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Is it normal for cats to have really bad breath and is there a cure to get rid of a cat’s bad breath?

If you’ve ever had a sniff of your cat’s breath, perhaps when they’re yawning in your face, you may have found it to be quite smelly and wondered, do all cats have bad breath, and should I be worried if my cat’s breath stinks?

brown tabby cat lying on wooden floor with its mouth wide open

No cat has lovely, minty-fresh breath, so it’s normal for your cat’s breath to have an odour. It’s difficult to say what a cat’s breath should smell like, but a meat-based diet and the fact that we often don’t clean our cats’ teeth can all contribute to what we perceive as bad breath. However, if your cat’s breath suddenly starts to smell different or worse than normal, then bad breath could be a sign that something is wrong.

Try to get a sniff of your cat’s breath when you know they are healthy, so you know what is normal for them, and then if you notice any change later on, speak to your vet to find out what’s wrong.

What are the causes of bad breath in cats?

If you notice a change in the smell of your cat’s breath, here are just some of the potential causes:

Does wet cat food cause bad breath?

Wet cat food does have an odour, so just like our breath smells after we eat something pungent, the smell of the food will linger on your cat’s breath for a short while after eating. Therefore, if your cat eats wet food two or three times a day, then their breath may have a meaty or fishy smell associated with this. If this is normal for your cat then there’s nothing to worry about, but if you notice their breath smells different or worse, speak to your vet.

two female vets wearing pink plastic aprons examining the open mouth of a black-and-white cat on an examination table

What are the best cat foods/treats for bad breath?

There are specially formulated dental diets than can help to keep your cat’s teeth healthy, but make sure you speak to your vet before changing your cat’s diet.

Cat treats and human foods can be high in sugar, which could lead to dental disease and other dental problems for your cat. Only feed your cat treats occasionally, and avoid giving them human foods which could be poisonous to them, such as chocolate. Find out more about what to feed your cat.

How to get rid of a cat’s bad breath

Your cat’s breath will never have a minty-fresh aroma so unfortunately there’s no fix or cure for a cat’s bad breath. However, there are some things you can do to help keep your cat’s teeth healthy and prevent dental disease, a common cause of really bad breath in cats.

  1. Visit the vet
    If you’re worried about your cat’s teeth, or if you notice their breath suddenly smells different or worse than normal, speak to your vet so they can check for a cause and offer appropriate treatment for your cat. Cats can have significant dental disease without a change in their breath, so it’s important to visit the vet at least once a year so they can monitor their dental health.
  2. Brush their teeth
    A great way to avoid dental disease is to brush your cat’s teeth regularly with a cat-safe toothpaste. These are usually flavoured with something your cat will find tasty, such as chicken, so will still give your cat’s breath a meaty smell but will help to keep their teeth healthy. Find out how to brush your cat’s teeth.
  3. Avoid sugary treats
    Avoid feeding your cat too many sugary cat treats to limit the chance of dental problems and keep their breath smelling normal. You could also speak to your vet about feeding your cat a specially formulated dental diet to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Find out more about dental care for cats.

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