a red and white cat lying on back chewing on a toothbrush

Cat’s Breath Stinks – What’s Going On?

Does your cat’s breath stink? Is your cat’s breath always fruity or has it just become a little whiffy recently? Does your cat’s ripe breath have a particular smell to it? Hey, everyone has a bad day from time to time when bad breath can let us down – but on occasion, it can indicate something more sinister at play…

Want to know what is going on with your cat and what the possible solutions might be? Read on if your cat’s breath stinks and you want to bust those whiffs.  

Why Does My Cat’s Breath Stink

Surprisingly, there are a number of reasons your cat might have devil breath. Some are just passing reasons with little to worry about – others can be an indicator of something untoward going on. Check out these common issues :


Your cat’s diet might just be turning up the whiff a notch or two! Clearly, if your cat is eating tuna, sardines, or mackerel they are going to develop a severe dose of fishy breath – however, like most diet-related bad breath, these whiffs will be short-lived and should pass in a few hours.  

If your cat eats wet foods these can usually leave a bit more of a humming bouquet from your cat and some of that will be to do with some of the less noticeable contents in the food – check out the ingredients label and see if you can spot ingredients that might hum like liver or fish.

a grey cat investigating a pot of raw fish
Fishy Breath?

Dental Disease

Your cat can suffer from dental diseases. Let’s face it, if you don’t brush, your mouth is going to stink and the same for your cat. This stink is down to the naturally occurring bacteria in your cat’s mouth breaking down food into smelly sub-components. Without brushing, these bacteria build up with time, and their action and resulting stink grows! 

If left, this bacteria can create a dental plaque that goes on to form encrusted tartar deposits on teeth and can lead to periodontal disease – a disease of the supporting structure of the teeth that leaves the teeth loose and prone to falling out – nasty! 

Gingivitis And Stomatitis

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums caused by dental disease and other bacteria. Stomatitis is an inflammation of the mucous linings of the mouth caused by infection. Both conditions can give rise to stinky breath. 

All told, dental disease and gingivitis are the most common causes of stinky breath in cats.

close up of a vet inspecting a cats teeth and gums

Trapped Food 

If your cat has a piece of old food trapped between their teeth, a piece of bone, or a foreign body like the remnants of string or such, these can begin to rot and give off a bad odor that makes your cat’s breath stink. 

Your cat might give you an indication of a problem by pawing the affected side of the face from time to time or they might not be overly bothered by the issue… 

Kidney Issues 

Have you noticed the smell of urine on your cat’s breath? If so this could be an indicator of kidney trouble

Basically, the kidneys clear toxins out of the blood and if they begin to become less efficient they end up leaving too much of the toxins in the blood. These toxins may then cause your cat’s breath to smell and the giveaway is the urine or ammonia-related smell.

Bowel Obstruction 

a profile shot of a cat sitting in a blue litter tray

Maybe your cat does not smell of urine. Maybe they have breath that smells of poop! This can be a giveaway that they have a bowel obstruction. This is a serious serious issue. If your cat suddenly develops genuine poo breath get to a vet! They may have eaten a rubber band or some other indigestible item that is blocking them up – potentially fatal! 

Liver Disease 

Is your cat’s bad breath stinking of vomit? Got a tinge of the poop whiffs? Gone a tad musty? If you start smelling bad breath like this and it becomes regular, your cat could have liver issues. 

Bad breath isn’t the only sign of liver issues with cats. You might also notice additional thirst, weight loss, and poor appetite. Either way, these weird types of bad breath should not be ignored!


Seems like everyone in the western world is at risk of diabetes these days and your cat is no different. If your cat has a faintly sweet, saccharine odor on their breath it could be indicative of a diabetes issue.

Diabetes in cats usually occurs in cats that are older than six years old. Common symptoms include weight loss, increased appetite, and increased thirst. You probably don’t need to be told, but it is serious and potentially fatal.

Oral Trauma/Skin Disease To The Lips

Trauma to the skin in the mouth area can give rise to whiffy breath if the area becomes infected. Has your cat been in a fight and got a graze that has gone bad? Have they cut a lip or tongue-eating something out on the street – licking peeled open cans or broken glass jars? A cut or wound can soon pong if not seen too quickly.

Pretty rare, but skin cancers can occur in cats that can create wounds on your cat’s mouth that gives rise to bad breath – needless to say, these can be pretty dangerous complications to life for your cat!

When To Worry

A big, long list of causes of bad cat breath like the one above might suddenly make you rather concerned! In truth, it is usually bad teeth rather than organ failure that is the cause of the pong.

So when should you get concerned? Well, occasional halitosis is fine. This is most likely caused by what your cat is eating and can be resolved by cutting out the tuna and liver pate!

When you should worry and seek immediate action is when you get a sudden and consistent change from the norm. 

Now, just because such a change happens doesn’t necessarily mean terrible things have happened (although it could). Your cat might have just got a bad tooth that starts to consistently stink. On the other hand, if you spot other worrying symptoms like loss of appetite, weight loss, or increased drinking, sudden and constant bad breath problems should be the final clue you need to confirm suspicions that your cat needs attention.

What Can Be Done About It

close up of a red cat eating a small sardine of a chopping board on a counter top

If your cat’s breath stinks the first thing to do is change out your cat’s diet. Lose the fish, liver, and humming ingredients, or at least cut back if your cat loves them and can’t live without them. This might be all it takes to fix the problem.

Next, have a vet make a regular, annual check on the teeth and gums on your cat. Your cat might just need a clean and scrape to get back in shape. They may have rotting or damaged teeth that need to be removed. A quick scrape off of the accumulated tartar or removal of broken, cracked, or damaged teeth can do wonders for bad breath overnight! 

Whilst your vet is at it, they will also look for trauma, skin disease and check out the general condition of your cat in case your cat has underlying issues creating the bad breath. If you think your cat is a little bit off, tell the vet because they might be able to treat the underlying problem or at least manage the problem which could fix the bad breath and give your cat a decent quality of life. 

If you suspect a big problem, such as bowel obstruction, clearly get your cat to the vet as soon as possible – they need professional help! Your cat is likely to be seriously ill within hours from this condition so should be pretty easy to identify that they need a vet! They won’t be eating, likely throwing up, suffering from stomach discomfort to touch….all bad…bad breath will be the least of your cat’s problems…

If you are happy there are no underlying conditions and your cat is in rude health with a good set of teeth you can greatly reduce bad breath issues going forwards by actually brushing your cat’s teeth! 

These days you can get feline toothpaste and brushes that cats can easily take to. You just need to gradually introduce them to the routine and in no time you can have your cat cleaned up and whiff free!

Realistically, apart from the odd post-meal stink, these days there is no reason for your cat to have bad breath if their teeth are good and they are in good health.