Cats need clean teeth to stay healthy, just like you and me. Brushing a cat’s teeth can be a daunting endeavor, though. What kind of toothpaste do you use? How do you get your cat used to a toothbrush?
Don’t fret—we’ve done the research for you. This step-by-step guide will walk you through how to brush your cat’s teeth and provide answers to some of your burning questions.
It’s common knowledge that humans need to brush their teeth—but why are clean teeth so crucial for your cat? As it turns out, their dental health is important for the same reasons that ours is.
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, periodontal disease, or infection of tissues surrounding the teeth, affects more than half of all cats over the age of three. This is caused by plaque coming into contact with the gums and mineralizing into tartar.
Luckily, brushing regularly removes plaque, which can prevent tooth loss and other periodontal disease complications. It’s also a great way to check for problems and catch them early.
Good dental hygiene helps your cat to keep their teeth and enjoy life to the fullest, even into their silver years.
Before you get started brushing your cat’s teeth, you’ll need the right tools for the job. Human toothpaste can upset your cat’s stomach, and human toothbrushes are too large for a cat’s mouth, so your best bet is to use a pet toothbrush and pet toothpaste.
PetMD recommends Vetoquinol poultry-flavored toothpaste and the Woobamboo dog and cat toothbrush. Because pet toothbrushes are smaller than human ones, they fit better in your cat’s mouth. The bristles are softer, as well, for extra-gentle cleaning.
Having their teeth brushed can be scary for cats initially, which is why it’s essential to go slow. Before you sit down to brush your cat’s teeth, spend some time with them to get them used to the toothbrush and toothpaste. Start by sitting them down somewhere comfortable, such as your lap. Once they are relaxed, use your finger to massage their lips in slow, circular motions. Then, once they are comfortable with that, repeat the same motion against their teeth and gums.
Doing this once a day will help to prepare your cat for having their teeth brushed. Patience is key, though, since it may take a few weeks for your cat to become completely comfortable.
Once your cat is comfortable with a gum massage, it’s time to introduce them to the toothpaste.
A pet-friendly toothpaste such as Vetoquinol poultry-flavored toothpaste may even taste good to your cat. To introduce them to it, put a small amount on one of your fingers and let your cat sniff and lick it. If they smell or taste it, praise them and reward them with a treat.
Next, you’ll want to introduce your cat to their pet toothbrush. Go slow with this part, since a toothbrush may seem scary and strange to your cat, at first.
Start by putting a bit of pet toothpaste onto the toothbrush. Let your cat smell the toothpaste and toothbrush, and reward them if they lick the toothbrush or toothpaste. You may have to do this for several days to get your cat comfortable with their toothbrush. Then, they should be ready for the main event.
Once your cat is comfortable with having their teeth touched and has been introduced to their new toothbrush and toothpaste, they are ready to have their teeth brushed.
It’s easiest to do this somewhere your cat is comfortable, such as on the couch or in your lap. Begin with your cat facing you, and gently push back your cat’s lips to reveal their teeth. Take a moment to do a quick inspection. According to the ASPCA, if your cat’s mouth has an unusually strong odor, it could be signs of a digestive problem or gum condition that may need to be treated by your vet.
Other signs to watch out for include dark red lines across the gums, red or swollen gums, ulcers on the gums or tongue, loose teeth, pus, or excessive drooling. If any of these are evident, make an appointment with your vet for an exam.
If everything looks good, then pull out the toothbrush and add a pea-sized amount of pet toothpaste. Using small, circular movements, brush the toothbrush over the outside of your cat’s teeth and gumline.
It’s important to reassure and praise your cat during this process. Don’t worry about brushing your cat’s teeth all at once, either. Take breaks to praise and pet your cat between short intervals of brushing. Once they are done, offer lots of praise and reward your cat with their favorite toy.
Cats don’t need their teeth brushed as often as humans, but PetMD recommends brushing your cat’s teeth two to three times per week. They also recommend taking your cat to the vet for a dental cleaning once a year to help keep your cat happy and healthy.
Brushing your cat’s teeth may be scary for your cat at first, but the more you do it together, the more comfortable your cat will become.