Dental hygiene is as important for cats as people.
It helps keep your cat in great condition and prevents diseases (and a bad breath).
Still, you may feel a little unsure about brushing your cat’s teeth. I know I was a little taken aback when my vet first suggested brushing Dirk’s teeth.
He showed me how to do it and – surprisingly – Dirk seemed fine with it.
However, trying it at home was a different story…
If only it was this easy!
When I first started I was a bit too optimistic. Having seen the vet do it made me think it wouldn’t be so difficult. Dirk was not happy about it though. I tried every other day at first but I have to admit this soon became less frequent. Until Dirk was diagnosed with a dental disease called feline resorptive lesions.
After he had two teeth removed my mind set changed. I went from ‘I’ll try’ to ‘OK, I have to do this’.
Around this time I also started with my advanced feline behaviour course and was learning about learning theory and training cats. This was the perfect opportunity to put what I’d learnt into practice!
I took small steps to get Dirk used to having his teeth brushed. Admittedly, he still doesn’t like it. He tolerates it now although we have to odd day where he doesn’t. Those days are less frequent now, I brush his teeth most days. And afterwards he gets a special reward: his favourite treat which he goes nuts for.
- First of all, buy toothpaste for cats. Toothpaste for people is toxic for cats, so never use this. Toothpaste for cats comes in tasty flavours such as chicken. Rest assured, even though it is tasty it also contains all the enzymes needed to clean your cat’s teeth.
- Introduce your cat to the toothpaste. Let your cat lick the toothpaste off your finger (my cat loved it!). This allows the cat to get used to the flavour and texture and they will have a positive association with the toothpaste.
- Once your cat is used to the toothpaste you can introduce a toothbrush, for example by letting your cat lick the toothpaste off the brush. There are several types of brushes designed for cats. Buy the one you feel most confident using.
Getting the job done:
- Both you and your cat should be calm and comfortable before you start brushing your cat’s teeth.
- Either sit behind your cat so they cannot escape or ask someone else to hold and soothe your cat.
- Start by stroking and reassuring your cat. If you notice your cat becoming stressed, then don’t start brushing. Try again another day. If you turn this into a routine then your cat will become more relaxed over time and will allow you to brush their teeth.
- Gently pull back your cat’s lips as shown in the picture.
What it looks like at the vet’s… What it looks like at home
(Dirk prefers to lie down on his side)
- Brush the teeth in slow circular motions and keep the bristles at a 45-degree angle. Brush the teeth and just beneath the gum margin, don’t brush the gums directly.
- Brush as many teeth as the cat allows and praise your cat while doing so. Initially you may only be able to brush for about 10-15 seconds, but that’s a good start! When you’re more experienced and the cat has become more tolerant of having their teeth brushed you’ll be able to brush their teeth in about 1-2 minutes.
For more information please ask you vet or veterinary nurse.
For a video instruction, as well as additional information, please consult International Cat Care’s website.