Cats can be stubborn creatures, but there may be no more arduous task than trying to brush your cat’s sharp teeth.
Bites. Claws. Hisses. Cat owners know the routine after the vet recommends good brushing.
Judging by viral memes, it seems that cat owners have often had more success grooming their pet’s hair with toothbrushes than actually using it for its intended purpose.
Reddit user u / kuslarvar tells Inverse that they tried to follow their veterinarian’s advice to brush the teeth of their 10-month-old cat Otter who has mild gingivitis, but the result wasn’t exactly an overwhelming success.
“Otter […] absolutely hates having his teeth brushed. I tried […] And she won’t let me do that She has seafood flavored toothpaste (which looks gross) and everything, no cubes. She will smell the toothbrush, but when it gets into her mouth it will tear itself away from me violently.
Jan Bellows, president of the Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry, told Inverse that brushing your cat’s teeth is “very difficult to do”.
But if you can get your pesky cat to cooperate, your pet’s oral hygiene will likely thank you. Inverse answers all of your cat tooth brushing questions: how to do it, what products to use (don’t use human toothpaste), and how to keep your cat’s dental hygiene in check.
Should You Brush Your Cat’s Teeth?
Yes, but easier said than done. Getty
Of course, if you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to take your cat’s bite, you could be careful about sticking your fingers near its mouth.
“No thanks,” Twitter user @ Tony58889923 told Inverse. “My ribbed fingers are not my idea of a good time.”
But if you can brave your cat’s fearsome canines, then brushing them isn’t a bad idea. However, it is best to speak to your cat’s vet before embarking on a new, potentially stressful, cleaning routine for your cat.
“Just like with humans, brushing your cat’s teeth can prevent gum and dental problems, reduce plaque and tartar, and maybe even help freshen your cat’s breath,” said Mikel Delgado, Feline Minds Cat Expert and Postdoc at the School of Veterinary Medicine of UC Davis, tells Inverse.
What does science say about it?
- A 2002 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that brushing your teeth reduced gingivitis, but not as much as expected – although this is because the subjects in the study were kittens and hadn’t yet developed serious dental problems.
- Another 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that brushing teeth was “very effective” at maintaining oral health, but owners had to brush the cat’s teeth daily to see the desired effect.
But some cats’ personalities can be too annoying to even think about brushing their teeth. If your cat is actively trying to bite you, it is best to back off.
Twitter user @trakeylindeman tells Inverse about trying to brush her cat’s teeth:
I tried it once and now I have a basically unused tube of meat toothpaste
However, when all else fails, there are easier ways to keep your cat’s teeth clean than trying to stick a bristle brush into your cat’s mouth. Bellows recommends removing “the daily build-up of plaque” in your cat’s mouth with “a cotton swab dipped in tuna water.”
You can gently rub the gum line of your cat’s upper and lower teeth with the cotton swab. Bellows says this method is as effective as using official veterinary oral hygiene products.
Other dental products can help clean your cat’s teeth. Research has shown that veterinarian-approved chews can improve cats’ oral hygiene, although some consumers have reported side effects cats may have on certain chews.
“For cats who do not accept brushing their teeth, there are also alternatives to brushing their teeth, such as tooth treats and water additives,” says Delgado.
How to brush your cat’s teeth
This is how you keep your kitten – and you – comfortable during this potentially tedious process. Getty
After consulting your vet, you’ve decided to take on the unenviable task of brushing your cat’s teeth. Where to start
- First, you need to purchase veterinary recommended dental products for cats, which can be found on the Veterinary Oral Health Council website.
- You’ll also want to buy a special pet toothbrush that is designed for dogs and cats. If you need a toothbrush in a pinch, Delgado recommends using a soft-bristled baby toothbrush as you can find one at your local pharmacy.
But one thing you should never do when brushing your cat’s teeth: use human toothpaste. Instead, look for enzymatic toothpaste with an official seal from the Veterinary Oral Health Council.
“Never use human toothpaste to brush your cat’s teeth,” says Delgado. “Instead, use a pet-specific product that is flavored to make it tastier.”
With the right accessories, you need to brush your cat’s teeth. Take a deep breath and begin. Delgado has a four-step process:
- Start slowly by letting your cat lick the toothpaste off your finger.
- Slowly work your way up to your cat so you can approach her face and touch her mouth.
- Push that back [cat’s] Lip to expose your teeth and gums.
- Work up to a brush stroke or two in each quadrant [of the mouth].
One thing to keep in mind: brushing your cat’s teeth is not like brushing your own. A few gentle strokes of the brush in each quadrant of its mouth – top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right – will keep your cat’s teeth squeaky clean. Delgado says it’s partly because enzymes in the toothpaste help reduce the amount of plaque and tartar.
But you should brush your cat’s teeth regularly to really improve your pet’s dental hygiene, Delgado said.
Tricks for Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth
Cat owners and experts share tips on how to get their stubborn kitten on a teeth cleaning routine, Getty
Pet owners often have to contort themselves in unusual positions to safely open their cat’s mouth – before they even brush.
“I have to squat on my cat to hold it in place and press its little mouth open,” says Eileen Mary Holowka, Ph.D. Candidate and author, Inverse recounts on Twitter. “Somehow, despite these efforts, we’re going to the vet this week for dental problems.”
However, some cat owners have done remarkably well at brushing their cat’s teeth without too many problems.
Twitter user @mwennersd writes about her Instagram-friendly tomcat Esteban: “I brush his teeth 3 times a week. He mostly fits in, although sometimes he fights a little. ”
A tip from @mwennersd: give your cat treats afterwards. Scientists have shown that the use of positive reinforcement training, which trains your cat through rewards, successfully teaches cats new tasks and improves animal-human bonding.
In other words, anticipating a treat can help your grumpy or stressed cat get on with brushing better.
You can also try different flavors of toothpaste to put your cat in a good mood and thereby make them more pliable. Flavors can range from poultry-scented toothpaste to a fishy feast.
“If it’s the right taste, your cat will find it a treat, which makes the whole process a lot easier!” Says Delgado.
Finally, Uri Burstyn of the Vancouver Vet YouTube channel suggests introducing your cats to brushing their teeth when they are still kittens and open to new things. At this stage, you can try gently massaging your cat’s gums with your fingers and getting them used to having objects in their mouth.
How to treat dental disease in cats
Even if you can’t brush your cat’s teeth, you still need to maintain good dental hygiene, Getty
Like humans, cats are prone to a variety of dental problems, such as: B. Plaque build-up. If left untreated, these problems can cause dental disease such as:
- Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
- Periodontal disease (a more advanced stage of gingivitis)
- Tooth resorption (also known as neck lesions, which can cause tooth decay)
And these problems are increasing. A 2016 report from Banfield Pet Hospitals found that 68 percent of cats have periodontal disease – an increase of 23 percent from 2006.
Certain signs can indicate dental problems in cats. These symptoms include:
- Halitosis (smelly breath)
- Blood in saliva
- Shaking his head
- Jaw rattle
- Cat scratches its mouth
Smelly breath is particularly worrying, according to Delgado. If your cat’s breath smells unusually strong, it may mean your cat has a problem beyond brushing their teeth.
“Some dental problems require professional help – and in some cats, smelly breath is a sign of health problems or teeth that need to be extracted,” says Delgado.
If in doubt, take your cat to a veterinarian. They can answer questions about your pet’s dental hygiene – including whether brushing their teeth is right for your cat – or refer you to a veterinarian if your cat has special needs.