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Pet parents know that regular oral hygiene is vital for preventing various issues, including gum disease. What many parents forget is that toothbrushing isn’t just for people. It’s necessary for their cats, too!
When it comes to grooming, cats are meticulous. Unfortunately, grooming ends with the care they put into their fur. Cats are unable to clean their own teeth. It's also not something that comes naturally to them. So, they are going to need a little help.
The thing is, brushing can feel awkward for cats. They don’t understand what their pet parents are doing, so they likely won’t take to good oral hygiene habits immediately. Here’s what pet parents need to know about how to clean a cat’s teeth.
Like humans, cats are susceptible to oral health issues. Without proper care, plaque and bacteria can accumulate on their teeth and harden into tartar. Tartar can then irritate the gum tissue, leading to inflammation, the earliest stage of gum disease. Without intervention, the issues only worsen. Cats could face tooth decay, tooth loss, and myriad other health issues as bacteria fall below the gum line and get into the bloodstream.
Approximately eight in ten cats over the age of three have dental issues.
The main cause is generally a lack of a good oral hygiene routine. Pet parents can help their cats maintain optimal oral health and prevent costly oral diseases and tooth extractions with regular brushing.
The thought of brushing a cat’s teeth can feel intimidating. Most cats are likely to be resistant at first. With time, patience, and plenty of love, however, pet parents can help get their cats on board with a routine.
Before getting started, pet parents should make sure they have the necessary dental care tools. They’ll need a toothbrush (either a soft-bristled baby toothbrush, finger brush, or specialty cat toothbrush) and specially formulated toothpaste. Human toothpaste contains ingredients that could be harmful to a cat’s health.
Next, pet parents will need to engage their cat. Timing is everything here. The cat should feel safe and comfortable. Pet parents should choose a quiet place away from distractions and loud noises. They may need to entice the cat with a small treat and should reinforce positive behaviors. When the cat seems calm and comforted, they can begin.
To brush a cat’s teeth, pet parents should:
Hold the cat secure on their lap, or have someone else hold them
Gently lift the lips to inspect the teeth and gums
Apply a small amount of cat-friendly toothpaste to the toothbrush
Lift the cat’s lips again and begin brushing
Focus on the large cheek teeth and canines first to get the cat acclimated
Brush more of the cat’s teeth as they gets used to the routine
Reward the cat with plenty of love, pats, treats, and attention
Brushing may feel nearly impossible at first if the cat is resistant. Pet parents should avoid forcing toothbrushing on their cats, which could create fear and negative associations. Toothbrushing should be a positive experience. With plenty of practice and patience, most cats will get used to it. Some may even come to love it.
What if a cat never seems to get used to brushing, no matter what pet parents do to ensure their comfort? Some cats just don’t like brushing. Fortunately, there are things pet parents can do to help ensure optimal oral hygiene for their cats:
Use a water additive, which can help to reduce plaque and tartar buildup without having to brush
Use an oral dental spray to quickly control plaque and freshen their breath
Offer dental treats
Provide cat toys that clean teeth as a cat chews on them
Schedule annual cleanings with the cat’s primary vet once they’re an adult
Good oral hygiene isn’t just for humans. It’s essential for cats, too. While cats can’t brush their own teeth, pet parents can help. Keep in mind, however, that brushing isn’t a natural activity for cats. Pet parents will need a bit of patience as they work to introduce their cats to a new oral hygiene routine.
With time and practice, the cat will acclimate to brushing, and come to expect it as a normal part of their life.
If pet parents are still struggling with their cat’s oral hygiene, they can chat with a Fuzzy vet or licensed behaviorist any time in the member app for personalized, expert guidance.