Despite their usual laziness, cats sometimes find ways to use their limited waking hours to get into all sorts of trouble -- and even wind up with mouth infections. Your kitty's inflamed, oozing and painful mouth isn't always her fault, and sometimes it's impossible to prevent.
When your kitty cuts her gums on something, fractures a tooth or otherwise injures her little mouth, she's susceptible to all sorts of invasive bacteria and fungi. And no matter how clean you keep your home, she's still subject to the microscopic organisms. They're found on her body, especially those tiny paws, and on her food bowl, your floor and essentially everything she touches. Normally, her body would act like a garbage disposal and destroy them, but if she has an open wound, the bacteria and fungi may funnel into that wound and infect it. Even her own body is full of bacteria, although they usually don't pose any harm unless she injures herself.
Feline mouth diseases, such as periodontal disease, cause inflammation, infection and sometimes lesions. In the case of periodontal disease, her gums pull away and expose the roots of her teeth. The infection often worsens over time, eventually affecting her organs if it's not taken care of. While older kitties are more susceptible, felines with diabetes and autoimmune diseases, and those that take a liking to chewing things that aren't food, are also at risk.
You can often prevent mouth diseases from taking hold by brushing your kitty's teeth daily or at least a few times a week. Pet stores carry cat toothpaste and toothbrushes. She might not like it at first, but easing into it by letting her lick the toothpaste from your finger and gently rubbing her teeth will make her a bit less catty during brushing sessions.
Feline viruses are no fun to deal with, especially because medical experts have yet to find vaccinations for some of them. Viruses can cause a slew of problems, including mouth irritation, lesions, ulcers and other not-so-exciting stuff for your kitty to deal with. Two well-known and dangerous viruses are feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus. The problem with these two viruses, and others, is twofold: First, the problems they cause in the mouth can lead to open wounds, which is just asking bacteria and fungi to come on in. Second, they can suppress your kitty's immune system, which is a huge problem and makes it even more likely for infections to occur.
Your kitty would rather you see her fail to catch a mouse than see her in pain -- yes, she'll purposefully hide it. Couple that with the fact that mouth problems aren't easy to see and it's no wonder that mouth infections can go unnoticed for quite a while. Look for noticeable symptoms, such a lack of appetite, discharge around the gums, lethargy and dehydration. If she's in pain, she's probably won't want to scarf down her food like normal and she may even hold back from drinking. Dehydration symptoms include pale gums and poor skin elasticity.
Few cats enjoy taking a ride to the vet's office, but that's exactly what a mouth infection calls for. Stamping out the infection is vital, and your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics to accomplish that ... but finding the cause of the infection is just as important. Your kitty may have to deal with a little poking and prodding around her mouth, X-rays, blood tests or a urinalysis to determine the problem's cause.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.