This cat with healthy gums has black pigment on the roof of the mouth – photo by Aki Jinn (see base of page for link)
A number of people who keep cats are concerned that their cat has black gums. My cat, Charlie, has black gums or a better description is that part of his gums are black – there is a pattern of pink gum colour and black. And part of the roof of his mouth is black too following a similar sort of pattern.
For Charlie and I suspect most cats, this is entirely natural and not a mouth disease. It is simply pigmentation in the gums. Charlie is black and it seems that for cats and dogs (and probably many other animals) the creation of the pigment occurs in the skin and gums as well as in the fur. By the way, I tried to photograph Charlie’s mouth…without success…!
The pigment is called “melanin” and when a cat that should normally be say spotted is black with faint ghost spots it is called a “melanistic cat”
We don’t see it in cats with fur (and most do have fur, thankfully!) but a cat’s skin colour is not necessarily errr…skin coloured! In the Sphynx we can see the pigmentation in the skin that would have been in the fur and which, it seems, follows the pattern that would have been in the fur had it been there. The picture below illustrates this:
All that said, cat gum disease (periodontal disease) and cat oral health generally is very important. It is something that can get a little lost in the rush of daily life and cats are very stoic, uncomplaining companions. We can miss it.
Apparently, according to Banfield’s Applied Research and Knowledge (BARK) team, 68% of cats and 78% of dogs age 3 and older have oral disease. It is, then, a very common condition. More can be done to prevent it. The only really practical preventative measure, I am compelled to conclude, is for a vet to clean the teeth on a routine basis as other methods have limited success. Anyone with clever ideas?
With it being so prevalent in domestic animals I wonder why it is not spoken of in relation to wild cats. I don’t see it as a major issue for wildcats. And if I am correct that is because of the diet. Which in turn leads me to conclude that commercially available cat and dog food is not necessarily the best in terms of preventing gum disease. Why can’t we buy professionally prepared wild food substitute (i.e. cat food that replicates the wild cat diet) in supermarkets? (see Raw Food Diet).
Anyway back to the my cat has black gums and gum disease discussion. In purebred cats, periodontal disease is most common in Himalayan, Siamese and Persian breeds. Banfield says that the risk increases by 20% each year of a pet’s life.
Periodontal disease can also affect the functioning of a cat’s heart, kidney and liver according the BARK.
If your cat has black gums that shouldn’t be a worry; it’s smelly breath and red and inflammed gums that we need to be concerned about.
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