Pets are rarely shining beacons of fresh breath, considering what their mouths come into contact with over the course of a day and their inability to clean their teeth. However, there can be a big difference between common unfresh breath and bad breath that may indicate an oral health problem. Here are some common causes of bad breath among cats, and how to tell if it's a problem.

After Food

As you might expect, one of the main reasons for a cat to have bad breath is that they just ate. Unlike most human food, cat food tends to be extremely pungent and doesn't always smell particularly good to humans. If your cat has just eaten, especially if it was wet food, which tends to smell more strongly than dry kibble, that's a potential cause of their stinky breath. However, this smell shouldn't linger for very long. Once your cat has groomed itself and had a drink, the smell shouldn't remain particularly noticeable. If it does, that may mean that there's a problem going on that goes beyond simple food leftover in their mouth.

After Brushing

One way to determine if your cat's breath is food-related or not is to brush their teeth. Brushing their teeth helps to remove food debris and bacteria, which will not only help to protect them from bad breath but also oral disease.

If you've never done it before, cats need special pet toothpaste in order to brush their teeth. This is designed to be safe to swallow and tastes appealing to cats. After brushing their teeth, you should be able to immediately notice a difference if their food is to blame. However, if a bad smell remains, that likely indicates that something else is going on. Bad breath in cats that isn't directly due to the food they've recently eaten may be due to things like tooth decay or gum disease.

What to Do

While it's sometimes easy for pet owners to ignore the smell of their pets' breath, that doesn't mean you should. If the initial troubleshooting techniques shown here didn't work, you should take your pet to a vet for a professional cleaning and oral examination.

In many cats, this kind of smell indicates that tooth decay, gum disease, or both have already progressed substantially. While bacteria themselves can produce foul smells, usually a pungent stink only lasts if a cat's gum tissues or teeth are actively being broken down due to decay and disease. Thankfully, a veterinarian can stop this process by cleaning your pet's teeth, removing any that are too severely damaged, and maintaining a regular cleaning schedule with you. Contact a veterinarian for more information.