It’s well-known that dogs need to have their teeth brushed, so you might be wondering if it’s also important for cats. The answer is yes, you should brush your cat’s teeth.
Brushing a cat’s teeth may not be your idea of a good time, but here, we go over the reasons that this is a critical part of cat ownership, along with the best ways to use a toothbrush in your cat’s mouth and come out unscathed!
Why Must You Brush Your Cat’s Teeth?
One of the most common dental issues for cats is periodontal disease, which is the inflammation of the gums around the teeth.
Everything starts with the food that the cat eats. Food leaves a film of bacteria on the teeth, called plaque. It produces acids that work to destroy the enamel on the teeth, and if it hardens and thickens, it becomes tartar. If plaque and tartar aren’t removed, it can cause gingivitis or gum inflammation. If gingivitis is left unchecked, it can turn into a full-blown periodontal disease. This can be painful and lead to tooth and bone loss, infection, and tissue deterioration.
Studies have shown that as much as 70% of cats develop periodontal disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Gum and/or Periodontal Disease?
See your vet if you notice any of these signs.
One of the final stages of periodontal disease can be tooth resorption, which is a painful process in which the tooth sinks into the gums until the body reabsorbs the tooth completely.
What Supplies Do You Need?
To brush your cat’s teeth, you need a toothbrush and toothpaste made specifically for cats. There’s a variety of toothbrushes that you can try — some are tiny versions of what we use, others have dual heads, and there are also finger toothbrushes.
It’s important to only use a toothbrush made for cats, as human toothbrushes are too big for their mouths. Also, the bristles tend to be softer, as a cat’s teeth and gums are more sensitive than ours.
Human toothpaste contains ingredients that can make your cat ill, so only use toothpaste formulated for cats. Many of these toothpastes are enzymatic, which helps break down tartar and plaque. They are also flavored with fish, beef, and chicken, which might make your cat less reluctant to have their teeth brushed.
Before You Get Started
Before you grab the brand-new toothpaste and toothbrush, there are a few steps that you should take. First, speak to your vet about the best way to go about the toothbrushing process, as this will likely be a stressful event for you and your cat. Second, part of getting your cat used to having their teeth brushed is keeping the whole thing positive. Also:
How Do You Brush a Cat’s Teeth?
Take this process slowly.
How Often Should You Brush Your Cat’s Teeth?
Technically, every day would be ideal, but your cat might have a strong opinion about that, so aim for two or three times a week. Bringing your cat to the vet’s for a professional cleaning once a year should also help keep gum disease away!
You’ll want to replace the toothbrush about once every 3 months, though this depends on how frequently you brush your cat’s teeth. Also, if you’re using a vinyl finger toothbrush, this rule doesn’t really hold, so just use your best judgment. If you have more than one cat, you’ll need a separate toothbrush for each one.
If your cat’s breath is stinkier than usual, you should visit your veterinarian. It’s best to start brushing your cat’s teeth when they are a kitten, but with patience and treats, adult cats can eventually learn to accept the process.
If you’re uncertain about your cat’s teeth or feel like you need a few pointers about the brushing process, speak to your vet. Brushing your cat’s teeth yourself can undoubtedly save you a bit of money, but the most important thing is your cat’s oral and overall health.