Hey you, cat owner reading this article! I have a question for you – do you think of your cat as just a pet/mouse hunter OR do you consider them your best friend/fur kid? If you answered yes to thinking of your cat as your child, do you ever think about oral hygiene? You should, because your cat’s teeth are important! Oral hygiene in pets is just as important in your cat kid’s life as it would be in a human child’s life. And lucky you, it happens to be one of my favorite parts of my job.
Did you know that good dental health in cats can actually add years to their lives? It’s been proven. Bad dental health can lead to heart disease and infections. It can also cause a poor quality of life if the dental health is so poor that it is affecting a cat’s eating habits which can then cause anorexia, pain, dehydration, and malnutrition.
So how do we install a good oral hygiene foundation into our cat’s lives? You guessed it, we brush their teeth. Your cat’s teeth depend on you to look their best!
Now before we get into how in the heck do we even begin this task, we need to evaluate the present status of your cat’s mouth.
If you can, lift your cat’s lip and look at their teeth and gums. Are their gums nice and pink or are they red, swollen, and irritated looking? Are their teeth white, or do they have a buildup of grayish-looking gunk or calculus?
If they do, make an appointment with your veterinarian as your cat may have periodontal disease and be checked for stomatitis – a painful disease that you can read more about here. There’s no way that hard build-up is coming off with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Your cat will need to start with a clean slate by having a dental prophylaxis procedure done.
Dental procedures are performed under general anesthesia, in which your cat will be totally anesthetized and have no idea what is going on. Trust me, I did 6 dental cleanings today. The teeth are scaled, polished, and probed, just like your teeth are done when they are cleaned at the dentist. Why does your cat have to be anesthetized? There is a list of safety reasons, for both your cat and veterinary staff. This way the job can be done the right way and your cat’s vitals are monitored closely during the procedure. Usually, your kitty will be home that evening.
Alright, so your cat now has a clean mouth and has recovered well from their dental cleaning (or they started with a clean slate). It’s time to start brushing those pearly whites to keep them that way!
First, start with a toothpaste that was manufactured specifically for pets, like this Enzymatic C.E.T Toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste – it is not good for your cat. Start by just applying the paste to their teeth and don’t forget to apply it to their gums. Reward your cat with a treat when they have accepted the new weird routine without a fight.
Next, upgrade to a finger brush and start using this in conjunction with the toothpaste. Once your cat has mastered the finger brush, move up to the pet toothbrushes that are specifically made for pets with the angled head.
Technically, you should brush your cat’s teeth every day but start by making it a once a week goal. Remember, the toothpaste won’t remove the build-up of tartar that has already accumulated, but will help to keep any more from accumulating. The trick is to start with a clean slate.