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If you’re like me, you dread taking your cat in for dental work. It’s expensive, it often involves anesthesia, and our cats dislike it—but healthy teeth and gums are essential to overall feline well-being. Fortunately, there are a few things that can help avoid that experience altogether: You can introduce your cat to daily tooth brushing, for one; there are also some delicious cat dental treats designed to reduce harmful tartar and promote your kitty’s oral health. You’ll still need to take the cat for periodic exams and cleanings, but you may be able to delay or avert more involved procedures.
Who Knew Cats’ Teeth Needed Cleaning?
If you didn’t know cats need attention to their teeth, it might be because feline dentistry has come a long way in the past 20 years. Scraping tartar off the teeth of a struggling kitty wrapped in a towel has been replaced by high-tech cleaning. The American Veterinary Dental College describes the process: Your cat is anesthetized so the vet can perform a complete exam, looking for broken teeth and roots, periodontal disease, dead teeth, abscesses, or infected teeth. Your vet will then clean gums and teeth to remove plaque and tartar.
Most kitties can get by with just the occasional cleaning, but if you have a cat that has been a stray, or otherwise had a difficult life, your vet may have to address serious problems such as gum lesions and tooth decay.
Even a well-cared-for cat is likely to get a buildup of plaque that leads to dental problems. In the Tufts’ University newsletter, “Catnip,” Dr. William Rosenblad explains that 60 percent of domestic cats will experience tooth decay and 80 percent will suffer from gum disease. While decaying teeth need to be removed, gum disease is treatable with cleaning (by the vet) and tooth brushing (by the cat parent).
While we’re often told that cats benefit from a diet of wet food, Rosenblad explains that their teeth benefit from gnawing on hard, dry foods. “Cats have to chew it, and the mere act of chewing results in increased saliva release. The saliva rinses the mouth, and also promotes certain bacterial activity that is beneficial.”
Adding dry food to your cat’s diet can promote dental health, and so can special dental treats.
Choosing a Cat Dental Treat
Cat dental treats work on the principle that large, crunchy pieces of kibble will clean your cat’s teeth of plaque and tartar as they chew. Note that these special dental treats are harder than most kibble that’s intended for regular feeding. They’re a bit of a workout for your cat! But if they’re tasty, most cats will devour them.
You’ll find that most of the dental treats we reviewed are clearly labeled as being for adult cats. The larger size and hardness of the kibble make them a bad choice for tiny cats or kittens.
The Best Cat Dental Treats
It may be possible to tempt your cat to healthier teeth with a little catnip! These catnip-flavored dental treats are formulated to help clean teeth, remove plaque, reduce tartar buildup, and combat the dread “tuna breath.” They contain meat, grains, and vitamins and minerals and each treat is less than two calories.Shop on Chewy
These treats, available in chicken and salmon flavors, have a hard, porous texture that scrubs teeth as the cat chews. Keep in mind that these treats are for adult cats over 5 pounds, and should not constitute more than 10 percent of your cat’s daily calories. Check them out in a 1.9-ounce bag or treat all your kitties with a 19-ounce canister.Shop on Chewy
If you want grain-free treats for your cat, consider these chicken (or tuna and “turducky”) flavored treats. They’re made in the U.S. with U.S.-sourced ingredients.Shop on Chewy
Hartz dental treats are recommended for use as part of a regular dental grooming routine. These treats have a crunching exterior that scrubs away plaque and tartar and a toothpaste-like “DentaShield” center to make your cat’s teeth shine with health. Reviews are enthusiastic, even from folks who say their cat ignored other dental treats.Shop on Chewy
A 10-pound kitty can enjoy up to 15 of these flavorful cat treats with a hard texture that helps scrub plaque and tartar from their teeth. It comes in tuna or chicken varieties.Shop on Chewy
These tartar-control treats can help reduce tartar by as much as 40 percent with daily use. While your cat crunches away, the abrasive action of the hard bits will clean their teeth and gums.Shop on Chewy
These take a slightly different approach to treats, with a formula that includes baking soda for tooth cleaning. The tuna-flavored dental treats are designed for adult cats, with a hard texture that cleans away tartar. They suggest giving up to 10 treats daily.Shop on Chewy
These treats entice your kitty to better health with a delicious salmon flavor. The hard texture reduces plaque and tartar as your cat chews, while peppermint freshens your cat’s breath. They also come in chicken flavor.Shop on Petco
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Featured image via Fabienne Hübener/Unsplash