Feline Halitosis: Is Foul, Nasty, Vile Cat Breath Normal?

Your cat’s breath smells like a cross between a rotten onion and KFC extra crispy chicken. Should you be concerned? What can you do to make your kitty’s breath smell better?

Don’t deny it. You’ve known someone who has had a bad case of halitosis, and you’ve inevitably wondered, “Wow, dude, what’s up with that?” Perhaps the person dislikes the taste of Colgate, lost the ol’ trusty toothbrush, is just plain lazy, or maybe they have a kitten fermenting in their gut. You’re never sure of the cause, but you know something must be off.

Is Kitty Breath Inevitably Nasty?

Yawn 1 by Mel B..
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But what about your kitty cat’s halitosis? Do all cats have nasty breath (more scientifically known as feline halitosis)?

Well, as with all things related to the feline, the answer to this question is not clear cut. But with a little investigation into feline halitosis, you can learn whether it’s time to worry and/or whether it’s just time to spend more of your free time brushing your kitty’s pearly whites (or yellows, as the case may be).

In short, your kitty’s breath is not supposed to smell minty fresh. Indeed, it would be a little peculiar if it did. However, if the odor coming from kitty’s mouth is a fluorescent green hue and offensive enough to curl your toes, there could be problem that a vet needs to address.

Causes of Kitty Halitosis

roar by RatRanch.
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Feline halitosis is usually caused by bacteria growth in the mouth. If this bacteria is not removed, plaque and tarter will begin to grow on the teeth, resulting in even fouler smelling breath.

Feline halitosis can also have more deeply rooted, serious causes. Gingivitis, rotting teeth, tumors or cancers of the mouth, and gastrointestinal tract problems can cause halitosis. Less apparent issues, such as liver, kidney, and respiratory diseases, can also be the culprits.

How to Prevent and Treat Kitty Halitosis

Brush Kitty’s Teeth Regularly

The best thing you can do to prevent and treat feline halitosis is to regularly brush your cat’s teeth. Be sure to buy a cat toothpaste that is specially formulated as well as a cat toothbrush that is specially designed for your furry friend. Cat toothpastes come in yummy flavors, including poultry, beef, and malt, that are palatable for the finicky feline. Cat toothbrushes are the perfect size and shape to fit into your kitty’s mouth. If your kitty is resistant to having his or her teeth brushed, try using a piece of gauze or Q-Tip instead of the toothbrush.

Switch from Soft to Hard Cat Food

It can also help to switch your kitty from soft food to hard food. Crunchy kibble can help prevent and remove plaque buildup from your cat’s teeth. There are also some cat treats that contain enzymes that help prevent the buildup of tarter.

Take Kitty for Regular Vet Checkups

Be sure to take your kitty for regular checkups with your veterinarian. As part of a routine examination, the vet will take a look at your kitty’s teeth and suggest ways of keeping up on your kitty’s oral hygiene. Your vet may recommend annual professional teeth cleanings.

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When Should You Take Kitty to the Vet?

In addition to routine, preventative veterinary examinations, you should also schedule an appointment with your vet if your kitty’s halitosis is accompanied by drooling, vomiting, pain, problems eating, or depression. Note, breath that smells like ammonia or urine can be a sign of kidney disease; breath that smells rotten can be a sign of an intestinal, gum, or teeth problems; and breath that smells sweet can be a sign of diabetes.

Good Oral Hygiene = A Happy, Healthy Kitty

Charlie by Hey Paul.

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Halitosis is a red flag that should be investigated to rule out a more serious, underlying problem. It is important to regularly brush your kitty’s teeth. This is the number one way to prevent and treat halitosis and ensure that your kitty has good oral hygiene. If left untreated, feline halitosis can lead to gum disease and tooth loss. More serious consequences of untreated feline halitosis are heart, kidney, and other diseases. Veterinarians are starting to link more and more diseases in older kitties to poor oral hygiene.

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User Comments
  1. Jane Jane

    On September 22, 2009 at 10:00 am

    I don’t have a kitty but I do have dogs and I’m glad I don’t have such problems with them.

  2. Jenny Heart

    On September 22, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    I have 4 cats. Most times they have normal cat breath. I think sometimes it may be worse if they had a hairball and such. LOL Sometimes we cat owners do need to keep a look out signs of ill health. Ill health can lead to bad breath even in humans.

  3. Lostash

    On September 22, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Not being a cat owner, I will never have this problem!!!

  4. LoveDoctor

    On September 22, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Funny title.. Great and informative. I never knew cats had this type of bad breath. I knew somebody that went to school with me that had this problem. Poor girl I always said! But this is something like you said probably gastrointestinal. whether they know about it not sure. I am guessing someone must have told them in their life.

  5. fishfry aka Elizabeth Figueroa

    On September 23, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Rather interesting article, I am not a cat owner, I cat sit thou.
    I care for dogs as well, and if they have Halitosis, it is usually a bad sign. Great Article full of facts.

  6. lillyrose

    On October 15, 2009 at 10:57 am

    A really good article! but I am sure most cats won’t sit and let you brush their teeth. A good way of holding them, is to take the sleeve of an old jumper, put you arm down the sleeve and your hand will be out of the end. Put your hand over kitties head then pull the sleeve inside out down your arm, over your hand and kitties head, then pull it all the way over kitties body. So she is left with her head sticking through the end of the sleeve and her body and legs/feet/claws are restrained in the rest of the sleeve. It seems to keep them calm too.!

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