cat mouth

Cat Have Bad Breath? Here Are Common Causes and Helpful Remedies

Bad breath is a common complaint among cat owners. Many attribute their cat's breath to their diet, blaming stinky food for their stinky breath. Yet, though diet can be a reason behind your cat's bad breath, it's actually more complex than that.

If your cat's halitosis is becoming noticeable, it is a sign of health problems. The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine indicates that a healthy cat should not have bad breath.

If your cat's breath smells terrible, it is often a sign of dental health problems, like gingivitis and gum disease. If left untreated, inflammation of the gums and other oral health problems can lead to problems in other areas of the body, including kidney disease, intestinal blockages, and liver disease, warns the team at Cornell.

Thus, taking care of oral care for your cat is vital to protect them from dental diseases and inflammation of the gum line and protect their overall health. Here's a closer look at some reasons your cat's breath may stink, and some ideas of what you can do about it.

What Should My Cat's Breath Smell Like?

A healthy cat's breath should have minimal smell. The Ontario SCPA Humane Society indicates your cat's breath should smell fairly neutral, and any sort of bad smell is a sign of oral hygiene problems or other health issues. A fishy smell, which is common with cats, is almost always a sign of a problem.

Reasons Your Cat's Breath May Stink

If you are noticing your cat's breath smells bad, what could be the cause? Several problems can lead to a smell from the mouth, including these:


Halitosis is the official term for bad breath in cats. It can have several causes, but it usually occurs when plaque buildup occurs in a cat's mouth. This allows bacteria to grow, and you will eventually smell the bacteria on your cat's breath.

Periodontal Disease

If left unchecked, plaque buildup will turn into tartar buildup. This can cause inflammation along the gum line. As the bacteria continue to reproduce, your cat's breath will get worseand worse, and theywill also suffer from inflammation and pain, a condition called stomatitis. Periodontal disease can also lead to other health problems in pets, so you need to address the issue as soon as possible.

Medical Conditions That Affect the Mouth, Gastrointestinal Tract, Liver, or Kidneys

Sometimes bad breath doesn't come from poor dental care, but rather from some other area of the body. Other medical conditions that affect the mouth can cause breath problems. Similarly, problems in the gut, liver, or kidneys can make your cat's breath smell bad, and that's why getting a complete dental checkup is so important.


If your cat's breath smells off but smells fruity instead of foul, it indicates diabetes. When ketones build up in the blood due to diabetes, it makes the animal's breath smell sweet. If you notice this smell, pay attention to whether or not your cat is urinating more frequently, which is another sign of this condition. A prompt visit to the vet to rule out this dangerous condition is needed. If your cat does have diabetes, fruity-smelling breath can indicate you need to revisit your diabetes treatment plan with your vet.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer occurs if a squamous cell carcinoma develops inside your cat's oral cavity. This can be on any soft tissue, including the gum, tongue, palate, and tonsils. It typically causes bad breath and difficulty eating.

Poor Diet

Your cat's diet has a direct impact on their breath. A poor diet filled with additives and difficult-to-digest foods will make your cat's breath stink. A better diet can improve gastrointestinal health, which will also help improve your cat's breath.

Remedies & Tips for Getting Rid of Your Cat's Bad Breath

If your cat is suffering from bad breath, the first step is to schedule a complete physical exam with your vet to rule out any other problems. If your cat is otherwise healthy, then they will likely recommend you take a look at your cat’s dental hygiene.

1. Brush Your Cat's Teeth

If you want fresh-smelling breath, you are going to need to tackle a task many pet owners prefer to avoid. Brushing your cat's teeth requires practice and patience, but it will help. Here's how you can get started:

  • Start with tooth gel on your finger or on a finger toothbrush.
  • If your cat tolerates this, then use a cat toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste to brush more thoroughly.
  • Choose a time when your cat is happy and calm.
  • Go slowly, building trust and getting your cat used to things touching her mouth.
  • Repeat sessions until you can do the whole thing at once.
  • Use positive reinforcement throughout the process.
  • Practice until you are both comfortable with the process.

2. Feed Your Cat a Proper Diet and Avoid Dry Mouth

Choose natural cat food over highly-processed foods to help your cat stay healthier. Give your cat plenty of water to avoid a dry mouth. When choosing cat food, keep these things in mind:

  • Choose something that is easy to digest, like human grade food with no added sugars or unnecessary fillers.
  • Avoid foods with a lot of added chemicals and food coloring.
  • Give your cat variety to avoid weight loss due to boredom with the food.
  • Use wet food to help your cat get more fluids and avoid a dry mouth.

Our dehydrated foods are great for getting more water into your cat’s diet!


3. Try Cat Chews that Help with Oral Hygiene

Cat chews have rough, ribbed edges to scrape tartar off of the teeth in between tooth brushing. Use these from time to time to assist with your oral care routine.

4. Fight Bad Breath With Gels and Water Additives

Water additives and cat teeth gels can also help with your cat's breath. Add these to the water or rub them on your cat's teeth to reduce the amount of plaque and tartar your cat has.

5. Take Your Cat to the Vet for a Complete Oral Exam

A complete oral exam and wellness check from your vet is an important part of oral hygiene. This checkup will also rule out any underlying health problems that are contributing to the breath. If your cat's bad breath is particularly rancid, consider scheduling professional teeth cleaning to get ahead of the game.

Improve Your Cat's Diet and Breath With Human Grade Cat Food From The Honest Kitchen

Dental cleaning is an important part of learning how to get rid of a cat's bad breath, but diet also plays an important role in your cat’s oral health. And since it’s one of the causes of bad breath that you have control over, consider trying our human grade cat foods that are packed with protein, moisture-rich and free of fillers..

By fueling your cat's body well, you will encourage increased wellness and reduce problems with bad breath.

Browse our selection of cat food to find an option that fits your cat's needs.



Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.

Ben Kerns

Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.
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