It isn’t uncommon for cats to develop bad breath. In fact, eight out of ten cats over the age of three have some form of gum or tooth condition, both of which can cause the problem.

For this reason, even though it is common, bad breath in cats isn’t ideal. The accumulation of plaque, the formation of tartar, and the development of periodontal disease – all of which may first be noticed as bad breath – aren’t good for your cat’s health. If you notice that your cat has bad breath, ask a vet to investigate further.

Causes of bad breath in cats

Bad breath in cats may be caused by a number of things. The most common are:    

  • An irregular dental hygiene routine.
  • Tartar build-up – this happens when plaque is left unbrushed and it hardens.
  • Gingivitis – a form of gum disease.
  • Periodontal disease – an infection of the structures around the teeth, including the gums.

 

When to see a vet

If your cat has noticeably bad breath, it’s always a good idea to ask your vet for advice. However, if your cat’s bad breath is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, it’s particularly important that you book a check-up:

  • Reddened gums
  • Yellow or brain teeth stains
  • Drooling
  • Dropping food
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

 

These can be a sign of conditions such as gingivitis, which may make it uncomfortable for your cat to eat. Remember that many cats are good at hiding their discomfort, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on their eating habits and dental health in general, as it won’t always be obvious!

How to prevent bad breath in cats

In many cases, bad breath can be prevented by a simple dental care routine. Keeping your cat’s mouth clean will help them maintain healthy teeth and gums, which is turn will help prevent the development of tartar and other unwanted conditions.

The best way to prevent your cat’s bad breath and keep their mouth clean is to clean their teeth regularly. Ideally, you should get your cat used to teeth brushing when they are young, as this will help them see it as a non-threatening, and maybe even pleasant, activity. If your cat is older, getting them used to teeth cleaning is still possible – it might just take a bit of time.

Kittens’ milk teeth shouldn’t be brushed, but you can get them used to having their teeth touched in preparation for when they do have their adult teeth. When they are ready to have their teeth cleaned use a toothpaste that is specifically formulated for cats, as well as a toothbrush specially designed for the job. Stick to a routine, brushing their teeth at the same time every day, so that they know what to expect and get used to the activity.

Read a step-by-step guide to cleaning your cat’s teeth here.

Alternatively, if you really can’t brush your cat’s teeth, you can help maintain your cat’s dental health by using products such as oral hygiene gels. Cat dental chews are another good way to help keep their teeth clean, as these chews can scrape plaque away as they chew – and they’ll enjoy it as a fun treat, too. Ask your vet for more details about available options.