I’m not usually one for melodramatic titles on this blog, but in this particular case, I thought it was appropriate and didn’t want to bury the lead.
I’m hoping that by pointing out the main crux of this article in the title – that you really should be concerned if your cat starts grinding his or her teeth – I’m better able to prepare those who have stumbled over here looking for answers, and to give an important heads up to be on the look out for pet owners who may eventually encounter this feline behaviour in their own pets in the future.
Normally when I write a pet care article from the angle of the symptom, there’s a lot of variation in terms of whether the cause behind the symptom might be negative or neutral.
For instance, some cats do snore because they’re sick, they could have a foreign object stuck in their nose, or on very rare occasions, could have a cancerous tumor.
But light, inconsistent snoring is perfectly normal, completely ordinary, and an indication of absolutely nothing negative at all.
Unfortunately for pet owners who stumbled over here because their cats are currently grinding their teeth, however, this surprisingly is not really the case when it comes to bruxism (teeth grinding) in cats.
I was actually shocked when I did my research for this article, since I expected teeth grinding to be a lot like snoring: to have some negative, some neutral causes – but no.
It does appear that teeth grinding in cats is nearly always an indication of an underlying problem.
We’ll get in depth into what those issues could be in the remainder of this article. Many are fixable and not fatal conditions at all.
But be forewarned: if your cat is grinding his or her teeth, you should expect to make a call to your vet today.
Identifying Teeth Grinding or Bruxism in Cats
How to tell if your cat is grinding his or her teeth
Not sure if your cat is grinding his or her teeth? Pay close attention to the way your cat looks and sounds when you suspect teeth grinding is taking place.
What does a cat grinding his or her teeth sound like? To me, a lot like chewing and repetitive biting, but with an accompanying grating sound – like rubbing the bottoms of two ceramic mugs together – very similar to when we humans grind our own teeth.
Visually, a cat will look like her or she is gnawing away at something, repetitively chewing nothing at all, and/or moving his or her lower jaw from side to side.
This YouTube video is a very good audio/visual that should help you identify whether your cat is grinding his or her teeth.
When feline teeth grinding normally takes place
Cats usually grind their teeth when they are awake, and they do so consciously (the reason we’ll get into very soon).
Many cats only begin grinding their teeth when they are eating, chewing, biting – basically doing something with their mouths.
Even if your cat is only grinding his or her teeth very infrequently, it’s important to take your cat in to see a vet anyway.
The grinding is likely to take place more frequently over time if it’s ignored, but you should certainly not wait until it gets worse to see a vet.
From the second you notice the tooth grinding, it’s time for a vet visit. This is not a problem that you should wait out and see if it’ll go away on its own – it’s one of the few symptoms that requires immediate vet attention.
Underlying Conditions of Teeth Grinding in Cats
Why do cats grind their teeth?
Typically, cats grind their teeth because it relieves an underlying pain they are feeling.
Like putting pressure on and rubbing a painful bump or bruise makes us humans feel less in pain, grinding teeth helps cats to relieve certain type so pain they may feel – which is why teeth grinding in cats is typically a subtle sign that your cat is likely to be in pain.
What could feline bruxism be a symptom of?
While it’s easy to assume that a cat grinding his or her teeth to fend off feeling pain must have to do with a tooth-related underlying condition, this isn’t always the case.
More often than not, the issue is dental in nature, but there are a plethora of other possibilities.
The following are some of the conditions that may be underlying and causing the symptom of feline teeth grinding to take place.
Please note, this is not an exhaustive list, but I did try to be as comprehensive as possible in case you wanted to ask your vet to check for specific causes.
Dental Problems That Can Cause Cats to Grind Their Teeth
- Disintegration of teeth (feline tooth resorption)
- Fractured (chipped) teeth
- Dental abscesses
- Abnormal alignment of teeth (malocclusion)
- Inflammatory gum disease (gingivitis)
- Oral tumors
- Oral trauma
- Foreign material lodged in the oral cavity
Abdominal Diseases That Can Cause Cats to Grind Their Teeth
- Pancreatitis/pancreatic disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Intestinal lymphoma (intestinal cancer)
- Gastritis/gastrointestinal ulcers
Neurological Diseases That Can Cause Bruxism in Cats
- Brain tumors
- Peripheral nerve neuropathies
Other Health Issues That Can Cause Bruxism in Cats
- Cholangiohepatitis (liver disease)
- Hypokalemia (low potassium)
What’s the most likely cause of teeth grinding in cats?
Dr. Alexander M. Reiter, who’s the head of dentistry and oral surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, states that the most common causes of feline teeth grinding are: “Tooth resorption (or disintegration), inflammatory gum disease, ulcers, cancer and abnormal alignment of the teeth.”
