Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Why Does My Cat's Breath Smell Bad?

If you've ever snuggled up with your furry friend only to be greeted by a less-than-pleasant odor coming from their mouth, you're not alone.  Bad breath in cats, also known as feline halitosis, can be quite common and is often a sign that something isn't right. Understanding the reasons behind your cat's bad breath and knowing how to address it is crucial for maintaining their overall health.

Why does my cat's breath smell bad?

Even though cats are not usually associated with bad breath, they can still have this issue. If your cat has extremely bad breath, it could be due to different factors, such as eating smelly food, dental problems, or other serious conditions. Therefore, scheduling a dental checkup for your cat with your veterinarian is important to determine and address the underlying cause of this unpleasant condition.

Common Reasons for Bad Cat Breath

Dental conditions mainly contribute to bad breath in cats, but other causes exist. There is a chance that this condition can be caused by other more serious conditions within your cat's body. These other conditions cause symptoms similar to those experienced by oral concerns, so it is important to ensure that you regularly bring your feline friend in for an examination.

These other conditions that may cause bad breath in your cat include:

Dental Issues

One of the most common causes of bad breath in cats is dental disease. Plaque and tartar buildup can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease, which can cause your cat's breath to smell bad. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are essential to prevent these issues.


What your cat eats can significantly affect the smell of their breath. Foods high in fish or other strong-smelling ingredients can contribute to bad breath. Cats that scavenge or eat non-food items may have bad breath due to the bacteria they ingest.

Oral Infections

Infections in the mouth, whether due to dental disease or other causes, can lead to bad breath. Abscesses, sores, or infected wounds in the oral cavity can harbor bacteria that cause foul odors.

Kidney Disease

Cats with kidney disease often have a characteristic ammonia-like smell to their breath. This is due to the kidneys' reduced ability to filter waste products from the blood, leading to a buildup of toxins.


Diabetes can cause a sweet or fruity smell in your cat's breath, a condition known as ketoacidosis. This is a serious condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Liver Disease

Liver disease can also cause bad breath. This condition may be accompanied by other symptoms such as jaundice, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

Oral Hygiene & Dental Disease in Cats

While we always strive to provide the best care possible for our feline friends, we sometimes overlook the crucial aspect of maintaining their oral hygiene. Regrettably, many of us fall short in this regard, and most cats face some form of dental disease by age three.

Food particles and bacteria accumulate every time your cat eats, posing a risk for various dental issues. These bacteria must be removed daily to prevent them from solidifying into tartar. If neglected, this tartar becomes a significant problem on its own. Additionally, the bacteria in the teeth and mouth can travel throughout the body, potentially causing heart and kidney disease. Tartar is also the primary culprit behind gum recession and the potential loss of your cat's teeth. Beyond the physical consequences, these issues can result in your cat not only experiencing pain but also suffering from persistent bad breath.

Recognizing the signs of these conditions is crucial. Common symptoms may include:

  • Inability to eat or lack of appetite
  • Behavioral changes
  • Redness of the mouth and gums
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums

Your vet can accurately diagnose dental conditions by performing an oral exam. The necessary treatment for your cat's bad breath depends on the specific condition it is experiencing. Possible treatment options include dental cleanings, tooth extractions, antibiotics, and potential dietary accommodations.

How do you get rid of bad breath in cats?

When your cat has bad breath, your main goal is to address the cause or get a diagnosis for an underlying condition. Start brushing your cat's teeth regularly from a young age to prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

Use special toothbrushes and toothpaste designed for ease of use. If your cat is not used to brushing, start with your fingers until they get used to it. Brush your cat's teeth several times weekly; more frequent brushing will make it easier.

Also, it's a good idea to schedule a dental checkup for your cat at least once a year to remove hard-to-reach plaque and tartar and identify potential dental problems early on.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat has smelly breath, contact our Benicia vets today to book an examination.

New Patients Always Welcome

Animal Clinic of Benicia is accepting new patients! Our skilled vets are passionate about the health of Benicia companion animals. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

Request Appointment (707) 745-5993