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July 29, 2022 |0 min read

How to Clean Your Cats Teeth

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Is your cat in need of a brushing? No, we’re not talking about their fur. Cats of all ages, from kittens to older cats,  can benefit from regular teeth cleanings. Not only can it help to keep bad breath at bay, but it could also prevent serious cat dental diseases and mitigate health risks. However, cats can’t do it for themselves, so you’re going to have to lend them a helping hand—literally.

If you’re wondering how to clean cats’ teeth, we’ve put together a simple and effective guide to get the job done.

We’ll explore various cat teeth cleaning methods as well as tips and tricks to make the process easier on you—and your feline friend. 

At-Home Brushing

Good dental health starts with building good training routines—a concept that’s the same for humans as it is for cats. Regular brushing can have a positive impact on your cat’s teeth, and all it takes are a few items and a little bit of time.

To kick this teeth brushing habit off on the right paw, let’s consider:

  • How to prepare
  • What techniques are most effective
  • How to keep your cat calm while brushing

Preparation

Before you can even think about approachingyour cat’s chompers, you’ll need to gather up the proper tools. If you’ve never brushed a cat’s teeth before, you might assume you could use any old toothpaste or brush, but you’d be wrong.

Never use human toothpaste on a cat. The ingredients in your toothpaste aren’t meant to be swallowed—by humans or cats—but your cat doesn’t know that. If a feline ends up swallowing human toothpaste it could result in a slew of dangerous side effects or even a serious illness. Instead, keep your toothpaste to yourself and pick up a toothpaste formulated specifically for cat dental care.

Additionally, cats require smaller toothbrushes designed to fit into the crevices of their mouths. You could also use:

  • Swabs or gauze
  • Finger brushes
  • Disposable wipes

With a cat toothpaste and a brushing tool in hand, you’ll also want to consider the following factors:

  • Setting a calm environment – It’s nearly impossible to brush a cat’s teeth when they’re riled up. Wait until your cat is settled and sleepy to begin teeth brushing, and opt to do it in a calm and relaxing place.
  • Getting some practice in – Before pulling out the brush, you might want to familiarize yourself with your cat’s mouth. If you haven’t gotten up close and personal with your cat's teeth, take a few minutes to practice pulling their lips apart and opening their jaw. Be gentle with your cat as you practice—you don’t want to scare them away from brushing before you’ve even started.
  • Giving them a taste – Cat toothpaste is completely edible and comes in a variety of flavors that should be appealing to your cat’s palate. But before you put any on your brush, put a bit on your finger to let them try it. They may end up loving the taste.

Brushing Techniques

If it’s your first time with a kitty toothbrush, you’re likely wondering how to clean cat teeth properly. You wouldn’t want to go through all this effort only to do a mediocre job. 

To ensure your time is well spent, remember that consistency is key. Three times per week is ideal for brushing, but even once could make a world of difference. Before you start, consider these helpful brushing tips:

  • Lips open, jaw closed – The hardest technique to master may be getting your cat to hold still. Once you’ve secured your feline friend, you’ll want to keep their jaw closed while pulling back their lips to reveal their teeth. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as this could increase your cat's discomfort.
  • Work from front to back – Your cat’s fangs are your first priority. That’s because plaque and tartar tend to accumulate most often on the four canine teeth in the front of their mouths. Be sure to brush where the teeth and gums meet, and then move on to the back teeth.
  • Keep it brief – Spend about 30 seconds on the top teeth and another 30 seconds on the bottom teeth. The faster you clean, the more likely you’ll be able to hit every area of your cat’s mouth before their patience runs out. 

Tips For Keeping Your Cat Calm

Easier said than done, right? Cats range in temperament, but some can be fairly stubborn and not likely to enjoy anything that doesn’t quite go their way. That’s why brushing can be a particularly high hurdle to jump. Your cat can squirm, scratch, bite, and meow until you’re red in the face and ready to give up.