Dale Kressin DVM, points out that, in his experience, “Tooth resorption, fractured teeth and dental abscesses are the most common causes of dental pain.”
If your cat has simultaneously lost his or her appetite, cannot seem to chew food in his or her mouth, begins to be picky about what food he or she will eat, and/or begins drooling or creating excessive saliva along with the tooth grinding, the most likely cause of the bruxism is feline tooth resorption.
It’s estimated that over 50% of adult cats develop tooth resorption, and while this is a problem that a vet can fix, it’s best to take preventative measures early on by brushing your cats teeth with cat toothpaste and a feline toothbrush 3-7 days a week.
It’s also important to take your cat in to see his or her vet at least once a year for a check up, as professional cleaning may be necessary to stay on top of dental disease and/or for early repair of already damaged teeth, as left unchecked, damaged teeth may need to be completely removed.
In Persian cats, the most likely cause of bruxism is possibly abnormal alignment of teeth, as this breed is particularly susceptible to having this dental issue.
Siamese cats are the second most likely cats to have issues with abnormal alignment of teeth.
How do vets treat teeth grinding in cats?
A vet will do three things when treating bruxism in cats:
- Prescribe pain relief medications,
- Identify the underlying condition causing the cat pain, &
- Resolve and cure the underlying condition with medication, dental cleaning, or another form of treatment, depending on what the cause of the pain happened to be.
Dr. Alexander M. Reiter states that “85 percent of oral diseases that cause grinding, including tumors, inflammation, ulcers and loose or broken teeth can be observed during a regular examination.”
Which is good news, because it means in the vast majority of cases, if your cat is grinding his or her teeth, the vet should quickly be able to identify the problem to be solved.
For the other 15% – an X-Ray or CT Scan may be needed to help identify the problem.
How can I help my vet identify the underlying problem?
As with absolutely any concern you take to your vet, when you’re in for your appointment, be sure to let your vet know as much as you can think of that may be useful or helpful to him or her.
Not sure if specific information is relevant? Mention it anyway. You never know, and it’s always better to be safe by sharing information than sorry you didn’t.
In this particular case the most important things to bring to your vet’s attention are:
- Whether your cat has any other symptoms (ex: change of appetite, excessive saliva, or drooling).
- Any recent changes in environment (ex: a move, new cat, new food, etc.)
- When your cat typically grinds his or her teeth
- How frequently the tooth grinding takes place
- If you’ve noticed an increase in tooth grinding and how fast this increase has taken place
If your vet cannot seem to find a problem, I strongly recommend seeking another vet’s advice.
If you can get a hold of one who specializes in animal dentistry and oral surgery, these specialized vets may prove to be a better option for identifying the underlying cause behind your pet’s teeth grinding.
Your Experience With Teeth Grinding in Cats?
Have you ever seen a cat grinding his or her teeth before?
If you have, did you assume this was a normal behaviour, or quickly jump online to look the symptom up? What happened afterward – did you go to the vet? Did the grinding get more regular?
If you’ve never seen a cat grinding his or her teeth before – did you ever think it could be such a serious symptom?
As I stated in the intro, I certainly didn’t! I’m sure glad I now know.
Please pass this information on to other cat owners – you never know the kind of pain you could be saving a poor silently suffering cat from.
Skeeter A. says
We rescued 3 cats, about a year apart from each other several years ago. Non have ever ground their teeth.
We lost Baby Girl (middle age of the 3) about a year ago to a stroke and the complications that followed.
Both the older and younger ones didn’t seem to notice that she was gone.
Yesterday afternoon, we had to make the decision for KiKi (youngest of the 3 at 15yrs old)
and the oldest didn’t seem to notice.
The oldest, Boxxer, 17 yrs old, has been having some issues with Feline Alzheimer’s, IBS and weight loss but we are managing it pretty well.
The Alzheimer’s causes him to walk around talking/yelling a lot but never does it if he is in a lap and or getting pet.
About 30 minutes ago he was with my wife and all of a sudden started yelling like crazy, got up went to the floor and started making this awful sound that freaked us both out. Neither of us have ever heard of teeth grinding in cats until now. All of sudden.
The only change that has happened recently is Kiki didn’t come home yesterday.
We are thinking that he just realized that she is gone and jumped up and started grinding but i didn’t see anything similar in this article or comments.
sorry for the long post, just wanted to give some context and yes, we are calling our vet to get him an appointment.
