The importance of cat teeth care is often overlooked.
But by ensuring your kitty’s teeth are clean and healthy, you’re not only avoiding nasty problems from arising but also helping them improve their overall wellbeing and saving time and money.
So, are you ready to give your cat the best set of pearly whites?
One of the best things about cats is their ability to clean themselves. As cat parents, it’s both fun and calming watching them carefully groom themselves from ear to paw.
Luckily, their mouths and teeth are the same, too. These beautiful felines possess mouths that are miniature, self-cleaning toothbrushes and floss. As a result, cats don’t have a real need for dental hygiene visits or toothpaste, for that matter.
However, just because they don’t need it, doesn’t mean they don’t need help with it. In fact, if you don’t take care of your cat’s teeth early on, it can lead to bad breath, tartar buildup, tooth decay, and gum disease. In addition, if you don’t practice regular cat teeth cleaning and good eating habits, this may eventually lead to gingivitis and periodontitis, which are infections that cause inflammation of the gums and bone loss around the teeth respectively. This can make it harder for cats to eat properly and can lead to other serious health issues such as liver and kidney disease, indigestion, heart disease and malnutrition if left untreated.
So, how can you take care of your cat’s teeth? More importantly - how do you brush your cat’s teeth in the first place? How can you tell if your cat has dental issues? In this post, we’ll talk about basic cat teeth care and how you can keep your kitty’s teeth and gums healthy.
Your Basic Guide to Cat Teeth
First, let’s answer one of the most basic cat teeth questions - exactly how many teeth does a cat have?
Just like us, cats have 2 sets of teeth. Kittens grow their first set of 26 milk or baby teeth (also called deciduous teeth). As they grow older, they shed their milk teeth and adult cats will normally have 30 permanent teeth.
If you own kittens, you’ll notice them being irritable and reluctant to eat from around 10 weeks to 6 - 7 months. That’s because your kittens are teething within this period. From 7 months old onwards, their permanent teeth should have grown.
During the teething stage, it’s best to give kittens soft, wet and easy-to-chew food as well as soft chew toys. You can buy a few chew toys and see what your kitty loves best to chew on.
By comparison, your cat’s teeth are very similar to human teeth but because they don’t actually chew as much as we do, cat teeth aren’t as strong. In addition, another obvious difference between cat teeth and human teeth is that ours are flat and theirs are sharp and pointy.
Another characteristic of cat teeth that make it critical for cat parents to take care of them is that when they bite down on something, their teeth stay in place, unlike ours which slide out of place. This is partly because of the way their jaw is structured and also because their gums are very tough. For this reason, you should never forcibly remove an object your cat has caught between her teeth, as it may cause serious damage to their jaw or the inside of the mouth.
Cat teeth, in general, are well-designed “tools of the trade”:
- A cat's fangs are called canine teeth (much like a dog's). These are sharp and are used for hunting and self-defence.
- Cats have another set of teeth known as incisors. These are used for grooming or eating soft food like meat or fish.
In terms of cat dental care at home, veterinarians recommend that a cat’s teeth be cleaned and brushed every day one to two times daily and can be introduced at around 6 months of age when their permanent teeth have grown. So, whether you own a young kitty or a senior cat, it’s never too early or too late to start brushing your favourite feline’s teeth.
Why Is It So Important To Take Care Of Your Cat's Teeth?
When a cat’s oral health is neglected, their health suffers, too. If you love your cat and want it to live a long and healthy life, then you need to ensure that its teeth are in tiptop condition.
Here’s a quick list of reasons why taking care of your cat’s teeth is vital for their overall well-being:
- Brushing your cat's teeth will let her live longer and feel better. Research shows that cats with good dental care live up to three years longer than cats with bad dental care.
- Treatment for cat dental disease is expensive. By taking care of your cat's teeth, they will need fewer trips to the vet saving you time and money.
- When your cat's teeth are worn down, it is much more difficult for it to chew food properly which may lead to malnutrition.
- For other cats, teeth may clump together into a mass that cannot be chewed at all. Over many years of improper chewing food like this, your cat may develop health problems such as diabetes or heart disease.
- Taking care of your cat’s teeth ensures that your cat will be able to eat, chew and swallow with ease and comfort.
- Cats' teeth are very sharp, and if you don't clean them regularly, they will get tartar (a kind of plaque) stuck on them which can lead to tooth decay and tooth loss, as well as infections in the mouth and gums.
As you can see, much like humans, cat teeth cleaning is vital for their overall health.
But, sometimes dental health problems in cats cannot be avoided. Maybe you’ve adopted a senior cat who wasn’t as well-cared for in their previous home or maybe your cat has just developed bad eating habits - for whatever reason, it’s best to know the telltale signs of cat dental problems so you’ll know when to take them to the vet.
Signs and Symptoms of Cat Dental Problems
Dental disease is painful for cats and also expensive for owners. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.
Trouble Eating. If your cat is having trouble eating, this could be a sign of a dental problem. It could be that the teeth are sore or that there is some kind of blockage. The cat might also have pain if there is an abscess present in one of the gums. Take your cat to the veterinarian if you notice any difficulty when eating.
Bad Breath. Bad breath may not seem like a big deal, but it could be a sign of serious health problems for your cat. If the bad breath smells foul, that can be due to food stuck between the teeth or gum infection.
Bacteria from food trapped between teeth can lead to gum disease, which can cause inflammation. The inflammation may go down into the jawbone and cause headaches for your pet. Your pet may also have a fever if there is an infection present in their mouth or gums.
