How to Clean a Cat’s Teeth

Maintaining good oral hygiene is very important for your cat’s health and well-being.

Unfortunately, it’s an element of feline care that’s often overlooked by owners.

Many are discouraged by the perception that cleaning cat’s teeth is challenging.

Ok, so it’s not exactly easy. But it might not be as difficult as you think.

So how do you get plaque off a cat’s teeth? Regular brushing at home is the best way. Here’s a guide.

How to Clean Your Cat’s Teeth Effectively

The first step is to choose your brushing implement – a finger toothbrush, pet or baby toothbrush would be fine as would a piece of gauze.

But take care not to brush too vigorously – otherwise you might cause irritation to the gums.

You should then choose toothpaste that’s specifically made for pets. Don’t use one made for humans!

There’s a strong possibility that it will burn the cat’s mouth and throat, as well as causing intense irritation to the stomach.

Once you’ve decided on a brush and toothpaste, hold a short practice session so that your cat can get familiar with having his mouth being touched and manipulated.

You can do this by touching him on the sides of the mouth with the toothbrush.

When he becomes comfortable with this, gently place the toothbrush inside the lips and against the teeth.

Be sure to reward him with a treat and praise after the practice session.

Now that he’s ready to have his teeth brushed, take care to keep the sessions short and comfortable.

The quicker they are, the less chance your cat will start objecting to the process.

During the cleaning session, make small circular motions with the brush on the outer surfaces of the teeth and gums.

Key Takeaways

  • Use a Finger/Pet Toothbrush or Piece of Gauze
  • Choose a Pet-Specific Toothbrush
  • Hold Short Familiarisation Sessions
  • Conduct Short Brushing Sessions
  • Make Small Circular Motions with Brush on Teeth and Gums
  • Reward with Treats After Each Session

Where to Buy Dental Accessories for Cats

Allivet – Dental Products

Budget Pet Care – Oral Products

Chewy – Dental Care

What If My Cat Won’t Let Me Brush His Teeth

Should your cat refuse your noble efforts to clean his teeth, talk to your vet about plaque-reducing products.

One popular option is to use special sprays and gels. Specially formulated with ingredients to remove plaque, they can also help with bad breath.

Water additives are another option. Tasteless and odorless, these liquids are clinically proven to work on cats.

They usually contain sodium bicarbonate and potassium sorbate, both of which are found in toothpaste.

While not as effective as brushing, they can help to manage the build-up of plaque.

Why It’s Necessary to Clean a Cat’s Teeth

Just like us, cats are vulnerable to the build-up of plaque and tartar on their teeth.

Left untreated, these deposits can result in infection, tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath.

The most effective solution is to make sure that your cat’s teeth are brushed regularly.

How Often Cats Should Get their Teeth Cleaned

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends a daily brushing routine.

But for those of you with hectic lives, try brushing your cat’s teeth twice-weekly.

Your home brushing routine should also be supported by a six-monthly check-up by a veterinarian professional.

Is There An Alternative to Brushing Cat’s Teeth That’s Just as Effective?

While anti-plaque products can help, there’s no substitute for regular brushing.

However, certain foods and treats can be of some help provided they’re used in conjunction with brushing to help protect your cat’s teeth.

So what can cats eat to clean their teeth?

Cat Dental Treats

Dental treats are thought to help cats keep their teeth healthy. Despite there being no definitive evidence of this, some vets do recommend them.

These treats are basically small biscuits with an abrasive surface. According to brand-owners the roughness helps to remove plaque and, to a certain extent, tartar.

In addition, the ingredients are supposed to ‘promote dental health’. The Greenies brand is a fairly typical example.

While their true effectiveness isn’t really known, the saliva that dental treats produce is certainly useful at guarding against bacteria.

Specially Formulated Foods

Certain brands of formulated cat food have been clinically proven to reduce plaque and even tartar in cats.

This includes the likes of Hill’s, Royal Canin, Greenies and Purina.

A lot of these products are rich in crude protein to promote dental health.

