Gingivitis in Cats - Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Cat Gingivitis, Novato Vet

Diligent oral hygiene care is just as important for cats as it is for us. Our Novato vets are here to talk about the signs of gingivitis in cats and how you can treat and prevent it.

What is gingivitis in cats?

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum or gingiva, which surrounds the teeth. The disease can range from moderate to severe, and in extreme cases, cats with gingivitis may have problems eating and grow very uncomfortable. To remedy the condition, a tooth cleaning under anesthesia would be required. Just like humans, plaque - a buildup of germs, debris, dead skin cells, mucus, and food - can accumulate on the teeth and contribute to this dental issue.

Signs of Gingivitis in Cats

The most common indications of gingivitis in cats include:

  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty eating or not eating at all
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty picking up toys or food
  • Red or swollen gums, especially around the area of the inner cheek
  • Plaque build-up on the surface of the teeth
  • Calculi/tartar

Causes of Gingivitis in Cats

Gingivitis is often caused by at least one of the following:

  • Old age
  • Eating Soft Food
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Bad Dental Care
  • FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
  • Crowded teeth

Diagnosis of Gingivitis in Cats

Cats are really good at hiding their pain which is why you may not notice the signs of dental disease in your cat even if the disease has progressed to the severe stages. Even cats who are eating normally and are active can have significant dental diseases. Bringing your cat in for their annual routine exam is essential to the detection of dental disease, as a vet is often able to identify signs of conditions while observing an animal and checking for symptoms listed above.

Treatment for Cats with Gingivitis

Treating gingivitis starts with eliminating built-up plaque and hardened calculus, as well as treating or extracting any teeth that have become diseases or destabilized. Your vet will also need to address any inflammatory dental disease, this can be done with a routine tooth cleaning and dental X-rays while your pet is under general anesthetic.

For cats suffering from stomatitis to have a comfortable mouth, their teeth are frequently extracted by a veterinarian if it is called for.

The frequency of your cat's dental checkups will be determined by the degree of periodontal disease they have developed. If your adult cat's teeth are overcrowded, or if it has baby (deciduous) teeth, your veterinarian may recommend a tooth extraction. Your veterinarian will show you how to clean your cat's teeth, and you should schedule follow-up exams.

Maintaining Your Cat's Teeth

Cat-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste are available for purchase at pet supply stores and can help avoid gingivitis. Brushing should be introduced gradually and consistently so that cats become accustomed to it.

Get your cat familiar with toothbrushes and toothpaste

Leave snacks on the counter near the toothpaste and toothbrush so cats can associate something positive with them. You can also place a dab of toothpaste for them to lick off your finger so they get accustomed to it.

Get your cat used to you touching their mouth

Choose a dental treat your cat enjoys and place it on its canine teeth. As they become accustomed to it, start placing it deeper and deeper into their mouth, on their teeth. This gets them used to you touching their mouth and makes it easier for you to introduce the toothpaste.


Once your cat is used to a toothbrush, toothpaste, and the feeling of you touching their teeth and gums, it should be easier to brush their teeth effectively. Brush along the gum line for about 15 to 30 seconds, only on the outside of the teeth, and reward them with a treat afterward.

Are you worried that your cat's oral health is declining? Contact our Novato vets today to schedule a dental checkup for your cat.