Changes In Overall Behaviour. Cats with dental disease or gum disease may become more irritable than usual, or appear lethargic and depressed. They may also suddenly start hiding more often or become aggressive towards others in the household or towards you when you try to touch them.
White Or Yellowish Tartar On Teeth. The normal colour of cat teeth should be pearly white, just like ours. If your cat’s teeth have a yellow tinge and you notice a white-ish build-up, then there is most probably tartar on your cat’s teeth. Tartar is a form of plaque that has hardened. Left untreated, tartar will cause inflammation and infection in your cat's mouth. In addition to gum disease, this can lead to bone loss and tooth loss.
Remember that cats are masters at hiding any sort of pain or discomfort. So, aside from the above, other signs to look out for are:
- Rubbing or scratching at the gums
- Gums that look red, swollen or inflamed
If your cat displays any of the symptoms above, do not delay. Make an appointment to see your vet immediately.
Treatment for Cat Gum Disease
Based on your cat's specific symptoms and condition, treatment for cat dental health problems will vary.
But, regardless, treatment usually starts with the first step - take your cat to the vet immediately.
After a thorough physical examination, the vet will usually need to take X-rays for them to determine if any teeth will be removed.
In most cases, antibiotics and pain medication are prescribed if needed. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.
Sometimes, a cat's teeth may be in perfect condition and drooling + other symptoms may be due to another health condition. In which case, the vet may order more tests to determine if your cat isn't suffering from any other serious health problems.
Cat teeth problems are painful for your cat and treatments are normally costly. To ensure that your cat avoids any serious dental issues, prevention and oral hygiene are key.
Let’s look at a few ways for you to help your kitty have the healthiest teeth and gums.
6 Preventive Things You Can Do To Maintain Good Dental Health In Cats
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for all cats, there are some things you can do on a regular basis to help keep your cat's mouth clean and healthy.
Here are six things you can do to keep your cat’s dental health in great shape:
- Brush their teeth once or twice daily.
When done right, cat teeth brushing can be a delightful new daily routine that you can enjoy with your cat. The most important first step is to ask your vet which is the best cat toothbrush for your cat, including a good brand of toothpaste.
The next step is to ensure your cat is comfortable. Find a familiar, comfortable and quiet spot in your house. Make sure your cat is relaxed. Maybe offer some cat dental treats, their favourite kind of wet food and a well-loved toy before you start brushing.
When you make brushing a pleasant experience and regularly give praise when your cat sits still. Your cat will look forward to brushing time because they will associate the procedure with pleasant things such as food and treats.
The process of brushing your cat’s teeth is almost similar to brushing yours. But your cat has a smaller, more sensitive mouth so you need to be extra careful to make sure you don’t injure your cat’s jaw; especially if you’re brushing a younger kitty’s teeth.
- Feed cats more wet food than dry food.
Cats need plenty of wet food in their diet - at least 50% of their food should be wet to keep their teeth healthy. Dry cat food can cause dental problems and other health problems such as urinary tract disorders.
Treats are an important part of a cat's diet. But keep them to a minimum, since most cats have no problem over-eating treats, gaining weight and dental problems. Treats that are high in protein are better than those made with flour and sugar. Some examples of good cat treats are small pieces of lean cooked meats or string cheese.
- Boost their diet with probiotic supplements.
One of the best ways to reduce the risk of dental problems is by giving your cat a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are great for maintaining oral health and preventing gum disease. They greatly aid in digestion and immunity as well, which means less stress on your feline friend's body overall.
Probiotics help keep bacteria at bay in all areas of the body, including the mouth and the digestive tract. The result is better digestion, an improved immune system and a reduced risk for developing any sort of infection or inflammation in your cat's mouth or throat.
💡 Petz Park Recommendation
Did you know that probiotic supplements for cats can help prevent bad breath? Try the Petz Park Probiotic for Cats to help keep your cat’s mouth, teeth and gums healthy. Aside from that, probiotic supplements offer a myriad of health benefits that help with digestion and overall cat health. Just one scoop daily, an entire pack can last 8 weeks for all cats!
- Use dental chews or cat dental treats.
Cat dental treats can help remove plaque from your cat's teeth and freshen their breath. Most are available in either chewable treat form or a paste that you can brush onto the surface of your cat's teeth.
If you don't want to use commercial products, try this homemade recipe instead: Combine 1/2 cup of fresh pineapple chunks with 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese and 1 teaspoon of meat tenderiser. Puree in a blender until smooth, then freeze into ice cube trays before serving as treats.
- Give them chew toys with rough surfaces.
Most cats like to chew on things. In fact, they love it! If you do not give them something to chew on, they will find their own toys. Unfortunately, sometimes they choose items in the house that could be potentially harmful to them.
Data indicate that more than 80% of cats experience dental health issues. That's why it is recommended that you give your cat a toy to chew on. It will remove tartar and plaque from their teeth and help them maintain healthy gums.
- Get them regular checkups from the vet.
Regular preventive check-up of your cat's mouth is always best to help avoid any dental health problems, to begin with. Should your vet find any tartar, plaque or a morsel of food stuck in between their teeth, this can then be treated accordingly before it worsens.
The information above can help you give the information and inspiration you need to clean your kitty's teeth and gums regularly (and brush, brush, brush). It’s a healthy daily routine, it benefits your cat’s overall health - and it may just save you some veterinary bills down the road.
*This information is intended as general information only. It was not written or intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please seek professional guidance from your pet’s veterinarian before taking any action that could affect your pet’s health.