Dental Hygiene in Cats
“It doesn’t matter; cats lose all their teeth anyway.” This was one of the last things that Rags’ vet said to me when Rags was 14 years old – right after the vet had taken his thumbnail to break off a chunk of tartar that surrounded the back molars of Rags’ mouth.
Growing up with a mom who required 2 dental cleanings a year for her children and her husband, I was well aware of the dangers of tartar, bleeding gums, etc. It was that day that I called to find another vet to take Rags to.
When we took him to the new vet, a vet dedicated to cat care only, the first thing they noticed was what terrible shape his mouth was in. After they took his blood to make sure he was fine otherwise, it was time for Rags to get a dental.
Could I have not done anything to Rags’ mouth and would have he been fine? Maybe. But, I believe his mouth caused him a good deal of pain in the last years of his life – because his teeth had not been taken care of during his formative years.
Tartar built up and plaque in your cat’s mouth can cause many dental complications. One of the most common complications is periodontal disease. If left untreated the attachment structures holding your cat’s teeth in can be destroyed and your pet can lose its teeth. I was also warned that anything left untreated in the mouth would lead to kidney disease and other potential forms of organ failure.
In fact, dental care for felines is just as important as it is for us. There’s no wonder why American Veterinary Dental College exists!
To avoid periodontal disease, feed your cat a healthy diet, have appropriate chew toys, brush your cat’s teeth daily, and take your pet in for a professional teeth cleaning as recommended by your vet. Appropriate chew toys are those that are soft such as rope or rubber toys. Do not let your cat chew on hard objects, like rocks because that gesture could cause breakage in the teeth.
If you’re confident with your cat’s healthy diet, and you know you have appropriate chew toys, then you might first want to start out with How to Brush Cat Teeth.
You’ll want a soft bristled toothbrush that is suitable for a cat’s mouth and some veterinarian toothpaste (like, C.E.T. Toothpaste Poultry Flavor 2.5 Oz.). If you do not have a veterinarian tooth brush, brush with no paste. Do not use human toothpaste on your cat’s teeth – cats do not have the ability to spit out their toothpaste, so they have to swallow it. Human toothpaste has too much fluorides and what not, that are not meant to be swallowed.
Your vet should be able to tell you if your kitty needs a dental or not – there is no rule of thumb about how often they should be done. It’s completely subjective.
See photos of actual kitty dentals done to the cats in my life.
Thank you to my mom’s gorgeous Caymus for showing off his pearly whites in the photo on this post.
Here are some videos of our cats getting dentals:
Ragdoll Cat Charlie Getting a Dental
Ragdoll Cat Caymus Getting a Dental
Ragdoll Cat Rags Getting a Dental and Tooth Extraction
Do you brush your kitty’s teeth? How often?
I go to a cat only vet. At 4 years old they said he might need to pull 2 teeth he needs a dental asap. No teeth pulled thankfully but they said i had to brush his teeth daily and most likely still have dentals yearly.
I thought about my outdoor childhood cats who never had teeth problems and decided to give him food to help instead. I give my rag vital essentials freeze dried hearts as treats every day and sometimes 1in cut offs of the turkey neck they also sell for dogs. The vet was shocked the next year. She said she never saw such beautiful cat teeth and no need for any dentals and she was going to recomended what i fed my cat instead of brushing cats teeth to other patients.
That’s awesome – it’s the turkey necks that do it – why outdoor kitties never needed it growing up – because gnawing through the bone, muscle, bone marrow – helped to keep their teeth clean. Where do you get the turkey necks? At the butcher or at a pet store? I never knew they sold those for dogs.
Hi Jenny, I live in Australia and my 17 YouTube, Floppy cat had all of his teeth out due to Feline Resorption. It took me a while to find a Vet who actually knew about cats teeth but unfortunately by the time I did my boy had lost most of his.
Ugh! Sorry to hear that!
Enjoyed the post.Very informative.
I do not brush.
But do provide chew toys.
My cats eat wet twice a day and a small amt of dry left out each day to nibble.
We don’t have any teeth problems.