My kitten who we got back in January at 11 weeks old has been grinding his teeth since then. But he only does it when he rubs again my fingers or my nose. Its kinda cute when he does it so i didn’t think anything of it but after reading this article I’ll make a vet appt for him. He acts fine and normal so i’m hoping it won’t end up being a big issue. But my little Ranger is so important to me I can’t let this go now.
My baby blossom is having teeth grinding problem .. since august .. she cant eat by her own .. shes not moving .. she can only eat mashed food .. shes one year old .. shes almost paralysed but she can move her legs and hands .. she has ear infection with tilted head .. shes diagnosed with feline vestibular disease .. can anyone advise if this teeth grinding related to that disease or is it due to any other reason 😞will appreciate any help 😔
Rebecca Ashton says
My 14 year old fur baby has diabetes and have just found out she has lymphoma. She has gone from 8kg to 3.5 and is now on steroids to make her eat. She has always been picky, but now it’s worse. I feed her anything to get her to eat and just gave her some shaved ham. I noticed a very loud grinding sound coming from her mouth as she ate. She recently had a teeth clean. Will she be able to have pain relief as well as insulin and steroids? The steroids have increased her glucose levels a bit but my vet isn’t to concerned as it is still low.
Thank you so much!
My four year-old cat Lily gradually began grinding her teeth. I noticed last November it seemed to increase. I made a mental note to get her into the vet once my final exams were over. I didn’t get a chance to do so as I found her dead when I came home from work on December 1. Her only symptom was the teeth grinding. She seemed so health and happy otherwise. I was so devastated and felt guilty. My vet said it’s possible that was caused by a brain tumor. I wonder every day what actually happened but know in my heart the bruxism was a sign something was wrong. I don’t wish to scare anyone, but please do not ignore this if you notice your pet doing it.
I have a 4 year old Siamese who started grinding his teeth about 3 months ago. My vet did a full exam with blood work, stool check, etc. and found nothing. All normal. She referred me to a dental expert. He examined my Niki and also saw nothing. He wants to put him under to do an X-ray and CT Scan and if that shows nothing, then I’ll be referred to a gastro vet. The dental tests will be somewhere between $1-2,000 and I’m so torn and deathly afraid of putting him under. He is my baby. He is eating, playing, purring, bathing himself, drinking water and is acting completely normal except for grinding. He grinds when he is awake and I am petting him. I am so upset over this and my husband and friends all tell me to leave him be. Please help. Am I being a neglectful parent by not getting to the bottom of this? On top of this, I am having my own health issues and worrying about my Niki is making me so stressed.
I have a 12 year old Siamese and she’s been doing this her whole life. She’s fine.
I have a 4 month old kitten. She has just started teething (I actually found a baby tooth the other day.) She has made that noise maybe 4 or 5 times in the last 2 weeks but only for a few seconds when eating soft food. She doesn’t do it every time, just several times and it doesn’t last long. We have plans to take her and her brother to the vet later in the month. Could this just be due to her teething? Thanks!
Elise Xavier says
I do think it could possibly be due to teething, as even in humans that process is uncomfortable/a touch painful.
I have a beautiful 9 month old white and tabby short haired domestic cat.
I noticed on Saturday that he had developed diarrhoea. He appeared a little sorry for himself but I wasn’t overly worried and just kept an eye on him. He is drinking, I withheld wet food from him for 24 hrs. He appeared to pick up on Sunday, back to his normal self, following me around (he is my little shadow) over the last couple of days he has been sick once a day, that I know of. His stools are becoming firmer and he hasn’t been sick in over 6 hours. However, I noticed when he was eating he was making a grinding noise.
I am so scared, we lost a cat nearly a year ago, cause of death was unknown. The vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. He was always hungry but could never eat. Spent 5 months trying to keep him alive on whatever he could eat (which wasn’t much) he used to make a grinding noise just like my little man has made this evening. We brought this to the vets attention with our last boy and never appeared concerned. I am phoning the vets first thing in the morning, I’m so scared that they are not going to take this seriously. If they don’t I don’t know what I will do, they didn’t with our last boy and they couldn’t tell us why he died 🙁
So I took my cat to the vet…. they had no concerns with his teeth grinding! He continues to grind his teeth, he is nearly 10 months and he has never done this until a couple of weeks ago!
How can I push this issue with my vet?
Sorry the coming in late Maddy, but my cat has just started doing this and I was researching reasons for grinding and this article popped up.
My best advice would be to get a second opinion from an alternative vet practice. Our decision to go rogue and get a second opinion could have prevented our Birman from suffering Inflammatory Bowel Diseases five years ago. Made me mad that the original vet had let him suffer all that time (4 years) and on imledowtwlt changing vets, they prescribed a brilliant medication which turned his poos virtually normal in under 24 hours.
