Proper Cat Dental Care: How to Clean Your Cat’s Teeth

Most people visit their dentists every six months and keep up with regular check-ups, but few of us give as much care to our cat’s teeth. A cat’s teeth do need cleaning too! Dental care for cats is often neglected. The symptoms of poor dental hygiene in a cat are less obvious than in a human, or even other medical conditions in a cat. However, with a rich diet of protein, a cat needs their teeth in full working order. Whether they’re out hunting prey or eating biscuits, having a healthy mouth is important for your cat to enjoy their diet.

Proper Cat Dental Care: How to Clean Your Cat's Teeth

While brushing a cat’s teeth daily seems like a bit of a difficult task, it will really help them. Just like other less fun activities like baths and grooming, it is easy to overlook our pet’s needs. However, brushing your cat’s teeth regularly will help them to avoid painful problems later in life.

Keeping on Top Of A Cat’s Dental Care

Just like us, the first step for a cat’s dental care routine is regular check-ups. Your vet should check in with your cat’s teeth every time they visit for a general check-up. While there are specialist vet dentists, most vets will have enough knowledge of an animal’s teeth and mouth to check up on them and treat any problems.

The best way for a vet to deal with any problems in your cat’s teeth is to sedate them. This might seem a little extreme for a simple hygiene polish, but it will make things much easier.  Vets use anaesthesia for most cat dental care. This is simply because of the difficulty of getting access to a cat’s mouth. Between a cat’s teeth cleaning, removal of teeth, and x-rays, there are going to be quite a few situations where a cat needs to be put under anaesthesia.

If you want to avoid having to seek treatment for your cat’s teeth, then you need to be taking care of them at home. This starts with giving your cat’s teeth cleaning.

When Does Your Cat Need Their Teeth Cleaning?

A lot of vets will recommend brushing your cat’s teeth yourself. However, it really is quite difficult! You can train your cat to tolerate this to a point, but it will be difficult. It is easiest to clean a cat’s teeth if they have been conditioned to tolerate their teeth cleaning from a young age. This will ease them into the process. For an adult cat, it might be difficult to start brushing their teeth daily, but slowly introducing it into their routine should help them get used to it.

How to Clean a Cat’s Teeth

You have a few options for brushing a cat’s teeth. When you’re just beginning to get your cat used to the sensation of brushing, you can use a bit of gauze as a ‘finger glove’ rather than an actual toothbrush. This should be a sterilised piece of gauze that you’ve covered in toothpaste.

Rubbing their teeth with this gauze will let you brush their teeth without pushing them too far by introducing foreign objects into their mouths. You can progress from this onto using a rubber cat toothbrush once your cat has become accustomed to the sensation.

You should rub toothpaste into your cat’s teeth similarly to how you clean your own, except very gently. Start very gentle and progress from there. Make sure you brush each section of your cat’s teeth and from each side.

What Toothpaste Should You Use for A Cat’s Teeth cleaning?

Proper Cat Dental Care: How to Clean Your Cat's Teeth

Toothpaste made for people comes with high levels of Fluoride, this is a chemical that is also often added to our water. If these high-levels of fluoride are ingested by a cat, they can become quite ill. You shouldn’t use a fluoride-based toothpaste for your cat. They will likely ingest some of it, and this can go badly. While the amount in tap water is safe for a cat, the amount in toothpaste isn’t!

While you can also use human toothpaste that doesn’t contain much fluoride, the safer choice is usually just to use cat-specific toothpaste. This is made just for a cat’s teeth and will be formulated to deal with the problems their teeth have. It also usually comes in meaty flavours, which makes it much more palatable to your cat’s tastes!

Is Cat Dental Care important?

Cat dental care is really important, even though it is often ignored. Most cats will encounter a problem with their teeth between ages 3 and 5. This is largely because of their lifestyle as domestic cats. Indoor and outdoor cats both have similar problems with teeth. Domestication of pets has changed their lifestyles very quickly, and their evolution hasn’t kept up.

With a high protein diet, a cat’s teeth are normally naturally cleaned as they use bones and grass after eating. However, even the most predatory of outdoor cats will rarely end up doing this when outdoors. Without this natural behaviour, cats don’t have a way to clean their teeth. This makes them prone to tooth problems.

Proper Cat Dental Care: How to Clean Your Cat's Teeth

What are the Dangers of not Cleaning a Cat’s Teeth?

Bad cat dental care can lead to germs and plague building up inside of their mouths. This will cause problems as a cat gets older if it is not treated.

