Adopting a Cat with Stomatitis. The Ups and Downs

What is feline stomatitis?

Feline stomatitis, also known as feline chronic gingivostomatitis (FCGS), is a painful inflammatory condition that affects a cat’s mouth, gums, and teeth. It causes severe inflammation and ulceration in the gums, mouth, and back of the throat

The exact cause of stomatitis is unknown, but it’s believed to be an abnormal immune response to plaque and bacteria that builds up on the teeth and gums. This triggers chronic inflammation and can damage tissue in the mouth. Certain viruses like calicivirus and herpesvirus may also play a role in some cases

Common symptoms of stomatitis include excessive drooling, foul breath, difficulty eating, loss of appetite, and pawing at the mouth. The gums are often inflamed and may bleed easily. Ulcers and lesions usually develop on the gums, under the tongue, and at the back of the throat. This can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort.

How common is stomatitis in cats?

Feline chronic gingivostomatitis (FCGS) is a relatively uncommon but serious inflammatory condition that affects the mouth of cats. According to research, the prevalence of FCGS ranges from 0.7% to 12% in the general cat population:

A 2007 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry examined the prevalence of FCGS in over 5,000 cats visiting first opinion veterinary practices in the UK. The study found the prevalence to be 0.7% (with 95% confidence intervals of 0.5-1.0%).

According to a 2020 study, the prevalence in feral cats specifically has not yet been reported but is expected to be on the higher end of the range due to decreased access to medical and dental care.

So while feline stomatitis is not extremely common, it does regularly affect a small percentage of the cat population. Shelters and rescue groups should be knowledgeable about the condition, its treatment options, and quality of life impacts when considering adopters.

What are the treatment options?

The most common treatment options for feline stomatitis include medications, dental cleanings, and tooth extraction.

Medications like antibiotics, steroids, and pain relievers may help manage infection, inflammation, and discomfort. However, medications alone rarely resolve the underlying disease (1).

Professional dental cleanings can remove plaque and tartar to improve oral health. But inflammation usually returns quickly without addressing the root cause (2).

Extracting all premolars and molars is often the most effective treatment. Removing affected teeth eliminates sources of infection and irritation, providing prolonged relief in many cases (3). Full mouth extractions can significantly improve quality of life.

What is the prognosis?

With appropriate treatment, most cats with stomatitis can live relatively comfortable and normal lifespans. However, stomatitis is a chronic condition that requires lifelong management.[1]

Full mouth tooth extraction is currently the most effective treatment option, with studies showing that around 80-90% of cats improve significantly after extractions.[2][3] In cases where extractions are done, inflammation generally resolves within a few weeks and cats experience substantial pain relief and improvement in appetite and grooming.

For cats treated with tooth extractions, the long-term prognosis is good. Most cats can eat soft food comfortably and have minimal or no mouth pain afterwards. With regular follow-up care, these cats can live many years with an excellent quality of life.[1][3]

In some cases, stomatitis may recur even after full mouth extractions. However, inflammation is usually less severe than before. Ongoing medication and dental care can help manage flare-ups. With commitment from the owner, the overall prognosis remains positive.[2]

For cats treated medically without extractions, the prognosis is poorer. Inflammation and pain may persist long-term and worsen over time. Medical management can provide some relief but is unlikely to result in a complete cure.[1][3]

Overall, with appropriate treatment tailored to the individual cat, stomatitis does not significantly impact lifespan. Most cats go on to live happily and healthily for many years after diagnosis and treatment.

What is the cost of treatment?

The cost of treating stomatitis in cats can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the treatments necessary. According to the Pawlicy blog, medications like antibiotics and steroids typically cost around $30 for a 1 month supply. More severe cases may require surgery to remove teeth, which can cost $1,500 to $3,000 without pet insurance.

Some of the common treatment expenses include:

  • Medications like antibiotics and steroids – $30 per month
  • Full mouth tooth extractions – $1,500 to $3,000
  • Biopsies – $300 to $500
  • Laser therapy – $200 to $300 per treatment
  • Special diets – $50+ per month

According to the SafariVet blog, pet insurance can help cover up to 90% of treatment costs. Getting coverage for your cat prior to any symptoms or diagnosis is recommended to offset the expenses of managing this chronic condition.

What is the quality of life?

