Perhaps it was naivety, but I had no thoughts toward my cats’ dental hygiene until a vet was scraping plaque off their teeth with an expression that stamped STUPID across my forehead. Am I really the only one who just didn’t think cats needed that degree of care? I don’t believe I am. In fact, I bet there are several things that most of us had never expected we were expected to do as general companion maintenance.
The funny thing is that I’m not new to living with pets. I grew up with cats, with frenetic felines and caterwauls marking my past like claw-fully furry monuments. Again, maybe it is me being naïve, but dental hygiene is not part of the picture I remember. Apparently, though, this missing puzzle piece is crucial cat care. I never once brushed a cat’s tooth, nor saw a cat suffer dental problems, until recently. I had no cause to consider brushing cat’s teeth as essential, and for someone having two cats adopted from two separate shelters, that’s a puzzle piece that I am shocked was not turned over by now.
Brushing your cat’s teeth was never something mentioned to me when adopting. They told me the things I already knew, mind you: dietary needs, the importance of play, indoor vs. outdoor, etc. They seemed to cover the bases. Now I find myself with two cats acting like squirrels with all the food crumbs and junk caught between their cheeks. Am I alone in this? There are things that we are all expected to do for our feline roommates, and I bet you, like me, had never thought to do them, never been told to do them. Such as…
Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth
This is the big one. Ideally, if you do this one, you probably won’t need to do any of the other ones. Doing it regularly will stave off a host of problems down the road though. No, your cat won’t like it. Yes, your cat will actually hate it with a furry-ous (see what I did there?) and terrible hatred…at first. Consistency will likely calm them into the brushing routine though. Just go into with someone to help hold them still…and some chainmail. Chainmail helps.
You don’t need much to do this. You don’t even need a brush. A Q-tip will do. The power is in the toothpaste. CET Enzymatic Toothpaste is what was recommended to me, and in turn I recommend it to you. The keyword is ‘enzymatic’. Just use a dab and scrub each side of your cat’s teeth for about 10 seconds. Doing it regularly (unless your cat already has significant tartar) will be a big help to you and your cat.
Another step that will help in your cat’s dental hygiene is a breeze compared to brushing.
Dental Water Additive
A warning sign that your cat is in dental distress is their breath. If your cat wakes you up with a noseful of low tide, don’t ignore it. To be grossly realistic, that is the smell of decomposing food bits and bacteria clinging to your cat’s teeth. Mmmm…last week’s dinner.
Something I have had success with on this front is Petkin Invisible Formula Liquid Oral Care. It has significantly freshened my cats’ breath (and thus is cleaning their teeth too), and being odorless and flavorless, a capful added to their daily water supply goes down with no resistance or objection. There are many different brands, so just make sure the one you use is colorless, odorless and veterinarian-approved.
On top of that, there is an additional step I’ve taken in combating my cats’ dental woes that you should probably be doing also.
There are treats you can give your cat that are made texturally to scrub and break up plaque. They actually force your cat to chew, and if your cat is like mine, they normally eat like gravel-bellied birds (devoid of chewing). So these treats make a helpful difference.
I have been going with Feline Greenies, an affordable brand likely found in any pet or grocery story. They come in various flavors, but more importantly they are more than a mouthful, so your cat’s teeth will have to chew and get rid of that plaque before it builds into tartar. It took a couple days for my cats to accept them, but now they beg for them.
If you are noticing tartar on their back teeth though (a crusty, yellowy-white build up), then you’re likely headed toward the next step.
Scaling Your Cat’s Teeth
This is the most drastic step. If your cats teeth are past the aid of the previous suggestions, you’ll need to do something about the plaque. Scaling your cat’s teeth is simply scraping off the layers of plaque and gunky buildup. You’ll basically be doing what the veterinarian would do for a fee…but you’ll be doing it with much more difficulty at no cost. So, weigh your options. Pay to have it done professionally or do it yourself for free.
You’ll need a scaler tool, which is a cheap dental instrument meant for just such a purpose, easily found on Amazon. You’ll need to get into your cat’s mouth and gently scrap the layers off their teeth. It takes a delicate touch that, unlike brushing, your cat will not likely get used to or allow you. If you can make them sit still and cooperate though, awesome. If not…I recommend finding a local vet and getting your cat serviced sooner rather than later. Tartar can work into the gums and cause gum disease, which can result in teeth needing to be removed, respiratory infection…a host of problems no one would want their cat to go through.
So, follow these steps, but more importantly…never expect a shelter or shop to tell you everything you need to know. But hey, you have me for that.