When was the last time you thought about your cat’s dental health?
I know – it’s not the first thing we think about when caring for our cats, but dental care is just as important to them as it is to you. And like us, it requires daily maintenance, pet-friendly products, annual dental health checkups, and a little help from its mama – or papa!
Don’t worry. I’m about to detail some of the things you can start doing today to better maintain your cat’s oral health.
6. Brush with Pet-Friendly Toothpaste
I know what you’re thinking… “Do I really have to brush my cat’s teeth?”
The answer is yes, and for the same reasons you brush your own set of pearly whites.
Like humans, not brushing your cat’s teeth results in plaque buildup on and around the teeth. Over time, the plaque calcifies and hardens before turning into tartar. If left untreated, your cat could develop gum disease.
That’s where you come in with the handy-dandy toothbrush. Introducing your cat to the process is tricky, but starting with a cotton swab dipped in tuna water works well. Once familiar with the process, you can upgrade to a cat-specific toothbrush and pet-friendly toothpaste.
Some advice: be consistent with when and where you brush your cat’s teeth, and only worry about brushing the outer surface of the teeth.
Oh, and don’t forget to reward them for their cooperation – they love a gum massage!
5. Give Your Cat Dental Chews Daily
Cat dental treats are the perfect supplement to your furry friend’s daily dental routine. They won’t replace the need for brushing, but they help improve oral health in three major ways:
Bad breath. Some dental chews for cats contain chlorophyll to help control breath odor, but they won’t necessarily solve the root of the problem.
Saliva production. Chewing of any kind stimulates saliva production, which is your cat’s natural defense against bacteria and bad breath.
Plaque buildup. Some cat dental treats contain bacteria-eliminating enzymes to help prevent plaque buildup and periodontal disease.
Dental chews are available at any department or pet store, but discuss your options with your vet first. Some dental treats are too fatty, salty, and/or sweet, while others contain artificial flavors and fillers. I recommend choosing a brand that uses natural ingredients and is recognized by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).
4. Always Have Fun Dental Toys Handy
If you’re like me, then you can’t walk five steps in your house without stepping on a cat toy. They’re everywhere, but it’s worth getting used to when you understand the dental benefits those toys provide.
They promote healthy chewing during playtime but also massage their gums and teeth, eliminate boredom, and give your cat something fun to do – even if you’re not around.
Dental toys come in various shapes, colors, sizes, fabrics, and textures. Toys made of a mesh netting material are growing in popularity since they can gently and safely floss your cat’s teeth. Pre-filling toys with catnip makes them more enticing while filling them with dried mint helps improve their breath.
Encouraging your cat to play with their dental toys ensures they serve their purpose. Who knows, they might end up with a new favorite toy they sleep with every night – like a blanket!
3. Improve Your Cat’s Diet & Eating Habits
There’s a longstanding debate in the feline community – which is better for a cat, dry or wet food?
Dry cat food promotes chewing and helps eliminate plaque buildup with each crunch, but too much dry food can result in urinary tract blockages – especially if they aren’t drinking enough water.
Wet cat food is often healthier, more natural, and more nutritious. It contains water (which helps improve digestion), but leftover pieces can get stuck in their teeth, and it’s usually much more expensive.
Speak with your veterinarian to determine the best meal plan, but most cats benefit from a combination of both in their day-to-day diet. I recommend targeting VOHC-approved formulas rich in animal-sourced proteins, fiber, moisture, calcium, zinc, and antioxidants.
Of course, don’t forget to ask your furry friend what they think of the food – they’re the ones eating it every day!
2. Don’t Forget Your Cat’s Annual Vet Check-Up
I know it’s easy to forget, but scheduling an annual health check-up with a veterinarian in your area is vital to keeping your cat healthy. Their primary goal is to prevent disease while also detecting problems in the earliest stages – that way, they can initiate treatment immediately.
As part of the annual wellness exam, veterinarians check your cat’s mouth for signs of infections, irritated gums, damaged or missing teeth, plaque and/or tartar buildup, and much more. X-rays give vets a closer look at more severe issues, while teeth cleaning services keep your cat’s smile looking bright!
Of course, this is also your opportunity to ask the vet questions about proper cat dental care – including brushing their teeth, giving them treats or toys, or changing their diet.
1. Be Your Cat’s Best Advocate
No one spends more time with your cat than you. No one knows its preferences, tendencies, behaviors, and love like you. That’s why it’s important to remember that you are always your cat’s best advocate!
Common signs of dental problems in cats include the presence of plaque and tartar, drooling, bad breath, frequently shaking their head, difficulty eating or chewing, pawing or scratching at the mouth area, weight loss, and lack of appetite.
Your cat’s behavior is also worth monitoring. Most cats with dental problems are in at least some level of pain or discomfort – think about the last time you had a toothache. Abnormal behaviors mixed with any of the symptoms listed above are grounds for a vet visit – sooner, rather than later!
Don’t worry – you can limit those visits to the vet by brushing your cat’s teeth often, giving them dental chews and toys, ensuring they eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, monitoring their dental health at home, and taking them to the vet regularly.