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Gingivitis in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

In this post, our Madison vets share symptoms, causes, and treatment for gingivitis in cats, which is a painful condition that can develop in cats with poor oral health.

What is gingivitis in cats?

Gingivitis is a condition where the gums around the teeth become inflamed due to plaque accumulation. Plaque, if not removed, can turn into tartar, which can cause the gums to erode and form pockets between the teeth and gums.

These pockets can become infected and lead to severe pain and tooth loss in severe cases. Professional veterinary dental treatment is necessary to treat severe cases.

Signs of Gingivitis in Cats

Common signs of gingivitis in cats are:

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

Causes of Gingivitis in Cats

Common causes of gingivitis in cats include:

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

Diagnosis of Gingivitis in Cats

Cats are experts at hiding their pain, especially oral pain. They may not display any signs of discomfort even when they are experiencing severe pain. Dental diseases can be significant even in cats that are eating normally and active. Therefore, bringing your cat for an annual dental check-up is crucial in detecting dental problems. A veterinarian can quickly identify signs of dental disease and check for symptoms while observing your cat.

Treatment for Cats with Gingivitis

The treatment for gingivitis is focused on getting rid of built-up plaque and dental calculus. Your veterinarian will suggest an extraction if the teeth cannot be saved. Dental exams for cats are usually done under anesthesia. This helps your vet clean and examine each tooth thoroughly and take any necessary X-rays.

The frequency of dental check-ups will depend on the degree of periodontal disease in your cat. Cats with severe gingivitis will need to visit the vet more often. If your adult cat's teeth are overcrowded or if it still has baby teeth, your veterinarian may recommend a tooth extraction to prevent further dental issues.

Your veterinarian will also instruct you on providing at-home dental care for your cat.

Maintaining Your Cat's Teeth

Cat-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste can be purchased at pet supply stores to prevent gingivitis when used consistently and introduced gradually to cats.

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

Start slow. Begin by gently massaging their front teeth and gums for as long as they will let you. Do this daily, trying to reach farther into their mouths each time.

This is all about building trust. Once you and your cat are comfortable, introduce a cat toothbrush (or piece of gauze if they cannot get used to the toothbrush). 

Again, starting slowly, aiming to brush a few more teeth each time would be best. 


With your cat used to the toothbrush, toothpaste, and you touching their mouth, it should be easier to brush their teeth. 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.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat due for their annual dental cleaning? Contact our Madison vets to book an appointment and help preserve your cat's oral health. 

New Patients Welcome

Best Friends Animal Hospital is always accepting new patients. Our experienced veterinary team is passionate about the health and comfort of companion animals. Get in touch today to learn about the difference our expertise makes.

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