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Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

October 1, 2019

Dental issues are very common in our feline pals. In fact, over 85 percent of adult kitties have some form of dental issues. Tooth problems are just as painful—and dangerous—for pets as they are for people. To learn more about the various dental problems that can affect cats, check out our article on Kitty Dental Issues. One of the best things you can do to keep your furry friend’s choppers healthy is to brush her teeth. But how do you do that without ending up covered in scratches? A local Roanoke, VA vet offers some tips below.

Start Young

If your furball is still a kitten, you definitely have the upper paw. It’s much easier to train a baby feline to accept a toothbrush than to try and get an adult cat used to something new!

Make it Routine

Brushing your cat’s teeth is very beneficial, as it can remove plaque that will otherwise harden into tartar, which can lead to infections and gum disease. Gum disease is painless and asymptomatic at first, but can eventually contribute to some very dangerous health issues, such as heart disease. Of course, if you tell Fluffy about the importance of dental care, she’ll probably just yawn and lick her paw. Just make it a part of your normal kitty-care routine.


To get your furry pal used to the idea, start by simply massaging her teeth and gums. Pick a time when Fluffy is feeling relaxed and cuddly, such as when she’s on your lap, and start handling her teeth and gums as you pet her. The next step is to incorporate some kitty toothpaste. (Tip: you can wrap your finger in gauze, or get a finger toothbrush.) Only use products made specifically for cats. Things that were manufactured for people are neither safe nor suitable for our feline buddies! When picking toothpaste, choose a yummy flavored one. If your cat has more serious dental issues, they may require professional treatment. Our Veterinary Dentistry services can help address these problems and keep your cat’s mouth healthy.

Good Vibrations

Always pet Fluffy before, during, and after her tooth-brushing sessions, so she knows she’s being pampered. You’ll also want to talk to her gently, and tell her she’s being good. Kitties love compliments! Once you’re done, offer your cat a treat, some catnip, or a new toy.

Be Patient

It may take Fluffy some time to get used to the idea of getting her teeth brushed, but be patient. Keep things positive by continuing to incorporate praise and treats.

Our Advice on Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

Why is brushing your cat’s teeth important for their dental health?

Brushing your cat’s teeth is crucial for maintaining their dental health because it removes plaque, preventing it from hardening into tartar. Tartar buildup can lead to periodontal disease, causing infections, tooth loss, and potentially affecting overall health, including heart disease. Regular dental care helps prevent painful tooth problems and gum disease, keeping your cat’s mouth healthy. It also helps catch any dental issues early, allowing for prompt treatment. Good oral hygiene is critical to a cat’s overall wellness and quality of life.

What are the steps to train your cat to accept tooth brushing?

To train your cat to accept tooth brushing, start by gently massaging their teeth and gums with your finger during relaxed moments. Gradually introduce a cat-specific toothpaste, using flavors they find appealing. Next, use a finger brush or a small, soft-bristled toothbrush for cats. Begin with brief sessions, gradually increasing the time spent brushing. Consistently reward your cat with praise, cuddles, or treats to create positive associations. Patience is critical; it may take several weeks for your cat to become comfortable with the process. Regularly handling their mouth from an early age can also ease this training.

How can making tooth brushing a routine help prevent dental issues in cats?

Making tooth brushing a routine for cats helps prevent dental issues by consistently removing plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that can harden into tartar. Tartar buildup leads to periodontal disease, causing gum inflammation, infection, and tooth loss. Regular brushing slows the progression of these conditions, maintains healthy gums, and can reduce the risk of secondary health issues linked to poor dental health. Additionally, routine brushing allows for early detection of dental problems, ensuring timely veterinary intervention. Overall, it’s an essential practice for maintaining your cat’s oral and overall health.

How can rewards and positive reinforcement aid in brushing a cat’s teeth?

Rewards and positive reinforcement are highly effective in brushing a cat’s teeth. It creates a pleasant association with the activity. When a cat receives a treat, praise, or affection after tooth brushing, it associates the experience with something enjoyable. This approach reduces anxiety and resistance, making the cat more cooperative during future brushing sessions. Consistent positive reinforcement helps establish tooth brushing as a routine part of the cat’s care, improving its acceptance and compliance. The key is to make the experience as rewarding and stress-free as possible for the cat.

What are the potential health risks of not maintaining a cat’s dental hygiene?

Not maintaining a cat’s dental hygiene can lead to several health risks. Poor oral care often results in periodontal disease, causing gum inflammation, infection, and tooth loss. Bacteria from dental diseases can enter the bloodstream, potentially affecting major organs and leading to systemic health issues like kidney, liver, or heart disease. Additionally, dental problems can cause significant pain and discomfort, affecting a cat’s ability to eat correctly. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and weight loss. Regular dental care is essential to prevent these complications and ensure overall health and well-being.

Please feel free to contact us, your Roanoke, VA vet clinic, anytime. We’re here to help!

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