Humans are meticulous about cleaning their teeth but what about our cats’ teeth? We brush twice a day and floss at least once a day (at least we should…), and go to the dentist every 6 months to a year. But what about our kitties? How does your cat brush their teeth? The AVMA reports that nearly 50% of cat owners don’t take their cat(s) to the vet, so if you’re not brushing them and they’re not getting regular checkups, how are their teeth staying clean?
It’s likely they’re not. Just like in humans, poor dental health in cats can lead to a variety of health problems: gingivitis, periodontitis, and even kidney, heart, and brain problems if unhealthy teeth are not properly treated. Here’s how you can help keep your cat’s teeth healthy.
Signs to Look Out For that Your Cat’s Teeth Are In Trouble:
Cats are notorious for hiding their pain. They’re unlikely to walk right up to you and point out that they’re having dental issues, so here are some symptoms to look out for that require a trip to the vet.
- Foul breath. We’re not just talking about regular cat breath that vaguely smells like tuna, but if it makes you take a step back and cover your nose, your kitty is likely having oral problems and should be taken to the vet.
- Red, swollen, or bleeding gums.
- Drooling or difficulty eating.
- Loose or missing teeth.
A How-to for Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth
I know you’re probably thinking we’re crazy for even suggesting brushing your cat’s teeth, but it can be done, even in adult cats who’ve never had their teeth brushed. The trick is to go slow. Shoving a toothbrush with toothpaste in their mouth and expecting them to be okay with it is not going to work. Preventative measures will also help you save on vet bills in the long run. Here’s what we recommend:
Step 1. Play with your cat’s mouth. This sounds odd, but getting your cat used to having your fingers in and around their mouth is important. They need to be comfortable and know nothing bad will happen. Do this for a few days in a row until you notice your cat has gotten relatively used to the feeling. This may take longer with adult cats and that’s okay. Go at a pace that is comfortable for both of you.
Step 2. Introduce the toothbrush or gauze. Whether you use a toothbrush or a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger is a matter of personal preference. You can even try both and see which one your cat responds best to. Don’t add the toothpaste yet, just rub your gauze-covered finger or toothbrush gently along the inside of your cat’s mouth. For really finicky cats, try dipping the toothbrush or gauze in tuna water beforehand. This should also be repeated every day for several days or even weeks if need be. Listen to your cat and don’t traumatize her by rushing.
Step 3. Introduce Toothpaste. Cat toothpaste is available in a variety of flavors (including unflavoured) to make it more appealing to our feline friends (DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE! This can make your cat very sick). Put a dollop on your finger and present it to your cat to see if they lick it off. If they do, great! If not, no worries. Either put a bit in their mouth if they let you, or put a bit on their paw so they’re forced to lick it off and get used to the flavor, or, at the very least, know that this weird sticky paste isn’t the worst food ever.
Step 4. Use Pet-Friendly Toothpaste. If your cat takes to the toothpaste right away you should be set to try using it with the brush or gauze and create a regular brushing routine. If they don’t particularly like it, keep up with brushing without toothpaste and introduce the toothpaste separately a few more times. If they’re really against it, try a different flavor. Eventually, you should be able to add the toothpaste into your daily brushing and can create a regular brushing routine from there.
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