- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Kittens are delightful. They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and they haven’t developed the routines that older cats rely on so they’re curious in a way that’s hard not to love. They’re also growing and changing quickly. Teeth are one of biggest things that change as they get older, and it’s important to understand what’s happening in their mouths from the start.
Here’s what you need to know about a cat’s dental development.
First, the quick answer: yes! Cats do have baby teeth. 26 of them, in fact. As VCA Hospitals explains, like (most) human babies, kittens are born without any teeth protruding through their gums. Mother cat probably appreciates that a lot. Kitten teeth don’t start erupting until they’re around 3 weeks old.
But, just like human babies, they don’t pop out all at once. Kitten teeth push through the gums over several weeks, and usually all of the teeth present by 6 to 8 weeks. This is right around the time that kittens are fully weaned, according to PetMD.
And 8 weeks is about the youngest you’ll be able to adopt a kitten from any shelter. It’s a good idea to start getting them used to having their teeth brushed as soon as possible, so they can have a healthy mouth for years to come.
If you’re a proud new kitten owner, you might be wondering…well, what happens to those kitten teeth?
Yes, your cat’s baby teeth will fall out—and quite quickly. They (ideally) start to lose their incisor teeth around 10 weeks, VCA Hospitals explains, and they’ll have their adult teeth by six months. You may find baby cat teeth in their bedding or elsewhere around the house. If you don’t spot any teeth on the ground, but do see that their teeth have begun being replaced, it was probably the tooth fairy collecting them (or they swallowed the teeth by accident—totally normal.)
Yes, according to Tipp Veterinary Hospital. It’s a pretty uncomfortable time for your cat, and you may notice some of the following symptoms in addition to bleeding:
- Slow chewing
- Eating less
- Chewing excessively, especially on toys, bedding, and furniture
- A change in the smell of their breath
- Pawing at their face
It’s no fun to see your precious cat be uncomfortable. There are a few things you can do to make the teething process a little less miserable.
1. Give your cat plenty of soft chew toys to nibble on.
Not only will it help them feel better, it may also help direct their attention away from less desirable chewing spots like your couch or rugs or bedding. You know. The areas you were hoping your cat wouldn’t decide to destroy. Also an option: kitten binkies. Yes, really. KittyBest has a tutorial on how to make one.
2. Get dangerous items out of the way
As much as toys may be helpful, your kitten is likely to still find their way to unsavory spots, like wires or toxic plants. Do a careful sweep of the house and put any chewable items in a room where your cat can’t get to them.
3. Switch to (or continue with) soft food
If your kitten’s mouth is really bothering them, soft food can help ease the discomfort, according to Tipp Veterinary Hospital.
It’s also a good time to reinforce good behaviors. Don’t let a kitten bite your hands, even in a playful way. Every time they do, yelp “ow,” so you don’t accidentally let them think that roughhousing is acceptable.
In an ideal scenario, your cat will lose all their baby teeth and have them replaced with adult teeth (including four additional teeth, bringing their total teeth up to 30.) But sometimes, cats can develop what’s called a “persistent tooth,” as VCA Hospitals notes.
Persistent teeth happens when the root of the baby tooth isn’t reabsorbed into your cat’s body, leading the baby tooth to stay in place and blocking the way for the adult tooth to come through. It’s most common in upper and lower canine teeth.
The result is that the adult tooth has to find another way through, and ends up growing at an angle—the adult tooth and baby tooth occupying the same socket. This can crowd your cat’s mouth and lead to them having a poor bite. Food can get stuck and cause increased tartar and decay, as well as gum issues like gingivitis.
In these cases, it’s best to have the baby tooth extracted by a veterinarian as early as possible.
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