How to Feed Your Cat When Their Mouth is Sore. A Step-By-Step Guide

What are mouth sores in cats?

Mouth sores, also called oral ulcers or lesions, are open wounds that develop in a cat’s mouth and on their lips, gums, and tongue. They can be caused by a variety of factors including infections, trauma, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and other medical conditions (Falcão et al. 2020).

Some common causes of mouth sores in cats include:

  • Viral infections like feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus that can cause painful ulcerations (Tenorio 1991).
  • Dental disease and tooth abscesses that lead to bacterial infections.
  • Foreign objects like sticks or bones that can lacerate the mouth.
  • Autoimmune disorders like pemphigus that cause blisters.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma which causes tumorous growths.

Mouth sores can be very painful and make it difficult for cats to eat, drink, and groom themselves. Prompt veterinary attention is required to diagnose the underlying cause and properly treat mouth lesions in cats.

Signs of mouth sores

There are several common signs that may indicate your cat has mouth sores:

Redness and swelling in the mouth or on the lips and gums. This could signal inflammation or infection.

Bleeding from the mouth or drooling more than usual. Ulcers and sores can cause bleeding that your cat may swallow or drool out.

Difficulty eating or dropping food from the mouth. Sores can be painful and make it hard for your cat to chew.

Pawing at the mouth or rubbing the face. Your cat may do this in an attempt to relieve discomfort from mouth pain.

Bad breath. Inflammation in the mouth allows bacteria to build up, causing a foul odor.

Excessive swallowing or head shaking. Your cat may display these behaviors in response to mouth irritation.

Weight loss. Avoiding eating due to soreness can cause decreased appetite and weight loss.

Vocalizing or meowing more. The discomfort may cause your cat to meow or cry out.

When to see the vet

Mouth sores that last more than 2 weeks, affect your cat’s ability to eat or drink, or are accompanied by symptoms like fever and lethargy warrant a veterinary visit. According to PetMD, persistent mouth ulcers or ulcers combined with other symptoms may indicate an underlying health condition that requires treatment.

Signs that point to seeing the vet sooner rather than later include sores lasting more than 2 weeks, excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, reduced appetite, and weight loss. Your vet can diagnose the cause through a physical exam, dental exam, and testing if necessary. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

Left untreated, mouth sores can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, and other health complications. So if mouth sores disrupt your cat’s ability to eat or drink, or show no improvement within 2 weeks, promptly consult your vet for an evaluation.

Diagnosing the cause

If your cat has mouth sores, the first step is to take them to the vet for an exam. The vet will do a thorough oral exam to look for any lesions, swelling, bleeding, or other abnormalities. They may take samples or do biopsies of any abnormal tissue to examine under a microscope.

According to PetMD, the vet will also likely run bloodwork. This can help identify potential underlying illnesses causing the mouth sores, such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or calcium deficiency. Bloodwork provides important information about your cat’s overall health to guide treatment.

In some cases, biopsies of the abnormal tissue may be taken and sent to a lab for analysis. Examining the cells under a microscope can help determine if the sores are caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, cancer, or other problems. This guides the vet in selecting appropriate medications and therapies.

Identifying the underlying cause through vet exam, bloodwork, and biopsies provides the information needed to properly diagnose and treat feline mouth sores.


Treatment for mouth sores in cats often involves medications prescribed by a veterinarian to address infection, inflammation, and underlying illnesses. Some common treatments include:

Antibiotics like amoxicillin are frequently prescribed for bacterial infections causing mouth sores. The antibiotic treats the infection while allowing the sores to heal. Antibiotics may be given orally or by injection, depending on the cat’s condition (source:

Anti-inflammatory medications like prednisone help reduce inflammation and provide pain relief for mouth sores. Steroids can be administered orally or by injection. Reducing inflammation allows sores to heal while making eating less painful (source:

If an underlying illness like autoimmune disease, cancer, or viral infection is causing the mouth sores, the veterinarian will treat the primary condition. Resolving the underlying cause can allow the sores to heal and prevent recurrence (source:

Making eating comfortable

Cats with mouth sores often have difficulty and pain when eating, so it’s important to make mealtimes as comfortable as possible. Here are some tips:

  • Offer soft foods that are easy to eat like canned cat food, chicken baby food, or tuna blended with broth. Hard kibble will likely cause pain.
  • Elevate your cat’s dish. Place it on a stand or box so your cat doesn’t have to bend down as far to eat. This reduces strain on the mouth.
  • Syringe feed if needed. If your cat is unwilling or unable to eat on their own, use an oral syringe to slowly dispense soft foods into their mouth. Go slowly and avoid forcing it.

