Gingivitis in Cats: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Dental health issues like gum disease can be very painful for our feline companions. Like in people, gum disease, or gingivitis, is very common. This disease affects up to 85% of cats over the age of three. Here, our Sacramento vets share signs and causes, along with information on how the disease is diagnosed and how it can be treated.

What is gingivitis in cats?

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums or gingiva that surround the teeth. This disease can range from moderate to severe and, in more extreme cases, cats with gingivitis may have issues eating and may become quite uncomfortable. In order to remedy this condition, a tooth cleaning under anesthesia will 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

Common signs of gingivitis in cats are:

  • Drooling
  • Bad breath
  • Calculi/tartar
  • Difficulty eating or not eating at all
  • 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

Causes of Gingivitis in Cats

Common causes of gingivitis in cats include:

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

Diagnosis of Gingivitis in Cats

Since cats can be quite skilled at hiding their pain from others, they may not actually show any signs fi discomfort until they are already in severe oral pain. Even cats who are eating normally and showing regular levels of activity may be experiencing a serious dental disease.

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

Gingivitis treatments focus on the elimination of plaque that has built up alongside dental calculus on your cat's teeth, below their gums and around their mouth. Treatment will also involve the extraction of destabilized or diseased teeth if required. 

To address any inflammatory dental disease, routine tooth cleanings and dental X-rays should be conducted under 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 dental checkups will be determined by the degree of periodontal disease in your cat. 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 their 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 you are able to get your cat used to toothbrushing, toothpaste and touching their mouth, it should be easier to brush their teeth routinely. Make sure you brush along their gum line for 15 to 30 seconds (depending on your cat's tolerance) only on the outside of their teeth. Make sure you reward your cat with a treat afterward. 

Are you concerned with your cat's oral health? Contact our Sacramento vets today for a consultation and possible treatment options.