HomeCat Anatomycat teethDo Domestic Cats Chew Food Enough?

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Do Domestic Cats Chew Food Enough? — 15 Comments

  1. My Gerry has no teeth at all now and thrives without the need to shear his food. He scarfs down everything put before him, which worries me with dry food. With some wet foods, especially the ones mimicking real meat he does seem to chew on the lumps to maybe break them up a bit.

    I have seen him gum a shrew to death and eat it without a problem. I think his gums must be very tough now.

  2. Michael, thanks for the added information. I didn’t know about big cats eating bones, and forgotten about domestic ones eating mousie bones. I can still see the adaptive logic of cats being able to “hoover” up food, but you give a more complete picture. My thoughts were based on my observation of Tootsie- one data point. She’s more into hoovering than chewing- I’ve never noticed her chewing dry food pellets, or anything else for that matter. Her teeth and gums are in good condition, so I don’t think that would be an explanation.

    Possibly I’ve never fed her anything that she would like to chew on! Like bones, for example. For some reason I got the idea that it was not safe/ wise to allow cats to chew on bones- but maybe that depends on the size of the bones. I’d hate to have her choke on some sharp bone bit- like tiny chicken bones from ribs or such. Any suggestions as to bones that might be safe for her to chew on? I’d like to see if she would enjoy those. Or some larger hard food items (commercial stuff) that would be more “bone like”? Like the so called “dog bones”?

    Commenters reports above and elsewhere on how their cats differ in this behavior are really interesting.

    • ah, I hadn’t read Sarah Hartwell’s comments when I typed above. So maybe I wasn’t as wrong as I though.

    • Sarah Hartwell has provided a very useful comment. Cats don’t chew they shear food. However, it might be argued that the definition of “chewing” incorporates a shearing action. Chewing includes shearing and grinding 😉 “To bite and grind with the teeth”

      • Yes, see above, I thought Sarah’s comment really helpful. As I said to you as part of email (more or less), the idea that cats “chew things up” as humans do is possibly an example anthropomorphism. We naturally tend to look at animal behavior from our human perspective.

        • I agree the word “chew” is incorrect. Although chewing incorporates biting and shearing I would have thought.

          However, the point I make is that cats don’t have a chance to use their back teeth to shear flesh and bone if they eat commercial cat food. Is this not a bad thing?

        • the idea that cats “chew things up” as humans do is possibly an example anthropomorphism

          I think for me it was a mixture of that and carelessness or imprecise use of language. For me chewing was biting more than once. Shearing is more about cutting nearer rather than crushing. I did not consider the difference.

  3. Cats aren’t supposed to chew food. Their dentition isn’t designed for chewing. Feline molars are specialised into carnassial teeth that act like shears, cutting off chunks of flesh into gobbets they can swallow. Those carnassials also scrape flesh from bones or crack smaller bones, which gives the cleaning action and which owners can mistake for chewing. Some owners feed raw chicken wings (the raw bones don’t splinter) which encourages cats to use their carnassials as nature intended.

    So there you have it – cats don’t have grinding/chewing molars, they have carnassials. They evolved to slice up meat, not chew food.

    • Well thanks a lot Sarah. You are a mine of information. I guess the “chewing” action I videoed is shearing off flesh. I guess chewing is pretty close to shearing 😉

      I love it when you comment Sarah. So helpful and most welcome.

      The commercial cat food we buy robs the domestic cat of the need to use the molars. Would you recommend that people give their cats chicken wings from time to time to make up for this lack of use?

      • Great question for Sarah, Michael. I’d surely like hear what she has to say on this issue.

        ~ Would you recommend that people give their cats chicken wings from time to time to make up for this lack of use?~

    • Sarah! Thanks for your input. Makes me feel better that my “wild” idea was not so much off the mark, even though I didn’t know about the details of cat dentition that you have provided. Just seemed to me that taking the time to chew food might not aid survival, whereas ripping up chunks (your apt word) small enough to swallow would be a good strategy.

  4. Mine chew dry food, but Lilly only a very tiny bit – I always thought chewing was important for the health of their teeth. I think it is. I think that is one of the only advantages of dry food actually – it helps keep the teeth stronger. Molly and Gigi chew and crunch on the little pellets every bite whereas Lilly every five, the other four she just swallows but she’s always been a light eater so when she doesn’t chew it’s not like she’s hoovering down big plates of food. She also prefers wet food and thats what they all get for the most part anyway.

    Is dry or chewing good for teeth? My guess is that it must be, it certainly is with humans I’ve heard.

    • My thoughts are the same Marc, dry food is taking the place of bones as something to chew on, but some cats don’t crunch biscuits up.
      Cat food has changed over the decades, I remember when there was only kit e kat, it was smooth food and had very strong fishy smell, now we can get smooth, jelly or gravy of all kinds of cat food and some of the jelly is in quite big chunks.
      Jozef sometimes eats a mouse and thoroughly enjoys chewing it lol but he doesn’t crunch biscuits!

    • I agree that cats should be using their natural skills and biting on bone and flesh whether we call it “chewing” or “shearing” needs to be done, I think. Commercial cat food could be made to make cats use the teeth at the back of their mouths. At the moment, modern cat food means that a cat’s rear teeth need not be used at all.

      Dry cat food is meant to be good for teeth as some cats will bit on it. However some vets think it just sticks to teeth and is as bad as gluey wet food.

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