Does dry cat food clean teeth?

Manufacturers make large pellet dry cat food on the promise that it helps to clean teeth through abrasion. The theory is that the cat chews on the large pellet which ensures that the food rubs against the teeth and gum line helping to remove plaque and tartar. This then helps to prevent gum disease and cavities in the enamel. They claim that their ‘interlocking fibre technology cleans teeth to help freshen breath with every bite’.

Persian cat likes Hills Oral Care
Persian cat likes Hills Oral Care. Photo: a customer who uploaded a photo to their website.
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There is certainly a distance between theory and reality. If you asked 100 veterinarians if they believe that dry cat food cleans teeth, about 90 would say that they were dubious about the claim (if they weren’t selling the stuff in their surgeries!). They may state that there might be some benefits in purchasing oral care dry cat food which is cat food with larger than normal pellets. On another page I argue that all dry cat food should be made up of these larger bite-sized pieces.

I have to say, though, that I do feed my cat Hills Oral Care because it is one of the better dry cat foods, I believe. It can be slightly addictive to a cat which is troubling (because of ‘digest’ flavorings). Domestic cats should not be fed entirely on dry cat food because it is too artificial and unnatural.

However, I do also believe that my 6-year-old cat’s teeth are in pretty good condition and that may in part be put down to the dry cat food that I feed him. I inspect his teeth briefly but regularly when he yawns. It’s a good opportunity to have a quick glimpse at your cat’s gum line to make sure that it is not inflamed. If you see an inflamed gum line i.e. the border between gum and teeth, your cat has gingivitis which needs to be dealt with reasonably promptly. It is very easy to overlook this feline health problem and many domestic cats have poor all health for that reason. It is high on the list of feline health problems. Remember that when a vet cleans your cat’s teeth, they use a general anesthetic which is inherently dangerous.

If you really want to ensure that your cat has healthy teeth and gums you have to clean them. The only way to achieve this is to start cleaning their teeth when they are kittens which means that you’ve got to adopt a kitten and train them from scratch. Not many people have that luxury or indeed the commitment to do it.

It is very difficult to clean a cat’s teeth, as we all know. But if you do adopt a kitten, I would recommend that you seriously think about cleaning the teeth from the get go but do it very gently and respectfully at first and build up. You can start off by rubbing your finger against the side of their mouth and then against the teeth and gums at the back of the mouth. You can progress from there very gradually and gently. There are products online specifically designed to clean cat’s teeth. But the essential element to this process is to ensure that they accept it.


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