8 Causes Of Cat Bad Breath

Cat Care, Cats

Last Updated - December 12, 2023

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Cat bad breath can quickly ruin a cuddle session with your furry friend. While it may just be from their tuna-flavored wet food, it's not something you want to overlook. Your kitty's smelly breath may be a sign of a more serious health problem.

Just like humans, cat's teeth and gums often act as an indicator of underlying health issues. By maintaining your kitty's oral health, you can help maintain your cat's health overall. So to help you keep your pet's mouth smelling fresh, here are some reasons why your cat's breath stinks and how you may be able to address bad breath in cats.

What causes a cat's bad breath?

According to the World Small Veterinary Association, dental and oral diseases are currently the most common health problem for pets. While it's totally normal for your cat to have bad breath on occasion, sudden changes in their breath or a persistent foul smell may be a sign of underlying dental disease or other health issues. If you're worried your cat's halitosis is a sign of something more serious, be sure to alert your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Bad cat breath is typically caused by diet. Eating smelly foods like fish can temporarily cause strong odors that should go away in a few hours. If your cat loves to cuddle right after eating, follow up its meal with a dental treat that'll freshen its breath and improve its oral hygiene.

Oral Trauma

Cats can get pieces of food stuck in their teeth and gums just like a popcorn kernel can get stuck between yours. Additionally, cats can scratch or poke their gums with their food, claws, or toys, causing an abscess or other painful oral trauma. Due to a large number of bacteria in your cat's mouth, the surrounding tissue can easily become infected, causing discomfort and bad breath.

Pet owners should take a quick peek at their cat's teeth every day to check for inflamed gums, cracked teeth, foreign objects lodged in the teeth or gums, and mouth sores, ulcers, or injuries to prevent bad cat breath. If you do find a piece of food lodged in between their teeth or gums, try to loosen it with a feline toothbrush or call your vet to schedule a professional dental cleaning. They may prescribe an antibiotic to help clear the infection and reverse bad breath in cats.

Cat's Teeth Plaque and Tartar Build-Up

According to the feline experts at International Cat Care, up to 85% of cats have some form of dental disease. It all starts with an accumulation of odor-causing bacteria on your cat's teeth near the gum line, which leads to plaque and tartar build-up, which, if left untreated, can lead to smelly breath and a more serious problem. But the good news is, all it takes to stop these diseases is a consistent oral care routine.

Pet owners should schedule professional teeth cleaning with a veterinarian at least once per year. Dental treats, chew toys, and regular tooth brushing at home can help ensure fresh breath and a healthy mouth between visits.

Underlying Health Problems

Sometimes the cause of your cat's bad breath can't be found in their mouth. Like in humans, poor dental health can be a sign of serious medical conditions occurring in other body parts. You should seek medical treatment immediately if you suspect your cat is suffering from any of the following:

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is the most common cause of persistent bad breath in cats. The preventable disease can lead to gingivitis, tooth loss, and severe pain. In addition to bad breath, other signs of periodontal disease include swollen or bleeding gums, excessive thirst and urination, losing weight, and heavy plaque build-up.

The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to create a consistent oral care routine. Regularly brushing your cat's teeth, feeding them dental treats between meals, and scheduling an annual cleaning with your vet can help keep your cat's breath fresh and their teeth healthy.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Your cat's bad breath may also be caused by gastrointestinal problems. Consistent vomiting, difficulty eating, and severe abdominal discomfort may signify a bowel obstruction or other serious digestive issues that should be treated as a medical emergency.


If you've noticed your cat's breath has a sweet or fruity odor, it's time to call your vet, as this may be a sign of feline diabetes. Other symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, and a ravenous appetite. While this inability to produce blood sugar-balancing insulin can occur at any weight, diabetes mellitus is most common in overweight and obese cats.

Kidney Disease

If your cat's breath smells like urine or ammonia, it may be a sign of kidney disease. Other symptoms include weight loss, urinating frequently, and drinking more water than normal. Should you notice any of these signs, you'll want to alert your vet right away.

Chronic kidney disease is a more common problem than most cat owners may think. According to Pet Health Network, it affects almost one-third of all cats and is one of the leading causes of death. It's caused by decreased kidney function, which leads to a build-up of waste products and toxins in your cat's blood.

Liver Disease

Bad breath accompanied by vomiting, appetite loss, or yellow-looking eyes and gums may signal liver problems or liver disease. The liver plays an integral role in your cat's health, helping to metabolize food, absorb nutrients, and break down toxins in the bloodstream. You should call your vet immediately as early treatment is critical.


The easiest and most effective way to keep your cat's oral health in check is to peek at their cat's mouth regularly and clean their teeth regularly. A visit to the veterinarian is always the best way to know what is the cause of your cat's bad breath and what you will need to do about it to prevent serious health conditions.

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About the Author

Doctor of veterinary medicine with extensive experience in animal welfare with a strong interest in feline medicine and plans to pursue ABVP-Feline specialty board certification. A key member of many local veterinary associations and avid reader of animal related science journals and studies.