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Cat Dental Care: The Complete Oral Hygiene Guide for Felines

cat dental care

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Cats are notoriously simple creatures to take care of. In exchange for a clean litterbox, fresh water, and nutritious food, you get cat cuddles, affection, and an endless supply of hilarious antics. But here is something you might not think about nearly enough: Your cat’s teeth! Cat dental care is critical to your cat’s health, and it’s something we should all try adding to our cat care routine.


If you’re wondering how, don’t worry! Read ahead! We are going to go over some simple ways to have your cat’s teeth squeaky clean. But first, let’s check out why it’s essential to take care of your cat’s teeth — it’s for more reasons than you may think.



Why Is Cat Dental Care Important?

Cat dental care is just like caring for our own oral hygiene: Daily brushing and routine checkups. Our kitty’s giant cat ancestors naturally cleaned their teeth without really thinking all too much about it. They’d simply chew on bones or grass. Cats that alternatively stalk stuffed mice inside our condo don’t have those options at their disposal.


Without ways to keep their teeth healthy — or tell us if they are in pain — it’s up to us to provide our cats with proper dental care. And it’s even more important to prevent dental issues rather than wait to react when they form later on. We have to make sure our cat’s teeth and gums are healthy to avoid painful and concerning health complications later on.


Teeth and gum issues are more common than you may think. Eight out of 10 cats over the age of three experience issues related to their teeth and gums. Cats accumulate bacteria and plaque from the food they eat, which hardens into tartar, irritating the gums and causing gingivitis and tooth loss if left untreated.


But that’s often just the beginning of the problems cats can experience when they don’t have proper dental care.



brushing cat teeth



What Happens If You Ignore Your Cat’s Dental Health?

When the tartar builds up and hardens in your cat’s mouth, it will start to irritate its gums. When the pain and inflammation go unnoticed by us, it can start to affect cats in other ways. This includes making it harder for them to eat or drink. You might notice that your cat isn’t able to eat enough and is losing weight. Or maybe it’s because the cat is dehydrated.


The ignored bacteria can also enter their bloodstream, leading to kidney damage. Other organs can be affected as well. As you can see, dental issues can become a lot more than a yellow tooth. Let’s take a closer look at what issues can arise from poor dental care. And don’t worry — it’s all preventable once you know how to provide proper dental care!



Common Cat Dental Problems


  • Bad breath: This is the least threatening of all common dental problems in cats. Early gingivitis — known as gum disease — is reversible.
  • Gingivitis: If left untreated, gingivitis can become more advanced, spreading into the teeth. This will start affecting the cat’s gums and the teeth below the gum line, leading to advanced gingivitis and then periodontitis.
  • Periodontitis: This is a severe gum disease that can lead to tooth decay and ultimately, tooth loss, thanks to damaged tissue and bone.
  • Tooth loss: Viable teeth will need to be pulled if they are severely affected by periodontitis, bone infections, or tooth abscesses. Cats that need their teeth pulled will need to be hospitalized, put under anesthesia, given x-rays, and then undergo an operation.
  • Weight loss: The issues of poor dental care go beyond the teeth and gums themselves. The pain cats are experiencing can cause them to avoid eating. If your cat is underweight or appears unwell, contact a vet immediately.
  • Kidney, liver, and heart disease: Bacteria entering the bloodstream can bring complications to other parts of the cat’s body, including their organs. If your cat is lethargic, struggling to breathe, urinating frequently, has bloody pee, or is vomiting, take them to the vet to be examined and diagnosed.
  • Mouth sores, Ulcers



Signs That Your Cat Needs Better Dental Care

Cats are good at hiding their pain, meaning it will be pretty hard to spot serious illness without knowing what signs to look for. The only symptom you will most likely notice is excessive bad breath. Always have a cat examined if you can smell their breath to a concerning extent.


Other less common symptoms to look for include:


  • Loss of appetite and issues eating
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at their mouth
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Broken or missing teeth
  • Blood in their saliva
  • Lesions inside their mouth






How Often Should I Care for My Cat’s Teeth?

You should always be looking inside your cat’s mouth periodically to check for anything concerning. But it’s common to miss some telling signs if you’re not a trained veterinarian. That’s why it’s important to bring your cat for a dental exam at least once a year.


