Do you clean your cat's teeth? Despite the popular proverb about having nine lives, cats only get two sets of teeth in their lifetime. That means, just like human teeth, cat teeth cleaning is an important part of caring for your kitty.
Considering our furry friends can’t do much themselves to maintain good dental health, it’s up to the pawrents to take control and make sure our precious cat’s teeth last a lifetime.
Of course, unless you’re a vet or experienced pet parent, it can be difficult to know how to clean your cat’s teeth. In this post we discuss why clean teeth are important for a happy, healthy cat and how exactly to clean your cat’s teeth.
Why cat teeth cleaning is important
In a previous blog post on the importance of cleaning your dog’s teeth, we discussed how a whopping 80% of our pets will show signs of poor dental health as they grow. Cats in particular are susceptible to periodontal disease, making it hugely important to keep your kitty happy and healthy with regular check-ups and teeth cleans.
Without regular cleaning, cats can get a build-up of plaque on their teeth, just like we do. If left to fester, this plaque can harden and form tartar, which can be very irritating on the gums and could result in tooth loss. Not only that, poor dental health could cause your kitty to have heart or kidney complications, so it’s best to be strict with toothbrush time.
Looking out for warning signs
In order to prevent these devastating complications, it's important to look out for signs of dental decay or disease. Cats are quiet warriors and often suffer in silence, so you may not notice right away that there are any issues. Fortunately, there are a few key signs to look out for, including:
One of the most obvious and hard to ignore signs of poor dental health is bad breath. While you may not want to get up close and personal with your kitty’s mouth, foul-smelling breath can be hard to miss!
Getting into a habit of regularly checking your cat’s gums and teeth can be great when it comes to spotting dental disease early on. If their gums start to look red or their teeth are a yellowish-brown, it could be a sign of something more sinister.
Change in eating habits
If your cat starts to drop food from their mouth, chew only on one side or simply becomes unable to eat, they could have a nasty case of gingivitis – a dental disease that causes severe inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis is easy to spot. You'll notice a dark red line along your cats tongue and if it's been left for a while, you might also come across ulcers. If you suspect your cat has gingivitis, get a check up with the vet to avoid it developing into periodontitis and causing more harm for your kitty.
Reluctance to play
Whether you’ve got a sociable kitty or they prefer time to themselves, any change in their playtime could be a sign of dental pain. If they are suffering with tooth problems, they may turn away if you try to play or engage them in any way.
How to clean your cat’s teeth
If you’ve noticed any signs of dental disease or pain in your cat, you should always get them checked out by a vet to make sure there are no long-lasting problems. However, it’s important to prevent issues and reduce the chances of your kitty developing dental diseases by establishing a regular cat teeth cleaning routine.
Cat teeth cleaning essentials
First things first, you will need to buy some pet toothpaste. Don’t be tempted to use your own - human toothpaste is harmful for both cats and dogs. Check it's an enzymatic toothpaste which contains enzymes designed to inhibit plaque and is mildly abrasive. You’ll also need to get a cat finger toothbrush – a small attachment with bristles for you to place on your finger – or a pet toothbrush. Pet toothbrushes are a little different to the ones we know and love, with small rounded bristles that help to remove plaque and prevent tartar.
Taking it one step at a time is the best way to get your kitty used to the toothbrushing routine. Ideally you'll have introduced your cat to getting their teeth cleaned at a young age. If you have an older cat fear not, with a little patience and a consistent routine you'll be able to get their pearly whites sparkling. Put a little toothpaste onto their lips or gums to get them used to the flavour initially. Once your cat allows it, it may take a few days, place a small amount of toothpaste on your chosen brush and use gentle circular movements on the sides of their teeth. It should take less than a minute to brush your cat's teeth.
Keep up this routine for a few weeks, using a little paste and gentle movements every day until your cat becomes used to it and will allow you to brush their teeth regularly, ideally daily.
More than just the teeth
Taking care of your kitty’s dental health is about more than just teeth. Tooth decay is usually the final stage of dental disease, so it’s important to be on the lookout for signs of irritated or inflamed gums. To improve gum health, give your cat a little gum massage after brushing their teeth each day. This will accelerate healing and strengthen their gums. Your vet can also recommend specialist products to keep your precious kitty happy and healthy.
Keep your cat comfortable and secure
It's not fun to have people playing around with your teeth and if your cat is anything like our Boo, brushing teeth is not something they'll look forward to. You can help make your cat happier by establishing a routine somewhere comfortable - we put Boo on the sofa. If your kitty is likely to scratch, you can place a blanket over their paws or swaddle them.
Using cat dental care products
It's tough to keep on top of your cat's dental health and brushing their teeth can be a stressful experience for both you and your cat. Another way to care for your cat's teeth is by choosing the dental care products. You need to ensure that, from being a kitten, the cat food you choose for your little one is beneficial for their growth, happiness and dental health. Specialist chews and dental cat treats will also benefit your kitty’s gum health. Be sure to check the ingredients as some cat treats and food contain ingredients like added sugars. Look out for "vegetable stock" in the ingredient list which is added for palatability and can include added sugars and salt.
In the wild, cats maintain good dental health by chewing on grass, leaves and bones. House cats are a little different. Without the availability of these items, house cats may search for suitable replacements. Getting them a chewy cat toy or two to sink their teeth into can help them to keep their gums and teeth clean.
Dental care products are a helpful way to attack plaque as part of your cat's overall dental care regime. The best way to help keep your cat's teeth clean and healthy is to regularly brush your cat's teeth and feed a complete and healthy balanced diet.
Calling on the experts
If your cat has heavy tartar build up or red gums, they might require a professional clean. Your vet will be able to advise if this is necessary. Plaque can be removed with regular brushing but if tartar has established, you'll need the experts to remove it. A professional dental clean can be costly so it's best to establish a teeth cleaning routine to avoid this. As it also involves putting your cat under with anaesthetic, it can cause stress for both you and your kitty.
Even if you've established a good teeth cleaning routine, it's important to have regular checks with the vet to ensure your cat is fighting fit.
Scrumbles Dental cat treats
Our Gnashers dental cat treats are designed to help keep plaque at bay and can be fed daily as part of your cat's dental care routine. Packed with 50% British Chicken, our dental cat treats are made with natural ingredients and a crunchy texture for a thorough clean. Feed as a treat or simply sprinkle onto their food to keep plaque off and your cat happy.
We’re passionate about all things pets. Whether you’re a new cat pawrent or an experienced pet owner, we want to hear all about your exciting journey – cat teeth cleaning and beyond. Keep up to date on all our furry friends’ adventures on our Instagram page and share your cat teeth cleaning tips in the comments below.