Matters of the Mouth

Your pet's teeth need daily attention, just as yours do. Learn the importance of dental care for cats.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Introduce home dental care during kittenhood, so cats become used to having their lips lifted, their mouth and gums touched and handled, and their teeth brushed.

Owners of older cats may still institute home care, but it depends largely on the cat's nature. A compliant cat will likely allow home dental care despite the late introduction. Introduce your adult cat in the same way you would introduce a kitten - gradually. Get your cat used to having its lips lifted and its teeth and gums touched. Then add toothpaste. Next, try toothpaste with the brush.

If you have difficulty with a traditional pet toothbrush, try a finger brush, a plastic cap with nubs that slips over your finger. Choose a cat-specific enzymatic toothpaste to apply to the brush and gently brush your cat's teeth and gums. Never use human toothpaste; cat-specific toothpastes are formulated for feline tastes and include flavors such as poultry, beef, seafood and malt.

Many cats tolerate the procedure, albeit reluctantly. Brushing every day is ideal, but for difficult cats, brushing two or three times a week is satisfactory.

If your cat will not tolerate tooth brushing, there are many other feline dental hygiene products available, such as gels, oral rinses and sprays. A cat that will not tolerate any oral manipulation needs regular dental checkups at least every four to six months.

Dental diets are a more recent veterinary development. These diets are designed to prevent or dramatically slow the accumulation of tartar on the teeth. They do not replace home care and they may be inappropriate for cats with advanced periodontitis, because the hard kibbles can irritate the gums.

Many cats like tartar-control treats. If you regularly offer your cat treats, consider using crunchy, tartar-control treats instead of the softer versions.

Remember that by taking regular care of your cat's teeth, you are caring for its overall health.

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Reader Comments

BarbaraAtNutro    Morton Grove, IL

10/21/2014 6:27:52 PM

Great article, I feel dental care is so important. My tonkinese will let me use the rubber finger brush daily. She does not love it but tolerates its. Afterwards she gets awarded with a few feline dental Greenies treats, which she loves.

Janet    Bethlehem, PA

11/30/2013 6:50:09 AM


Jada    Grayson, GA

6/15/2012 7:29:17 AM

Good info...My vet wants me to start brushing my kitty's teeth, so I need all the help I can get! :)

Carmen    Fullerton, CA

7/12/2011 5:45:24 PM

Thank you for this information! I will be contacting my local vet now to get both my cats teeth checked out :)

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