Cat Care

How to Brush Cats Teeth: Make It Easy and Stress Free for Your Cat

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Cats and toothbrushing don’t seem to go together. Most cat owners know their cats need it and nearly all cats seem to hate it. So how can you keep your cat from developing gum disease and you from having to pay for expensive dental surgery?

You can start by reading this article!

Success with brushing cats teeth depends on how you introduce your cat to brushing teeth. In this article, you will learn a low-stress method to help your cat tolerate having their teeth brushed.

How to Brush Cats Teeth

Learning how to brush cats teeth starts by knowing how to train your cat to accept tooth brushing. You also need the right tools, including a safe feline toothpaste.

The goal is to remove the tartar and plaque buildup on the enamel of your cat’s teeth. But before you can do this, you need to convince your cat to let you!

Read on to learn the step-by-step process feline veterinarians recommends.

Feline Veterinarian Demonstrates Cat Teeth Brushing

This short instructive YouTube video explains cat teeth brushing from the very beginning.

You will learn how to help your cat accept toothbrushing without fear, resistance, or aggression.

Why Is Cat Tooth Brushing So Important?

iCatCare explains that cats need to have their teeth brushed daily or even twice daily – just like people do!

Why do cats benefit from daily tooth brushing? The reason is simple: cats are prone to periodontal disease just like people.

According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, anywhere from 50 percent to a whopping 90 percent of all cats will develop dental disease.

What is worse, most cats that are affected will begin to develop the dental disease around the age of four years old.

The three most common types of dental disease for cats are gingivitis, periodontal disease, and tooth resorption. All three cause cats a lot of pain and all three can cost cat owners a lot of money to address.

This is reason enough to start the process of teaching your cat to accept tooth brushing at home.

Does This Mean Your Cat Doesn’t Need Veterinary Dental Care

The American Animal Hospital Association points out that cats still need regular preventative veterinary teeth cleaning and examinations.

As the American Veterinary Medical Association highlights, this is because the most dangerous bacteria is hiding out of sight under the gum line in your cat’s mouth.

Veterinary dentists will be able to remove this bacteria as well as accumulated tartar and plaque below the gum line that you won’t be able to get to at home. This is only possible because your cat is sedated for veterinary dental care.

Without preventative veterinary dental cleanings and check-ups, the bacteria that gets trapped underneath the gum line could spread into your cat’s jaw and travel through the bloodstream to other parts of your cat’s body.

What You Need to Brush Cats Teeth

VCA Animal Hospital offers these specific recommendations to help you get the right tools together to brush your cat’s teeth.

Feline toothpaste

This is perhaps the most important tool you will need to brush your cat’s teeth! Why? Because if you use the wrong kind of toothpaste it can cause your cat a lot of discomforts.

Once your cat associates brushing teeth with the discomfort it will be a lot harder to convince your cat to tolerate tooth brushing.

You need to get a feline toothpaste that is specifically formulated for cats.

Many cat owners wonder if it is okay to use human toothpaste or even simple baking soda. The answer in both cases is no. It is not safe for your cat to swallow either for both pH and gastrointestinal reasons.

Neither one is going to taste good to your cat which may also create increased resistance to tooth brushing.

Feline toothpaste will be formulated correctly for a cat’s pH and flavored appropriately to encourage your cat to accept tooth brushing.

Feline toothbrush

Just as it is not safe to use human toothpaste for cats, so too you want to avoid using a human toothbrush when brushing your cat’s teeth. The only possible exception is if you want to try a toothbrush designed for very young human babies.

But in general, cats have small mouths and different tooth shapes that can make brushing with a human toothbrush difficult, awkward, and even painful to your cat.

Look for a feline toothbrush with features like an angled handle or even a finger toothbrush (it is basically a brush on a little finger sleeve).

Gloves for you

Because you will be coming into direct contact with the bacteria inside your cat’s mouth, you want to protect yourself by wearing gloves.

Always wash the gloves and the toothbrush with soap and water or an appropriate feline-safe sanitizing solution after each brushing.

Cotton swabs

Cotton swabs are optional. But for some cat owners whose cats seem particularly scared or resistant to tooth brushing, cotton swabs can be introduced after finger brushing and before brushing with an actual feline toothbrush.

Read on to learn more about your options to teach your cat to accept tooth brushing.

How to Help Your Cat Not Fear Tooth Brushing

Today’s Veterinary Nurse states that three things are essential when teaching your cat not to fear having their teeth brushed:

Start with a professional veterinary dental cleaning

The reason you want to start by having your cat’s teeth cleaned under sedation by a veterinary dentist is that it may be some weeks before you can brush your cat’s teeth yourself at home.

You don’t want your cat to keep accumulating tartar, plaque, and bacteria while you are teaching them to accept tooth brushing at home.

You must be patient and go slowly

You will need to be very patient and be creative about figuring out what works to help your cat accept the tooth brushing process.

Be sure to reward your cat with praise and treats

Having plenty of praise, pats and treats never hurt!

4 Step Guide for How to Brush Cats Teeth

These are the four steps to take to teach your cat to accept teeth brushing.

1. Introduce your cat to feline toothpaste

The first step you want to do is to let your cat sniff the toothpaste. Cat toothpaste will be scented and flavored in a way that will appeal to your cat.

So let your kitty sniff some on your finger and taste it and just get used to it first.

2. Teach your cat to accept you handling their mouth, gums, and teeth

A little trick here – dip your finger in tuna or chicken juice!

Start by just patting your cat around the mouth. Next, insert your finger into your cat’s mouth and just gently touch and rub the gums.

3. Put some toothpaste on your finger

Start to finger brush your cat’s gums and teeth with some of the toothpaste.

Gradually transition to using the toothbrush instead. If your cat won’t accept the toothbrush, try the tuna juice-soaked cotton swab first.

You can also try a finger toothbrush if your cat has an easier time accepting that.

4. Concentrate on the outer (front-facing) teeth surfaces

Aim to brush 30 seconds on each outer tooth surface, using a gentle back-and-forth motion

As a pet writer and blogger, Shannon is passionate about crafting knowledge-based, science-supported articles that foster healthy bonds of love and respect between people and animals. But her first and very most important job is as a dog auntie and cockatiel, tortoise, and box turtle mama.

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