Feline stomatitis can significantly impact a cat’s quality of life due to the pain and difficulty eating it causes. According to the MSPCA, stomatitis is an extremely painful disease and cats will often stop eating due to the pain. The inflammation makes it difficult and uncomfortable to chew and swallow. Many cats with stomatitis can only eat soft food or pureed diets. More severe cases may even require a feeding tube to ensure proper nutrition.

Stomatitis causes recurring flare ups where the pain and inflammation get worse, which can be very stressful and decrease quality of life for cats. During flare ups, cats may drool excessively or even refuse to eat entirely. The MSPCA states that stomatitis is a lifelong condition, so managing pain and ensuring proper nutrition is an ongoing process.

That said, with treatment many cats can have a good quality of life. According to, “most cats that receive appropriate therapy for stomatitis improve dramatically and live happily.” Work closely with your vet to find an effective treatment plan to manage your cat’s symptoms. This can involve medications, special diets, tooth extractions and more. While stomatitis cannot be cured, it can often be well controlled so cats can maintain a good quality of life.


How much care and management is required?

Caring for a cat with stomatitis requires diligent home care and management. The main components involve:

Administering medications – Most cats with stomatitis will need regular medication such as steroids, pain medication, and antibiotics. Giving oral medication 1-2 times per day is typically required. Meticulous record keeping and compliance with the treatment plan is important.

Dental care – Even after professional dental cleanings, home dental care is vital. Brushing the teeth daily with a cat-safe toothpaste or using dental rinses can help reduce bacteria. Regular dental checkups are also recommended.

Monitoring – Checking the cat’s mouth daily for signs of inflammation, redness, bleeding, or discharge is advised. Monitoring appetite, water intake, and weight is also important to ensure the cat is eating enough despite oral discomfort. Tracking symptoms helps inform treatment adjustments.

With stomatitis, the mouth never fully heals so constant at-home care is imperative. Working closely with the vet and adapting as needed is key to success. Daily effort caring for mouth health improves the cat’s comfort and quality of life.


Are there any risks to my other pets?

When it comes to the contagiousness of feline stomatitis, the good news is that it is not considered a contagious disease that can be spread from cat to cat. According to PetMD, stomatitis is caused by an abnormal immune system response in individual cats, so it is not something that can be transmitted between cats.

That said, there are some factors to consider for multi-cat households. If a cat has stomatitis, inflammation in its mouth may make it more likely to spread regular upper respiratory infections to other cats in the home. So keeping the cat with stomatitis separate from other pets when symptoms are active can help reduce risk. Overall though, stomatitis itself poses no direct risk of transmission to other pets.

What should I ask the shelter or rescue group?

When considering adopting a cat with stomatitis, there are some key questions to ask the shelter or rescue group to learn more about the cat’s medical history, personality, and special needs:

Medical history:

  • How severe is the stomatitis? Mild, moderate, or severe?
  • What treatments has the cat received so far? (E.g. antibiotics, steroids, tooth extraction)
  • What is the current treatment plan? Will it need to be continued?
  • How often does the cat need veterinary visits? Are additional extractions likely needed?
  • What tests have been done to diagnose the stomatitis? Biopsies?


  • How does the stomatitis affect the cat’s appetite and ability to eat?
  • Is the cat playful and social, or lethargic?
  • Does the cat seem to be in chronic pain or discomfort?
  • Has the illness impacted the cat’s litter box habits?

Special needs:

  • Does the cat require a special diet? Soft food, raw food, etc.
  • Are there any limitations on grooming or dental care?
  • Will medication need to be given regularly at home?
  • Are there any activity limitations for the cat?

Asking these questions can help you better understand the cat’s condition, needs, and personality to determine if adoption is the right choice ( An open dialog with the shelter or rescue is key.

Is adoption right for me?

Adopting a cat with stomatitis can be very rewarding, but it’s important to honestly assess your ability to properly care for the cat. Consider the following factors:

  • Are you prepared to pay for ongoing medical treatment, which can be costly?
  • Can you give the cat medication as prescribed, which may be daily and for life?
  • Are you able to bring the cat in for frequent veterinary checkups and procedures?
  • Can you keep the cat’s living space clean and stress-free to avoid flare ups?
  • Do you have the time to care for the cat’s special needs?

While stomatitis can’t be cured, cats can still live happy lives with proper management. If you can commit to the cat’s care, adoption can be very rewarding. But be realistic – chronic conditions mean a long-term commitment. If you have any doubts, it may be best to consider a different cat. There are many healthy cats also in need of homes. But if you feel adoption is right for you, consult your vet on the best way to meet the cat’s needs.

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