Dental disease is incredibly common in domestic cats, with experts estimating that between 50-90% of cats over the age of 4 have some kind of dental disease. The good news is that most of these diseases are preventable by keeping up a regular routine of brushing your cat’s teeth.
If you’re not sure how to start keeping your cat’s teeth clean, check out our step-by-step guide, with videos!
What you’ll need
Before you start brushing your cat’s teeth, make sure you have everything that you need, including:
1. Start as young as possible
The earlier that you train your kitten to accept having their teeth brushed, the easier it will be to build this into their regular routine. The following steps can be used with cats of any age, though!
2. Get your cat used to the toothpaste
The first thing to do is to acclimatize your cat to the taste of the toothpaste. Place a small amount of toothpaste, about a ¼ of a centimeter on your finger, and allow your cat to sniff it. Most will be attracted by the scent of the toothpaste and will happily lick it off your finger. If they’re not sure, put a tiny amount on your cat’s nose, and they should give it a lick. This stage is simply getting your cat used to the flavor of the toothpaste.
3. Practice holding your cat’s head
It’s best to start practicing this step while your cat is a little sleepy, to avoid startling them. Start standing or sitting behind your cat, and place your hand on the top of your cat’s head. Move your fingers and thumb so they sit gently on your cat’s cheekbones, just behind their eyes. See if you can tilt your cat’s head back and pull their upper lip on one side upward with your thumb. With your free hand, pull down their lower lip so you can see all their teeth.
You may need to build up to this in stages, depending on your cat’s temperament. Remember to give them plenty of treats and praise!
4. Add a small amount of toothpaste
Next, you’re going to work on adding toothpaste, but without a brush. Use a cotton bud to place a small amount of toothpaste on your cat’s teeth, and rub it in. Hold their head and pull their lips back, like you’ve been practicing.
You may need someone to hold your cat’s front paws or wrap your cat in a blanket. If they resist, simply keep repeating Step 3 until they’re completely comfortable.
5. Start using the toothbrush
Once your cat is comfortable with Step 4, you can add in using the toothbrush instead of the cotton bud. Start brushing for just a couple of seconds on each side, and then gradually work up to longer sessions until you can get all their teeth brushed on each side.
This video can help you figure out how to brush your cat’s teeth:
6. Ask your vet for help
If at any point, you’re having trouble or your cat is resisting, ask if you can bring your cat into the vet clinic. Seeing your vet demonstrate how to clean your cat’s teeth may help you work out the best techniques to use.
Aim to work up to brushing your cat’s teeth once per day. You may start with just one session a week and build up to daily sessions.
Don’t forget professional teeth cleaning too
Even if you do the best job brushing your cat’s teeth at home, they may still need a professional clean once a year. Your vet will do this under anesthetic. After any plaque is removed, it’s much easier to maintain your cat’s teeth at home.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay