Taking care of our teeth is one of the most critical pieces of health and hygiene that is necessary to tend to each and every day – so why would it be any different for your pets? This month on the Acoma Animal Clinic blog we are going to look at topics all about grooming and care for your pets, starting with how to brush cats teeth! Just like it’s an important part of our health, it’s absolutely a crucial part of your cat’s health as well!
First, Why Should I Brush My Cat’s Teeth?
As we mentioned, dental care is hugely important to the overall health of all things. And more than 50% of all felines that are 3 years or older have some stage of periodontal disease! Periodontal disease starts when plaque builds up and comes into contact with the gums and causes gingivitis. If this plaque isn’t regularly cleaned away through brushing the plaque builds up and mineralizes turning into tartar. Left alone this will lead to tooth loss and other health problems. But it doesn’t have to be left alone, it can be addressed when it’s just plaque!
OK, So When Do I Brush My Cat’s Teeth?
The best schedule for cleaning your pet’s teeth is just like our own, daily. Plaque builds up quick so daily brushing is best! Getting your cat in the habit of letting you brush their teeth every day will also help acclimate your cat to the experience making them more comfortable and allow you to keep their teeth clean for a long time to come. If you have an older cat who hasn’t been getting their teeth brushed regularly it may be much more difficult to get them to accept brushing your teeth. The scratches and bites won’t feel nice, but if you keep at it, little by little every day your cat should begin to accept being handled and having their teeth brushed in this manner.
If you are unable to commit to a daily brushing routine (or your cat just won’t allow it) a minimum of three times a week can still be very helpful to your kitty’s dental health.
How Do I Get My Cat to Accept Teeth Brushing?
Cats, we love ‘em both for their attitude and, often, in spite of it. No doubt at this point thinking about holding your cat still with their mouth open has you thinking ‘Well, this isn’t gonna work!’ But it can! Here are some steps to follow to ease your cat into the whole new dental hygiene regime!
To make it the process as successful as possible, you want to make it a positive experience.
- Select a quiet time and space. Close the door, and make sure there’s a spot for your cat either on a table or on your lap.
- To get your cat used to having something in their mouth, use a cotton swab dipped in tuna water as a ‘brush’ to get your cat to tie the two experiences (tooth ‘brushing’ and tuna water) together.
- Position your cat’s head at an angle, at about 30-45 degrees up, and pull back their lips. Do so gently. You do not need to open their mouth.
- Rub the swab along the area where the gums and teeth meet. This is the area where plaque builds.
- For the first few practice runs, just do a few teeth at a time, even if your cat seems to handle it well. Slow and steady wins this race!
When your cat is comfortable with the process, it’s time to upgrade to an actual toothbrush!
Using the Right Tools
When it comes to brushing your cats teeth, you don’t want to just grab any ol’ Oral-B from the pharmacy! Just head to the pet care aisle and you should be able to easily find a brush designed specifically for cats. These will be smaller and have angled handles to help you more easily manipulate the brush in your pet’s mouth. You can also get finger toothbrushes.
Some cats might need a softer brush (such as a soft baby toothbrush), speak with your vet about your cats teeth to understand what your cat needs.
When it comes to toothpaste, you need to use special toothpaste formulated for cats – and that helps for a few reasons, the big is that they are usually flavored a bit so that cats will like it, and like we mentioned earlier, associate it with a positive experience.
Ok with the tools laid out it’s time, how exactly to brush your cat’s teeth!
How to Brush Cat’s Teeth
Once you’ve gotten your cat acclimated to the experience you should be able to set up shop with the real brush and get to work cleaning your feline’s teeth. It’s very similar to the process you used to get your cat acclimated to it (by design).
- Apply a small amount of toothpaste to the brush.
- Place your cat’s head at an angle to allow access. Pull back their lips.
- Focus on brushing the larger teeth and the canines. This is where the plaque builds up the fastest.
- Brush for about 30 seconds per side.
- Work your way up to brushing more and more of the teeth, this will probably take between days and weeks.
Note: You don’t have to worry too much about brushing the inside of the teeth. If your cat isn’t cooperative you can focus your work on the outside of the teeth as this is where most periodontal disease damage will occur. Cats have an abrasive tongue which can work to remove the plaque from the inner sides of the teeth.
Phew, you got all that? It can be a challenge but we promise you, once you’ve committed to and made a habit of brushing your cat’s teeth you’ll be keeping your pet healthier for a long time to come, and save on costly dental work!
Does your cat need a more robust tooth cleaning or a general check-up? Give Acoma Animal Clinic a call today and we’ll get you and your feline friend on the road to recovery!