Brushing your cat’s teeth is an essential part of pet parenting. Daily brushing can help prevent dental disease, plaque, gingivitis, tooth loss, gum disease, and bad breath. Left unbrushed, your cat can develop tartar buildup and severe dental problems.
In addition to at-home care, make sure to schedule regular dental checkups with us at Bond Vet. Dental examinations allow us to catch developing issues early and address them.
Why it’s important to brush your cat’s teeth
To prevent dental issues such as periodontal disease — a painful condition that causes damage to not only the teeth, but also surrounding structures like the gums, ligaments that hold the teeth in place, and even the jaw bone — it’s important to have a regular brushing routine.
By the age of 3 years old, your cat can develop tartar buildup and dental diseases, which can affect other organs since bacteria from the mouth can get into the bloodstream via inflamed gums and spread to the heart and kidneys. Once they’ve finished teething, cats are never too young to begin the brushing process!
What you will need to brush
- A cat toothbrush
- Treats or rewards
- A speciality pet toothpaste (human toothpaste can be extremely toxic to cats)
How to brush your cat’s teeth
It’s important you ease into a tooth brushing routine. Start by getting your cat comfortable with your hands near their mouth — don’t jump into using a toothbrush right away.
Touch the outside of your cat’s mouth and lips while you’re petting them. After doing this 1-2 times a day for 5 days, try gently lifting their lip and touching your finger to their gums and teeth. Follow this with a treat. Continue for 1-2 weeks, keeping sessions under 2 minutes, and always be gentle.
Next, do the same with pet toothpaste for a few days. Do not use human toothpaste as it can be toxic to pets.
Once your pet is comfortable with your fingers in their mouth, wrap one finger in medical gauze. Touch it to their teeth and follow with a reward.
Repeat once daily at the same time every day for 1-2 weeks. Now, your cat is ready for a toothbrush. Put a small amount of cat toothpaste on the bristles, and brush in small circles. Aim toward the gumline (which is where dental disease usually starts) and try for 30 seconds on each side.
You only need to brush the outside surfaces of their teeth, which is where most of the plaque is located anyway. Plus, it’s more comfortable for cats, you don’t have to get them to open their mouths.
Make sure to reward them verbally and with treats during and after an at-home dental care session, so that toothbrushing remains a pleasant experience for them
Tips for pet toothpaste and toothbrushes
As we mentioned, human toothpaste can be toxic to pets, and it was not designed to be swallowed. Pet toothpaste, on the other hand, is safe for your pet to swallow, and comes in flavors your cat would enjoy, such as chicken or vanilla mint (mint is a similar scent to catnip).
As for pet toothbrushes, since cat’s mouths are so small, your best bet is usually a handled brush with a small head, made for small dogs or cats. If your cat prefers a pet finger brush, that’s also fine to use — but for many cats, your finger might be too large to reach their back teeth comfortably.
My cat won’t let me brush their teeth, what should I do?
If you’ve tried all the recommendations for brushing your cat’s teeth and it’s still an unpleasant experience for both of you (or if your cat tries to bite during toothbrushing), don’t worry… you tried your best! Cats are independent, and sometimes it’s just not possible.
There’s no replacement for daily toothbrushing, which veterinary dentists consider to be the “gold standard” of home cat dental care. However, dental diets and treats may still provide some benefit to your cat, and are an easy addition to your daily routine.
Cat dental treats and diets
Cat dental treats, dental diets, and water additives can be combined with toothbrushing for maximum dental benefit.
The best cat dental treats and diets have the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal of approval right on the packaging.
Just check with your vet whenever you add a new treat to your cat’s diet. You want to be sure they don’t gain weight (you may need to reduce their normal food by a small amount to compensate).
Every cat is an individual with unique health and dental care needs, so your veterinarian may have some additional, personalized recommendations, too.
Bringing your cat in for regular checkups allows your vet to spot any potential dental care problems early, let you know when a dental cleaning at the veterinary practice is needed, and give you tips on how to provide the best home dental care to your furry companion.