Adult cats have 30 teeth, which is just two less than fully developed humans (or two more if a person has their wisdom teeth removed). Kittens lose their “deciduous” teeth, just like toddlers. The similarities go on, so it’s important to care for your cat’s teeth almost as if they were your baby (and I know some of you already treat your cat that way for everything else).
But you can’t simply stick your toothbrush in your cat’s mouth and brush his teeth; he’d probably try to eat the toothpaste! So how can you manage your cat’s dental care?
First, there are some signs to look out for failing dental health. If your cat has noticeably bad breath, that could be a sign of oral problems. Drooling is also a bad sign and might indicate tooth decay or gum disease.
Next, check inside his mouth. When your cat is in a relaxed mood, gently push back his lips and inspect his gums. You can go here for further instructions. Make sure that his gums look firm and pink rather than red or white, and also check for any swelling. His teeth should be clean and white, and shouldn’t be loose or chipped. Significant brown tartar is also a bad sign. Bleeding gums on occasion is OK, but consistent bleeding is probably a sign of the above.
Also pay attention to his eating behavior. If he’s having trouble eating food, or doesn’t appear to be eating as much, that could be a sign of poor teeth or gums.
While you might think chew toys are primarily for dogs, cats can benefit from them too. Cats have a natural instinct to chew and are bred to chomp on rough objects, such as their prey. There are plenty of chew toys out there that can help floss their teeth, remove tartar, and soothe gums.
One option you can look into is bones. You can offer a bone as a treat of sorts. Don’t give your cat chicken, pork, or fish bones, as these can splinter and cause injury. Raw bones are better too as they’re less likely to splinter.
It’s important for kittens to chew on things so they can pop out their old new and grow in the new ones. Remember, kittens have “baby” teeth like humans so it’s OK if you notice teeth on the floor!
I know I mentioned at the top that you can’t brush your cat’s teeth using human products, but there are safe cat toothpaste and cat toothbrush products out there. It isn’t mandatory to brush your cat’s teeth, but if they’re having issues it’s a good idea. Your cat probably won’t like it at first, so be sure to read up on proper instructions and tips.
On a similar note, you can massage your cat’s gums. You can gently use your fingers to massage his gums, as long as he doesn’t hate it.
If the above options are too difficult, there’s an easy solution: Feeding him! There are all kinds of cat treats out there that help clean cat teeth. These products help control and remove tartar and also include vitamins important to health care. Simply take a treat…and give it to your cat. It’s that easy. You can even reward your cat after a stressful brushing with a tartar-controlling treat! There’s also a supplement you can add to water that helps with gum health, just check with your vet first.
Poor health in your cat’s mouth can lead not only to further complications with teeth and eating, but can lead to infection and sickness as well. Be sure to check your cat’s teeth and gums and take the preventative measures.
Most of us aren’t vets or dentists, so bring your cat in for yearly checkups even if there are no signs of tooth/gum problems, and be sure that he or she looks at his mouth.