Cat Grinding Teeth: Why It Happens & What To Do

Have you ever noticed your cat griding their teeth? Owners often wonder if a cat grinding teeth is normal. There are a few different reasons why cats do this. Let's jump in and learn more about cats grinding teeth, and what owners should do about it.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: November 8, 2023 | 9 min read

A human hand holding a cat's head examining teeth

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Cats are very interesting animals, with some very intense and often odd behavior. One question feline owners often have is about cats grinding teeth. This is something felines do for a few different reasons. It can be accompanied by other things like excessive drooling, clicking, crunching, swollen gums, and more. Though not something that affects every cat, teeth grinding is something pet parents may often have to deal with.

Any time a pet is experiencing new symptoms or engaging in odder-than-normal behavior, owners should pay attention. While sometimes these behaviors are normal, other times they are how your cat tries to communicate. Learning how to listen to feline body language and behavioral cues is one of the best ways owners and cats can communicate.

Cats grinding teeth can happen for a few different reasons. Sometimes, this behavior can be an indicator of underlying medical or behavioral issues. Purr parents need to understand the reasons behind it. Some of the most common causes include dental problems, pain or discomfort, stress, and anxiety. Let’s explore these reasons a little closer.

What Is Feline Teeth Grinding?

Feline teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a condition where a cat grinds or clenches their teeth. This can be noisy and noticeable behavior. Some cats may grind their teeth loudly, while others may do it silently. It can occur during the day or night, both during awake hours and when a kitty is asleep. It can be an occasional occurrence or something that happens regularly. Not all kitties who mouth grind have a medical problem, but it is always best to have it checked out by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying issues.

How one deals with or approaches feline bruxism depends on the underlying cause. If it is a medical or dental problem, your veterinarian can help determine the best course of treatment. Should anxiety, stress, depression, or other behavioral simulation motivate the behavior, you might need to work with a feline behaviorist or trainer to modify this behavior.

Is It Normal For Cats To Grind Their Teeth?

Bruxism is common but should not be considered normal. Bruxism can be caused by a few different reasons. Sometimes, kitties will do this after they eat. It could be an isolated incident or something that starts to happen more often. Though this behavior is most often associated with a dental or other medical issue associated with the mouth, that is not always the case. So, while we cannot say that every cat will grind their teeth, it is a fairly common behavior and always something owners want to pay attention to.

Why Do Cats Grind Their Teeth?

Cats grind for a variety of reasons, including dental disease, stress, anxiety, pain, or even as a side effect of certain medications. Bruxism can cause discomfort and pain and can also lead to dental damage or other health issues if left untreated.

Oral Disease

Oral diseases affecting the mouth, dental health, and oral cavity are among the most common causes of bruxism. These diseases can include inflammatory gum disease, cancer, ulcers, and tooth disintegration. Gingivitis and periodontitis are also common dental diseases that affect felines. These diseases are quite serious and will cause a significant amount of pain. Keep an eye out for other signs of disease like excessive drooling, refusal to eat, growling, or signs of pain and oral discomfort.

Other dental issues that cause tooth grating include poor tooth alignment, a broken or chipped tooth, oral tumors, malocclusion, oral trauma, or items stuck in the mouth and gums. Cavities are also extremely painful and may impact your cat’s ability to eat. Infection is also a leading cause of feline bruxism.

Unfortunately, many felines develop oral tumors, which can also cause bruxism. Oral cancer has other symptoms, including a lowered appetite, excessive drooling, bad breath, facial swelling, weight loss, and swollen, painful gums.

Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs)

These lesions are extremely painful. This is also referred to as tooth resorption. This affects 20 to 60% of all cats. While the cause is unknown, this condition occurs when the dentin of a cat’s tooth starts to erode and eventually is destroyed completely. This starts by affecting a single tooth but can affect more than one. The condition is incredibly painful and may impact a cat’s ability to eat, especially if their diet is made up of hard kibble.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is one of the most important joints in a cat’s body. This joint is essential for chewing. If it is injured or overstressed, it can lead to a very painful condition. Cats may have trouble opening and closing their mouths. Their jawbones might be out of place, and they can experience a loss of appetite due to pain and difficulty chewing their food. This condition requires extensive treatment from your veterinarian and may require surgery in some severe cases. In some cases, pets are treated with muscle relaxers and painkillers.

Foreign Objects

Cats are avid self-groomers and tend to explore the world by putting things in their mouths. This can include things like string or rubber bands. Debris or other foreign objects can become stuck in their mouth or lodged in the gums. They start scraping motions to try to work the object out. A loose or broken tooth may also become stuck in a cat’s mouth, leading them to try to remove it.


Although most bruxism is associated with dental issues like disease or injury, this can be a symptom of nausea. Nausea can be caused by a variety of things, including inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal dysfunction, pancreatitis, and more.

Abdominal Pain

In some cases, tooth grinding is a sign that a kitty is experiencing abdominal pain. Abdominal pain can happen for many reasons, including trauma or injury. In some cases, kitties grinding in their mouths end up having gastrointestinal issues or growth-like masses in their digestive system that have been causing them pain.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a condition that occurs when stomach acid gets into the esophagus. This painful and uncomfortable condition can cause kitties to drool excessively. It can also trigger bruxism. Acid reflux has other symptoms, including poor appetite, regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, depression, and pain.


Although anxiety is not the most commonly associated condition with tooth grating, this can be a behavior some cats engage in when they are under great stress. Remember that even small changes are very stressful for them, so big changes like moving homes or bringing home a new pet may trigger anxiety and depression. Other cats develop anxiety as they grow older or if there has been a significant change to their routine. Fear can trigger anxiety, which can also cause this behavior.

