Did you know that eight out of ten cats over the age of three have tooth or gum problems? For a species that are fickle when it comes to human contact, getting your mitts on your moggy’s teeth can leave many with scratch adorned forearms.
However, the oral hygiene of cats must be kept an eye on. Just like our own human teeth, cats can accumulate plaque which can lead to tartar build up and periodontal disease. As humans, we are fully understanding of our own dental care and the same attention must be made to our furry friends.
Gingivitis and tooth loss can be an issue with cats, they accumulate plaque on their teeth just like we do and, if left, hardens to form tartar and leads to irritable gums. Keep an eye on your cat’s oral hygiene, severe dental disease that is not dealt with correctly can lead to heart and kidney issues due to build-up of bacteria in the mouth.
A tell-tale sign of oral issues is bad breath. Getting up close and personal with your cat will indicate any issues – the smell will be hard to ignore! This could indicate advanced dental disease and an appointment with your vet should be made immediately. Other indicators of teeth and gum problems are reddened gums, yellowish-brown tartar on teeth and drooling.
If you notice your feline friend losing weight, chewing on one side of their mouth or, dropping food whilst eating, these could be signs of a nasty case of gingivitis.
It is imperative you check your cat’s teeth and schedule regular vet check-ups. Cat’s often don’t show any signs of discomfort when they are ill, so a bit of hands-on gentle moggy mauling may be upsetting for a few seconds, but could save your cat from a toothless existence.
Vets are able to recommend specialist dentist care to remove any loose or damaged teeth, and to remove plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth using ultra-sonic vibration which is extremely gentle.
Whilst on a trip to the vets, it could be an ideal opportunity for your veterinary nurse to show you how to brush your cat’s teeth correctly to ensure their pearly whites are kept healthy. It is often advised to wait a while after any professional oral treatment before opting to go along the do it yourself route.
Like many things, it is best to introduce dental care when you first get your cat as a kitten. However, it is not a widely recognised part of cat-care and if you adopt or rescue a cat of an older age, chances are they with not be familiar with a toothbrush in their mouths.
If you and your moggy are new to the world of cat oral care, the tips below may help the endeavour run as smoothly as possible.
- Never use human toothpaste on cats, there are specially formulated pastes that come in a variety of flavours such as malt or chicken.
- Encourage your cat to become familiar with the taste of the cat toothpaste by offering your pet some on your finger. This can be done over a few days as the cat becomes used to the taste and texture. Never force your feline friend to have the paste in their mouth, this will cause distress and set the process back.
- Do not use a human toothbrush, there are specially designed ones for cats. Baby’s toothbrushes are also a great alternative as they are soft, but avoid the ‘finger toothbrushes’; they may seem ideal but you can get spiked by your cat’s teeth!
- If you have more than one cat, each cat will need their own dedicated toothbrush. This prevents cross contamination of bacteria.
- Pick a time of day that is suitable for both you and your pet; oral hygience needs to become the norm in your cat’s daily routine. Both you and your cat need be relaxed and comfortable.
- Try a less confrontational approach. Brushing your cat’s teeth from behind prevents your cat from backing away from you and can feel very secure and comforting.
- You may need somebody to help you, your cat may try and push you away with their paws and it can often mean a second set of hands is needed to help keep moggy calm and distracted. However, it is best to acclimatise your cat by gently stroking their head and reaching towards their mouth whilst dishing out soothing words and treats.
- There is no rush when it comes to brushing and it is best to create a concrete relation between your cat, the toothbrush, the toothpaste and yourself.
- To start, slowly and gently pull back your cat’s lips to reveal their teeth. Simply placing the toothbrush there for a couple of seconds and rewarding with a treat is a great firsts step on the oral hygiene ladder and should be repeated for several days.
- When you cat is 100% comfortable you can start gently brushing their teeth. Applying the bristles of the brush at a 45-degree angle is most beneficial as it reaches the surface of the tooth and beneath the gum margin but be careful not to hurt your cat’s gums.
- Start by brushing for around 10 seconds and rewarding with a treat and praise. You can then increase the time you brush your feline friend’s teeth for as they become more and more familiar with the experience.
It is no myth that some cats do not like being handled. Many are fiercely independent and are quite happy with a quick stroke after feeding and getting back to their own routine, and often tooth brushing is not something they want on their agenda. Instead of causing your cat distress by a continued oral effort, vets can offer other products that might be better suited to feisty moggies.
Oral hygiene gels are a great alternative as they can be administered straight to your cat or camouflaged into their food! These gels contain enzymes that inhibit the bacteria that are responsible for forming plaque.
Dry food diets are great for cats as the fibre in the mix scrapes the surface of your cat’s teeth as they chew, a similar principle to cat dental chew treats which are also a firm favourite amongst the feline world. Similarly, there are a range of chew toys designed to target your cat’s dental hygiene and reduce the build-up of plaque but these cannot be relied on and the best dental care is a healthy balanced diet and regular brushing.
A happy and healthy cat is what every owner wants, and keeping your cat’s mouth in tiptop condition can aid them in a long and pain-free life. Patience and persistence are key when it comes to feline care on any level, and most cats will learn to tolerate some level of tooth cleaning, whether it’s gels or tooth-brushing.