Before you begin brushing, consider these strategies to soothe a particularly sassy cat: 

  • Start young – Cats are highly adaptable and can grow into routines over time—especially if the routines start at a young age. Introduce your cat to teeth brushing when they’re just a kitten. They may be less likely to put up a fight and, by the time they’re fully grown, they might not think twice about regular brushing.
  • Provide petting and positive reinforcement – Keep a positive and supportive demeanor throughout the tooth brushing process. If you’re calm, your pet is more likely to stay calm as well. A gentle voice and consistent petting can let your pet know that there’s nothing scary about what’s happening.
  • Offer a reward – Cats may not be as easily won over as dogs, but a delicious treat could make them forget all about a less-than-pleasant experience. After you’re done with their tooth brushing, feed your cat a few of their favorite treats to cheer them up. You may even be able to coax them into their next brushing with a few treats beforehand.

Other Ways To Keep Your Cat’s Teeth Clean

Brushing your cat’s teeth doesn’t always work out as you’d hoped. Sometimes you don’t have the time (or energy) to wrangle your cat, sit down with a brush, and shine up those pearly whites. Fortunately, we can also teach you how to keep cats’ teeth clean without brushing. 

One of the simplest things you can do is explore new dietary options. If your cat is suffering from bad breath or mild dental issues, it could be a result of their diet. Preservatives, colorings, and other unnatural ingredients could be impacting your cat's oral health and overall health. Read the can, check the box, and consult with a veterinary professional if you have any lingering questions.

Additionally, consider the following products for day-to-day dental boosts:

  • Dental water – Turn your cat's water into a wellness-supporting dental drink. Dental water solutions and powders are designed to eliminate bad breath and fight back against nasty oral bacteria. After mixing, observe your cat to ensure they still enjoy the taste of their drinking water.
  • Supplements – Dental supplements are designed to prevent plaque and tartar buildup, and lower the chance for more serious dental diseases and related issues. Just add the supplements to your cat’s meals and wait for the results.
  • Chews and treats – Treat your kitty to something good for them. Cat chews designed to support dental health may assist in removing tartar and eliminating bad breath. Plus, there’s a good chance your cat will absolutely love them.

These products are no substitute for a proper tooth brushing, but they may still help with odor and bacteria. Consider using them in combination with a regular brushing routine, and find out what products your cat enjoys or which ones they turn their nose up at. Felines can certainly be picky, so don’t get discouraged if they turn down your first few offerings.

Veterinary Cleanings

Ready to bring in the professionals? If your cat's dental issues demand some expert attention, a veterinary cleaning could be precisely what they need. This could be particularly useful for older cats that haven’t had at-home cleanings before.

Veterinary cleanings typically involve the following procedures:

  • Examination – Before the teeth cleaning can begin, your vet will need to conduct a dental examination. They’ll be looking for signs of dental disease, including tartar buildup, and inflammation. Additionally, they’ll need to determine whether your cat can safely be put under anesthesia.
  • Scaling – Once your cat is anesthetized, the vet can begin the tartar removal process. The process is similar to a human dental cleaning. Using various tools, the vet can clean away buildup, especially near the gum line. 
  • Polishing – It’s time to make those teeth shine. After the scaling process, the vet will polish all of your cat's teeth to help reduce future plaque and tartar accumulation. Your cat's breath might not be minty fresh, but its teeth will be cleaner than they’ve been in a long time.

During the cleaning process, your dentist may come across teeth that are too thoroughly damaged to save. If periodontal disease has progressed and eroded too much of the tooth’s root, your cat may need an extraction, a process that could minimize the chance of future oral infections and additional health problems. 

Keep Tabs on Your Cat’s Health with PrettyLitter 

Cleaning your cat’s teeth doesn’t have to be a major chore, but it does take a bit of effort and some willpower. Keeping your feline healthy is always the top priority, and if you’re looking for a simple way to keep an eye on their wellness, PrettyLitter makes it easy.

There’s no complicated procedure for using PrettyLitter. Simply choose your plan, wait for your delivery, and fill your cat’s litter box with the best litter for kittens—they’ll do the rest. PrettyLitter’s color-changing formula can provide key insights into your cat’s health, and our silica litter instantly traps moisture and odor. Try PrettyLitter today and enjoy a 30-day, risk-free guarantee. 


Sources: 

VCA Animal Hospitals. Brushing Your Cat's Teeth. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/brushing-teeth-in-cats 

Care Animal Hospital. How to Keep Your Cat’s Teeth Clean Without Brushing. https://www.careah.com/cat/how-to-keep-your-cats-teeth-clean-without-brushing/ 

VCA Animal Hospitals. Dental Cleaning in Cats. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/dental-cleaning-in-cats 

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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