When it comes to dental care for cats, our indoor cats are actually at a disadvantage compared to their outdoor counterparts.
In the wild, cats have the chance to eat rodents. While not the most appetizing idea to us, this has some surprising health benefits for your cat. For one, the rodent fur they’re eating helps to floss their teeth, and then the bones they’re crunching helps to clean the teeth.
Indoor cats don’t tend to get as much rodent-catching in during their days, and as a result, they lose out on those dental benefits. Unfortunately, that can then lead to dental disease, which affects between 50-90% of cats over four years of age.
So do you have to start letting mice loose in your house just to keep your cat’s teeth clean? No, not at all.
Today we’re breaking down all you need to know about dental care for cats, from warning signs to preventive measures and the steps you can take to protect your cat’s pearly whites.
Signs And Symptoms Of Feline Dental Disease
If only cats could talk, they might tell us when they were feeling some dental discomfort. Unfortunately, cats usually keep these pains to themselves. Cats are even known to eat through the pain until it becomes severe.
Rather than wait till that point, here are some signs of feline dental disease you should look out for:
- Bad breath
- Changes in appetite
- Discolored teeth
- Drool that contains blood
- Exposed tooth roots
- Reduced grooming
- Swollen or red gums
- Trouble eating
- Visible tartar
- Weight loss
Cost Of Dental Care For Cats
One of the best arguments for preventative dental care for cats? The cost of having to treat the root problem of any of those previously mentioned symptoms.
Like for humans, dental care for cats can get pricey. The price does depend on a few variables, including the age and health of your cat and where you live.
One cost to be aware of is a feline tooth extraction, which can range between $300 and $1300. These costs include bloodwork, cleaning, medication, and x-rays.
Preventing Feline Dental Disease
As our parents always told us, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Starting healthy dental practices when your cat is a kitten will likely lead to a longer, healthier life.
Generally speaking, dental care for cats consists of diet and nutrition, checkups, and a dental care routine.
Feline Diet & Nutrition
Your cat’s diet can give it the upper paw in fighting off diseases.
While it’s often believed that hard cat food can provide the same abrasive action as the bones we described earlier, that’s not actually the case. Watch your cat closely the next time they eat and you’ll see that they’re swallowing the food whole.
In this instance, diet and nutrition is best thought of as supporting your cat’s whole health. For the actual cleaning of their teeth, you’ll have to look toward the next two steps.
Feline Dental Checkup
As is the case for humans, it’s possible that your cat might also be advised to go for twice-yearly dental checkups.
Cats, they’re just like us!
This advice does depend on their age, diet, and overall health, as some feline veterinarians will recommend an annual checkup.
At your cat or kitten’s first dental appointment, the vet will examine the cat’s mouth. This is to get a starting point for understanding your cat’s dental health, and includes looking at how the teeth fit, how the jaw aligns, any broken or fractured teeth, tartar buildup, and bumps or lesions.
This can also be accompanied with x-rays for a more complete exam.
From there, and at regular check-ups, your cat will undergo its teeth cleaning, which includes removing plaque and tartar at the gumline, polishing the teeth so the plaque can’t stick, then rinsing the mouth free of remaining plaque or bacteria.
At-Home Dental Care For Cats
This starts with brushing your cat’s teeth regularly, though we know that can be easier said than done since most cats prefer not to have your fingers touching their teeth.
To set yourself up for easier dental care later, start with your cat as soon as you can – preferably if they’re still a kitten. When starting a dental care for cats routine with an adult cat, try slowly and reward patient behavior with treats.
The good news here is that you don’t need to brush your cat’s teeth twice a day, every day. Generally speaking, we encourage at least three brushings per week. If you can get this up to a daily brushing, that’s even better.
To start, you’ll take a cat toothbrush, feline toothpaste (not human toothpaste, as fluoride is toxic to cats at high levels), and dental gauze/finger brush.
Begin by rubbing around your cat’s mouth until they’re comfortable. At that point, try to slip your finger in and around the lips and gums. After they’re comfortable with this process, go toward rubbing their teeth.
To make this process a bit more enjoyable for your cat, it’s time to add in the toothpaste, which is often either chicken or fish-flavored. Dab it on the brush, let your cat smell it, then rub it on the outside of their teeth.
To finish, rub the brush or gauze in small circles along the teeth and gums. If your cat is motivated by treats, this can help during the brushing process, as well as a reward after they’ve finished.
Though this can take some getting used to, stick to it. These daily (or almost-daily) brushings will be setting your cat up for great oral health for the rest of their life.
Scheduling Your Cat’s Next Dental Check-up
If it’s time again for your cat’s dental check-up, our feline veterinarians are here for you. Schedule your appointment with the expert team at Catonsville Cat Clinic by following this link.