How to Get Rid of a Cat's Bad Breath

Your cat shouldn't necessarily have fresh breath, but bad breath is a cause for concern.
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Petting your cat should be an enjoyable experience, but if your furry friend has bad breath, it can be a smelly chore. Cats normally are very clean animals, but sometimes need a little help to keep their breath fresh and clean.

What Causes Bad Breath?

The first step in determining the source of your cat’s bad breath is a visit to your veterinarian. He will check the cat for signs of tartar and gum disease, the leading cause of bad breath in cats. Your vet also will run a number of blood tests to determine if an underlying health problem is the source of your cat’s stinky breath. Cats with diabetes often have slightly sweet breath, while urine or ammonia-scented breath may be an indicator of liver disease.

Brush Your Cat's Teeth

Daily brushing will stave off the plaque that causes bad breath. Ask your vet for a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for cats. These small toothbrushes have soft bristles shaped to fit your cat’s sharp, jagged teeth. Wrap the cat in a soft towel and set him on your lap. Apply a drop of toothpaste to the brush, and lift his lips gently. Brush each tooth carefully, running the brush in small circles to get into every crevice. Some cats don’t like having their teeth brushed, so you may need to ask a helper to hold the cat.

Change Your Cat's Food

Introduce crunchy kibble to your cat’s diet to help clean the teeth. The surface of every kibble is slightly irregular, and will scrape plaque from the teeth with every bite. If you’ve never fed dry kibble, sprinkle a handful over your cat’s soft food and mix them in with a spoon. Gradually increase the amount of kibble and decrease the amount of soft food with each feeding until the cat is eating mostly hard food.


Professional cleaning is most helpful in cases of severe plaque buildup and gum disease, but should be used with caution. Some cats may have severe reactions to anesthesia. Never use human toothpaste on your cat. Human toothpaste is formulated with chemicals that may sicken your cat. Avoid giving him bones as a means to clean his teeth. While the rough surfaces of bones seem like an ideal natural toothbrush, small pieces may break off and cause digestive issues. If your cat scratches or attempts to bite as you brush his teeth, ask your veterinarian about sedated cleaning.

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.

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