removed from your own teeth, it’s important to do so for your cat as well.

Stomatitis and Gingivitis

Inflammation of the mucus lining of the mouth is called stomatitis. Inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis. Stomatitis and gingivitis cause bad breath in cats. This can be due to dental disease, viral/bacterial infection, and allergies. Cats can develop stomatitis for multiple reasons. You should consult your veterinarian to know the exact cause and treatment of stomatitis and gingivitis.


cat eating

If you are looking for a cause of bad breath in your cat, you should take a look at their diet as well. Different types of diets can cause your catss mouths to smell differently. If you notice bad breath in your cat, and you think it occurs specifically because of the food the cat is eating, you might need to change your cat’s diet.

It’s always best to consult your veterinarian and discuss what type of diet in particular will help with bad breath. You can also experiment with different types of hard and soft foods.

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Oral Cancers

While oral cancer can grow in a cat’s mouth and cause bad breath, it’s quite unlikely and isn’t the most likely cause, so consider other issues before jumping to the conclusion that your cat has cancer.

If a tumor grows in the mouth of a cat, it can get infected and smelly. This can lead to persistent bad breath in cats. Cancers are difficult to diagnose and can be hard to catch in time. The prognosis of cancer is very poor by the time the cancer is visible. This is why it’s important to have your cat’s mouth checked for tumors every time they go in for a check up.

Kidney Disease

cat yawning with bad breath

Kidney diseases are one of the rare causes of bad breath in cats. There are two main types of kidney diseases in cats i.e. acute kidney disease and chronic kidney diseases. Acute diseases cause signs to appear rapidly while chronic disease affects your cat over a longer period of time. Major signs of kidney disease include vomiting, increased thirst, weight loss, and bad breath.

As with any other issues that make your cat appear to act or smell differently, you should consult your veterinarian right away if you suspect disease.


Cats suffering from diabetes don’t have a strong unpleasant odor, rather they have a fruity smell. You should look for other signs of diabetes like increased urination, increased appetite, etc. Diabetes can also cause your cat to become lethargic and stop acting like themselves. If it progresses, it can cause other issues like blindness that are hard to recover from.

Coprophagia and Pica

Coprophagia means your cat is eating its own or other animals’ feces. Pica refers to the habit of eating non-food items, like hair and paper. Both of these can be a reason for bad breath in cats. Monitor your cat’s behavior and try to keep him away from things he shouldn’t be eating.

Treatment of Bad Breath in Cats

cat with toothbrush

First, a cat’s teeth need to be cleaned thoroughly. This may require the administration of general anesthesia, if the cat won’t stay still long enough to clean. Any accumulation of plaque and tartar can be removed. After teeth cleaning, a dental examination is carried out.

This may involve the use of X-rays. After the identification of the affected tooth, it may be extracted. If bleeding is found, antibiotics may be prescribed by your veterinarian to manage infection.

As mentioned in the earlier part of the article, bad breath can occur due to several reasons. The first step should be to diagnose the cause of bad breath and then eliminate it. If you notice bad breath in your cat, you should consult your veterinarian to rule out the possibility of any serious disorder.

Depending on the diagnosed reason, your veterinarian may prescribe a different line of treatment. If a system disorder is present, it may take a long time to treat. If no serious issue is diagnosed, your veterinarian may just ask you to brush your cat’s teeth regularly.

It is noteworthy that some cats may have bad breath without any particular reason.

Prevention of Bad Breath in Cats

Periodontal disease, one of the most common reasons for halitosis in cats, can be prevented by maintaining oral hygiene. The best way to achieve oral hygiene is by brushing your cat’s teeth regularly. Start brushing the teeth of cats when they are young. Use a toothpaste recommended by your veterinarian.

cat with teeth being brushed

Oral care products are available in the form of chew toys that are quite helpful in preventing the buildup of plaque on your cats’ teeth. Dental care cat foods are also available that have tartar-reducing ingredients. You can use chewing toys and a special diet after the approval of your veterinarian.

Dental examinations are advised twice a year to prevent bad breath in cats.


According to the world small animal veterinary association, dental and oral diseases are one of the most common problems faced by pets around the globe. You should maintain the oral health of your cat to maintain overall health and prevent bad breath.


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cat teeth being brushed

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