Why it’s bad if your cat’s gums are red

Szénási Szimonetta

2024. March 29 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

It's worth checking your pet's mouth from time to time, as the condition of their teeth and gums can indicate various health issues.


Since cats naturally hide when they’re in pain, it’s difficult to notice if they’re sick. As veterinarians point out, a cat’s gums are an excellent indicator of their overall health.

What does normal gum look like?

To recognize any abnormalities, you need to know what healthy gums look like. In terms of color, it should be consistently light pink and firm. It’s recommended to regularly check your pet’s oral cavity to ensure there are no changes.

If you notice that the gums are darker pink, or even red, or if you see spots or tiny pinpoint hemorrhages on them, then these are all signs of trouble.

The cat’s mouth should be checked regularly!

What can cause a cat’s gums to be red?

There could be several reasons for the discoloration of the gums, ranging from mild issues to more serious ones. Let’s go through them now.

1.) Gingivitis

In the case of gingivitis, the gum line around the teeth becomes red and swollen. This is caused by plaque buildup, which over time allows bacteria to multiply, leading to inflammation. The condition can be quite painful for the animal.

Poor dental hygiene, crowded teeth, as well as certain underlying diseases, can also lead to gingivitis. It should be treated as soon as possible because the symptoms will worsen over time!

The unpleasant breath is also a tell-tale sign

2.) Stomatitis

Stomatitis is a severe condition that can spread throughout the entire oral cavity or a large part of it, including the gums, tongue, palate, and even the lips. It often accompanies gingivitis, and the immune response to bacteria trapped in tartar may play a role in its development.

It is usually very painful and is accompanied by symptoms such as lethargy, drooling, loss of appetite, and altered grooming habits. Immediate care is required for the cat in such cases.

If your pet is grooming less, it’s worth checking to see if there’s a problem in its mouth

3.) Other underlying diseases

Several diseases can cause inflammation of the gums in cats, including feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), calicivirus, diabetes mellitus, or kidney failure. Along with gum problems, severe periodontal disease or ulcers may also develop on the gums and tongue.

4.) Heatstroke

The normal body temperature of cats ranges from 37-39°C. If the animal’s body temperature reaches 40°C, it is overheated. Heatstroke mainly occurs in warmer months (not only in summer, but from spring to autumn as well!), but a cat can also overheat if exposed to prolonged heat in poorly ventilated places even in winter.

Too hot is not good for the cat

Since cats have limited ability to regulate their body temperature — they don’t sweat or pant like dogs — they instinctively seek out places that are ideal for them. Excessive body heat can lead to organ damage and, in worse cases, death!

Overweight, young, or elderly cats, as well as flat-faced breeds, are more prone to heatstroke and require even more attention!

Signs of heatstroke may include: dark red gums and tongue, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhea, panting or rapid breathing, lethargy, disorientation, drooling, seizures. If heatstroke is suspected, immediate medical intervention is necessary.

Persians also get heat stroke more easily

5.) Poisoning

Cyanide poisoning in cats can cause red gums, dilated pupils, panting, and vomiting. Cyanide poisoning is most commonly caused by certain plants, fertilizers, pesticides, or the ingestion of many apple seeds, stems, or leaves. Since the toxin can cause death, mere suspicion warrants taking your pet to the vet.

Rat poison can also cause discoloration of the gums. Since most rodenticides contain anticoagulants, ingesting them leads to internal bleeding, which can result in the cat’s death.

Gum lesions can also be a symptom of poisoning

Early signs of poisoning include small red spots on the gums, ears, or eyes. Larger bruises may also appear on the cat’s body due to internal bleeding. Untreated, it can lead to the cat’s death in a short amount of time.

FeLV FIV healthy gums poisoning sick cat teeth veterinarian

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