A watercolor painting of a cat with ulcers in its mouth and gums.

What is Stomatitis in Cats?

What is it?

Stomatitis is a painful and chronic inflammation of the oral mucosa in cats that affects the gums, tongue, and other soft tissues inside the mouth. It is a severe and often debilitating condition that can cause significant discomfort and difficulties with eating and grooming. The exact cause of stomatitis is unknown, but it is believed to be a complex disease with multiple contributing factors.

How is it Treated?

The treatment for stomatitis in cats depends on the severity of the condition and may include a combination of approaches, such as medication, dental care, and surgery. Corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory medications are commonly used to reduce inflammation and pain in affected cats. More severe cases may require surgical removal of some or all of the affected teeth, known as a full-mouth extraction, which can provide long-term relief from symptoms.

Breed Predispositions

Siamese Himalayan Persian Abyssinian Devon Rex Oriental Shorthair Burmese Scottish Fold


It was a typical evening for Sarah, snuggling up on the couch with her furry companion, Luna, when she noticed something unusual. Luna seemed to be pawing at her mouth and drooling more than usual. Concerned about her feline friend’s wellbeing, Sarah scheduled a visit to the veterinarian. After a thorough examination, the vet diagnosed Luna with stomatitis, an inflammatory condition affecting a cat’s mouth. Suddenly faced with a myriad of questions and concerns, Sarah embarked on a mission to learn everything she could about stomatitis in cats.

 Stomatitis in felines is a medical condition characterized by tissue swelling in the mouth. It arises from specific bodily mechanisms that cause an abnormal immune response or an overly intense inflammatory reaction. Stomatitis can impact different mouth areas, including the gums, tongue, and throat. Around 10% of cats experience feline stomatitis. Stomatitis disrupts the normal balance between the immune system and the microorganisms in the mouth. This disruption triggers a chain reaction of inflammation that leads to swelling and ulcers in the mouth. Understanding why stomatitis occurs is crucial in identifying the condition and promptly seeking appropriate veterinary treatment.

Causes of Stomatitis in Cats

Alternatively, cats commonly exhibit caudal stomatitis or mouth and gum tissue inflammation. The triggers of this disease can be manifold.

Dental Disease

Dental disease is among the chief culprits. As food residue, saliva, and bacteria accumulate on the cat’s teeth, they form a plaque layer. Without timely intervention, the plaque hardens into tartar, leading to gingivitis or inflammation of the gingiva (gums).

As this inflammation persists, it develops into stomatitis, a heightened form of oral inflammation encompassing the gums and the mouth’s other tissues. This condition often causes pain, difficulty in eating, bad breath, and changes in behavior among cats.

stomatitis in cats

Viral Infections

Stomatitis may also be a consequence of specific viral infections. For instance, Feline Calicivirus, a common respiratory virus found in small animals such as cats, can lead to the development of ulcers in the mouth and stomatitis.

Additional viruses, such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), can weaken the immune system, increasing the cat’s susceptibility to oral infections and inflammation. 

Immune-Mediated Disease

In certain instances, an immune-mediated disease can incite an inflammatory reaction against the cat’s oral tissues, which the immune system erroneously perceives as foreign. This leads to lymphocytic plasmacytic stomatitis, an intense inflammation condition in the mouth and gums of cats. The specific cause behind this immune response remains largely unclear, but it is assumed to be a reaction to bacteria in dental plaque.

Other Infections

Stomatitis can also arise from alternative infections. Localized inflammation in the mouth can be induced by bacterial infections, which subsequently result in stomatitis. Several types of bacteria can thrive in the oral cavity, particularly in the presence of dental ailments. Furthermore, oral inflammation can be provoked by fungal infections caused by Candida species, particularly in felines with compromised immune systems. 

Foreign Bodies

Foreign bodies are another potential cause. Given their curious nature, cats may chew or ingest non-edible objects. If these foreign bodies become lodged in the mouth or throat, they can result in irritation or inflammation, manifesting in dental disease as stomatitis. The foreign bodies can range from a simple piece of string to a small toy or bone.


