Does your cat suffer from bad breath? A loss in appetite possibly? Well, it might have to do with its dental hygiene. Teeth are an essential part of hygiene and it might come as a surprise to you that it's the same case for cats.
In this article, you will not only learn how to brush your cat's teeth but also, the importance of it and everything you need to know about your cat's dental hygiene regarding signs of disease, how frequently you need to uphold it, products and alternatives.
Why you should brush a cat's teeth?
Cats' mouths, just like humans, can get dental diseases if not properly cleansed. According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 50 to 90% of cats over the age of 4 already suffer from some kind of dental disease:
A mild form of periodontal disease. Preventable and reversible by brushing the teeth regularly.
Red and swollen gingiva (gums around the teeth)
Can cause extreme irritation and discomfort for your cat
Periodontitis ( periodontal disease)
Severe gum disease occurs when leaving gingivitis untreated. Irreversible and should be treated by professionals.
Red and swollen gums
Pulled back gums
Bleeding at the base of the teeth
Causes extreme irritation and discomfort for your cat
Signs that your cat is struggling with a dental disease:
- Only chews on one side of their mouth
- Food constantly falling out of their mouth
- Flinch when anything comes to contact with the mouth
- Bad behavior, frustration
- Decreased appetite
It's never too late to practice regular dental hygiene on your cat. It's always best to avoid damage being irreversible or in need of professional assistance.
What cats are more prone to dental diseases?
Many factors come into play regarding what makes a cat more prone to dental disease. We did our research and according to the “Review of feline oral disease” by Peter Southerden, and ”Survey of oral diseases in cats in Flanders” by Ghent University, here's what we found:
The cats' breed:
Purebred cats, Persian, Maine Coon, Burmese and Siamese breeds are more prone to early (gingivitis) or severe periodontal disease.
The cat's diet:
Cats that eat canned food are more likely to get dental diseases, and overfeeding leads to obesity.
Giving your cat solid foods will help remove plaque and reduce the chances of gingivitis.
The cat's medical history:
Cats with diabetes cannot have dry food because it contains too many carbs for them. This forces them to only eat soft foods which aren't beneficial for your cat's teeth.
Overweight and obese cats are 4 times more likely to get diabetes than normal cats.
When cats are neutered they use 10 to 20 % less energy than they usually would but their appetite increases, which can cause the risk of weight gain and obesity.
How often should you brush a cat's teeth?
Ideally, you should be brushing your cat's teeth once every day, but that's not fitting to some cat parents' schedules as cats can be difficult to deal with in these situations. At minimum 3 times a week should do the job.
Most people think taking their cats to get their teeth brushed once a month when they go to the groomers will suffice. Unfortunately, this isn't the case as it only takes 10 to 12 days for bits of cat food to become plaque.
It is also recommended by veterinarians that your cat should also be getting annual dental cleanses professionally, just like us humans should go to the dentist for our annual check.
Cat Dental Chart
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that their diet is solely composed of meat. Although most pet cats consume a lot of plant material, particularly when are fed dry cat food.
None of the teeth of cats, including their molars, have grinding surfaces; they clearly evolved to eat "meat" and swallow without griding.
What type of toothpaste should you use to brush a cat's teeth?
Never use human dental products on cats!! Human toothpaste contains a mineral called fluoride– It's toxic to cats; if swallowed, the cat should be taken to the vet. Instead, get your cat pet-friendly toothpaste that can be found in most pet stores.
An adult human toothbrush could also be very harmful to cats as their bristles are rough to the gums and cause damage. Toddler toothbrushes, however, are perfect for cats. They’re soft and perfectly sized for your cat's mouth. You can also get finger toothbrushes (a glove-like toothbrush for your finger with silicon stubbles on it that allow you to brush your pet's teeth).
If these products aren't necessarily something your budget can afford, Q-tips can do the trick when used gently to scrape off any unwanted dirt.
Introducing the toothbrush to your cat
Before going in straight with a toothbrush and giving your cat a heart attack alongside trust issues, they first have to get used to you touching their mouth.
When they’re calm, start by stroking them near their mouth and lifting them open slightly to see how they react to this new proximity. Get them comfortable with you near their mouth then gently start rubbing your fingers on their teeth. Once your cat is completely comfortable with these actions is when it's time to introduce the toothbrush.
As simple as it sounds, your cat will not be immediately comfortable with you touching their teeth and gums. If they grow stressed, it's best for both of you to stop and try again the next day.
How to brush your cat's teeth
The most manageable position for your cat to be in is with its back facing away from you. This is so that if your cat backs away from the toothbrush it can't run away. Your cat would also be better managed on the floor rather than on your lap to prevent them from clawing you.
2-3 minutes is the ideal time to brush your cat's teeth but also very unrealistic in most cases. With brushing your cat's teeth, anything is better than nothing at all so if your cat can only handle 30 seconds it will count as progress no matter what.
How do you keep your cat's teeth clean without brushing them?
Now, I know that not everyone will remember to brush their cat's teeth or maybe your cat is fussy and you physically can't put yourself and your cat through that stress every day. If you're unable to find the time or comfort to brush your cat's teeth, here are some alternatives:
Dry foods or larger kibbles
Changing their diet to dry foods –as well as getting your cat a bone for them to gnaw on– is a great way to keep your cat's teeth clean, the tough kibble should scrape off any foods stuck in their teeth.
Will prevent tartar buildup and leave your cat's breath from smelling. (remember it's an add-on to water, not in the place of water)
Although you're still applying it directly on your cat's teeth daily, it still does the job without the effort of scrubbing.
Just like humans, cats as they get older, are just as prone to dental disease so it's important to be giving their teeth as much attention as we give to our own. These tips will hopefully help you on your journey to start brushing your cat's teeth, finally tackling their bad breath and saving hours of ‘kitten’ around!
Stay Wild, Stay Safe and we'll see you outdoors!
Albert & Mia