Calculus suppressants such as Sodium Hexametaphosphate are often present too.

These types of cat food are available by prescription and over the counter.

Bear in mind though, that ‘specially formulated’ brands are often more expensive than standard cat foods.

How Do I Know if Certain Cat Food’s Can Really Help My Cat’s Teeth

The market is saturated with cat food products that do very little, if anything, to guard against the build up of deposits on feline teeth.

So working out which cat foods actually help to reduce plaque and tartar can be kind of tricky.

Terms to Look Out For

Look out for products that are ‘clinically proven‘. The use of this term, along with ‘clinically tested‘ is governed by the FDA and FDC.

‘Clinically proven’ is the stronger of the two terms. This indicates that the product has undergone scientific tests and has been proven to work.

Be slightly more cautious about ‘clinically tested’, though. Just because a ‘plaque reducing’ cat food has been tested, doesn’t mean that it’s going to work.

Veterinary Oral Health Council

Another great way to source an effective dental cat food is to look for brands approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).

The VOHC is a respected body that lays out specific standards of plaque and calculus (tartar) retardation in cats and dogs.

Only a few companies have received the coveted VOHC seal, as detailed below.

VOHC Accepted Dental Products for Cats

Product NameTypeForCompanyAvailability
Prescription Diet FelineDietPlaque & TartarHill's Pet NutritionVet Only
Science Diet Oral CareDietPlaque & TartarHill's Pet NutritionConsumer
Healthy AdvantageDietPlaque & TartarHill's Pet NutritionConsumer
Pro Plan Veterinary DietsDietPlaque & TartarNestle Purina PetCare CompanyVet Only
Feline Dental DietDietPlaqueRoyal CaninConsumer
Water Additive for CatsWater AdditivePlaqueHealthyMouth LLCConsumer
Nutrineeds for CatsWater AdditivePlaqueHealthyMouth LLCConsumer
Topical GelOral GelPlaqueHealthyMouth LLCConsumer
Topical SprayOral SprayPlaqueHealthyMouth LLCConsumer
Toothpaste/Brush Kit CombinationToothpaste + BrushPlaqueHealthyMouth LLCConsumer
Anti-Plaque Wipes for CatsWipe ClothPlaqueHealthyMouth LLCConsumer
PlaqueOff PowderPowderPlaque & TartarSwedenCareConsumer
PlaqueOff PowderPowderPlaque & TartarCEVAConsumer
Dental TreatsDental TreatTartarNutro/Greenies CompanyConsumer
Dentabites Cat TreatsDental TreatTartarWhiskasConsumer
Daily Oral Care Cat TreatsDental TreatTartarNestle Purina PetCare CompanyConsumer
Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Crunchy BitesDental TreatPlaque & TartarNestle Purina PetCare CompanyVet Only

Data sourced from VOHC.

Cleaning Your Cat’s Teeth Q & A – Myth and Reality

Here’s a quick guide to some of the myths and stone-cold realities about keeping your cat’s teeth clean.

Is Baking Soda Good for Cats Teeth?

Baking soda is not good for cats’ teeth given that it contains a high concentration of alkaline. This can destroy the organic content of the tooth as well as disrupt the acidic balance in a cat’s stomach.

Can a Cat’s Teeth Be Cleaned Without Anesthesia?

Cat’s teeth can be cleaned without anesthetic. Some vets also promote anesthetic-free dental treatment. However, if the build-up of plaque and tartar is significant, a dental procedure under anesthestic may the most effective option.

Do Teeth Cleaning Toys Work?

The jury’s out on this one. Although you’ll find plenty of these products sold online, there exists no evidence to suggest that chew toys or dental sticks help to clean feline teeth.

Can I Use Human Toothpaste to Clean My Cat’s Teeth?

Definitely not! The ingredients contained in standard toothpastes may burn the cat’s mouth. If swallowed, they may also irritate the throat and stomach.

Useful Links

American Veterinarian Medical Association
PDSA – Dental Disease in Cats
Veterinary Oral Health Council

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