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How Many Teeth Do Cats Have?

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

cat yawning showing its teeth

Cats are enigmatic animals that disappear for long periods of time, and you may never find out where they have been! Independent, strategic, and resourceful, your family cat may be sourcing food from plenty of places in your neighborhood. It is apparently not uncommon that a feline has multiple homes. Therefore, don’t be surprised if you discover that your cat has a couple of moms and dads and that the recurring smell of sardines they bring in the house is from their last meal at the house up the street.

People seem to never catch many sights of their cats’ teeth, even though they are extremely important for their hunting excursions and general health. So, the question is, how many teeth do they actually have?

Your cute kitty has about 30 teeth by the time they reach cat adulthood. A lot of folks are surprised when they hear this, but when do you really get a good solid look at your cat’s teeth? We love our fluffy felines but let’s face it, they don’t like kissing or playing with chew toys as much as dogs do, so unless you have a particularly friendly cat, you may have never had a peek at their fangs.

Do cats have milk teeth?

An important estimate of a cat’s age is via inspection of its teeth. Like human babies, cats are born with milk teeth. Usually, they have about 26 milk teeth at birth which are replaced during kittenhood with their permanent teeth. Milk teeth are deciduous, which start appearing through a kitten’s gums when they reach 3-4 weeks old. The canines, or vampire-like teeth, are the ones that erupt first along with the mini, baby incisors, which are the teeth at the front of the mouth.

The next stage is the teething phase. During this time, the buds of the adult teeth begin to spurt up through the jawbones beneath the milk teeth. It is absolutely as painful as it sounds, and your kitty will inform you of this no doubt! Tenderness and discomfort are usually accompanied by lots of drooling and bad breath. Hopefully, you will find milk teeth shells around the house, so keep an eye out and just put them in the bin or keep them in a kitty memory box. There must be plenty of soft chewy objects available at this time because the urge to bite is strong.

The same pattern of growth takes place for the adult teeth as for the baby ones, starting with incisors, then canines, and finally premolars and molars. At 24 weeks, your kitten should have their adult teeth and you will probably know this as you will feel them during play! Unfortunately, your cuddly kitty is not exactly like a shark and cannot regrow its teeth. So, watch their teeth because if they lose one, it is gone for good!

silver tabby kitten's milk teeth
Image Credit: 12222786, Pixabay

Are cats obligate carnivores?

An obligate carnivore is exactly what it says, it’s an animal that is obligated to eat meat. If you didn’t think your cat needed all that chicken, then all you must do is watch a lion tear flesh and remember your cat is just the same. A cat cannot receive all their nutritional requirements from a vegetable diet and even if you are a vegan, it is unfair to not feed your feline what they biologically need. The first clue that your fluffy friend is a true carnivore is their teeth, which are a powerful weapon. The small incisors at the mouth entry are intended to catch and grip prey and the four very pointy canine teeth essentially rip flesh. There are also molars specifically named “carnassial” which are like razors and designed to kill. If that wasn’t evidenced enough, a cat’s digestive system is the direct opposite of a cow. In fact, a feline has the shortest digestive tract ratio in the mammal kingdom, which implies fewer bacteria to digest vegetable matter.

Are cats’ teeth like humans?

The correct answer to whether cats’ teeth are similar to humans is both yes and no. The function of teeth for both is identical, which is to prepare food for ingestion and absorption. However, there are some vast differences. Humans normally have 32 teeth as adults and about 20 milk teeth. Just for comparison purposes, a puppy dog has 28 baby teeth and then 42 when they are full grown. As omnivores, humans can eat anything they want from pure plant-based foods to other animals. Hence, a human’s teeth are relatively less fang-like and we tend to chew our food for longer. Cats, with their obligation to consume meat, have large canines to ensure they can fill their stomachs with flesh. A feline also uses their teeth for grooming and keeping themselves and their kittens impeccably clean.

close up of cat's teeth
Image Credit: Annette Meyer, Pixabay

Do cats’ teeth need to be brushed?

As funny as it may sound (and look!), brushing your feline friend’s teeth is a very good idea. The best time to start brushing is when they are a few weeks old before teething begins. The ideal period is roughly between 6 weeks and 10 weeks old. Like a little toddler, your kitten may be in a bit of distress during teething, as well as some pain, so it is best to leave them in peace until they have a complete set of adult fangs. The easiest way to get started is to get your claws on a kitty dental kit with a toothbrush and paste. These kits have instructions on how to clean your cats’ teeth and if it is too stressful for them, mouthwashes or dental chews can be an alternative. If your feline is experiencing more severe dental issues, contact your vet as soon as possible.

What diet is good for cats’ dental health?

A cat should have a wide selection of meat and fish in some good-quality wet and dry food. Tinned fish, like tuna or sardines, as well as cooked chicken, are welcome additions. A cat’s diet is a bit simpler than a dog because they are obligate carnivores. Luckily, your cats’ diet plan is naturally low sugar if not sugar-free as these meat-eaters require a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. This means that cavities are not as common in cats, but regular dental checkups with your vet are important to prevent and detect any dental issues.

Featured Image Credit: Sergio Huainigg, Pixabay

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