Cats are notorious for their sharp teeth. More than a few new cat owners have learned the hard way just how sharp feline teeth can be!
But those teeth are sharp for a reason. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they have evolved to eat a diet of pure animal protein. So cats really need their sharp teeth to tear and consume their animal prey.
Even though many pet cats eat a diet of commercial kibble and never have to hunt their own prey, it is still so important to learn about how many teeth cats have and how to keep your cat’s teeth healthy.
How Many Teeth Do Cats Have
Adult cats have 30 permanent teeth. But cats start out in life with no teeth at all. Kittens will develop a set of 26 baby teeth that will grow in and then fall out.
After the baby teeth fall out, this triggers the new set of 30 permanent adult teeth to grow in.
Learn From a Vet About How Cat Teeth Grow
In this YouTube video, you can learn from a feline veterinarian when kitten teeth grow in and when adult cat teeth grow in.
You will also learn what kind of teeth kittens and cats will have at each stage of their life.
When Do Cats Get Their Teeth?
According to Milton Keynes Veterinary Group, both kittens and human babies start out quite similar when it comes to teeth!
In many cases, kittens will start to get their first baby teeth around the age of two to three weeks.
These are called deciduous teeth. Deciduous is a word that means “not permanent.” And here is another similarity that kittens and human babies share in common.
Kittens, like human babies, will grow in and then lose their baby teeth before their set of permanent teeth grow in.
For cats, their permanent adult teeth may start to grow as early as 11 to 12 weeks of age.
A Guide to Kitten Teeth
Kittens get a set of 26 baby teeth. And while kittens won’t keep these teeth, just like cat teeth, each kitten tooth has a specific shape for a specific reason.
As VIVO Pathology explains, because cats have evolved to eat a diet of pure animal protein, none of their teeth is designed to grind matter.
In other words, kitten and cat teeth are quite pointed and sharp. They are like scissors – or knives. There is no grinding surface such as what you will find on your own molars.
But even cat molars don’t have any grinding surface on them.
Kitten teeth are missing the molars. Kittens have three types of teeth:
Incisor cat teeth
The incisors are the teeth in the front of the mouth on the upper and lower jaw. Kittens have 12 incisor teeth.
Incisors start to grow in first at between two and three weeks of age.
Canine cat teeth
While the name might suggest these are dog teeth, the term canine here actually refers to the placement of these teeth in the mouth.
The canine teeth are located directly behind the incisors on the upper and lower jaw. Kittens have four canine teeth.
Canine teeth will start to grow right alongside the incisors at around two to three weeks of age.
Premolar cat teeth
The premolar teeth are located directly behind the canine teeth on the upper and lower jaw. The premolar teeth are serrated like a pair of oral scissors.
Kittens have 10 premolar teeth. These teeth start to grow in last at around six weeks of age.
A Guide to Cat Teeth
About two months after a kitten gets their full set of baby or deciduous teeth, these teeth will start to fall out again to make way for the full set of permanent cat teeth.
This is a gradual process and you may only realize it has started when you begin finding tiny white slivers here and there around your house and realize they are your kitten’s baby teeth.
Like kittens, adult cats will grow in incisors, canines, and premolars. But adult cats get one more type of teeth – the molars.
As VCA Animal Hospital explains, a full set of cat teeth should number 30 teeth – 15 in the upper jaw and 15 in the lower jaw.
Incisor cat teeth
Incisor cat teeth are located in the very front of a cat’s mouth. An adult cat will have 12 incisors – half on top and half on the bottom of the jaw.
Canine cat teeth
The canine teeth grow in behind the incisors. Even in adulthood, cats still only have four canine teeth – two above and two below.
The canines, of course, are the largest and longest teeth in an adult cat’s mouth and also arguably the sharpest.
Premolar cat teeth
In adulthood, a cat will still have 10 premolar teeth that grow in behind the canines – five on the top and five on the bottom of the jaw.
Molar cat teeth
Molars are the teeth that kittens lack. These teeth are located the farthest back in the cat’s jaw. Adult cats have four molars – two above and two below.
Molars are the most powerful teeth in a cat’s mouth and also the most sturdy. If your cat was hunting wild animal prey, they would use the molars to crush bone!
Health Issues in Cat Teeth and Jaws
Cat jaws do not work the same way that dog jaws or people jaws work. Because cats do not eat plant matter, their jaws can only move up and down. They have very little side-to-side mobility in their jaws – the kind that would be used for chewing food.
Because cat jaws and teeth are different from that of omnivores like humans and dogs, cats don’t get true cavities in their teeth.
As PetMD explains, this is because cats lack the grinding and chewing surfaces on their teeth that would give bacteria an easy pathway in.
However, cats can still suffer from a wide variety of dental health issues that impact their teeth. This is why it is so important to start brushing your cat’s teeth in kittenhood.
When you brush your cat’s teeth each day, this is the best time to check your cat’s teeth and mouth for early warning signs of any developing dental problems.
These are the three most commonly reported dental health issues that occur in adult cat teeth.
Tooth resorption is the most similar to cavities in omnivorous and herbivorous species.
While researchers are still not fully clear on what triggers feline tooth resorption or why it happens to some cats and not others, they do know exactly what happens once it starts.
The teeth are slowly and steadily reabsorbed into the jaw, often along with other surrounding structures such which are then replaced with solid bone.
Gingivitis and stomatitis
Gingivitis is a type of oral inflammation that people and dogs can also get. Stomatitis is basically tooth gingivitis that has spread.
Periodontal disease is a more advanced case of gingivitis or stomatitis.
This information will help you understand why your cat’s teeth look the way they do, what your cat uses each tooth type for and how to spot tooth problems.