Brushing your cat’s teeth

To mark Pet Dental Awareness Month I am re-posting this blog about brushing your cat’s teeth

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 ho
cat brushing teethw 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.

The basics:

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  • 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:20190417_180510

  • 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.

Flat faces negatively impact cats’ ability to communicate

Most of us know that flat-faced cat and dog breeds have breathing difficulties, but research by Finka et al (2020) found that “exaggerated” features may make it more difficult for pets to communicate with us.

Facial expressions help owners understand whether or not their pet is in pain. However, the researchers found that the “neutral faces of several of the brachycephalic breeds (e.g. Exotic short hairs, Persians and particularly Scottish folds)” showed more pain associated features “compared to the neutral expressions of most other breeds”. In fact,”[i]n the case of Scottish folds, their neutral facial landmarks indicated greater pain-like features even compared to the DSH cats that were actually in pain.”

These findings are potentially relevant when facial expressions are used to identify pain, especially in flat-faced breeds. This research suggests that facial expressions of domestic shorthair cats cannot be confidently applied to flat-faced breeds.

“The ability of companion animals to readily solicit care from humans is obviously advantageous. However, it is possible that permanently vulnerable looking individuals might have a diminished capacity to clearly indicate when care is or is not required, as well as to display other information relevant to their actual state or intentions. Thus, if certain cat breeds are being selected to display “pain-like” features on their faces, these features may serve to solicit unwanted or inadequate attention from their caregivers.”

“More generally, such types of anthropocentric selection might lead to increased anthropomorphic tendencies. If, for example, the animal has the appearance of an expression which humans find relatable on some level, even if it is not necessarily reflective of that animals’ affective state, it may be used to attribute emotions or characteristics to them. For example, “grumpy cat” a cat made famous by her coverage on social media achieved her moniker due to her perceived “frowning” facial appearance. However, this was likely a result of a combination of her feline dwarfism and paedomorphic features, rather than an expression of her irritability.”

Take Your Cat To The Vet Day

It is ‘Take Your Cat To The Vet Day’ today. This doesn’t mean we should all be taking our cats to the vet today, but it is important to take your cat to the vet for regular health checks. ‘Take Your Cat To The Vet Day’ wants to raise awareness about the importance of preventive health care.

Royal Canin and International Cat Care are advocating the importance of feline health care. How often your cat should see the vet depends on their age and health, but as a rule healthy adult cats should see the vet once a year. They can get their vaccinations and you can stock up on flea and worm treatment. Your vet will also want to keep an eye on their general health and check your cat’s teeth, weight and body condition.

Older cats should see the vet twice a year, just because they are more prone to serious health problems such as kidney disease. Cats are very good at hiding signs of illness and early detection is crucial in order to prevent the illness getting worse. This will help improve your cat’s life and may make managing an illness a lot easier for both you and your cat.

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Celebrate International Cat Day this Sunday!

The 8th of August marks International Cat Day! A day to celebrate all of our kitties 🙂

International Cat Day was originally created in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare as a way to celebrate the relationship that cats have with people and to support the wellbeing and welfare of cats. It is also a day when people can go to their local animal shelter and rescue a cat.

I’m sure you’ll give your cat some extra love on International Cat Day, but why not celebrate by supporting a cat charity? Check you local Cats Protection website to see if you can help by becoming a fosterer or volunteer. Or support a cat charity through a donation. Not sure which one to support? International Cat Care, Cats Protection and Battersea are a few of the bigger cat charities, but you can also support a more local charity, such as Catcuddles Cat Sanctuary in London.

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Tried and tested by Dirk: delicious KatKin meals

* Originally written by me for katzenworld.co.uk

I’ve previously written about a new brand of cat food called KatKin. Run by brother and sister Brett and Nikki they create vet-formulated cat food with high quality ingredients and 95% meat content.

I absolutely love the story behind KatKin and was very impressed by what I read. However, there is really only one way to find out how good the food is so Dirk tested a trial box.

KatKin provided very helpful instructions about how to gradually introduce the food to your cat. Some cats tuck in straightaway and have no problems switching to a new type of food, but others can be a bit more fussy. In general, cats do not like change but on an individual level they cope differently. Confident cats seem to have little issues at all. Still, switching to a new type of food can be tricky if your cat has only ever had one type of food. Rest assured that KatKin have thought of that and also added ‘sprinkles’ – small chicken flavoured treats – to its trial box to help encourage the most fussy cats transition to its food.

What do you mean I’m not allowed on the worktop?

Dirk was very curious about his new food and loved the smell of it, but when it came to eating it he was a bit more fussy than I had expected. KatKin’s instructions came in handy! I started by giving him just a small amount of the new food so Dirk could get used to the texture of his new food. KatKin’s food required a bit more chewing from him than other wet food he’s used to (I always joke that Dirk’s style of eating is ‘chewing is for wimps’).

Within a week Dirk was happily eating his KatKin food and couldn’t wait for mealtimes, sometimes quite literally…

A great thing about the trial box is that your cat can try all the flavours and when you order your next box you can leave out the ones they did not like. Dirk’s favourites were gobble, cluck, quack and oink. This is not too surprising, as KatKin recently shared that their top three favourites are cluck, gobble and oink. He was not too big a fan of beef and lamb. I am really happy that you can order boxes of food which only contain flavours your cat likes. This means you can still feed your cat a variety of flavours but without the waste of throwing away food that hasn’t been eaten. And your cat will only need one pouch a day as KatKin already makes sure of the portion sizes.

Clearly, Dirk & I are both huge fans of KatKin food and unsurprisingly the delivery box proved a great hit as well 😉