With a little creativity and patience, you can find ways to make eating more tolerable for a cat with mouth sores. Check with your vet if your cat stops eating or begins losing weight.

Foods to Avoid

Cats with mouth sores will need to avoid certain foods that could irritate or exacerbate their condition. The most important foods to avoid are dry, crunchy kibble or treats. The hardness of dry food will be very painful for a cat’s inflamed gums and mouth sores. It is best to transition to wet, canned food while the cat is recovering.

Spicy human foods like peppers or salsa should also be avoided, as they contain capsaicin which can burn the cat’s sore spots. Acidic foods like citrus or tomatoes may also cause stinging, so it’s best to avoid those. Hot temperatures will likely be uncomfortable, so avoid serving any people food straight from the microwave or stove.

Coarse foods with rough textures like nuts or raw vegetables can also scrape or scratch the tender mouth sores. It’s best to stick to very smooth, soft foods during this time. The key is providing moisture and calories from foods that won’t exacerbate the cat’s condition.

According to this source, the most problematic foods are dry kibble, treats with complex shapes or textures, people food with strong flavors or spices, and anything acidic, crunchy, or coarse.

Recommended Foods for Cats with Mouth Sores

When a cat has painful mouth sores, eating crunchy dry food can be too difficult and uncomfortable. Instead, focus on providing wet, soft foods that are easy to swallow and don’t irritate the mouth. According to TheCatFlix, some of the best options include:

  • Wet canned cat food: Look for pâte style canned foods without large chunks. Fish flavors tend to be aromatic and tempting for picky eaters.
  • Broths: Plain broths without chunks can provide hydration and nutrients. Opt for low-sodium chicken, beef or fish broths.
  • Purees: Blend canned pâte foods or meat baby foods into a smooth, spoonable puree. Ensure it’s not too thick.
  • Ice cream: As a treat, a small serving of plain lactose-free ice cream can provide calories. Look for cat-safe flavors.

Avoid any dry kibble or foods with a coarse texture. Stick to wet foods that your cat can lap up easily without excessive chewing. Adding some warm water or broth to food can make it more palatable. Work closely with your vet to determine safe, nutritionally balanced options for your cat during recovery.

Helping with hydration

Keeping your cat hydrated is crucial when they have mouth sores. Dehydration can quickly become dangerous for cats, so taking steps to increase their fluid intake is important.

One easy way to add more moisture is to add water to your cat’s canned food. Mix the food with a bit of warm water to create a broth that will encourage lapping. You can also try mixing in gelatin powder, which helps add more fluid that’s easy to swallow (Source).

Offering ice cubes made with low-sodium broth or tuna juice can provide supplemental fluids as they melt. Just be sure to monitor your cat so they don’t try to chew and further irritate their mouth sores.

You can also use an oral syringe or needle-less syringe to gently squirt water into your cat’s mouth to help keep them hydrated. Go slowly and avoid forcing too much at once to reduce stress.

Check with your vet if your cat stops eating or drinking altogether, as IV or subcutaneous fluids may be needed until their mouth heals.

Providing aftercare

After your cat has received initial treatment for mouth sores from the veterinarian, it’s important to provide proper aftercare at home to help your cat heal and prevent further issues. Here are some tips for providing aftercare for a cat with mouth sores:

Keep the area clean. Gently wipe your cat’s mouth with a soft, damp cloth to keep the area around mouth sores clean. Avoid using antiseptic cleaners which may further irritate the sores. Be sure to wash your hands before and after cleaning your cat’s mouth.

Give pain medications as directed. If your vet has prescribed pain medicine, be sure to give the full course as directed to help manage your cat’s discomfort. Never give human pain medication to cats.

Follow up with your vet. Schedule any follow-up veterinary appointments as recommended by your vet to monitor how the mouth sores are healing and address any ongoing issues. Alert your vet if the sores worsen or cause increased problems with eating.

Providing attentive aftercare and working closely with your veterinarian can help your cat recover safely and comfortably from painful mouth sores.

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