A good dental routine is essential for keeping your kitty’s pearls bright and healthy.
Now, cats don’t have opposable thumbs (and a good job too as world domination would no doubt soon follow). So it’s up to you as a responsible pet owner, and willing servant, to do the work for them.
Expert vet Dr Lizzie Youens explains why cat dental care is important and shares her straightforward steps to cleaning their teeth.
Taking a bit of time each day to do a good dental health routine will help your cat in the long term.
Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease in cats, affecting around 70% of cats over two years of age. Plaque, the film of bacteria that builds up on the teeth after eating, later hardens into tartar if not removed.
This can lead to painful conditions such as:
Brushing your cat’s teeth helps:
It takes time and patience, especially if you’re starting when they’re already adults or in their senior years. But most cats will eventually get used to having their teeth brushed.
Remember, it’s never too late to start brushing your feline’s teeth. You’ll just need to get a vet to check for dental disease first.
Introducing them to teeth brushing at the older kitten stage makes it easier for them to get used to the routine.
So you’re looking to start brushing your cat’s teeth from six months old onwards. Try not to begin any earlier than this – brushing while they’re still teething can be painful. It’s a good idea to get your kitten used to being handled – including around the face and mouth – from an early age.
A cat with a healthy mouth should:
Your cat shouldn’t be excessively drooling, pawing at their face, or have problems swallowing. Other symptoms of dental disease in cats include:
A gentle pace and lots of praise help to make brushing your cat’s teeth a positive experience. Choose a moment when you’re both calm and relaxed and have some time to dedicate to it.
Ask your vet to recommend a cat-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste as the ingredients could be harmful to your kitty. Leave the toothbrush out for a few days so your cat gets used to it.
Brushing your cat’s teeth and gums on a daily basis is the most effective way to keep them healthy. Cats like routine, so try and brush their teeth at a similar time each day.
Starting a new oral routine when your cat is older and a bit reluctant? Try brushing their teeth just a few times a week at first. You’ll then slowly build up the frequency until you’re brushing them once a day.
Your feline can indeed have their teeth cleaned professionally at the vet. Brushing only removes the soft plaque, so if your cat has a build-up of hard tartar, they’ll need a professional clean. To stop your cat from getting distressed, they’re put under general anaesthesia before work begins.
This allows the vet to do a thorough oral check around the mouth and under the gums, plus any other procedures like x-rays. They’ll check each tooth for lesions or damage, remove plaque and calculus, and polish the teeth.
The cost for a professional cat dental cleaning varies depending on where you live in the UK. The price may also go up if your cat needs extra dental work like dental x-rays or a tooth extraction. Take a look at your vet’s website or ask for a price list next time you go in.
Animal Trust, for example, charge a fixed price of £339 for dental work*, which includes:
Anaesthesia-free dental cleaning involves restraining an animal to clean tartar from their teeth. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) doesn’t support these procedures and warns that they are not in the best interest of your pet because:
There are a few other things you can do to make sure your cat’s teeth stay in tip-top shape:
Daily brushing is the most effective way to keep your cat’s teeth clean.
But some cats really struggle with at-home teeth brushing. So in between their annual vet dental cleaning, you can try using:
As convenient as that would be, kibble isn’t a cleaning tool for your cat’s teeth and can’t remove hard tartar. But some studies have shown that a dry kibble diet may contribute to good oral health.
If needed, your vet can prescribe a dental diet as part of a wider oral hygiene plan.
Some pet insurance policies offer dental illness cover as standard or as an additional cover option.
Always read your policy wording carefully to see what’s included.
Did you know that you can add on dental illness cover to a Petsure cat insurance policy? The power is in your paws to tailor your cat’s cover to their individual needs.
*Prices correct as of 3 February 2023