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14.09.2022

My kitten has bad breath—how to handle the stinky situation

Smelly kitten breath can almost fly under the radar until you go in for a cuddle. They tend to enthusiastically lick your face, and the stench hits you hard—this can’t be normal, right?

A kitten’s bad breath can be triggered by something as basic as a smelly fish meal, but it may also indicate underlying health conditions like diabetes, constipation, and gum disease. Kitten parents should learn to recognise the red flags to get timely medical help or make appropriate lifestyle changes for their kittens.

In this guide, we will check out:

  • What causes bad breath in a kitten?
  • What do different feline breath smells mean?
  • How can you keep your kitty’s breath fresh with the right food and hygiene?

Why does my kitten have bad breath? Is it teething time?

A kitten’s breath won’t smell like roses, but it shouldn't be foul. Kittens never suffer from bad breath when they have no teeth and are nursed by their mother. According to vets, there are two specific periods during kittenhood when a kitten has stinky breath:

  1. Initial teething—Teething starts when kittens are around three weeks old and ready to get weaned. The process can be painful and causes mild inflammation, bleeding, and soreness in their gums, sometimes leading to a funky smell. Your kitten will appear more irritable and restless during those two weeks, but the pain and smell will disappear as their 26 baby teeth emerge in full
  2. Permanent teeth coming out—If you adopt a kitten after their initial teething, expect them to have bad breath when they are around 3–4 months old. They may experience temporary gingivitis because their adult teeth start to grow. Your kitten may have a reduced appetite and bite and chew into stuff to ease the pain

How to alleviate teething stress and related bad breath

Help your kitten go through teething by:

  • Getting chewing toys—Biting on toys like catnip chews and teething balls can gently massage your kitty’s sore gums. You can also use them for training your kitten not to destroy furniture by chewing and clawing. Go for toys made of soft materials (latex) because hard ones can do more harm than good
  • Feeding them wet food—The soft texture of canned food is ideal for felines with sensitive gums. Eating dry food is stressful to teething kittens because the biscuits are hard. Biting on kibbles creates unnecessary pressure on the gums, increasing the risk of bacterial infections and making your furry friend’s breath more unpleasant

Bad breath associated with teething doesn’t require medical attention unless your kitty develops an infection, which you can recognise by constant bleeding or discharge from the gums.

That’s how nature works, hooman—growth always comes with pain and, occasionally, bad breath.

Source: Girl with red hat

Beyond teething—health conditions that cause bad kitten breath

If your growing kitten has an unpleasant breath despite not teething, you should look into it because it can be a sign of an underlying health condition. It’s common for cats to have breath that smells like their food, but the odour is not supposed to be rotten or pungent.

The reason behind bad breath (halitosis) can be pretty obvious. Many cats lick their backsides right after doing their business, especially when they’re alone!

If the stench lingers and you notice signs of sickness (like sluggishness, eating litter, or weight loss), it’s time for a vet visit.

Determining the reason for bad breath

Your kitten’s breath may smell in various ways, each signalling a specific feline health condition. Check out the following table for details:

Type of smell

Health condition(s)

Details

Sulphur (like human bad breath)

Mouth and gum disease

Kittens with mouth and gum disease have smelly sulphur-producing bacteria on their tongue, throat, and gums. The most common dental diseases in felines (of any age) are periodontitis, gingivitis, and tooth resorption. Sometimes, the smell is also triggered by the decaying bits of food lodged between the teeth

Acetone (sweet and fruity)

Diabetes mellitus

A diabetic cat cannot regulate their blood sugar levels, so their liver sends ketones into the bloodstream to support basic metabolism. This makes their breath smell like acetone, a type of ketone. Other symptoms of diabetes in cats include:

Mould (musty and mucousy)

Respiratory infection

Kittens with respiratory infections have bad breath because of mucus secretions dripping into their mouth from the nasal cavity. Other symptoms include sneezing, coughing, and dry heaving

Ammonia (like urine or poo)

Kidney or lower urinary tract diseases

It’s unlikely for kittens to have kidney disease, but they may still have toxin buildup in their system because of UTIs or bladder stones, which makes their breath reek of ammonia. Affected kittens may also have bloody diarrhoea and refuse to eat their regular wet or dry food

Butyric acid (the smell of gastric juices in vomit)

Liver or gastrointestinal issues

If your kitten throws up food or hairballs a lot, their breath can carry the sour odour of gastric juices

Sniffing is my job, hooman. Is it my fishy burps, or are you up to something fishy?

