10 Steps to Cat Dental Health
if the only things your cat hunts these days are chicken-flavored kibbles and
toy mousies, he still needs clean, sharp teeth and healthy gums. Damage to the
tongue, teeth, palate and gums can lead to many health risks for felines, but
these can be prevented with regular home check-ups and good old-fashioned tooth
1. The Breath Test
Go on, take a sniff. It doesn’t have to be a long one-cat breath may not
smell like roses, but it shouldn’t be offensive either. If your kitty’s mouth
has an abnormally strong odor, he may have digestive problems or a gum
condition such as gingivitis, and should be examined by a vet.
2. Lip Service
With your cat facing you, gently push back his lips and take a look. The
gums should be firm and pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of
swelling. The teeth should be clean and free of any brownish tartar, and none
should be loose or broken.
3. A Closer Look
Watch for any of the following signs that could indicate
problems in your cat’s mouth:
- Dark red line along the gums
- Red and swollen gums
- Ulcers on gums or tongue
- Loose teeth
- Difficulty chewing food
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive pawing at the mouth area
4. Dangerous Swelling
At any sign of gum inflammation, you should take your cat in
for a veterinary exam. If left untreated, gum disease can develop, possibly
leading to tooth loss or inability to eat. Inflammation may also point to an
internal problem like kidney disease or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
5. The Lowdown on Tooth Decay
Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause a buildup on a
cat’s teeth. This can harden into tartar, possibly causing gingivitis, receding
gums and tooth loss. The solution? Regular teeth cleanings, of course.
6. Your Cat's Tooth-Brushing Kit
All you’ll need to brush your cat’s teeth are cotton swabs and
a small toothbrush and tube of toothpaste formulated for felines. You can also
use salt and water. Ask your vet to suggest the brushing supplies that he
trusts, and be sure never to use toothpaste designed for people-the ingredients
can be unhealthy for your cat.
7. Brightening the Pearly Whites
Brush your cat’s teeth at home by following these simple
- First get your cat used to the idea of having her teeth brushed. Start by
gently massaging her gums with your fingers or touching a cotton swab to
- After a few sessions, put a little bit of cat-formulated toothpaste on her
lips to get her used to the taste.
- Next, introduce a toothbrush designed especially for cats-it will be
smaller than human toothbrushes and have softer bristles. Toothbrushes that you
can wear over your finger are also available and allow you to give a nice
massage to your cat’s gums.
- Finally, apply the toothpaste to her teeth for a gentle brushing.
- A veterinary exam beforehand may be helpful to find out if your cat’s gums
are inflamed. Many cats have mild gingivitis and brushing too hard can hurt