How can you tell if your cat is suffering from feline stomatitis? Below are some of the observable symptoms that you might see in your cat if she are suffering from stomatitis.
The information in purple italics is my explanation of my cat Lily’s experience with each symptom.
Rather than the simple, everyday bad breath that you might notice in felines when they are not suffering from a medical condition, stomatitis will cause your cat’s breath to be noticeably terrible. It is a distinctive odor, one that is difficult to describe, but equally difficult to miss. Also, you can smell the bad breath from at least a foot or two away after the stomatitis has flourished in your cat’s mouth.
Lily’s breath was horrendous! It wasn’t just bad. It was like the smell of rot and death. It was her breath that finally alerted me to her disease, and I could smell it when she was on my lap, when my nose was a good 16″ – 18″ from her mouth.
Stomatitis causes extreme trauma to the gums. This trauma causes the gums to bleed. The drool from a cat with stomatitis is often tinged with blood because of this trauma. You may also notice a metallic smell coming from your cat, which is the smell of iron from the blood.
Lily often had blood in her drool before we got her stomatitis under control. It was common to see dried pools of blood in her favorite sleeping areas, such as on my bed. The metallic smell was quite disgusting to me, and very strong when there was a lot of blood.
Crying Out in Pain While Eating
When cats with stomatitis do eat, it will be with noticeable and apparent difficulty. These cats will often make painful mewling noises or yelp in pain as they force the food past their inflamed throats.
Lily did this often after her stomatitis got bad and before we got it under control. She still cries out at times, but it is a rare event these days.
Crying Out in Pain While Playing
When cats play they often grab toys or other items with their mouths. Cats with stomatitis, though, may cry out or scream in pain during play after they forgetfully grab something with their mouths.
Lily did this for at least a month before I realized she had stomatitis, but I had no idea what was causing her cries of pain. I feel terrible for not figuring this out sooner, but I had never heard of stomatitis at that time and had no idea about mouth diseases, especially not in a cat less than a year old.
The video below shows an example of what the cry may sound like. In this video Lily’s cry was a very quick little yelp that I did not understand when I heard it, as this video shows. However, there were other times when her cries were extremely loud.
Just like their reluctance to take in food beyond the bare minimum required to survive because of the painfulness of their mouth, cats suffering from stomatitis also limit themselves to drinking the minimum amount of water that they need to survive. The reason for this is because it hurts when they lap up the water. Dehydration in cats suffering from this condition is noticeable.
I am unaware of Lily experiencing this symptom.
Cats that are suffering with this condition are known to have excessive drool. This is because swallowing is painful, so they would rather let their saliva drip out of their mouths rather than swallow it. It is common to see drool drip down the fronts of their bodies, sometimes even soaking their entire chest areas. Cats that sleep with their tails tucked under their faces may end up with matted fur where the drool collects on their tails, especially if the cats have medium to long haired tails.
Lily drooled a lot before her stomatitis was under control, and her fur matted so badly that we frequently had our vet shave her fur to remove the mats. She is not cured and still drools occasionally. When she does, I give her a pain medicine called Buprenex to ease her pain.
04/28/2015 Edit – Lily has not drooled or needed Buprenex in over two years.
Lack of Grooming
Cats groom themselves by washing up with their tongues. But cats with stomatitis avoid using their tongues whenever possible in an attempt to minimize their pain. Cats with stomatitis will stop grooming themselves. You can see this lack of grooming because their fur will look unkempt, messy, matted, or dirty, if not all of these options.
Lily stopped grooming and her fur definitely looked all of the above. She began grooming again after we started giving her PlaqueOff, and I was thrilled the first time she hacked up a hairball because it meant she felt well enough to groom again.
Pawing Incessantly at Their Mouths
You might observe your cat touching her mouth with her paws as a way of trying to rub the pain away, or ease it by physical contact. This behavior may be accompanied by mewing noises or other verbal expressions of pain.
Lily did not do this. She avoided any type of contact with her mouth, including from herself.
Red, Swollen Gums and/or Throat
The gums in the mouth become red and swollen, and the tissue in the throat is also often affected in the same way. You can attempt to gently look in your cat’s mouth but do not force the issue if your cat refuses to let you open her mouth. Instead, let your vet look.
I never looked in Lily’s mouth, though I did try once. She was clearly in pain when I tried so I immediately stopped.
Reluctance to be Touched On or Near The Mouth or Face
Cats with stomatitis will not want their mouths and/or faces to be touched because of the extreme pain they feel all the time with stomatitis. They may shy away when hands come near these areas because they will not know if they are going to be hurt, or they may even cry out in pain when touched.
Lily’s stomatitis is now under control, meaning she rarely bleeds or drools these days, but she is not cured. She still lives with constant pain and we never intentionally touch her on or near the mouth. If we accidentally touch her mouth she cries in pain and runs away to hide.
04/28/2015 Edit – Lily’s no longer bleeds or drools and stomatitis has not caused her pain in over two years. We can now touch her mouth and she no longer cries out in pain when we do.
Because of the extremely painful state of their mouths, cats who are suffering from this condition tends to only eat the bare minimum amount of food that they need to survive. If your cat had a robust appetite before beginning to suffer from stomatitis, the weight loss that you will see can be significant, possibly even life-threatening. If you run your hand down your cat’s body and you either suspect that she has lost weight or you can feel the bones clearly along her spine and hips, then she probably has lost weight.
Lily was already a small cat, weighing slightly less than seven pounds before stomatitis, but she dropped to an even six pounds after getting this disease. When I ran my hand down her back I could clearly feel her ribs and hip bones.
If you observe your cat engaging in any of these behaviors, there may be a good chance that she is suffering from feline stomatitis. This disease is extremely painful to cats. Don’t let her continue to suffer. Call your vet to make an appointment as soon as you suspect your cat might have stomatitis.