Although less prevalent, oral cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, can bring about stomatitis symptoms. This type of cancer can provoke significant oral pain and inflammation.


Allergies can also lead to stomatitis. A cat’s allergic reaction to a specific food, medication, or material may lead to this oral inflammation.


Finally, genetics play a role in developing stomatitis or feline chronic gingivostomatitis, as it is sometimes called. Cat breeds like Abyssinian, Siamese, and Maine Coon appear to be more prone to this disease, which indicates a possible genetic link. However, these genetic factors contributing to stomatitis still need to be fully understood and remain an active area of research. In most cats, determining the exact cause of stomatitis, or caudal mucositis as it is also known, requires careful examination and ongoing study.

Symptoms of Feline Stomatitis

Feline stomatitis is painful for cats, and the signs can vary widely. Cats may exhibit 

  • bad breath (halitosis), a common symptom
  • drool excessively, sometimes mixed with blood
  • difficulties during meals or a complete refusal to eat, leading to noticeable weight loss.

The animal’s dental health may also be compromised with red, swollen gums that frequently bleed. Cats may also develop painful ulcers in the mouth, a clear sign of stomatitis. Another symptom, pawing at the mouth or face, can indicate mouth pain, a critical aspect of feline stomatitis.

The condition can cause significant changes in behavior as well. Cats may become increasingly aggressive or exhibit signs of withdrawal. Additionally, they may show a reduced interest in grooming, leading to a deteriorated coat condition.

Cats suffering from stomatitis may also vocalize or show discomfort when performing normal activities such as yawning, eating, or grooming. Recognizing these signs of stomatitis in cats is crucial for early intervention and effective treatment.

If you observe any of these symptoms in your cat, it’s essential to consult with a professional in veterinary medicine. They can properly diagnose and formulate a suitable treatment plan, including specialized animal dental care. It’s vital to address the symptoms promptly to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with stomatitis in cats.

Diagnosing Stomatitis in Cats

Diagnosing feline stomatitis involves several stages, including gathering an in-depth medical history, observing clinical signs, and conducting specific diagnostic tests. The process is comprehensive, as detailed below:

Physical Examination

A thorough physical examination is the initial step in diagnosing stomatitis. This involves an oral exam to inspect for signs of inflammation in the mouth, such as redness, swelling, ulcers, or other abnormalities. However, some cats may resist a full oral examination due to the discomfort and pain caused by the condition.

Blood Tests

Blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and serum biochemistry panel, might be carried out to assess the cat’s overall health and check for indications of infection, inflammation, or other chronic conditions. These tests can also help exclude systemic diseases that might be causing or contributing to oral inflammation.

Viral Testing

Viral testing might be necessary, particularly in cats not subjected to regular exams, as specific viral infections like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) can exacerbate stomatitis.

Dental X-Rays

Dental radiographs or X-rays play a crucial role in evaluating the condition of teeth and the underlying bone beneath the gum line. Through these images, dental issues that could lead to stomatitis, such as tooth resorption, periodontal disease, or abscesses in the root of a tooth, can be detected. 


Biopsy could be suggested if the vet cannot determine the inflammation’s origin or if there’s concern about possible cancer. This process involves extracting a small tissue sample from the affected mouth area for laboratory analysis.

Bacterial Culture and Sensitivity

In cases where a bacterial infection is suspected of contributing to the stomatitis, bacterial culture and sensitivity testing might be undertaken. Swabbing the oral cavity can aid in identifying the specific bacteria involved and ascertain the most effective antibiotics for medical management.

Treatment for Stomatitis in Cats

Treatment of feline stomatitis can be complex, typically requiring an integrated approach to manage the severity of the disease. Here are some of the prevalent treatment options:

Dental Cleaning and Extractions:

 Research indicates that most cats who undergo partial or complete tooth extraction procedures tend to recover from their dental disease fully. In cases where dental disease is commonly a factor in stomatitis, the initial course of action typically involves a comprehensive dental cleaning performed under general anesthesia. This procedure effectively eliminates plaque and tartar buildup that contribute to inflammation within the mouth.

