Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

By February 4, 2022 Cats

Why should I brush my cat’s teeth?

More than half of all cats over the age of three have periodontal disease, an inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth.  Periodontal disease starts as gingivitis, caused by plaque.  If not removed through regular brushing, the plaque thickens and mineralizes, resulting in tartar.  If left untreated, gingivitis may progress to destructive periodontal disease, which may be painful and ultimately lead to tooth loss.

How often should I brush my cat’s teeth?

Cats need daily dental care to help decrease plaque and prevent tartar accumulation, and daily brushing will help establish a routine.  Brushing a minimum of three times a week is helpful if your schedule cannot accommodate daily brushing.  It is best to teach your cat to accept brushing while still a kitten, but it is well worth the effort to train an older cat.

What steps do I need to follow to teach my cat to accept tooth brushing?

Successfully brushing your cat’s teeth is essential to make it a positive experience.  Choose a quiet time during the day.  Sit with the cat on your lap or a countertop.

“To be successful at brushing your cat’s teeth, it is important to make it a positive experience.”

Dip a cotton swab (Q-tip) into tuna water drained from a can of tuna fish.  The tuna water does not have any beneficial dental or cleaning effects, but most cats like the taste, positively connecting with the tooth brushing experience.

Place your cat’s head at a 45-degree angle gently pull back its lips (the mouth can remain closed).  Gently rub the applicator tip along the area where the gum tissue touches the tooth surface.  Plaque accumulates in this area and initiates gingivitis.  Rub only the outside surfaces of the teeth.  Once your cat is wholly used to rubbing her teeth with a cotton swab, it is time to start using a toothbrush.

What type of toothbrush should I use?

Commercial toothbrushes designed for use in cats are available.  For some cats, it is acceptable to use a very soft toothbrush designed for use in human babies.  You can also use a finger toothbrush, gauze wrapped around a finger or continue using a cotton swab.  Regardless of the type of toothbrush you use, it is essential to be slow and gentle as it is easy to accidentally poke the tip of the toothbrush against the gums and cause some irritation.

 

Is it okay to use human toothpaste or baking soda?  Do I need to use pet toothpaste?

Human toothpaste contains ingredients that can cause an upset stomach or digestive disturbances.  Baking soda has a high alkaline content and, if swallowed, it can upset the acid balance in the stomach and digestive tract.  Use pet toothpaste (available in many different flavours) that is tasty to cats.  By using a product that tastes good, your cat will be more likely to enjoy the whole experience.

Exactly how should I brush my cat’s teeth?

Apply a small amount of toothpaste to the toothbrush.  Place your cat’s head at a 45-degree angle and gently pull back her lips, the mouth can remain closed.

At first, concentrate on brushing the large cheek teeth and the canine teeth, the teeth where plaque and tartar accumulate most quickly and gradually work up to brushing all of the teeth (this will probably take several days or weeks).  Make sure you reach the big teeth at the back of the mouth.

Try to brush for approximately 30 seconds per side.

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