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When it comes to the health of our cats, we monitor their fur, their eyes, and their overall well-being. But what about the health of their teeth? A particular condition that can secretly spread in the mouths of our cats is Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesion, known as FORL. This dental disease is both insidious and painful, and often remains undetected until it has significantly progressed. In this article, we have summarized what every cat owner should know. 

What is FORL? 

Tabby cat yawning in front of red and white background
image: photosforyou – pixabay.com

FORL is a degenerative dental disease that first attacks the tooth roots and then gradually leads to the loss of hard tooth substance. The disease usually begins hidden below the gum line, which complicates diagnosis. Odontoclastic cells, which are actually responsible for the resorption of milk tooth roots in young cats, mistakenly destroy the permanent teeth as well. This leads to lesions that progressively weaken the tooth and can ultimately result in the loss of the affected tooth. FORL is extremely painful for the afflicted cat. 

Why Do Cats Get FORL? 

The exact causes of FORL are not yet fully understood. Genetic predispositions, viral infections, dietary factors, and a possible association with other inflammatory conditions in the cat’s body are all under discussion. However, one thing is clear: FORL is not a result of poor oral hygiene, although regular dental care contributes to the overall health of the mouth. 

The Prevalence of FORL 

Gray and white cat eating dry food from a black bowl
image: 316936903976641 – vecteezy.com

Cats are masters at hiding pain, which makes it difficult for owners to detect whether their pet is suffering. Some subtle signs may include: 

  • Refusal of hard or cold food 
  • Chewing on one side, head tilt while chewing 
  • Painfulness when eating, sometimes accompanied by sudden crying out, retreating from food, or dropping food 
  • Subtle jaw chattering 
  • Drooling 
  • Bad breath 
  • Sensitivity to touch in the facial area 
  • Behavioral changes such as withdrawal or aggression towards people or other feline friends 
  • Cat suddenly becomes unclean 

The insidious nature of FORL lies in the fact that the disease usually begins at the tooth roots and is not visible to the naked eye until it has progressed significantly. By this stage, the cat often suffers considerably. 

Dental X-Rays: The Key to Early Detection 

Veterinarian examines tabby cat
image: Benis Arapovic – vecteezy.com

The only way to detect FORL early and quickly assist the cat is through dental X-rays. This specialized procedure allows veterinarians to take a detailed look beneath the gum line and identify changes indicative of FORL. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, often involving the removal of the affected tooth, can alleviate pain and significantly improve the cat’s quality of life. 


As cat owners, it is our duty to be vigilant and pay attention to the less obvious health problems of our pets. Regular dental check-ups and dental X-rays should be an integral part of health care. It is best to inquire at your veterinary clinic if dental X-rays are available there. FORL may be a hidden disease, but our commitment and awareness of dental health can make a difference and allow our cats to live a longer, pain-free life. 

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