Why Does My Cat’s Breath Smell Rotten? (Solved & Explained!)

Cuddling with cats is one of the best things in the world. It’s soft and they’re purring and there is love in the air. But all this is interrupted once they yawn and you smell something awful! You think, why does my cat’s breath smell rotten?

Bacteria build-up, diet, and underlying health issues could all be reasons behind why your cat breath smells rotten. Most of the time it’s important to treat this issue right away, because left untreated it will only get worse

Some of these symptoms are easier to treat than others, so this article will break down each underlying reason, the symptoms, and treatment options for your feline friend.

Why Does My Cat’s Breath Smell Rotten?

Reasons a Cat’s Breath Smells Rotten

There are a few different reasons your cat’s breath smells rotten.

  • Bacteria build-up: This is the most likely culprit of a cat’s bad breath. The bacteria grow on the feline’s teeth and gums and produce a rotten odor. Many times this happens if you don’t clean your cat’s teeth enough and allow tartar and plaque to accumulate.
  • Their diet: While cat’s may love fish, feeding them too much of it can affect their breath. Just like humans can get garlic or onion breath, cat’s can get fish breath from their diet and result in rotten smells.
  • Oral disease: Gingivitis and feline stomatitis are some of the most common oral diseases in pet cats. Gingivitis is caused by immense bacteria buildup and inflammation of the gums while stomatitis is inflammation of the mucous membranes in the back of the mouth.
  • Underlying health issues: There are a few underlying health issues aside from oral diseases that create abnormalities in a cat’s system. Halitosis (bad breath) has been linked to many medical conditions like abnormalities in the mouth or problems with the GI tract. For a specific diagnosis visit your local veterinary clinic.

cat yawning

Gingivitis and Stomatitis in Cats

Both of these terms refer to an oral inflammation brought on by bacteria buildup and eventual infection. If left untreated, these diseases can lead to tooth support loss, or periodontal disease.

Along with rotten breath, the physical appearance of gingivitis is swollen and inflamed gumlines right where they connect with the tooth. Most times it is a thin red line along the edge of the gums and when brushing a cat’s teeth the gums will bleed.

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Stomatitis is more severe inflammation than gingivitis and can be very painful for your cat. It hurts to eat causing a loss of appetite and it hurts to groom themselves. Cats can seem unkempt, greasy, or dirty because they stop self-cleaning.

Bad Breath Linkage to Other Underlying Health Issues

Most of the time a cat’s bad breath can be explained through diet, plaque, or bacteria buildup. However, if none of these seem obvious or the rotten breath continues for a long period of time, it could be something more serious.

Here a few other underlying health issues that could cause a cat’s bad breath:

  • Ulcers and sores
  • Kidney disease
  • Abscess or infection
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Infections
  • Cancer

Most of these diseases would also have many other physical symptoms along with halitosis such as loss of appetite or vomiting. These all require a visit to the vet for a formal diagnosis, and many of them also have clinical treatments or medications to help your cat get back to health as soon as possible.

Treatment of Rotten Cat Breath

If you notice physical symptoms within the mouth of your cat, it’s urgent to seek treatment options. This might include, brown teeth, sweet or fruity breath, ammonia breath, vomiting, loss of appetite, or yellow tinged eyes or gums.

Of course, it’s always important to consult with your veterinarian if you are concerned about anything regarding your pet. However, some at-home treatments might include brushing your cat’s teeth or adjusting their diet to more than just fish.

If these remedies don’t seem to be working, the symptoms are getting worse, or the smell more pungent then it’s recommended to seek out a vet for more options. There are some medicines that can be given to help with inflammation and as well as the opportunity to look for underlying health conditions.

How to Prevent Rotten Cat Breath

There are quite a few ways to prevent rotten cat breath and the impending worry and disease that comes with it. These are easy and routine things that all pet owners should be doing to help maintain the health of their pet.

There should be regular vet visits, not only for the rotten breath prevention, but for overall health as well. Vets are trained in some of the best dental practices for cats and other pets and can make sure to clean their teeth and prevent oral disease.

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Take notes while watching your vet do the dental cleaning. This is something that you should be doing on a regular basis, ideally everyday but schedules get busy. While your cat may be able to bathe itself, teeth are not included in that process and can get gross quickly.

You may also consider adjusting your cat’s diet. While no cat food will ever smell great, there are some that smell better than others while still offering necessary nutrients. Fish everyday will lead to fishy breath, so talk with your vet about other viable options for your feline.

Final Thoughts

There are 4 main reasons a cat’s breath might smell rotten: bacteria buildup, diet, oral disease, or other underlying health issues. However, there are plenty of treatments that are both affordable and easy to do at home. If you continue to worry about your pet or find the symptoms continuing after a long period of time, it’s important to go see your local vet for a formal diagnosis and treatment plan.

To prevent these diseases and rotten breath, make sure to be brushing and cleaning your cat’s teeth regularly. This will help prevent the bacteria buildup and infection. Also make sure to vary your cat’s diet to prevent fishy smells. There are plenty of other options that still remain nutritious.

In the meantime, while your cat recovers we recommend investing in a good set of nose plugs and a lot of febreeze.