5 things you can do to take care of your cat’s teeth

Any cat caregiver who is switched on to high quality cat caregiving knows that oral health is a major problem for domestic cats. It’s really quite hard to ensure that a cat maintains good oral health. Normally, we don’t brush their teeth and the kind of food we give them can sometimes help promote the buildup of plaque and calculus (the harder form of plaque) along the gum line. This is gingivitis which predisposes the cat to periodontal disease and tooth decay.

Proactive measures are better than reactive measures in regards to ensuring feline oral health
Proactive measures are better than reactive measures in regards to ensuring feline oral health. Image: MikeB
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

A good indicator that your cat’s oral health is deteriorating is when their breath starts to smell. You want to avoid taking your cat to a vet to clean their teeth because as you know they have to put the cat under a general anaesthetic which carries a risk of injury to a cat and even death in the worst-case scenario.

There are four things you can do to take care of your cat’s teeth one of which requires starting on a regime of teeth cleaning when you adopt your kitten. Many people will have already passed that point and therefore it wouldn’t apply but I will mention it in any case.

1. Teeth cleaning

When you adopt a kitten, it is best to start regular brushing of her teeth once she has adult teeth and while the gums are still healthy. Preventative action is better than reacting to prevent gum disease. Less effort is required to prevent gum disease than to treat it. My veterinary reference book tells me that “You can maintain disease-free gums by brushing your cat’s teeth two or three times a week”. Once they develop periodontal disease daily brushing is needed to keep the condition in check.

2 tools to better feline oral health
2 tools to better feline oral health. Image: MikeB based on images in the public domain.

Regarding the above image: the cotton buds are for checking gum disease. You slide the bud down the side the cat’s mouth targeting the back upper teeth/gums and see if blood is deposited on the cotton bud when it is withdrawn.

2. Large-pelleted dry cat food

As part of a holistic feeding regime, I think it is a good idea to feed your cat with some large-pelleted (dental care dry cat food such as Hill’s Dental Care) for night-time grazing. The large pellets I think are much better at cleaning teeth than the small pellets which can even be swallowed whole. I’m not saying that dry cat food is a great way to clean teeth. It isn’t. But I do think that the large pellets help at least a little bit to minimise the buildup of plaque and calculus by rubbing against teeth and at the margins of the teeth and gums to help breakaway calculus. It’s the abrasive nature of dry cat food which might help.

3. Water supplement

You can add a specially prepared liquid to your cat’s drinking water in the right proportion as per instructions. In America, there are at least two products you can add to your cat’s drinking water which helps reduce tartar and plaque accumulation. One of them is Dental Fresh and the other is Pet Kiss Plaque and Tartar Control Liquid. In my experience my cat continued to drink the water without a problem although after the first time he drank the water with this solution in it he was sick in a very minor way. He hasn’t been sick since. Of course, it’s important that your cat accepts their water with this liquid in it. When you first add it, you’ve got to watch your cat to make sure they accept it. We know how fussy or precise cats are about the smell of their food and water. This “supplement” may alter the scent of the water such that your cat rejects it.

4. Teeth cleaning chews

Fourthly, you can provide your cat with an oral health chew of some sort which can help to clean teeth. One of those is “Crunchy and flavourful C.E.T.® IntelliDent™ Cat Bites [which] work with a cat’s natural chewing action to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup.” There will be others on the market. A simple Google search will tell you what they are.

5. Bones for cleaning

Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM is anything but controversial but, arguably, his suggestion that you allow a domestic cat to eat raw chicken wings in order for the bones to help clean away calculus and tartar is controversial. He says that, “Personally, I find it difficult to brush a cat’s teeth, so I let mine attend to their teeth and gums by eating bones”.

Savannah cat eats raw chicken at A1 Savannahs
Savannah cat eats raw chicken at A1 Savannahs. Photo: Michael

He says that you should start off with kittens eating bones because they willingly do it. He agrees that there are risks but “to me the risks from eating bones are less than the pain and risks associated with annual anaesthetics to scale and polish teeth.”

So, there you have the advice of Britain’s leading veterinarian and author about cat welfare. You can take it or leave it. I do not feed my cat’s raw chicken wings. Although I do love Dr. Bruce Fogle’s books of which there are many. They are very well written and helpful and a great asset to any cat caregiver.

P.S. I have some more pages on dental care. There are links to them below but this is not a comprehensive list. Please use the website’s search facility at the top of the page to find more articles on the topic if you wish.

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