Help! My Cat has Bad Breath

By Rowena David

Have you ever experienced cuddling with your cat then your cat opens his mouth to yawn and a bad smell invades your nostrils? Just like humans, cats can also suffer from occasional bad breath. It’s normal for cats’ breath to stink, especially after they’ve eaten smelly food but prolonged bad breath can be cause for concern.

Loki showing his healthy teeth. (Photo by Charlene Lacanares-Arevalo)

According to International Cat Care, a cat welfare organization that battles cruelty, ignorance, and misunderstanding to improve the lives of cats, it is estimated that up to 85 per cent of cats over the age of three have some form of dental disease.

What makes a cat’s breath smell bad?

Food Stuck in the Mouth

Sometimes the cause of your cat’s halitosis is as simple as food getting stuck in between his teeth. I once fostered a rescued kitten named Athena who had severe halitosis. He was also constantly drooling and refused to eat. I took him to the vet and the vet removed small pieces of hard food in between the poor kitten’s teeth. The kitten recovered after a week or two of soft diet and has since been adopted by a friend of mine.


Bad breath is frequently caused by the food of your cat eats. Wet and cat food can make your cat’s breath stink because it sticks to a cat’s teeth. Most of my cats prefer wet food, so I feed them boiled fish two or three times a week.


Zoey’s wide yawn. (Photo by Rowena David)

According to, gingivitis is “the inflammation of the gingiva, or gums.” Some plaque is present in the early stages of gingivitis, and the gums are mildly reddened. Food, debris, germs, dead skin cells, and mucus build on the teeth, forming plaque. Some of the common causes of gingivitis are old age, crowded teeth, soft food, open-mouth breathing, bad chewing habits, and lack of dental health.

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Cats with upper respiratory tract illnesses, such as bacterial or viral infections, may have bad breath. says that an infected cat will go through an incubation period of 2-10 days after being exposed to the infection. The infection will normally last 7-10 days if it is uncomplicated, while symptoms may continue up to 21 days in severe cases.

Kidney Disease

Bad breath can sometimes indicate a health issue that is not related to the mouth. Waste products build up in the cat’s blood when renal function declines. As a result, the cat’s breath may smell like urine or ammonia.

Diabetes Mellitus

If your cat’s breath has a fruity odor, it could be a sign that your cat is suffering from diabetes, which is a potentially fatal illness.

Doby showing his fangs. (Photo by Charlene Lacanares-Arevalo)

Liver Disease

According to Dr. Marcia Landefeld, a veterinarian at the Feline Veterinary Hospital, a cat suffering from liver disease has foul-smelling breath. The cat may also exhibit symptoms of lethargy, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and drinking and urinating more than normal.

Gastrointestinal Trouble

Vomiting can be associated with smelly breath in cats. It can be quite normal in cats as long as it does not happen too frequently. Continuous vomiting can cause feces-smelling breath, especially if there is a bowel obstruction.

How to Prevent Bad Breath in Cats these tips on how to prevent cat halitosis:

Brush your cat’s teeth with feline-specific toothpaste, if not daily, then three times a week
Try dental treats and chew toys for cats
· Give your cat a proper diet to prevent bad breath
· Visit the vet regularly

How to Treat Cats with Bad Breath

Rescued kitten Athena at the vet to have her mouth examined. (Photo by Rowena David)

Dental disorders in cats can go unnoticed for a long time before suddenly worsening. If your cat’s bad breath persists, it’s time to consult a veterinarian.

A healthy mouth is often a sign of a healthy cat. AS cat parents, we must maintain our cat’s dental health to help them stay generally healthy.

About the author: Rowena David is faculty member at College of Computer Science in the University of Makati, is a freelance writer (Tagalog short novels), admin of Philippine Pet Lovers Society Facebook page, an animal rescuer and animal welfare advocate.

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