Occasionally, the veterinarian may recommend tooth removal, including surgical extraction of an affected tooth. Cats experiencing severe stomatitis often display an exaggerated immune response to the bacteria in plaque on their teeth, and eliminating these teeth can help mitigate inflammation. Complete teeth extraction may be necessary for more severe instances, significantly reducing symptoms in many feline patients.


Several different types of medications can be used to manage stomatitis:


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A range of medications can be employed to manage stomatitis:

  • Antibiotics can help to control secondary bacterial infections in the mouth. The choice of antibiotic may be influenced by a culture and sensitivity test.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids can help lessen inflammation and relieve pain. However, the long-term use of these medications may lead to side effects, necessitating regular vet monitoring.
  • Immunosuppressive drugs like cyclosporine may be used if stomatitis is believed to be immune-mediated.
  • Pain control is essential to managing stomatitis, given the discomfort it can cause. Pain medication can enhance your cat’s comfort level and improve their eating habits.

Diet and Nutrition:

It is essential to uphold a delectable and nutritionally sound diet for the cat’s holistic well-being. Wet food is frequently preferred by cats suffering from stomatitis due to its ease of consumption. A feeding tube may become requisite if the cat’s eating habits are insufficient. 

Regular Veterinary Follow-ups:

Since stomatitis is a chronic condition, regular follow-up visits to the vet are necessary to monitor the cat’s progress and adjust treatment as required.

It’s vital to remember that the treatment of feline stomatitis is generally directed at managing symptoms and enhancing the quality of life, not curing the disease. In many cases, stomatitis can be a long-term condition needing consistent management, even within the comfort of the pet’s home.

Recovery and Management for Stomatitis in Cats

Recovery from Stomatitis:

The length of time it takes for a cat to recover from stomatitis can vary based on the seriousness of the issue and the cat’s overall health. If the swelling is caused by a specific and treatable condition such as dental disease, the cat may experience significant improvement following a dental cleaning and removed of affected teeth. However, if the swelling results from an immune-mediated response or viral infection, it may take longer to see progress.

Following a dental procedure, the cat may initially experience discomfort and pain. Proper pain management will be crucial during the recovery process. With the help of pain medications, the cat’s comfort should gradually improve, and it will eventually regain its ability to eat normally. 

Long-Term Management:

Stomatitis is often a chronic condition that might require ongoing treatment to manage symptoms. Long-term management might include:

  • Medication: Some cats may require long-term medication to control inflammation and manage pain. It’s essential to give these medications as the veterinarian prescribes and monitors for potential side effects.
  • Diet: Feeding soft, wet food can help make eating more comfortable for cats with stomatitis. Some cats may benefit from a hypoallergenic diet if food allergies contribute to inflammation.
  • Oral Hygiene: Regular oral hygiene, including tooth brushing or using oral rinses or gels, can help reduce plaque and bacteria in the mouth and minimize inflammation. However, oral hygiene can be difficult in cats with severe stomatitis due to oral pain and sensitivity.
  • Regular Vet Check-ups: Regular veterinary examinations are of utmost importance to continually assess an animal’s health and make any necessary modifications to its treatment regimen.

Ensuring adequate maintenance for cats affected by stomatitis will enable them to lead a content existence, even in cases where fractured teeth might be a concern. Nevertheless, certain instances may prove more vexing to handle than others, thus requiring a steadfast commitment to continued care. As an owner of a beloved companion, your veterinarian shall serve as your guiding force in ensuring optimal well-being for your cherished pet.

Prevention of Feline Stomatitis

While completely preventing stomatitis in cats might not always be feasible, particularly as the specific cause often remains uncertain and may relate to the unique immune response of individual cats, certain tactics can aid in diminishing a cat’s risk:

Dental Hygiene

Good dental hygiene is crucial for oral health and can assist in preventing numerous oral conditions, including stomatitis. This could involve regular at-home dental care, including brushing your cat’s teeth and offering food or treats that support dental health. While some cats might resist getting their teeth brushed, utilizing mouth rinses or gels can aid in minimizing plaque and bacterial buildup in the mouth.