Of course, it doesn’t hurt to bring your cat in more often. The number of times your cat will need a teeth cleaning depends on:


  • Age (the older, the more often)
  • Genetics (some breeds are more prone to dental complications)
  • Lifestyle
  • Existence of other health conditions


You don’t need to wait for a vet to have your cat’s mouth cleaned. It’s very important to prevent dental issues before they arise since they can be painful and life-threatening — and sometimes irreversible. To avoid disease and tooth extraction, brush your cat’s teeth every day using a vet-approved brush and paste. If you can’t brush daily, two to three times a week is recommended.



How to Care for Your Cat’s Teeth

Some people haven’t brushed their cat’s teeth.. ever! Not even once. So, where do you begin? Luckily we have some advice here to get you started and help you and your cat get a dental care routine going. It may not be the most enjoyable for either of you, but it will keep their teeth and gums healthy!


Introduce Brushing Their Teeth Slowly

You might not be able to brush your cat’s teeth every day if they have never experienced this before. Get them used to your finger being in their mouth, even not during a brushing session.


This is especially useful if they are a kitten since they will grow used to it easily if done from an early age. But even older cats can tolerate this behavior if you make it part of their daily life. Once your cat is used to you having your finger in their mouth, they will be more likely to accept the introduction of a toothbrush.


Ensure Your Cat is Calm & Relaxed

Never make brushing their teeth a stressful time of the day. This should be a pleasant — or at least tolerable — experience for them that they grow to accept. Here are some tips to make this ritual a success:


  • Remove any loud noises or anything else that would make them scared of the environment, ensuring it’s quiet, calm, and comfortable.
  • Show them some love and affection, petting them before — and even during, if possible — the brushing. They will maybe even look forward to this routine if they know some cuddles are incoming.


RELATED: Endocannabinoid System in Dogs & Cats: Explained


Get the Right Equipment

There’s surprisingly a lot of dental products out there for cats — which is a good thing! But it can also be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Check out this guide to see which products are top-rated and vet-approved. But here’s a general overview:


  • Toothpaste: It should be effective at removing plaque — and tasty!
  • Toothbrush: It should be the right size to get all those hard-to-reach spots in a cat’s mouth, including the gums. The bristles should also be soft.
  • Finger toothbrush: This is a great toothbrush alternative. It should provide a gentle yet effective cleaning.






Create a Tooth Brushing Routine

While it’s always best to start when your cat is a kitten, that’s not always possible. Luckily it’s never too late to start!


Cats are creatures of habit and they love routine. To make brushing part of their daily routine, it should be done around the same time every day. It should never come up as a surprise to your cat. Instead, they should be aware that it’s almost time for a pet session followed by a quick toothbrushing.


When your cat memorizes the routine and gets used to it, it will become part of its life and it won’t feel stressful or forced. And if they know there are some treats in it for them, even better! Your cat might even start meowing to remind you that it’s time for a toothbrushing, anticipating those nightly CBD treats!



Cat Toothbrushing Alternatives

Sometimes toothbrushing just isn’t possible. Maybe your routine is too varied, or your cat “accidentally” bites you every time you try. If you’ve given toothbrushing a try and it doesn’t seem to work, there are luckily some alternatives you can try to keep your cat’s mouth healthy and clean.


The first is a dental spray. You can spray their teeth and gums with the stuff to help reduce plaque and tartar. It’s also safe to swallow, meaning no rinsing is necessary.


Another alternative to brushing is dental treats. Dental treats have a particular texture that acts similarly to how chewing on a bone would in the wild, scraping tartar off your cat’s teeth. They are also quite tasty, making it very easy to convince your cat to try it out.



Final Thoughts – Cat Dental Care

Tuna breath is the last of your worries! Poor dental care can leave cats with painful gums, rotting teeth, and even organ failure and cancer. Taking good care of your cat’s teeth and gums is very important — and not too hard!


Get your cat used to the concept of you putting your finger in their mouth. Then make sure to get the right products to really make your cat’s teeth shine. Then create a comforting routine that gets your cat used to the concept, including CBD treats and lots of snuggling! Your cat will have a healthy mouth in no time. Find out more about caring for your cat here

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