Has anyone had any experience with tooth absorption. I never heard of it before now. My cat has it. At first I thought she lost her tooth, she’s only 8.. so now I see her other teeth are getting gums over grown on them and it’s a matter of time. I started brushing her teeth every day and also using the gel and spray from Petzlife that is suppose to get rid of all the tartar. I refuse to take the chance with anesthesia because if she dies, I will die.. Anyway, I read about this disease and there isn’t anything the vets can do. The articles say it may be starting in the spleen and so I wonder if this has to do with the food they eat. A vet tech told me (and i agree) that all disease starts in the gut anyway. My cat has gut issues but not bowel issues. she’s always bloated since a baby..or at least looks it. Anyway, just wondering if any one knows of any natural remedies or had experience with this tooth reabsorption. I will go to the vet if she gets an infection I cannot take care of at home. But I do use some remedies like colloidal silver that really wipes out infections in my cats in the past.
Rhonda, there is an article releasing on the 5th that discusses this. Hope that will help.
Can you point me to the article I couldn’t find it..
KITTY OWERS TAKE NOTE – BETTER TO SPEND A FEW MINUTES CLEANING THEIR TEETH THAN SPEND OVER $400 ON GETTING THEM EXTRACTED!
At Davi’s first appointment after I ‘rescued’ him late 2012, the vet said he had a bad case of stomatitis (from a genetic predisposition) and put him on antibiotics. That seemed to help some, but with his 2013 visit the dental eval was still not good and we could even see where a tooth was hanging. 3 weekends ago I took him for his dental work. They extracted TWELVE teeth! He seems much happier (the vet said all those bad teeth had to cause a lot of pain).
Unfortunately, in the days after the extractions, he did not want to be messed with (particularly, groomed), and he developed mats and ‘greasy’ spots on his back/flanks. And also unfortunately, my regular groomer no longer does cat grooming and the facility where she worked did not replace her.
I have to find a new groomer but reading horror stories of grooming gone bad and so-called professionals abusing the animals in their care, I’m none too confident on where I should take him 🙁
Where do you buy a C.E.T. Dental kit? Do most pet stores carry them?
You can buy it online through Amazon. Here’s a link: C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Kit for Cats
My vet also has it, so maybe you can see if a local vet carries it?
When I started researching Papillons (Which is now finished with 3 years of info), I realized how important taking care of your dogs’ teeth are (Especially since that breed is extra sensitive to anesthesia), and when I started researching cats again almost 2 months ago, I always looked to see if there was a “Dental” section and am happy I did. So, long story short, I researched a lot about pets and plan to brush my kitty’s teeth once I get him. And besides, I speak from personal experience here, if you don’t take care of your or your pets’ teeth your wallet will be sorry! And so will your/their teeth – which explains my fear of dentists. 😛
I finally received my C.E.T. dental kit and Peppermint loves the toothpaste on day one. The package came with a plastic finger insert. Do you know what is it for?
Thanks again for all the information you provided!
That’s the toothbrush – you slide it on your finger and that’s what you use to brush their teeth. Of course, you put the toothpaste on it. Glad he likes it – reminds me of Whole Life pet treats – haven’t met a cat yet that doesn’t like those treats or that toothpaste for that matter!
This is a great article Jenny! I have noticed that Peppermint, who prefers dry cat food, have worst teeth than Caramel, who prefers wet food. Do you have the same experience? Or do you know if the type of food matter?
Lu, I have long thought that dry food is NOT helpful for the teeth. They have claimed it’s good for knocking of tartar, but I don’t think so. Dry food is bad for other things too. A website I rely on for this information is http://catinfo.org/ – here’s specifics on dry food – http://www.catinfo.org/#We_Are_Feeding_Cats_Too_Many_Carbohydrates
Also, I did a post recently about transitioning Charlie and Trigg from dry food – https://www.floppycats.com/transitioning-charlie-and-trigg-from-dry-food-to-wet-food-only.html – which you might find helpful!
I want Peppermint to live a long and happy life!! Hope that helps!
Thanks Jen! I did saw your post on Charlie and Trigg transitioning to wet food. I think that is a great idea. That will be their ideal diet. My only concern is the cost. That is why I will still feed my cats a minimal amount of dry food.
I am greatly concern of Peppermint’s teeth. I will start watching his diet and start brushing his teeth soon. My husband does not approve of any anesthesia for my cats’ teeth to be cleaned. So I have to take care of my cats teeth from now on.