Source: Yuliya kota

How to help a kitten with smelly breath

If you suspect your kitty’s breath is bad because of a health condition, take them to the vet. What you can do to fix or prevent halitosis is:

  1. Adopting strict oral hygiene practices
  2. Feeding you feline companion quality meals

Kitten dental care 

Here are some essential dental hygiene rituals for felines:

  1. Brush their teeth every day—Regular brushing will prevent bacteria buildup in your kitten’s mouth. Skittish or feral kittens may not be tolerant of brushing initially. If they snap at the sight of a toothbrush, apply some cat-safe toothpaste on your fingers and massage their teeth and gums. Make brushing part of their grooming or bathing sessions. Reward them with treats if they behave to help them associate dental hygiene with something positive and pleasant. Once they’re okay with the routine, switch to a toothbrush
  2. Ensure they drink enough water—A dry mouth is a fertile ground for bacteria. Give your kitty wet food every day to keep them properly hydrated. If you have other cats or dogs at home, train each pet to drink from a separate water bowl to keep track of their daily water intake
  3. Take them for yearly dental check-ups—Regular check-ups help detect oral diseases on time. You can also take them for professional teeth cleaning to remove all the tartar and plaque

First, it was the obsessive sniffing. Now they’re flinging weapons in my mouth. Is my hooman turning hostile?

Source: Oleg Sotnikov

A kitten’s diet for optimal dental health

The source of bad breath in any feline—kitten, adult, or senior—is often an underlying health issue caused by a poor diet. Some common culprits on the menu include:

  • Dry food—Many people believe dry food is good for dental health as it helps remove tartar, but that is not entirely true. Biscuits are usually full of carbs like sugar, rice starch, and corn syrup. Carbohydrates accelerate tooth decay and lead to conditions like:
    • Weight gain
    • Diabetes
    • Kidney and urinary tract diseases
    • Dehydration
    • IBS
  • Filler ingredients—Cats are pure carnivores who should absorb essential nutrients from meat to stay healthy. Many manufacturers add fillers like vegetables, meat derivatives, bone meals, condensed milk, and grains to cat food to reduce production costs. Products with poor meat content will weaken a cat’s immunity, making them prone to diseases and infections
  • Chemical additives—Many cat food products are loaded with chemical colourants, harsh preservatives, and artificial flavours. These ingredients can trigger food allergies, regurgitation, and frequent tummy upsets, causing your kitty to have persistent bad breath

To ensure overall good health for your kitten, feed them grain-free wet food with:

  1. More than 50% animal protein derived from human-grade meat or fish
  2. Up to 20% fat
  3. Not more than 3% carbs

Kitties don’t need breath mints—delicious lean meat and fish will suffice!

Image (c) Untamed

Untamed can help fix bad kitten breath

Don’t let your kitten miss out on their dose of cuddles because of bad breath. Keep them strong and happy by incorporating Untamed into their diet. Our gravies and jellies can eliminate bad breath by stabilising your kitten’s gastrointestinal and overall health. The benefits of Untamed are:

  1. High-protein meals—Our wet food provides twice more protein than average products. Regular Untamed meals will help kittens gain their target weight and muscle tone effortlessly. We don’t bulk up the protein content with:
    1. Meat derivatives
    2. Dairy and vegan proteins
  2. Human-grade ingredients—Our meals are 60%–63% fresh human-grade meat and seafood sourced from ethical suppliers
  3. Balanced nutrition—We asked vets to create the best cat food formulas that deliver adequate quantities of all essential nutrients, including immunity-boosting taurine and vitamin E
  4. Hypoallergenic ingredients—We don’t put common allergens in our products. If your kitten was recently weaned and has a sensitive stomach, our single-protein-source meals, Tuck-in Tuna in Jelly or Chocka Chicken in Jelly, are perfect for them
  5. Highly digestible, gently steamed dishes—We steam our meals because overcooking destroys the taste and nutritional value of meat
  6. Irresistible taste—Kittens don’t fuss over Untamed because it is yummy and versatile. Your feline friend can choose:
    1. Chicken breast and liver, duck, and ham (farm-reared and hormone-free)
    2. Tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, and shrimp (sustainably fished and dolphin-safe)

Take our TRY NOW quiz to tailor a taster pack according to your kitten’s preferences.

Tired of smelly products? Try Untamed—our tasty and healthy food is easy to store and serve!

Image (c) Untamed

Untamed makes your kitty feel and smell better!

Here’s what our clients say about the positive effects of switching their feline friends to Untamed:

Timeline

Changes

One week

  • No bad breath
  • Optimal hydration
  • Tidier litter tray

Two to three months

  • No unnatural shedding or hairballs
  • Sleek coat
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Even energy levels

Beyond four months

Untamed supports your cat at any life stage—all you have to do is adjust the portions and the feeding plan to your kitty’s daily calorie requirements. Keep your kitty on our meals when they transition into adult or senior cats because Untamed:

Cuddles uninterrupted—let your kitty embrace the Untamed life!

Image (c) Untamed

Start with the Untamed trial pack

Here’s how to order Untamed online:

  1. Complete our TRY NOW quiz
  2. Select suitable meals
  3. Place the order

The trial pack will be at your door in a day. Your kitten can explore our delicacies, and when they choose their favourites, we can keep your pantry stocked with regular monthly supplies. 

Our shipping is free, and you can modify or cancel your orders anytime. We use 100% recyclable packaging, and our operations leave a neutral carbon footprint.