Categories: halitosis

My cat’s breath smells bad

“My cat’s breath smells bad” is a common concern for cat owners. Bad breath is called “halitosis”. The problem shouldn’t be as common as it is because it is likely to be the consequence of a failure to obeserve a cat’s mouth without wishing to be overly critical. This may sound a bit odd but cat owners need to check their cat’s mouths. I do it when my cat yawns. You get a quick look inside the mouth to check for tartar build up on the gums at the base of teeth and any soreness of the gums.

Feline bad breath. Possible causes. See a vet please!

Obviously there is no substitute to seeing a veterinarian when needs must and the expense and the coronavirus should not deter people if cat welfare is the priority.


We should also know by now that mouth disease is very common in the domestic cat because they never clean their teeth and eat commercial cat food which does not clean their teeth for them as prey animals are more likely to. The manufacturer’s claim that dry cat food cleans teeth is a bit far fetched although the larger pellets in so called “oral prescriptions” are better (e.g. Hills Oral).

So bad breath is abnormal and the first diagnosis would be mouth disease. I am referring to gum disease (gingivitis) and inflammation (stomatitis). Excess tartar on the teeth/gum line can cause bad breath too. If there is drooling as well there may be an infection or cancer in the mouth.

Another possible cause is kidney disease as failing kidneys leave excessive urea in the bloodstream which results in the smell. Kidney disease can also cause mouth disease leading to halitosis. Gum infections can also occur with other feline diseases such as feline panleukopenia, liver failure, ummune disorders, feline viral respiratory disease complex and nutritional disorders. These underlying illnesses need to be checked out.

Periodontitis is the medical term for an infection of the teeth and gums to the extent where it starts to destroy the supporting structures of the teeth. It is a stage beyond gingivitis. It causes halitosis.

I could go on but I am not a vet so am unqualified to do so. In general I am referring to mouth diseases causing halitosis. A cat’s mouth needs to be checked by a vet and a diagnosis made to ascertain if there is an underlying illness as well. The comment “My cat’s breath smells bad” is really about neglect if I am honest. But to be fair it is easy to neglect a cat’s teeth and gums. The cure is proactive observation and an openness to go to the veterinary clinic if the condition demands it.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a 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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