Feline Bad Breath - Causes and Treatment

Feline bad breath can be caused by a number of things, some a lot more serious than others. This page looks into the main reasons for cat bad breath, lists the cat illnesses and cat health problems that can cause it, and gives advice on how to treat it.

What Causes Cat Bad Breath?

Cat breath isn't exactly the nicest smell in the world, especially after kitty's wolfed down a tin of sardines. But sometimes a cat's breath smells SO bad it can send you reeling. In this case, it's possible that the last fishy meal isn't the cause of the bad breath, and that there may be an underlying cat dental health problem which needs to be sorted out.


The most common cause of feline bad breath is peridontal disease - i.e. diseases affecting the gums and bones that support the teeth. This can result in abscesses, tooth decay, infections and a lot of pain and discomfort. The pain may cause other symptoms, including:

  • Drooling
  • An apparent loss of appetite and reluctance to eat
  • Eating but then dropping food out of the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth and excessive movement of the mouth

If left untreated, it can become really painful and the disease can spread to other parts of the cat's body; infections that start in a cat's mouth can be responsible for cat kidney failure and liver disease.

Peridontal disease can be started by a number of things, including:

  • Poor oral hygiene - i.e. Kitty's teeth not being cleaned and plaque building up as a result
  • Something stuck in between Kitty's teeth - e.g. a small piece of bone from food, a hair lodged under the cat's gum
  • Another more serious disease which may reduce the cat's ability to generally fight infection and therefore make him more susceptible to peridontal (and other) infections - e.g. it can be one of the feline leukemia symptoms or feline immunodeficiency virus symptoms
  • Cat diabetes - the increased sugar in the cat's blood makes them more prone to infection as the bugs in the mouth have more sugar to feed on
  • Liver disease or a problem in the cat's stomach or intestine - e.g. a blockage

Can the Smell of the Cat's Breath Indicate the Problem?

In some cases, yes. Cats with diabetes often have "sweet" smelling breath (some people liken it to the smell of nail polish or pear drops), those with kidney disease can have breath that smells like ammonia, and those with liver / intestinal problems may have very foul breath that smells like feces.

How Can I Prevent these Cat Dental Health Problems?

The most important thing is to get Kitty checked over at the vet regularly. The vet will likely once every few years recommend getting kitty's teeth professionally cleaned, but in between you should clean his teeth. This page gives more information on how to do this:

Cat Dental Health

Finally, I'd just like to say that most cases of feline bad breath aren't due to serious problems. All cats will have a case of whiffy breath from time to time, and this is nothing to worry about. But if your cat does have the start of peridontal disease or some other problem, the sooner you get it seen to, the better.

Go from feline bad breath page to cat health problems page

Go to Cat Behavior Explained Home Page