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Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

cat having teeth brushed

So, you’re feeling brave and would like to try to brush your cat’s teeth. Well done! Even if it doesn’t work out, it is definitely worth a go, and many people find that it really isn’t as hard as it sounds. The bigger problem may even be finding the time to brush their cat’s teeth every day, as the more you do it, the more effective it will be, but even if you only manage to brush once a week, that’s a big help.

If, after reading through the steps below, you feel that this isn’t the right option for your cat, don’t just give up – check out our article on Dental Care for some other things to try.

Note – there is apparently no good way to photograph a cat having his teeth brushed, they all look awkward! We have included a few here but I promise you it looks better when you do it yourself!

Step 1 – Position
Tooth brushing
  • We recommend that you kneel on the floor, with your cat facing away from you between your knees. This gives you all round access to their mouth and stops them wiggling away without causing them to get stressed.  Plus you can give great face rubs from this angle which will be calming for your cat.  However any position where you and your cat are comfortable will work.
Step 2 – Ahh, face rubs!
  • Most cats will not relish the idea of having a toothbrush shoved in their mouth so we need to take it slowly. First we need to get them accustomed to having their mouth touched – this can be done by gently stroking the area around the mouth. Most cats will enjoy this as it releases facial pheromones that have a calming effect.  Read your cat – if it looks like he is not enjoying it, stop and try again another day. As they get used to this rub start lifting the edges of the lip slightly as you do it, exposing the teeth.
Step 3 – Try adding a toothbrush
  • Now your cat is used to the idea of having their face rubbed, particularly close to the borders of the mouth, repeat the process but now with a finger brush on. Finger brushes are non-imposing and are generally tolerated really well. You can now lift the sides of the lip further and rub the finger brush along the outside of the teeth gently. Do not put your finger inside the mouth.  Once they are used to a finger brush, you can try a feline toothbrush if you wish, or just continue with a finger brush as this is often better tolerated.  Whatever you do, move slowly and gently and most importantly, DO NOT GET BITTEN!
Step 4 – Tasty toothpaste
  • Using cat specific toothpaste is imperative, as human toothpastes are harmful to cats and not at all a flavour they enjoy.  Feline specific pastes are usually fish or poultry flavoured and are safe for consumption (there is no rinse and spit in the feline world).  Start by allowing your cat to lick a small pea sized amount of toothpaste from your finger. If they enjoy the taste, put a little on the finger brush and allow them to lick it from there. If all is going well after a few days you can introduce it onto the teeth. Your cat will do a lot of licking and move their jaw a fair amount too, this is all normal but if your cat starts to look or sound distressed, STOP and try again another day.

Finish every tooth brushing session with a good groom, a little treat or perhaps a bit of catnip or a game – something that your cat enjoys to make sure the whole process remains a positive one.

Please note – If your kitten is currently teething and their gums look red and sore, just practice the first 2 steps for now and proceed with the brush and toothpaste in a few weeks once their big cat teeth are settled in place. Brushing inflamed gums may be painful for your cat and put them off the whole process well into the future. Similarly, if your cat has recently had dental treatment, do not progress to steps 3 and 4 until their mouth has healed fully, generally 2-3 weeks after the procedure.

It’s important to go slowly; there is no set time that each stage should take as each cat is unique.  Try to brush your cat’s teeth once or twice daily at similar times, once the cat gets used to the routine many will seek you out at the time you are due to do it as they will hopefully associate it with receiving attention and treats. Good luck!

Finish every tooth brushing session with a good groom, a little treat or perhaps a bit of catnip or a game – something that your cat enjoys to make sure the whole process remains a positive one.