Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Cat’s Bad Breath

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio

What’s that horrible smell? It’s not coming from the end you think it is – you’ve got a case of kitty bad breath on your hands.

Like people, cats can develop oral health problems, so it’s wise to keep an eye on your kitty’s teeth and gums, and to alert your veterinarian if you think that something might be wrong. But while you may think that you only need to look at the physical appearance of your cat’s mouth to determine if there might be an issue, there is something else to consider: the smell of your pet’s breath. 

Sure, a cat’s bad breath might be caused by the foods that she likes to eat, but there are instances in which this might be a symptom of a health problem. So, even though you shouldn’t expect your kitty’s breath to always smell fresh or be odorless, if your cat has halitosis, or chronic bad breath that’s extremely foul and strong, it’s a good idea to have her examined by a vet to rule out underlying health conditions. Not only will this give you peace of mind by giving you the answers you seek, but it could also be the first step towards getting your cat the treatment she needs if a problem is found. 

Want to learn more? Below are a few of the reasons why you shouldn’t ignore your cat’s bad breath or think it’s merely the result of what she eats.

Related: A Guide to Dental Care for Cats

The Causes of Offensive Kitty Breath

If your cat’s breath has a really offensive odor, there are several causes that might be to blame. These include:

  • Periodontal disease, mouth sores, mouth ulcers
  • Food or other object stuck in between your cat’s teeth or under the gums
  • Liver disease or intestinal blockage (if your cat’s breath is foul smelling)
  • Kidney disease (if your cat’s breath has a urine-like odor)
  • Respiratory ailments, such as rhinitis
  • Sinusitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Skin disease
  • Oral trauma
  • Metabolic disorders, such as diabetes (if your cat’s breath smells sweet)
  • Viral, fungal, bacterial infection
  • Cancer

As you can see, there is a wide range of conditions that can have an impact on how your cat’s breath smells. So, if you assumed that bad breath was caused only by problems in the mouth, it is important to realize that various problems in other areas of the body could also be to blame. With this information in mind, it becomes clear that bad breath shouldn’t just be ignored. Instead, it is something that you should talk to your veterinarian about, whether or not other symptoms are present. 

Also, as you can see by the list above, different conditions may affect the way your cat’s breath smells. For example, a urine-like odor might be a sign of kidney disease, while a sweet smell might indicate diabetes. Again, seeing a veterinarian is the best way to get the answers you need. 

Related: Meowijuana Takes Catnip Connoisseurs to a New High

Periodontal Disease: The Most Common Cause of Bad Breath

Although there are various health problems that might cause a cat to have bad breath, periodontal disease is one that you might already be familiar with. And you might have read or heard about cats who have been diagnosed with teeth and gum problems because this is quite common. The good news is there are steps you can take to help reduce the odds of periodontal disease developing, and to help keep your cat’s breath from smelling foul. 

Periodontal disease might be avoidable. If your cat develops this disease, however, she could end up in a lot of pain and her mouth might become infected or she might end up losing teeth or requiring tooth extractions by your vet. And when infections occur in the mouth, they might spread to other organs, causing problems elsewhere in the body as well. So, this is something that should be taken seriously, and you can work with your veterinarian to get tips and advice on how to take the best care of your kitty’s mouth. 

The Importance of Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

Did you know that you can brush your kitty’s teeth at home? It’s true! There are feline-specific toothpastes and toothbrushes that you can use in an effort to keep your pet’s teeth and gums cleaner and healthier. 

Providing your cat with dental care on a consistent basis is a smart step toward preventing periodontal disease, which is the most common cause of feline halitosis. It takes a bit of practice, and you do need to patiently, gently, and slowly train your cat to tolerate having her teeth brushed.

How does it work? Brushing your cat’s teeth daily may help reduce bad breath by removing plaque, which would otherwise thicken and harden over time and potentially result in swollen gums, gingivitis, and bone and tissue loss. This is why it is important to be consistent in your brushing routine with your pet. The goal is to try to remove plaque before it hardens into tartar. 

Note: If you catch periodontal disease early enough, a professional cleaning at your vet’s office may resolve the problem before it escalates. However, if you don’t keep up with home care, the plaque will likely end up building up again.

It’s Not Always Serious

Even though it’s important to know that chronic bad breath could be a sign of disease in your kitty, it’s also important to note that not every case of bad breath will indicate that there’s a health problem to blame. For example, if your cat has recently eaten food that has a strong odor, you can expect that her breath may be stronger as a result.

However, if your pet has noticeably bad breath on a consistent basis, consider taking her to the vet to get checked. This will help ensure you can give your cat the appropriate remedy, whether it’s medications or a dental treatment, to get to the source of the problem and resolve it.

Seek Answers If Your Cat Has Really Bad Breath

The best way to figure out exactly what’s causing your cat’s offensive breath is by taking her to the veterinarian for a thorough examination. Your vet will determine if it’s a matter of periodontal disease that might require a professional cleaning and home care, or if there is a more serious underlying issue that’s to blame.

If your cat’s bad breath is accompanied by other symptoms, such as weight loss, excessive thirst, excessive urination, reduced appetite, or vomiting, your kitty may be suffering from a more serious ailment that needs prompt treatment, so don’t delay bringing your pet to the veterinarian.

Bottom line: with an understanding of the potential causes of halitosis, you can take the proper steps to maintain your cat’s health and well-being. If you ever have any doubts as to whether or not your cat’s breath is normal, simply ask your vet.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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