by Elisa Black-Taylor
Cocoa is toothless
I write this article in praise of toothless cats. I feel I have a lot of knowledge to share with the readers here as I now have three toothless cats. Except for our dear Cocoa, who has one bottom tooth.
I never really thought about how being toothless would affect adoption of shelter cats until we took in Cam as a foster from Greenville Animal Care Services where I rescue in Greenville, SC. Cam is approximately eight years old and is toothless.
She's been at the top of the euthanasia list for several weeks now. Meaning if I didn't have her in foster care, she'd be dead. She's listed as a toothless cat on her profile. No one has even asked about her.
Sealy, our critically injured kitty, is also toothless. We didn't realize this until he had his vet visit after having a seizure. (there are 3 very informative articles on Sealy, please use the search box on the home page..Michael)
To be honest, I don't make it a habit to prise open a cats mouth as soon as I bring it home. A cat without teeth isn't an issue around my house.
I'd like to clear up one misconception about these wonderful cats. They CAN eat dry cat food. A toothless cat will develop tough gums over time. Also, I would imagine acids in the mouth also help dissolve dry food. Cocoa prefers dry food and will turn his nose up at wet cat food every time.
Research has shown that up to 70% of cats will have some form of gum disease by age three. A raw diet will prevent this. Especially gnawing on raw chicken legs, necks or turkey neck bones. Our cats get these as a treat and the vet was shocked at how pearly white their teeth are. (NEVER give a cat a cooked bone of any kind)
There are a couple of reasons I'd recommend a toothless cat as a companion. First of all, he or she can't bite you! I think it's sad that such a high percentage of cats lose their teeth young. But it's nice knowing I won't be bitten in case I don't get my fingers out of the way when feeding a treat. Furby has nailed me on a couple of occasions and it HURT!
The second reason is expense created by tooth removal. It costs a lot of money to put a cat under anesthetic and remove teeth. Or for a vet cleaning if the cat won't behave for a home cleaning. Plus the agony as an owner of watching a cat heal from this kind of surgery. If you adopt a cat with no teeth, this is one expense you won't have to worry about.
Some cats may suffer from stomatitis and have very inflamed gums. These cats may suffer their entire lives and I advise caution before adopting cats with this condition.
What I'm describing here as a toothless cat is simply a cat with no teeth, but whose gums aren't inflamed and are a healthy color.
The only disadvantage we've experienced with our toothless cats is the inability to accurately predict age. There are other criteria which can be used to determine the age of a cat. I've just found that shelters aren't very good at determining age when there are no teeth.
Cocoa was listed as a 3-year old cat. We were surprised on his first vet visit to learn he's closer to 7 years old.
Sealy is our latest toothless cat and was listed on the shelter paperwork as being a year old. I very seriously doubt that. That's very young to have lost all of the teeth and his gums are already toughened up.
I've found from human experience it takes the gums anywhere from one to two years to completely heal. In humans, this is the reason dentures are so difficult to wear. I'd imagine a cat would take just as long.
Sealy's regular vet will see him on his next visit. In my opinion, this vet is an expert on cats and I intend to ask his opinion. This vet was off the day I took him in after having his seizure. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find Sealy is a senior cat.
Readers, please don't let a cats lack of teeth deter you from adopting a cat you love. These cats need a home as much as any other cat. Regardless of age and regardless of the number of teeth.
I can tell you from experience that toothless cats are very lovable and adjust well to eating, provided no serious gum problems exist.
Do any of you have a cat with no teeth? I can't believe I have three now! Perhaps this problem is more prevalent than studies suggest. Any feeding or health issues with your cat? I'd like to know if I should watch for any health problems down the road.