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Bad Breath in Cats: 6 Biggest Causes & How To Get Rid Of It

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Bad Breath in Cats: 6 Biggest Causes & How To Get Rid Of It

Have you ever caught wind of your cat's breath and thought that it smelled rather foul? It's not often that you smell your cat's breath, but every once in awhile, you might be near your cat as they yawn. If you've smelled the breath coming out of your cat's mouth and your cat's breath made you do a double-take, it's highly likely that your cat has a case of bad breath. 

Medically referred to as halitosis, bad breath stems from poor oral hygiene. Some cats develop bad breath over the years, while others experience halitosis early on in life due to their genetic makeup. No matter which of these two scenarios applies to your cat, the goal is to treat your cat's smelly problem. 

Bad Breath in Cats | Innovet Pet

What Causes Bad Breath in Cats?

Before you can develop a treatment plan, you need to figure out the exact cause behind your cat's bad breath. Let's take a look at some of the possible reasons as to why your cat has poor smelling breath, and then we can let you in on some of the treatment options for halitosis in cats.

Oral hygiene is the overall cause of smelly breath in cats, but it's not very specific. Many reasons explain why your cat is exhibiting bad breath, so let's take a look at six of the potential causes of your cat's odorous breath! 

These six contributing factors to smelly breath include:

  • Plaque caused by bacteria
  • Necrosis, or death, of the gum tissues
  • Periodontal disease
  • Feline gingivitis or stomatitis in cats 
  • A build-up of tartar or calculus
  • Kidney disease

As always, please consult with your cat's primary veterinarian to determine the official cause of the issue. Not all cats are the same, and the exact reason cannot be self-diagnosed through the internet, but an official exam performed by your cat's vet can rule out everything but the exact cause of your cat's bad breath.  

1. Plaque Caused by Bacteria

A common cause of unfavorable breath in cats is plaque, which is similar yet different from tartar. You can think of plaque as the precursor to tartar, which is another mouth health problem that we'll talk about momentarily. Plaque  

Dental Disease in Cats | Innovet Pet

2. Tooth Decay and necrosis, or Death, of the Gum Tissues

Necrosis of the tissues in your cat's mouth affects both the teeth and gums of our feline friends. Whenever anything in your cat's mouth starts to decay, it will emit a strong, unfavorable odor. Whether it's a single tooth or the tissues surrounding your cat's teeth, a foul scent could be indicative of tooth decay or necrosis. 

3. Periodontal Disease 

Feline periodontal disease is a hard-to-miss infection of all the gums that hold your cat's teeth in place. Aside from the noticeable breath, the most common side effect of periodontal disease is inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. 

4. Feline Gingivitis or Stomatitis in Cats 

Gingivitis and stomatitis are dental diseases, but they are unique in and of themselves. Gingivitis in cats is an inflammation of the gums. Stomatitis, on the other hand, is a dental disease that leads to inflamed lips as a result of poor mouth health. Both gingivitis and stomatitis are dental diseases indicated by inflammation. The main difference being the specific part of the mouth experiencing the inflammation. 

5. Build-Up of Tartar or Calculus 

One of the most detrimental dental issues for cats is known as tartar. Also called calculus, tartar is the result of allowing plaque to collect on your cat's teeth. Over time, your cat's teeth become covered in tartar, which erodes the enamel of your cat's teeth and slowly breaks them down over time. Tartar is far more concerning than plaque, though neither oral health issue is favorable. 

Dental Disease in Cats | Innovet Pet

6. Kidney Disease Relates to Bad Breath in Cats

As unlikely as it sounds, there is a connection between the disease of the kidneys and smelly breath. When cats have a history of experiencing health issues to do with their mouth, they have a higher propensity for later being diagnosed with the disease. 

While poor smelling breath is not always a sign of kidney disease in cats, it can mean that your cat will go on to develop the disease in their kidneys later in life. This fact isn't to make you panic about your cat's future kidney health. Instead, it goes to show that poor oral health can contribute to complications in other parts of the body later on in life. 

Remedies to Get Rid of Cat's Bad Breath 


Stinky or foul-smelling breath does not have to be a condition that your cat lives with forever. There are ways to not only manage poor smelling breath in cats but to treat and eventually get rid of halitosis as well (check out the PurBreath oral care kit). But to improve your cat's breath, you must first get rid of the cause behind it. 

Since each cat's situation is so detailed and situational, your cat's breath issue will need to be addressed at your next vet appointment. Your cat's medical team can help to come up with the best treatment plan for your cat's breath. Not only will your cat's breath improve throughout the treatment, but all of the adverse side effects stemming from the causes will be eliminated, too, meaning your cat will feel so much better in general. 

If your cat's breath smells poorly or unfavorable in some other way, it's essential to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. When you take your cat to the vet, it's highly likely that your vet will conduct teeth cleaning to rid of any problematic elements, like plaque and tartar build-up. Not only will your cat thank you in their way, but you'll also learn how to improve your cat's dental care so that situations like these don't resurface in the future. 


What causes bad breath in cats
Halitosis in Cats
Causes and Remedies
Plaque vs. Tartar Prevention in Dogs
The Connection Between Dental Disease and Kidney Disease in Cats
Bad Breath: Sign of Illness?

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