Tip – 41 – Cat teeth – Cat dental care
Just like humans, cats have 2 sets of teeth. The first set is called the milk teeth or deciduous teeth and they start to come in when the kitten is about 4 weeks old. They continue to come in until all 26 milk teeth have appeared, usually by 6 weeks. These teeth are non-permanent and they begin to fall out from 11 weeks until 30 weeks. This is a time which is similar to teething in human babies, so the kitten may have sore gums, may do a bit of complaining and may eat less due to pain. During the time when the milk teeth are falling out, new permanent teeth are coming in until all 30 of them have developed and have replaced the milk teeth usually by 8-9 months. A vet visit should be done at this time to make sure all the teeth have come in properly. Occasionally, 1 or more of the milk teeth don’t fall out, or extra teeth are present. This can cause gum and tissue problems due to the crowding of teeth in the mouth. Behavioral problems may also occur due to the fact that the cat is in pain. Seek veterinary care if this is the case with your cat.
Brushing a cat’s teeth
Bad breath in a cat is usually a sign of tooth/gum problems and ranks as one of the top reasons people seek veterinary care for their cats. Like humans, cats need to have their teeth inspected by a vet twice yearly and brushed daily if they are to maintain good oral hygiene. Although cats are not naturally fond of this activity, it is important to start the tooth brushing routine between 3-6 months of age (but better late than never) due to the fact that by age three 85% of cats have some sort of periodontal problem.
Start with a child’s toothbrush, a finger brush or a pet toothbrush (available at many pet stores including the one on this site) and use a specialty toothpaste or something tasty like pâté that is safe to swallow. Do not use human toothpaste, it is not good for cats. Start VERY slowly, gently brush 1 or 2 teeth and reward the cat for not squirming with a GOOD food reward. Try again the next day and go slightly longer. Reward again with food. If the cat starts to squirm stop the activity and do not give a food reward. Try to anticipate the cat’s tolerance level and end the activity with a food reward before the cat starts to squirm. Gradually increase the length of time until hopefully, by two weeks you can brush all the teeth, top and bottom and front to back.
Tip: Try brushing first thing in the morning before you give your cat any food.