Thanks for your support. Peppermint surely appreciate all your concern.
Does he not approve because of the cost?
It was not the cost. It’s the probability of Peppermint dying or having any complications. I told him that you have a good advice on searching the right vet. He’s still skeptical. He’s overprotective and he doesn’t want to take any chances.
My oldest cat only eats wet food and won’t drink water, and she develops “tartar like a puppy” (my vet’s words). My vet runs a dental special every February, so Bella goes in once a year. She’s had 2 extractions, and we’ve never had a problem as a result of the procedure. My vet also offers (for an additional fee) additional monitoring during the procedure, including an EKG, that will alert them to problems the cat may be having with the anesthesia. I think it’s worth every penny!
Linda, I am so pleased you had a good experience! I am also glad you are keeping Bella up-to-date!
First time on this site and very glad I am. “Punkin” is scheduled for her first dental visit and possible extractions. She is 10 yrs. old and healthy otherwise. The vet she sees for her annual checkup found a problem two months ago but they don’t do dental work. She will be seeing another vet next week and I am hoping it will not be too difficult for her. I will get back online when it’s over!
I hope it all goes well! Did the vet that’s doing the dental come highly recommended? Does s/he do a lot of feline dentals?
Sorry it’s been so long, but want to thank you for your reply, Jenny! “Yes” to both of your questions! Punkin had her surgery which left her with her four fangs and two other teeth! Yes, the vet came well recommended! Our daughter has a dog, two cats and two cockatiels and the dog had major surgery at Cornell University Veterinary Hospital in Ithaca,NY at the same time Punkin had her dental work in Rochester! We left NY four days after Punkin’s surgery to head south for the winter! We thought she’d have a difficult adjustment and the NY vet recommended we see the vet down here, which we did right away. They were pleased with Punkin’s progress and now, 2 1/2 months later, she is doing quite well. She manages wet and dry food along with a “serving of mushed up cantalope” which she loves! Yes, you read that right! We feel the fruit is very good for her as she had Mega Colon as well since she was a kitten and that seems to help that problem! She’s our 10 yr. old precious pet! Love this site and the encouragement we get from here! Thanks again! Pat
Great post! Dental care makes SUCH a difference in a cat’s health. It’s pricey but totally worth it for your babies’ health and well being.
There is a flip side to consider. Vets usually use anesthesia to work on a cats teeth. The internet is flooded with stories of cat deaths from anesthesia while having a tooth cleaning. You have to weigh the risk, one of my cats did not make it for that very reason. When I searched Google I was shocked at how common it is.
Jon, you are absolutely right. I go to a cat focused (they only see felines) vet, so they have a cat dentist and everything. You have to be aware of who is doing it and I recommend that they come highly recommended! I am so sorry to hear about your kitty!
Sadly I don’t brush my girl’s teeth. Karma – my 14 year old pure-bred Siameser – has, like, 2 teeth left and is such a healthy happy girl now! Siamese are known for having bad teeth and she was a great example. I took her to the vet a number or times for dental visits, each time with multiple extractions. Same for her sister Brandy before she died in 2007 of a sudden autoimmune illness. (holy cow was that devastatingly sad). But yes – when Karma’s teeth were rotting away – she smelled horrible, and she was clearly in pain, the poor little booger. She is now almost edentulous and happily gums down her wet foot and even some dry and she’s a happy old lady. I really should brush the other two’s teeth – I work in a (human!) dental clinic so I should know…
I am glad she is doing well and I have heard they can easily survive without their teeth.
At age 3, Raina had significant enough decay on a tooth that the vet took it out. I was stunned. I have never had a cat so young lose a tooth. I did research on dental health in cats and sadly there are not many options out there. I tried brushing her teeth (she would have none of that!) and the “drops” to put in water seems like such a sham. Right now I just let her gnaw on the bristles of the cat toothbrush (coated in kitty toothpaste) and hope it removes some of the tarter. I decided to have a dental done every two years — not ever year because I don’t like having her under anesthesia and it is SO expensive! I hope that this will prevent any further issues.
I am a big proponent of dental health for cats. I have seen so many cats who have come alive after having a long overdue dentistry. This is of course besides the fact that dental disease can cause other health problems. Thanks for bringing this very important component of feline health to us.
Me too! Glad you liked it, Les!