Cats are masters of hiding pain and discomfort, so you may not realize there’s a problem until their dental disease has progressed.
By taking steps to care for your cat’s teeth at home, you can help prevent painful dental problems down the road.
We’ll discuss several natural ways to keep your cat’s teeth clean and healthy.
Regular dental care removes the plaque and tartar that builds up on a cat’s teeth.
Tartar above the gumline not only looks unsightly, it also allows bacteria to penetrate below the gumline leading to periodontal disease.
This causes red, inflamed gums, tooth decay and loss, and even tooth root abscesses.Left untreated, dental disease is painful and can negatively impact your cat’s quality of life.
Bacteria enter the bloodstream through infected gums and travel to internal organs. This can lead to liver, kidney and heart disease in cats.
Dental problems are the most common health issue diagnosed in senior cats.
The good news is there are many simple, natural ways you can care for your cat’s teeth at home to avoid these issues.
Daily toothbrushing, dental treats and chews, healthy diets, and regular vet checkups will keep your cat’s smile looking great well into their golden years.
Why Cat Dental Health Matters
According to Cornell University’s Feline Health Center, dental disease is one of the most common health issues affecting cats today.
Studies conducted by Cornell report that between 50 and 90% of cats over 4 years old suffer from some form of dental disease.The most prevalent dental problem in cats is periodontal disease, which refers to inflammation and infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth.
This includes the gums and tooth roots underneath the gums. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque buildup on the tooth surface, which hardens into tartar above and below the gumline.
As periodontal disease progresses, it spreads deeper below the gumline, destroying the tissues and bone supporting the teeth. This eventually leads to painful tooth decay and tooth loss if left untreated.
Bacteria and toxins from the infected gums can also enter the bloodstream through damaged tissues, potentially causing issues in internal organs like the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs.
Regular at-home dental care and professional cleanings are critical to prevent plaque and tartar accumulation.
This keeps a cat’s gums healthy and reduces the risk of painful dental disease that can shorten lifespan and negatively impact quality of life.
Natural Toothbrushing for Cats
Toothbrushing is the gold standard for preventing plaque buildup and keeping your cat’s teeth sparkling clean. It may take some time and patience to train your cat to accept brushing, but it’s well worth the effort.
Never use a human toothbrush, as the bristles are too big and can injure your cat’s mouth.
Special pet toothpaste is also required, as human toothpaste contains ingredients that can upset your cat’s stomach.
Only use toothpastes formulated for cats that come in appetizing flavors like fish, poultry, or malt.
To introduce toothbrushing:
First let your cat sample the toothpaste so they get used to the taste. Gently lift your cat’s lips and massage the paste onto their front teeth, praising them the whole time.
Once your cat appears comfortable with this, gently brush the outer surfaces of the teeth in a circular motion using just a smear of toothpaste.
Focus your attention on the large canines and cheek teeth where plaque accumulates the most. Gradually build up the brushing sessions over several weeks until your cat will tolerate about 2 minutes of brushing daily or several times a week.
Make it a positive experience with lots of praise, treats, and playtime after each session.
With regular brushing, you can effectively remove plaque from your cat’s teeth before it turns into harmful tartar.
Toothbrushing prevents gum disease and keeps your cat’s smile beautiful and healthy.
Dental Treats and Chews
An easy way to improve your cat’s dental health is by giving dental treats and chews. Cats must chew these treats with their back teeth, which mechanically scrapes off soft plaque and tartar.
Look for treats and chews that display the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance.
Dental treats and chews can help improve your cat’s oral health, but are not a substitute for brushing.
Here are some key points:
- Brushing is still considered the most effective method for maintaining dental health in cats when done properly. Dental treats alone may not fully prevent dental disease.
- Veterinarian-approved dental treats like Greenies Feline Dental Treats and Whiskas Dentabites Cat Treats have earned the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance for reducing plaque and tartar in cats.
- Dental treats should be used along with brushing for optimal dental health results. Offering treats daily provides benefits between professional cleanings.
- Dental treats are not recommended for kittens under 6 months due to potential choking hazards.
- Starting dental care early, including brushing and VOHC-approved treats, helps cats accept the practices and improves lifelong dental health.
Offer a dental treat or chew to your cat daily as part of their routine. Give them at a scheduled time, such as after a meal when saliva production is increased to aid in plaque removal.
Dental chews reduce the need for brushing and are an easy way to improve your cat’s oral health between professional dental cleanings.
