Is my cat’s breath supposed to smell like that?

Bad breath isn’t exclusive to us humans, it’s also common in our feline companions. While we can usually brush any stinks away, cat bad breath can indicate a more serious medical problem. Understanding why you might want to turn your face away from your cat’s stinky mouth when they come to say hello is the first step in appropriately treating not only the smell but the underlying cause.

Why does my cat have bad breath?

Don’t be tempted to just grin and bear the smell, here are some of the possible reasons behind your cat’s bad breath and why you shouldn’t ignore it.

Dental disease

Caused by the build-up of plaque and bacteria, your cat’s bad breath could be a sign of dental disease which affects their teeth, gums and bone. If left untreated, dental disease can result in gum infections, teeth and bone loss and other serious health problems as bacteria is able to enter the bloodstream and is then carried to the heart, liver and kidneys.

Something in their mouth

We can’t always be sure what our cats get up to if they head outside during the day, but they often scavenge. They might end up with bits of bone stuck in their mouths or in between their teeth even if you didn’t give it to them. Our indoor companions might end up digging their teeth into things with some of the material getting stuck in any gaps, wedged at the roof of their mouth or even in their gums.

Kidney disease

As a cat’s kidneys function as the body’s filtration system, if there was an underlying disease or problem with the organs, toxins may start to build up in their bloodstream. These are called urea and can make your feline friend’s breath smell like ammonia or urine. They may also suffer from sore gums if they have kidney disease.

a cat yawning

Liver disease

Bad breath accompanied by yellowing of the gums, vomiting and diarrhoea or lack of appetite may indicate that there’s a problem with the way your cat’s liver is functioning. 


If your cat’s breath smells like chemicals, it might be a sign of diabetes. The condition can also cause their breath to have a sweet smell similar to the sweets pear drops or nail polish remover. This is because a diabetic cat lacks insulin meaning it’s difficult for their bodies to break down any sugars that they consume. Their body will start breaking down fat to help create the necessary sugars needed to keep going. These cells are called ketones and they’re behind the sweet breath you might have noticed from your cat.

When untreated, diabetes can also suppress your feline friend’s immune system which can allow the bacteria to multiply and thrive in the mouth.

Ate something smelly

Your cat might suffer from coprophagia, where they’ll eat their own or other animals’ faeces, which can cause bad breath.

While you can’t keep an eye on them while they’re out and about, regularly emptying your cat’s litter tray can help prevent them from making a meal out of something best avoided.

Tumours in the mouth

The development of oral cancers or tumours can lead to bad breath. As masses grow, they can become infected, and parts of the mouth tissue die which creates the perfect environment for bacterial growth leading to persistent bad breath.

How to treat bad breath in cats

Since your cat’s bad breath might be a sign of an underlying health condition, it can’t be successfully treated without knowing the cause so it’s best to take your feline friend to see a vet if you notice a change in their breath.

If your cat’s eating habits are to blame for the smelly breath, you’ll be able to stop them from eating things they shouldn’t be by limiting the time they might be by themselves, securing any bins and keeping on top of cleaning their used cat litter.

How to prevent bad breath in cats

There are several ways to prevent bad breath in cats, with regularly brushing your feline’s teeth being the most important step as it can help stop plaque from building up, keeping their mouth clean and free of any foul smells.

Appropriate cat toys, dental treats and certain fruit and vegetables can also help take care of your cat’s teeth while keeping their mouths stimulated.

And that’s it for all things smelly breath. Always remember to get any odours checked out by your vet to keep your cat happy and healthy.


Looking for more cat advice?

We’ve written some handy cat advice guides, to help you unlock the secrets of your mysterious moggy.


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