So unless you did already, I would seriously change vets as from the research I’ve done so far re grinding, has concerned me though to request an urgent vet exam as soon as they open in the morning as it could be something serious indeed. Hope this helps. Jo x
Thanks for your reply.
Unfortunately our vets are not allowing people into the examinations at the moment prior to Covid. So I haven’t been able to push the subject with them, BUT I intend to push it. If they don’t take it seriously then I will change vets. If I have to I’ll find a specialist vet. Where are you based Jo? I’m in the UK? Can anyone recommend anyone in the UK??
He has fully recovered from his D&V and has appeared to had no further problems, but the tooth grinding continues. As I mentioned before we lost our beloved cat last year and the vet didn’t know what was wrong with him, he ground his teeth for years!
I have a 3 year old tabby that occasionally grinds his teeth. He only seems to do it when he wants to eat our food though (he’s like a puppy. He’ll eat any human food he can get his paws on). We always assumed it was him trying to “taste” our food or pretend he was eating it. He recently had a vet check up and was deemed healthy, but now I’m reconsidering taking him back in.
Hi, my cat has been doing this for about two months now. I use to think it was dehydration because everytime she did it, her water bowl was empty. I started keeping up with her water bowl and food bowl more frequently. We have those gravity fillers so I usually fill them up every 3 days. She stopped doing it for awhile and started doing it again recently. I know I definitely don’t have enough money to take her to the vet. What should I do? She struggles with worms alot. She got them from a dog we use to own but had to get rid of. I always treat her worms the second I realize they came back. Could it just be stress? I’m worried for her. She’s my little shadow and I don’t think I’d recover if she were to die from a underlying cause. What can I do?
Elise Xavier says
I don’t think it’s stress, but I think you might be onto something with the dehydration. If you feel the tooth grinding may have been due to her being dehydrated before, and it seemed to be co-related with an empty water bowl prior to this, my guess is it might be the same problem again.
A lot of us have been going through heat waves lately, so it may be that she’s just not drinking as much as she should considering the temperatures have gone up so high. Cats not drinking enough is a pretty common problem, let alone in these hotter temps we’re getting.
Try adding some ice to the water once a day. Also, Try using these easy tips to get her to drink more water than she usually would on her own. They include offering her things like kibble mixed with water once a day, or catnip in her water.
Get her to drink extra water every day, and if the tooth grinding stops, my best guess is that you were on point with your original analysis and you just need to keep helping her stay hydrated on the daily by offering her things she prefers to drink to regular water. (So like kibble + water, or iced water, or catnip in water, etc.).
I’d definitely try deworming her as well if you feel like it’s about time for another go as well.
Let me know how it goes, and if the tooth grinding stops after trying this out!
Barb Tofte says
I just wanted to thank you. My 12-year-old cat started grinding his teeth a few months ago. Because of finding your article I pursued a diagnosis aggressively, even after our regular vet said it was probably nothing. My boy was just diagnosed with small cell gastric lymphoma. We are starting treatment tomorrow. If I hadn’t found this, I may not have known how serious this sign could be. I’m so grateful to have found it and caught the cancer. Praying my baby responds well to treatment!! I had to come back here to thank you for giving me the knowledge I needed to pursue a diagnosis and get my love the help he needs. Seriously, he would’ve died (a lot sooner than he will now) it I hadn’t found this post.
Marci Ruthling Dauer says
We have a beautiful Tabby Point Siamese, who is about 10 years old. We got a Bangel kitten in December and it has been a joy to see them pal around together, sleep and play together. This cat has had issues when we changed his food and has had boughts of throwing up through the years.
Fast toward- We took our precious Tabby Point to the vet as he had an eye issue, was dehydrated and now has almost stopped eating completely, except for a little bit of canned food daily. We don’t know if the eye thing is some kind of eternal problem or from some kind of trama (maybe playing rough with the Bangal).
Tests were going to be so expensive so after spending about $300 we brought him home. We’re praying he will regain his appetite but it’s not looking good. He also has recently started grinding his teeth when he eats (the few bites he eats. He is so precious, just purrs ever so softly and never complains.
It is heart-breaking because we feel like we are watching him starve to death. So sad.
Julie Reimann says
Hello! I have a 12 year old neutered Persian, who has allergies, and does well with 1/4 CPM tablets twice daily. He saw our vet four weeks ago for a meds check, and was doing fine. Two days ago he started chewing his teeth. He has been throwing up his food about once a day, but has done this since he was a kitten. I checked his mouth, everything appeared to be normal. We moved 4 weeks ago and he seems to have settled in well.