Routine Veterinary Check-ups

Regular veterinary check-ups are indispensable, generally recommended annually for young, healthy cats and more frequently for older cats or those with health issues. During these visits, the vet can examine your cat’s mouth, including checking teeth and the back of the mouth for early indications of stomatitis or other oral diseases. Prompt detection and treatment of oral disease can inhibit its progression to stomatitis.

Professional Dental Cleanings

Professional dental cleanings performed under anesthesia can support oral health and deter disease. These cleanings’ frequency will depend on your cat’s risk factors and should be discussed with your veterinarian. Some cats will require more frequent cleanings.

Balanced Diet

A balanced, high-quality diet can bolster your cat’s overall health and support optimal immune system function.

Avoid Viral Exposure

Specific viral infections (like FIV and FeLV) can exacerbate stomatitis, so mitigating exposure to these viruses can help reduce risk. This could involve keeping your cat indoors, regular testing for these viruses, and adhering to veterinarian-recommended vaccination schedules.

Regular Vaccinations

Maintaining up-to-date vaccinations can help shield your cat from certain viral infections that impact oral health.

Remember, working closely with your vet and adhering to their recommendations is crucial to ensure your cat’s optimal health.

Frequently Asked Questions

In severe cases of stomatitis, extraction of most or all teeth is often necessary to alleviate the chronic inflammation and pain associated with the condition. Removing the teeth eliminates the source of irritation and reduces the immune response triggered by the oral tissues’ exposure to plaque and bacteria. While it may seem drastic, tooth extraction is often the most effective treatment for managing stomatitis and providing long-term relief for affected cats.

The life expectancy of cats with stomatitis can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the condition, the effectiveness of treatment, and the cat’s overall health. Cats with stomatitis can live for many years with proper management, which may involve a combination of dental care, medication, and ongoing monitoring. While stomatitis is a chronic condition, it is possible to provide affected cats with a good quality of life and minimize their symptoms.

The cost of treating cat stomatitis can vary depending on several factors, including the diagnostic procedures performed, the treatment plan recommended, the geographic location, and the veterinary clinic. Treatment options for stomatitis may include dental cleanings, extractions, medications, and follow-up care. The costs can range from several hundred to a few thousand dollars. It is advisable to consult with a veterinarian to discuss the specific treatment options and associated costs for your cat.

There is no single “fast” cure for stomatitis in cats, as the condition requires a comprehensive approach to manage and control symptoms. Treatment may involve a combination of dental care, such as extractions, anti-inflammatory medications, immune system modulators, pain management, and supportive care. The goal is to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and provide long-term relief. The specific treatment plan should be tailored to the individual cat’s needs and determined in consultation with a veterinarian experienced in treating stomatitis.

The choice of antibiotics for stomatitis in cats depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition, the presence of secondary infections, and the individual cat’s overall health. The most commonly used antibiotics for stomatitis include amoxicillin, clindamycin, and doxycycline. However, antibiotics alone are typically insufficient to resolve stomatitis, and they are often used with other treatments such as dental care and anti-inflammatory medications. It is crucial to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options for your cat’s specific case.

Stomatitis itself is not typically considered a deadly condition. However, the chronic inflammation and pain associated with stomatitis can significantly impact a cat’s quality of life if left untreated or poorly managed. Severe stomatitis can lead to weight loss, difficulty eating, oral infections, and reduced immune response. It is essential to seek veterinary care and establish an appropriate treatment plan to alleviate pain and control inflammation to ensure the best possible outcome and quality of life for cats with stomatitis.

Stomatitis is not contagious and cannot spread from one cat to another. However, the underlying factors that contribute to stomatitis, such as an abnormal immune response or dental disease, may be influenced by genetic or environmental factors. Some cats may be more predisposed to stomatitis due to genetics, while others may develop the condition due to dental issues, viral infections, or other factors. It is important to focus on managing the condition in affected cats and providing appropriate dental care to prevent its progression.

Stomatitis is a chronic condition that typically requires veterinary intervention and ongoing management. While mild cases of stomatitis may occasionally improve with supportive care, such as regular dental cleanings and good oral hygiene practices, most cats with stomatitis will require more extensive treatment. Without intervention, stomatitis persists, causing chronic inflammation and discomfort for the affected cat.