Dental Diets and Foods
Your cat’s regular diet also plays a role in keeping their teeth clean. Some specially formulated foods are designed to provide optimal dental care.
Dry cat foods are generally better for dental health than wet foods. The crunchy kibble texture helps scrub away soft plaque and tartar as the cat chews.
For the best dental benefits, look for dry foods that carry the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance or the brand’s Veterinary Dental Diet seal.
This means the food has passed independent testing to show it effectively reduces plaque and tartar.
Some examples of VOHC-approved dental diets for cats include:
- Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d – Clinically proven to reduce plaque and tartar by over 50%.
- Royal Canin Dental – Special kibble texture and shape helps reduce plaque and tartar.
- Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets DH Dental Health Feline Formula – Uniquely textured kibble clinically proven to reduce plaque and tartar
For cats that prefer wet food, choose a brand that contains larger, meaty chunks rather than a smooth, minced texture. This still allows some chewing action to clean teeth.
Feeding dental diet foods and crunchy kibbles keeps your cat’s teeth clean and healthy between brushings. Do consult your vet to find the best dental food for your cat.
Additional Tips for Natural Dental Care
In addition to brushing, treats, and dental diets, there are a few other natural ways to care for your cat’s teeth:
Provide interactive chew toys – Offer textured dental toys. Chewing scrapes plaque off teeth and provides mental stimulation. Rotate toys to keep your cat interested.
Offer raw bones for chewing – Uncooked bones like chicken necks provide a natural way to clean teeth. Never give cooked bones as they can splinter. Supervise chewing.
Add dental probiotics – Probiotic supplements support healthy bacteria in the mouth to reduce plaque. Sprinkling on food may freshen breath.
Get regular vet dental checkups – Your vet will examine for signs of dental disease and tartar buildup at annual wellness exams. Professional cleanings are needed to remove hardened tartar.
Treat any advanced dental disease – If your cat already has severe dental disease, professional dental cleanings and tooth extractions may be required. This treats infection and pain.With a little effort, you can implement a natural dental care routine to keep your cat’s teeth healthy and avoid issues down the road.
Partner with your vet for regular checkups and cleanings as needed.
Keep Your Cat Smiling with Natural Dental Care
Cats are prone to dental disease, but you can help prevent these common issues with natural dental care at home. Daily toothbrushing, dental treats and chews, healthy food choices, and regular vet visits will keep your cat’s smile beautiful and their teeth and gums healthy.
A little time and effort goes a long way in caring for your cat’s teeth. Start dental care early, be patient during training, and find products your cat enjoys to make it a positive experience.
Good dental health allows your cat to happily eat, play, groom, and go about their daily activities without mouth pain or discomfort.
This contributes to their overall wellbeing and quality of life.
With proper natural dental care, your cat can maintain a healthy mouth well into their senior years. Partner with your vet for cleanings and checkups as needed.
By taking steps to care for your cat’s teeth at home, you’ll have many more years of seeing your cat flash those pearly whites!
How often should I brush my cat’s teeth?
Ideally, you should brush your cat’s teeth daily. However, it’s understandable that this may not be realistic for some cats or owners. Aim to brush their teeth at least 2-3 times per week for good dental health.
What is the best toothpaste to use for cats?
Look for a pet toothpaste made specifically for cats. Never use human toothpaste, which contains ingredients that can upset a cat’s stomach. Cat toothpastes come in appetizing flavors like poultry, fish, or malt.
What can I do if my cat won’t let me brush their teeth?
Go slowly with positive reinforcement. Try rubbing your finger along their teeth and gums before introducing the toothbrush. Offer high-value treats and praise during and after brushing. Consider dental treats or dental food if brushing remains difficult.
Should I give my cat dental treats if I’m already brushing their teeth?
Yes, dental treats and brushing serve different purposes. Brushing removes soft plaque, while treats help scrape off hardened tartar. Use both as part of a complete dental care routine.
How can I tell if my cat has dental disease?
Signs include bad breath, yellow or brown tartar on teeth, red or swollen gums, loose or missing teeth, reduced appetite, and dropping food. Schedule regular vet dental exams to identify problems early.
When does my cat need a professional veterinary dental cleaning?
Your vet will recommend a dental cleaning if your cat has significant tartar buildup, gum inflammation, or other signs of advanced dental disease. Professional cleanings treat infection and remove hardened tartar that can’t be removed through brushing alone.