Bad breath in cats

Recently I've noticed that my cats breath stinks! I mean, it's not just normal cat breath, it's really horrible. Granted, cat's can't brush their teeth and they like foods like fish, so their breath is bound to get funky. This was worse than expected though. Upon looking at Trixie's teeth and mouth closely, I noticed some yellow and greyish buildup on the teeth.

Cat with mouth open showing teeth that need cleaning.

We had a veterinarian visit coming up soon and my worst fear was confirmed. She needed a dental treatment! Unfortunately when cats need their teeth worked on they must be put to's basically surgery without an incision but with all the expense. Not what I wanted to hear!

It's not like I expected her teeth to be sparkling clean! Cat owners know for a fact that bad cat breath can be downright awful but that's par for the course. Or is it? Upon realizing we had a problem I got started looking for a solution and found so many ways I could care for her teeth better!

What causes bad breath in cats?

Stinky cat breath isn’t that much different from bad human breath, as both are caused by bacteria found in the mouth that breaks protein down and releases the sulfur compounds out into the air. Sulfur smells really bad on its own, which is why breath containing it smells bad as well. 

The bacterium that causes bad breath with cats is normally associated with a buildup of tartar around the teeth. Tartar is yellow in color, known as a coating of bacteria, food, and minerals. Bacteria and tartar are the reasons us humans brush our teeth! The daily care keeps these things from building up on our teeth, but unfortunately my cats are not going to accept getting their teeth brushed daily. So what do we do?

To cure your cat from bad breath, you’ll need to remove the buildup of tartar. Since my cats buildup of tartar got so bad, she had to have a dental surgery scheduled to have her teeth professionally cleaned. Once the tartar has been removed, the bad breath will go away.

You may be able to clean the tartar off your cat’s teeth at home...if your cat will tolerate it. There are several toothpastes made for cats, available in a few different flavors. You’ll need to get a mechanical toothbrush, as the motion is very important for removing tartar buildup. They also make finger toothbrushes which are a rubber fingertip cover with small nubs on it. 

Toothpastes that contain enzymes will dissolve tartar, helping to cure bad breath. If you start early with brushing your cat’s teeth, you can virtually eliminate any type of tartar buildup that will ultimately lead to bad breath. Of course not all cats will tolerate toothbrushing, so it's going to be easiest to try to prevent the buildup to begin with!

Persons hands holding a cats mouth partially open looking at the cats teeth.

How to keep a cats teeth clean 

There are several cat foods out there that are designed to reduce the buildup of tartar, many containing enzymes that will literally dissolve it. You can also give your cat treats as well, as many of them will help eliminate and prevent tartar. My cats like the feline greenies tartar control treats.

Some bacteria that lead to tartar can be found in your cat’s diet. When you feed her, you should always make sure that the food she consumes doesn’t contain a lot of bacteria. If you feed a raw diet special care should be taken to insure the food is fresh and has been properly stored and prepared. It can help her bad breath a great deal. 

Giving your cat a probiotic could help also. You can find a powdered form that can be sprinkled over wet food if you have a hard time getting her to take a pill. There are also chewable cat probiotic treats, but make sure not to exceed the daily dosage. 

Another product that can help a bit is a water additive. It's super simple to use, just add to your cats water each time you refill the bowl. I decided to order this one from Arm & Hammer. I'll keep you updated on how it works!

Orange cat holding a toothbrush

Other causes of bad breath in cats

Sometimes, cats may have a bad odor in their mouth that doesn’t come from tartar or bad breath in general. In these rare cases, it can be either liver or kidney disease. If you notice bad breath and it isn’t tartar, you should take your cat to the vet.

Even though it may be something to do with tartar, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your veterinarian can pinpoint the problem, let you know what the cause is – and how you should go about fixing it.


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