Stomatitis itself does not directly cause diarrhea in cats. However, cats with stomatitis may experience other secondary health issues, such as gastrointestinal upset or reduced appetite, which can sometimes lead to changes in bowel movements, including diarrhea. It is important to consult a veterinarian to evaluate any gastrointestinal symptoms your cat may be experiencing and determine the underlying cause to provide appropriate treatment and management.

Stomatitis in cats can be challenging to diagnose definitively, as it requires a comprehensive evaluation of the cat’s medical history, clinical signs, and oral examination. Some conditions, such as gingivitis or oral infections, can have similar symptoms to stomatitis, making it important to conduct a thorough evaluation. A definitive diagnosis often involves ruling out other potential causes of oral inflammation and discomfort. Working closely with a veterinarian experienced in feline dentistry is crucial to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Stomatitis in cats can be incredibly painful and significantly impact a cat’s quality of life. The chronic inflammation and ulceration of the oral tissues can cause severe discomfort, making it difficult for the cat to eat, groom, or engage in normal activities. Cats with stomatitis may exhibit signs of pain, such as reluctance to eat, drooling, pawing at the mouth, or becoming withdrawn or irritable. Effective pain management is essential to treating stomatitis and improving the cat’s well-being.

While stress is not a direct cause of stomatitis, it can contribute to developing or exacerbating the condition. Stress weakens the immune system, making cats more susceptible to infections and inflammatory responses. Additionally, stress can impact a cat’s appetite and overall well-being, indirectly affecting oral health. Reducing stressors in a cat’s environment and providing a calm and stable home environment can be beneficial for managing stomatitis and promoting overall health.

Stomatitis in cats is not contagious to humans or other animals. It is primarily an immune-mediated condition that results from an abnormal immune response to oral bacteria or other triggers. However, it is important to note that oral infections associated with stomatitis, such as periodontal disease or gingivitis, can contain bacteria that may pose a risk of infection to humans if proper hygiene practices are not followed. Regular handwashing and handling cat oral care procedures are recommended to minimize potential risks.

There is no definitive evidence to suggest that stomatitis in cats is purely genetic. However, certain genetic factors may influence a cat’s predisposition to developing stomatitis. It is believed that genetics, combined with other factors such as oral health, immune function, and environmental triggers, contribute to the development of stomatitis in individual cats. Research into the complex nature of stomatitis is ongoing, but it is generally considered a multifactorial condition influenced by genetic and environmental factors.

Stomatitis itself is not a form of cancer. However, chronic inflammation and irritation associated with stomatitis can increase the risk of developing other oral health issues, such as oral infections or oral squamous cell carcinoma (a type of oral cancer). Cats with long-standing stomatitis may have a higher risk of developing secondary complications, including oral tumors. Regular veterinary check-ups, diligent oral care, and monitoring for any changes in the oral cavity are essential for early detection and intervention if any cancerous growths or other issues arise.

Stomatitis itself does not directly cause vomiting in cats. However, cats with stomatitis may experience other secondary issues, such as reduced appetite or gastrointestinal upset, occasionally leading to vomiting. The discomfort associated with stomatitis can contribute to a cat’s reluctance to eat or develop gastrointestinal disturbances. If your cat is experiencing vomiting or any other concerning symptoms, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for a proper evaluation and appropriate management.

Steroids like corticosteroids are often used to treat cats’ stomatitis due to their potent anti-inflammatory properties. Steroids can help reduce the inflammation and discomfort associated with stomatitis, relieving affected cats. However, steroids alone are typically not a long-term solution, and a veterinarian should carefully monitor and manage their use. Steroids may be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes dental care, pain management, and other supportive therapies tailored to the individual cat’s needs.

The prognosis for cats with stomatitis can vary depending on the condition’s severity and the treatment response. While stomatitis is generally a chronic condition that requires ongoing management, appropriate treatment can significantly improve a cat’s quality of life. Dental care, including extractions if necessary, anti-inflammatory medications, pain management, and regular monitoring, can help control inflammation and provide relief. With appropriate care, many cats with stomatitis can lead comfortable lives and have an improved prognosis.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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