Are cats truly “low maintenance” pets? Although many folks keep promoting domestic felines as easy keepers (especially when compared to canines), there is a considerable amount of work involved if the guardian has made the commitment to give their kitty all the essential care that is needed to help maintain robust health.
While it’s essential to feed our obligate carnivores a proper meat-based species-appropriate diet, keeping their litter boxes pristine, providing fresh water, using interactive toys to stimulate their mind and body, and making sure that their environment is thoroughly “catified”, there’s more to do! Add to the mix trimming claws, and grooming them regularly, these kitty tasks can be extremely time-consuming. It sure doesn’t appear that cats are at all “low maintenance” pets. In fact, caring for cats correctly is quite the opposite.
There is one additional essential kitty “chore” that is often overlooked; brushing their teeth! Some people think that this vital task is quite impossible – assume that their cat would never cooperate so they don’t even try.
Why is it so important to brush our cats’ teeth anyway? Brushing their teeth daily not only maintains good oral health, it also helps to prevent extensive serious health conditions that may affect cats as they age. All it takes to get kitties to cooperative is a little patience, compassion and to have a burning desire to help keep your cats healthy!
However, there are no short-cuts for brushing a cat’s teeth. Although we are bombarded with tempting advertisements from Petfood companies promising if we just feed our cats their special “dental” dry foods, we will keep our cats’ teeth in great condition. However feline expert veterinarian, Dr. Jean Hofve’s writes on her fabulous website, LittleBigCat.com,
“Let’s get this one straight once and for all: dry food does not clean your cat’s teeth! In fact, dry food really does not benefit the cat at all. It is merely a convenience for the guardian.”
Dr. Hofve reminds us that most cats don’t chew dry food consistently. They swallow it whole. So if there is no contact with the teeth how can it possible have an effect on the accumulation of tarter? And even if they do chew a few kibbles, they shatter into pieces so the only contact they have with the teeth is on their tips. This doesn’t seem to be a sensible solution to keeping cats’ teeth clean and healthy, since the tartar and plaque “commonly builds up along (and underneath) the gum line at the base of the teeth.”
So how do you introduce your kitty to having their teeth brushed and live to tell about it? What has worked for me is starting the process was using a Q-tip soaked in warm water. I rub the Q-tip gently over the gums and what I found was that the cats actually enjoyed it. We started the process when they were about five months old. Once they got used to the Q-tip, I started using a gauze pad soaked in water and then moved to using a pad soaked in C.E.T, a dental cleaning liquid. Then I slowly introduced the C.E.T.
Oral Hygiene kit for cats and dogs which contains a finger toothbrush and a regular toothbrush and paste. It was a slow process but it worked beautifully and I still have ten fingers! No bites, no scratches; and what a difference it made! The whole process now takes just a few minutes, and as a reward we end the session playing with their favorite interactive toy. It is a great bonding experience too! Of course daily brushing doesn’t replace annual veterinary visits, but it certainly helps reduce the accumulation of tartar and plaque.
How do you handle oral hygiene with your kitties? Tell us about it with a comment.