Categories: Cat Anatomy

Cat Has Black Gums

by Michael
(London, UK)

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:

Photo by dapeel

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.

Associated pages:

Dental Gel For Cats

Bad Breath in Cats

Orientals and Gum Disease

Feline Gingivitis

Link to original Flickr photo

There are more, please use the search box on the home page.

Cat Has Black Gums to Cat Health Problems

Comments for
Cat Has Black Gums

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Dec 19, 2010worried
by: Anonymous

My friend’s cat is a tabby, and recently, she noticed that her cat’s breath was extremely bad, like food had gotten caught but much worse, and her gums had turned black. Her breath had never been bad before, and it is worrying them that it is now, but they don’t know if the gums are naturally black. And it’s not just something stuck in her teeth, since it has been bad for almost three weeks. If anyone has any suggestions they would be welcome, as my friend can’t see a vet since her mom is out of work, and they don’t want to go unless it is something detrimental to the cat.

Feb 24, 2010Gums and nose tuxedo pattern
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Snow White’s nose and gums show a similar pattern
Photo by Finn Frode

My Snow White has black gums up front, then pink and then black again in the back of her mouth. I think it has to do with her black and white ‘tuxedo’ pattern.
The spread of black pigmentation apparently stopped at some point – in her gums as in her fur. And as in her nose, where pigmentation never reached the tip. Actually it looks kinda funny, but don’t tell her. 😉
I wonder whether all cats with white spots have this?

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Hi my long haired tabby is 7 months old and has developed blackness on the right and left side of his s mouth it’s not affected no his gums or inside the mouth but t is spreading please help I’m not sure what it is it’s not affecting him s eating or toilet habits and he seems normal
    I’m just concerned

    • Hello Robin. Are you saying that your cat's gums suddenly turned black overnight? If you are saying this then I would certainly recommend seeing your veterinarian. However, it is quite normal for gums to be black in parts because it is just pigmentation and it may well follow the pattern on the cat's fur. I would expect that, provided your cat is healthy and well, this is a question of pigmentation in the gums and therefore quite normal.

    • Claudia. Have a close look at the gums. If you it looks like the black is pigment embedded into the gum it is normal. If not then something has gone wrong. You can gently rub the area to check. But my feeling is that this is normal and it is gum pigmentation. If you have a photo please upload it and I'll comment further.

  • Thank uh for ur answers, if I think of any more questions I will get a hold of u .have a good day and be safe thank u again.

  • Thank u. My other question is paracites, if not treated in timewould it kill a cat?

    • Parasites can sometimes kill a cat/kitten slowly if the infestation is very severe. Always see a vet asap. Good luck.

    • Hi Loretta. Yes, in my opinion. It is just pigmentation like any other pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes etc..

  • I am concerned about my gray tabby. He is six years old and in the last three weeks his eyes has became glassey and looks like part of his pupil has been cut away. what could be happening?

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