So, I am not sure what is going on. I will get him in to see his vet asap. Is there anything I can do to keep him more comfortable, fed, and hydrated till he is seen? Thank you for assistance!
My Sam has been grinding his teeth since I adopted him two years ago. He sometimes does this randomly or when he is grooming or after he eats. He still eats, plays and goes to the bathroom like normal. I never mentioned it to the vet because I just thought it was a cute little quirk. The vet everytime says my cat looked perfectly healthy. He just recently had a urinary blockage and surgery for it, and I noticed his tooth was biting into his lip a little. That’s when I decided to look it up and also found this article. I had no idea this was a sign of some underlying issues! Thank you for posting this, I will be taking him back the vet to get his teeth checked. I just hope everything will be okay.
Elise Xavier says
Please let me know how he’s doing! Hopefully it’s just genetic and not an indication of something worse since he’s had it for such a long time.
My cat, approx. 11/12 yrs old had 7 teeth extracted 3 months ago. Just in the last couple weeks she’s been fussy about her food, chewing dry (rx) kibble but not wet food except to lick the juice. A few days ago she started eating some of the wet food again but trying to chew it and when doing so, is grinding her teeth. It sounds like she’s eating rocks! It’s awful and I wonder if it’s painful. Have you ever heard anything like this before?
(Coco is vocal lately as she’s older and part Siamese. She has diet controlled diabetes and is taking thyroid meds. When she adopted us, she had asthma and during X-rays it was discovered she was shot with a BB gun 6 times. The BB’s are still lodged in her.
Elise Xavier says
Wow! I cannot believe the BB gun shots – some people are so ridiculously cruel it’s heartbreaking!
That’s exactly what teeth grinding sounds like. I think the actual process of grinding teeth is not painful, just the same as if/when we humans grind our teeth. It can feel nice to put pressure on our teeth if they’re sensitive or hurting, so I think it’s similar for cats, typically more like an indication that there’s pain and your cat’s trying to distract from that pain by grinding/putting pressure on her teeth.
Maybe her mouth is still in recovery and is a bit tender? There *could* be something wrong though, like an infection or a stitch come loose that’s caused her to hurt. Absolutely would take her back in and tell the vet to check just in case, especially since she’s had issues with her teeth before.
Lauren W says
I’ve got a cat that intermittently grinds his teeth. We just got his dental cleaning done in Oct of 18′ and the grinding started in December. I took him to the vet a few weeks ago (Jan 19′) and they didn’t identify any issues, took his blood work which all came back normal and so i’m at an impasse as to what to do. Another dental is going to be expensive but so are X-Rays just to see if anything is wrong especially when we just had his teeth cleaned 4 months ago. I’d be interested in the thoughts of others around the web as i’m struggling with what makes the most sense going forward. He’s eating, drinking, playing,…basically acting normal aside from sounding like he’s chewing on rocks every now and then. Thoughts?
Elise Xavier says
Out of curiosity, is he grinding at a specific time (ex, after eating, when hungry, after drinking water, when licking himself clean), or just randomly?
Also is your cat a particular breed or is he a tabby?
Crystal and Daisy Mae says
Nominated you for the Mysterious Blogger Award. Post will be on http://daisymae2017.wordpress.com either tonight or sometime tomorrow.
Elise Xavier says
Thank you SO much Crystal 🙂
Brian Frum says
We did recognize that with Sister Zoe, she just had 2 teeth extracted due to resorption (4 previously).
Elise Xavier says
Hoping she is feeling better now! I dread the day when Avery starts having dental issues; I know it happens to a lot of cats, so statistically, he’s likely to have some down the line as well!
Eastside Cats says
Well, Angel grinds her teeth every time she eats. Two veterinarians have said that it’s no big deal. I have thought about taking her to a veterinary dentist, but I’ve chickened out.
Elise Xavier says
How long has she been grinding? I hope if you are even a little worried you do go get her checked out at a veterinary dentist. I hate feeling intimidated and like I’m “crazy” for feeling there’s something wrong with my or my pets’ health just because I don’t necessarily buy a doctor’s or vet’s assessment that nothing is wrong. It’s not fun at all :(. Best of luck xoxo
Eastside Cats says
She’s been grinding her teeth for over a decade. I recall, when she had her dental about 5 years ago, that she stopped grinding for a while, but The Hubby thinks I imagined it. When I get back from my trip to London next week, I will set up an appointment with the local dental veterinarian. I also will make an appointment for Chili Bruce To see the chiropractor!
Elise Xavier says
Sounds good! Hoping if something’s wrong the vets figure out what it is straight away and patch these two up quickly and easily!