Routine dental care is just as important for felines as it is for humans or dogs. Typically after the age of 2 or 3, your cat will require a dental cleaning every 1 to 2 years (if performed prior to dental disease). Having your cat’s teeth cleaned on a regular basis will help prevent and delay the onset of dental disease. Your veterinarian can properly assess and discuss your cat’s dental health and whether excessive plaque or periodontal disease requires a cleaning.
While clean teeth in felines might not seem like a big deal at first, it really is. In fact, without good dental health and clean teeth, your cat’s health could begin to deteriorate in other ways. Increased plaque and tartar can eventually lead to bad breath, oral infections, heart, liver, and kidney disease. In addition to taking your cat in to have its teeth cleaned once every year or so, it is also recommended that you learn the basics for how to properly and successfully brush your cat’s teeth at home. But as a cat owner, you probably know by now that this is often easier said than done. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
Helping Your Kitty Get Used To Brushing
1.) One of the best steps to take when brushing your cat’s teeth at home is to first get him or her used to having you put things in their mouth. There are a few different ways you can make this more enjoyable for your feline friend. Try the following tricks:
- Dip your finger in chicken, beef or vegetable broth, tuna water, or another type of liquid your cat might like. Let your cat lick it off your finger.
- Rub your soaked finger gently over your cat’s teeth and gums.
After a few sessions of this, your cat should be used to the process, and will hopefully even look forward to it. Now its time to move on.
2.) Using gauze on your finger, gently rub your cat’s teeth in a circular motion. The gauze can also be soaked in broth or tuna water to keep your cat happy. Repeat this method for a few sessions until your cat is comfortable. Remember to keep a positive attitude and give him or her lots of praise. When your kitty is comfortable enough with the process, its safe to move on to the next step.
3.) Now that your cat is used to having your fingers and the flavored gauze in its mouth, it is safe to move on to using a toothbrush, pad or dental sponge. The key to making this process work is getting your cat used to the consistency of these items, especially the bristles on a toothbrush. A good way to do this is to put another tasty liquid on the brush or pad and let your cat lick it off. This will help them get used to the texture.
4.) Once your cat has become accustomed to the type of dental tool you are going to use, it is safe to add toothpaste to the process. Most pet toothpastes feature ingredients like poultry or other flavors your cat will like the taste of. Getting your cat used to the flavor and consistency of the toothpaste is key. Letting him or her lick a bit off your finger before applying it to the toothbrush is a good way to get your cat used to the flavor and texture. Once he or she is okay with the toothpaste, proceed by applying a small amount to the gumline with your finger. (read toothpaste box for directions on how much to use) Again, be sure to praise your cat for complying.
5.) Once all of the above steps have been taken, and your cat seems familiar with them all, you may begin brushing. Remaining calm and positive is key during this process. The last thing you want is to scare your cat away. Never wrestle with your cat or force him or her to stay still during the brushing. This will only lead to further issues later on when you try brushing their teeth again. Better to let your cat calm down and revisit the process at a later date. The first couple of times you may just want to brush one or both upper canine teeth (the large teeth in front of the mouth) as they are easiest to get to. This is a good way to get practice brushing your cat’s teeth, and keeping the brushing to a minimum so your cat doesn’t become agitated. Later, when your cat has become more accustomed to brushing, you can slowly increase the number of teeth you are brushing.
Sources: ASPCA-Ten Steps To Dental Health