As well as bad teeth, poor cat dental hygiene will lead to problems with gums. As bacteria grows and stays around the teeth, the gums will begin to recede and decay. This is gingivitis and it causes a lot of major problems for a cat’s teeth as they grow older including the loss of teeth.

These conditions can be quite painful for cats. Since our pets don’t know how to let us know they’re in pain, many owners won’t notice. When a cat is in pain, most people don’t tend to assume it is because they haven’t been keeping up with their cat’s teeth cleaning. Unlike other ailments, it is hard to visibly see why your cat is in pain when the cause is their teeth. If a tooth problem is left to fester until a vet notices, some major damage can occur.

Since it is hard to detect when your cat has a dental problem, it is better to treat it in a preventative way. Ensuring that your cat’s teeth do not develop any problems is a lot easier than trying to treat a problem after it occurs.

If you neglect your cat’s teeth cleaning, it can even lead to the loss of teeth entirely. Without a proper set of teeth your cat is going to struggle to eat dry food or crunchier treats. Even solid meat that you may give your cat as a treat won’t be appropriate anymore. If you want your cat to continue to enjoy their varied diet, you need to keep on top of their dental care.

Proper Cat Dental Care: How to Clean Your Cat's Teeth

How Often Should You Clean your Cat’s Teeth?

The frequency that you need to brush a cat’s teeth is a bit like your own, the more you do it the better. The recommendation varies between vets with some even suggesting a daily brushing. While this would of course be beneficial, it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t brush every day. You should aim to brush your cat’s teeth at least three times a week.

Obviously, brushing more often is going to be better. However, three times a week and a vet’s professional check-up and cleaning twice a year should suffice for most cats. If your cat develops a problem with their teeth you will have to do it more often.

What Do You Need for a Cat Teeth Cleaning?

If you want to clean your cat’s teeth, then you need some equipment. While this gear isn’t the first thing most pet owners get when they bring home a new kitten, it will be helpful if you’re trying to keep your cat’s mouth and teeth in good condition:


Administering a teeth cleaning to your cat can’t really be done without toothpaste. A brand specifically formulated for cats like Virbac is a good choice. These brands of toothpaste come in a variety of flavours that should make cleaning your cat’s teeth an easier task. They also don’t have foaming agents like those used by human toothpaste, which make it much safer when pets swallow.

Virbac Enzymatic Toothpaste for Cats - Fish Flavour
Virbac Enzymatic Toothpaste for Cats – Fish Flavour View on Amazon


To clean your cat’s teeth, you’re also going to need a toothbrush. While the gauze method is helpful for getting a cat used to having their teeth cleaned, transitioning onto the toothbrush is better in the long run.

Charcoal Cat Toothbrush
Charcoal Cat Toothbrush – View on Amazon

Most cat toothbrushes are a different shape to those used for people. This makes it easier to use in a cat’s mouth. While they can vary in price, they tend to be thinner so you can more comfortably use them in your cat’s mouth. The head of the toothbrush is also often differently shaped.

Like a toothbrush for humans, you should regularly change your cat’s toothbrush to stop it becoming unsanitary.

Finger Tooth Brushes

Finger glove toothbrushes may look a little goofy, but they are a great alternative to regular toothbrushes for cats.

Winstory Pet Finger Toothbrushes for cats
Winstory Pet Finger Toothbrushes for cats View on Amazon

These are small toothbrushes that slip over a finger. They have a cat’s toothbrush head on one side of the finger. This allows you to brush your cat’s teeth using just your finger poked into their mouth. This is going to be easier than brushing their teeth with a toothbrush since it is less invasive. If your cat is more comfortable with you using a finger glove brush than an actual toothbrush, then these are a great alternative.

How Important is Cat Dental Care?

A cat’s dental care is really quite important for their health as they age. While most young cats and kittens won’t develop any problems with their teeth, it becomes very common just after the age of three. With so many cats developing problems with their teeth, it is important to stay on top of their dental care. Even if kittens aren’t prone to dental problems, you should start brushing their teeth when they’re around 6 months old. Prior to this, they will have milk teeth which aren’t properly developed yet. Once your kitten’s adult teeth are in, you can start brushing.

A cat’s teeth being cleaned isn’t a particularly fun task, but neither is taking them to the vet frequently to deal with painful gums and teeth. If you use the right toothpaste and a comfortable toothbrush, you can build up your cat’s comfort with the procedure.

Regularly attending to your cat’s dental needs can help them continue to enjoy their food. Cat dental care is largely preventative; the aim is to help your cat’s mouth stay healthy so they never require treatment. With a little bit of help, your furry friend won’t have to make any extra trips to the vet.

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