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How to clean your cat's teeth?

ginger cat with tooth brush in his mouth advice © Shutterstock

Cleaning your cat's teeth can sound odd but it's a crucial part in your cat's hygiene. 

By Ashley Murphy

Regular tooth brushing maintains good oral hygiene, prevents bad breath, and stops gum disease and other dental problems. It's such an important part of cat care that experts have designed cat toothpaste and toothbrushes specially designed for our felines. Most cats won’t like having their teeth cleaned at first, but stick with it!

Just a few minutes each day can dramatically improve your beloved pets overall well-being.

The importance of good dental hygiene 

An adult cat has 30 teeth, and every one of them needs cleaning on a regular basis. Wildcats maintain good dental hygiene by chewing on bones and eating grass. Unfortunately, such options aren't available for most domestic cats, meaning you need to come up with some alternative methods.

If not, your cat is likely to suffer from dental problems including tooth decay, bacterial infections, and gum disease. These might sound very serious, but many dental issues can lead to further health complications such as heart and liver disease.

Preventing dental problems is better than curing them

Regular teeth cleaning sessions will significantly reduce your cat's chances of suffering from dental problems. But it's still important to spot the early warning signs. This will make treating any dental issues much easier, as well as preventing any further complications. 

Your cat's breath is never going to smell great, but if it suddenly starts smelling really bad, then it's a strong indicator that something isn't right. Other things to look out for include excessive drooling and a reluctance to eat food. 

So get into the habit of regularly checking your cat's teeth and breath. Yearly visits to the kitty dentist are another really good way of spotting any potential problems. 

The right foods will also help keep your cat's teeth in good order. Try to feed them a mixture of dry and wet foods, making sure they get all the nutrients they need. And it's always best to limit those tasty cat treats.

And remember that wild cats chew on bones to keep their teeth clean. Most of our cats don't have regular access to bones, so some experts recommend dishing them out once a week. Just never give your cat chicken or fish bones. They can snap easily and your cat may end up swallowing them.

How to brush a cat's teeth

The first thing you need to buy is some cat toothpaste. You can purchase it from any other good pet suppliers. NEVER use human or dog toothpaste. They both contain ingredients that are highly toxic to some cats. 

Start off by squeezing a small amount of the toothpaste onto your finger, then let kitty have a little smell and a lick. Do this a few days in a row, allowing your cat to get used to the taste and texture.

TOP TIP: Whatever you do, don't try and put your finger in a cat’s mouth! Chances are you'll end up with a fresh bite mark and a cat who is very reluctant to any future teeth cleaning attempts. 

Now it's time to purchase a toothbrush specially designed for cats. If you have more than one cat, make sure they each have their own toothbrush; this avoids transmitting any bacteria between cats.

Then you need to choose a time and place to clean the cat's teeth. Once these have been decided upon,  make sure you stick to them. A regular routine breeds familiarity and familiarity breeds security and comfort.  And a relaxed cat will be much more willing to have their teeth cleaned.

Start off by gently pulling back your cat's teeth. Then simply touch their teeth with the toothbrush. Again, do this for a few days in a row. Once your cat appears comfortable enough, start gently brushing their teeth, holding the brush at a 45-degree angle. Make sure to cover all of the tooth's surface area, and pay close attention to the teeth hiding in the back of the mouth.

How often should I brush my cat's teeth? 

Once a day is ideal. However, this might not be possible. If not, aim for three times a week at the very minimum 

My cat really hates having its teeth cleaned. What else can I do? 

Cats are very independent, and some of them are just downright stubborn. In other words, if your cat really hates having its teeth cleaned, then they're never going to let you do it. 

Luckily, there are a few alternatives. Speak to your vet about some oral gel. These gels contain enzymes that break down the plaque that can lead to bacterial infection.  You can give this directly to the cat or mix it with their food.

Dental chew toys are another option, as well as specially designed dry food that scrapes the plaque of your cat's teeth. 

Cleaning your cat's teeth will require plenty of practice and lots more patience. It won't be easy at first, but stick with it - good dental hygiene is really important for your cat's long-term health!