Neurological Problems

Some felines suffer from neurological system disorders that include epilepsy. Tooth grinding can be present during an epileptic seizure or just before. Other felines can experience different types of seizures, brain lesions, brain tumors, or inflammatory brain disease. All of these might cause a kitty to grind their jaws, though they are not as common as the other reasons on this list.


Dehydration can also cause bruxism. Felines who are dehydrated often develop acid reflux, which can cause them discomfort and trigger the action of tooth scraping. Ensuring your kitty has plenty of access to fresh, clean water is important.

Hypokalemia (Low Potassium)

This condition can occur when a cat has abnormally low levels of potassium. It can cause them discomfort and is also linked to kidney failure. Cats might grind due to the pain and discomfort they feel because of this. The good news is that this condition can be treated and even reversed if caught early. This is another reason why paying attention to your cat grinding their teeth is always important.

Cat Making Crunching Noise With Mouth

A feline grinding at the mouth may make some different noises, though the sound is often quite soft and hard for humans to hear. Because of this, it can go undetected for some time. However, some owners report their purr-babies making a crunching noise with their mouths. This can sound like crunching or crackling. Depending on your pet’s age, this is most likely related to teething, dental disease, a loose tooth, or something stuck in the mouth. This can also indicate an issue with the jaw, especially if it happens when eating.

Try to have your cat checked out by the veterinarian if you notice a crunching sound coming from the mouth. Pay extra close attention to appetite and other symptoms of pain or distress. Even if your pet seems fine, checking the mouth for any injuries or other issues is best. You can schedule a check-up with the vet and take note of what is happening around your pet when this crunching noise happens.

Why Is My Cat Grinding Teeth While Eating?

Some owners may notice dental grinding while eating. This is abnormal. Owners should investigate further to see what is causing this. Felines do not use their teeth the same way we do. Rather than mashing up their food, their incisors are used to shred things into small pieces. So, grinding is not something they should be doing while eating. If you notice your cat doing this, setting up a checkup with your vet is best. Doing this while eating is an indication that something is wrong.

It is also possible that your kitty is grinding their mouth when eating. Though this is often a sign of dental disease or tooth injury, it can also be a sign of eating an improper diet. Adult kibble may be too hard to chew if your kitty is young. Older kitties may also need softer foods. If need be, you can add wet food to your pet’s diet or soak kibble in broth or water to soften it. It is important to feed kittens appropriate food, as kitten formulas are developed to be smaller and better suit the needs of kittens. Senior formulas also address the issue and are made to be easy to chew for older pets.

Cat Grinding Teeth When Happy

Cats will purr when they are content, and this is often taken as an indicator that they feel happy. In some cases, kitties can start grinding their teeth while purring. It is not likely that this action is an indicator or sign that they are happy. Bruxism is often associated with an injury, oral disease, or another medical issue. Though some kitties may grind for other reasons, this is usually not a sign of happiness.

Preventing & Treating Feline Bruxism

Preventing feline bruxism starts with maintaining your pet’s dental health. This includes regular dental cleanings, providing a healthy diet, and providing dental chews or toys. Additionally, reducing stress and anxiety in your pet’s environment can also help prevent bruxism. If your cat is already doing this, your veterinarian may recommend treatment options, such as medication for pain or anxiety or a dental procedure to address any underlying dental issues.

If the cause is stress or anxiety, then addressing the root cause of the problem may be necessary, such as providing a more comfortable or stimulating environment or using behavior modification techniques. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed to help manage anxiety.

Preventing bruxism can be done by maintaining good dental hygiene, including regular dental cleanings and checkups with a veterinarian. Providing a balanced and nutritious diet can also help maintain dental health. It is important to identify the root cause early and start treatment and prevention as soon as possible if it does start.

Alternatives to traditional treatment may include natural remedies, such as calming herbs or supplements, or holistic methods, such as acupuncture or massage therapy. Owners who are trying to help a pet with stress or anxiety may consider CBD oil or CBD kitty treats for their calming effect. Speak with a veterinarian before using alternative treatments to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your pet’s unique needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I stop my cat from grinding teeth?

The best way to address this is to first inspect their mouth for any signs of injury or foreign objects. Next, contact your veterinarian for an exam and any necessary tests. Once you have sought medical advice, you can provide your feline friends with alternative chewing options like toys, catnip treats, and puzzle feeders to discourage this behavior. Be careful never to reach your hand into your cat’s mouth, as this may lead to you getting bitten.

Should I be concerned about my cat grinding its teeth?

Yes, this is never something to ignore. Though felines often engage in seemingly odd behavior, this mouthy stuff is often a sign that something is wrong. Pay attention to this subtle sign and ensure your cat is checked out.

Are teeth chattering or clicking the same as grinding?

No, teeth chattering or clicking are behaviors felines engage in when they are excited, happy, or stimulated. Clicking and chattering most often happen when a cat sees something they want to hunt but cannot. For example, many owners report their kitties will chatter at the window or click when they see other animals. This is not the same thing as tooth grinding.

Final Thoughts

Felines grinding their teeth is caused by various medical and behavioral issues. Though it is common, it is not normal behavior and is always something owners should pay attention to. Several underlying causes include oral disease, neurological issues, and other medical concerns. It is very important to identify the underlying cause in order to treat this issue correctly.

Make sure to consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your kitty’s health or behavior. The information we have provided is to educate and is not intended to be used in the place of advice from your personal veterinarian. Please remember that treatment and prevention of bruxism depend on the specific diagnosis.

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