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Home / Blog / Health, Cat/Kitty Tips, cat behavior, cat nutrition, How To Guide, ochoa / What Might Be Causing Your Cat's Bad Breath?

May 17, 2018 |6 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed

What Might Be Causing Your Cat's Bad Breath?


We humans brush our pearly whites every day for the sake of good breath and a glistening smile.

Sadly, your cat isn’t as good at keeping up with oral hygiene as you are.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a big yawn or exhale from your furry friend, you’ve likely picked up on this fact: cat breath isn't the greatest.

However, there’s a difference between “that’s not very nice” and “Phew! That’s rancid!”

If your cat has knock-out-a-buffalo breath, here are a few potential causes and what you can do about them.

Causes of Cat Bad Breath

As you’ve likely noticed, your cat uses her mouth for everything - eating, drinking, carrying things around the house, grooming, and chatting you up at 4:30 in the morning. That little mouth gets quite the workout, so it’s no wonder that things can go awry from time to time.

Cat bad breath can be caused by a number of things. To sleuth out the source of your cat’s halitosis, rule out the following possibilities.

Stuck Food

While your cat may not get spinach stuck in her teeth like we do, she can get other bits of goodies trapped between those pearly whites. Check your cat’s mouth to see if she has a piece of kibble or critter (pardon the crudeness, but cat’s are natural hunters) wedged between her teeth.

Simply dislodging it and letting her mouth return to a clean state can be all you need to do to solve the cat breath issue.

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Given how much use your cat’s mouth gets, it’s common for her to suffer an occasional oral injury. Take a peek inside the jaws of the beast and look for any red or swollen areas. If you notice an injury and there is pus or discharge, take your cat to the vet. She may need help beating back that infection.

Plaque Build Up

This one should sound familiar - it’s what we hear about any time we go to the human dentist!

Cats can get plaque build up, too, and it can cause some serious feline halitosis (that’s a real condition, by the way).

If you or your vet notice significant plaque build up around your cat’s gum line, it may be time to start brush Fluffy’s teeth.

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Trouble Troubleshooting?

If neither of these two issues is present, it’s possible there’s an underlying cause to your cat’s stinky breath that you can’t see.

Other causes of bad cat breath include:

  • Allergies - your cat may be allergic to something in her food.
  • Trapped baby teeth - if your cat is on the younger side, she may be having an issue with a kittenhood tooth.
  • Periodontal disease - the most common problem associated with bad breath, according to veterinarians at Cornell University.
  • Gingivitis - inflammation of the gums.
  • Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions (FORLs) or Tooth Resorption - 28-67% of cats will suffer from tooth resorption and bad breath can be a clear indicator that something’s wrong in your cat’s mouth.
  • Chewing mishaps - if your cat chews on an electrical cord or something else harmful, it can cause serious oral issues.
  • Diabetes - a sweet smell on your cat’s breath could indicate diabetes.
  • Gastrointestinal problems - your cat’s diet and digestion play a major role in the odors emanating from Fluffy’s mouth.
  • Organ malfunction - dysfunction of the liver, kidneys, and even respiratory system can contribute to bad breath.

To find out which of these many issues are truly to blame for Kitty’s bad breath, see your vet right way. Many conditions can be treated or even cured if they’re caught early.

Cat Breath Solutions

cat breath solutions

The most common cause of cat bad breath is periodontal disease – inflammation of the tooth, which can spread throughout your cat’s mouth.

To prevent periodontal disease and several other bad-breath-causing conditions, it’s critical to monitor your cat’s oral hygiene.

Start by making sure your cat always has plenty of water to drink. A healthy, hydrated cat with a moist mouth is better able to fight off infection and prevent the growth of bad bacteria.

Next, check with your veterinarian to make sure the food and treats you’re giving your cat aren’t causing gastrointestinal distress or an allergic reaction.

With proper hydration and diet checked off the list, it’s time to focus on maintaining a clean mouth.

Get in the habit of brushing your cat’s teeth once per week. It may take time to build up to this frequency, but it will be well worth it to avoid needless pain and suffering for your cat and expensive vet bills for you.


Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.


https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-tasci-68ab815b (opens in a new window)

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Sara Ochoa

Sara Ochoa, DVM graduated from St. George's University Veterinary School in 2015. Since then, she has been at a small and exotic animal practice in Texas. In her free time, she loves making quilts and spending time with her husband Greg and their 4 fur kids. Two dogs, Ruby a schnoodle, and Bug a Japanese Chin, one cat named OJ and a leopard tortoise named Monkey.

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