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Why Are My Cat’s Gums Red and Swollen? 8 Possible Reasons & What to Do

Written by: Kathryn Copeland

Last Updated on April 4, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

showing cat's teeth with swollen gums

Why Are My Cat’s Gums Red and Swollen? 8 Possible Reasons & What to Do


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Owning a cat has its ups and downs, and unfortunately, most of the downs occur when our pets are sick.

When your cat has dental issues, it can sometimes indicate an underlying health problem. Either way, dental complications can have serious ramifications for their overall health.

If your cat has red and swollen gums, read on as we cover the different causes and the steps that you’ll need to take to ensure that your cat is safe and healthy.

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The 8 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat’s Gums Are Red and Swollen

1. Gingivitis

Gingivitis is one of the most common dental issues that show up as red and swollen gums. It’s an indication of inflammation in the gums, often caused by a buildup of plaque and associated bacteria along the gum line.

Signs of gingivitis include:
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Bad breath
  • Notable plaque on the teeth
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  • Tooth crowding
  • Inadequate oral hygiene
  • Underlying illness
  • Certain viruses

Gingivitis can be mild to severe and will need professional treatment by your vet, particularly if it’s severe.

close up cat with gingivitis
Image By: mojahata, Shutterstock

2. Periodontitis

When gingivitis isn’t treated, it will advance to periodontitis, which is an irreversible condition.

The tissue between the gums and teeth is weakened by the bacteria and the inflammation from the body’s immune reaction. This leads to tooth loss and loose teeth, which is why taking care of your cat’s teeth is so critical, particularly if they have gingivitis!

3. Stomatitis

Stomatitis is a disease that causes painful and severe inflammation throughout the cat’s mouth.

The signs of stomatitis include:

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Red, inflamed gums
  • Lack of grooming
  • Dropping food from the mouth
  • Crying while eating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

The cause isn’t entirely known, but treatment can include a complete professional dental cleaning by your vet, as well as various medications. In some cases, tooth extraction might be necessary.

vet checking cats teeth
Image Credit: PRESSLAB, Shutterstock

4.  Toxins

Several toxins can cause a cat’s gums to become red. Signs of cyanide poisoning, for example, might include:

  • Red gums
  • Vomiting
  • Panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dilated pupils

A cat can become poisoned by cyanide by eating specific plants, pesticides, fertilizers, or apple seeds, leaves, or stems, though this is not commonly seen in cats.

5.  Underlying Condition

Several conditions can contribute to inflamed gums and lead to gingivitis. This includes feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia virus, feline calicivirus, and kidney failure. A few of these conditions can also cause ulcerations on the tongue and gums.

close up examining cat's mouth with swollen gums
Image By: mojahata, Shutterstock

6.  Heatstroke

A cat suffering from heatstroke can have reddened gums. The normal body temperature for a cat is 99°F to 102.5°F (37–39°C), so if their core body temperature goes over this, they can potentially suffer from heatstroke.

Signs of heatstroke can include:

  • Reddened gums
  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Panting and wheezing
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

Heat stroke is an emergency situation and requires medical help immediately!

7. Teething

Kittens go through teething twice: when their baby teeth come in and when their adult teeth come in.

Signs that your kitten is teething are:

  • Chewing on everything
  • Bad breath

Teething is perfectly normal, and you can buy toys made for teething kittens or freeze something like a damp and clean washcloth and let them chew it, as this can provide relief. You can also consult your vet for more tips to help your kitten through teething.

ginger kitten teething
Image Credit: Bidzilya, Shutterstock

8. Tooth Resorption

Tooth resorption occurs when a tooth breaks down and becomes absorbed by the body. This leads to tooth loss. The cause isn’t known, but cats are more likely to suffer from tooth resorption as they mature, and other teeth are often affected in the future.

Signs of tooth resorption are:

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Chattering jaw while eating
  • Dropping food while eating

Treatment might include extracting the affected teeth, but unfortunately, there isn’t any known way to prevent it. Some cats show no outward signs of suffering from tooth resorption, so annual physical exams are important to detect these types of dental issues.

What to Do to Keep Your Cat’s Teeth and Gums Healthy

Unfortunately, a few of the conditions on this list can’t be prevented, but many can. The most important thing that you can do for your cat is take care of their teeth.

  • Brush your cat’s teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste made for cats. Don’t use anything but products for cats, as human toothpaste has ingredients that are toxic to felines. Brushing your cat’s teeth at least several times a week will keep their teeth and gums healthy and give you the opportunity to check their gums for any potential issues.
  • Invest in dental treats that your cat enjoys, as they will help prevent plaque and tartar buildup.
  • Take your cat to your vet annually. They can check your cat’s teeth and give them a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia.



Cats with red and swollen gums are often experiencing dental problems. Some are worse than others, but unless they’re teething, they will need a veterinarian’s attention. If you believe that your cat has gingivitis, it can likely be resolved with diligent at-home dental care under veterinary guidance.

Regularly checking your cat’s teeth and gums should help stop many problems before they start.

Featured Image Credit: Yaya Photos, Shutterstock

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