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How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth

By Colleen Williams
published: June 11, 2021 - updated: January 10, 2022 • 3 min. read
brushing cat's teeth

brushing cat's teeth

Brushing your cat’s teeth may seem like an impossible feat. After all, something simple like combing their fur or trimming their toe nails requires a hefty dose of patience…and maybe even a couple bandages after the fact.

The truth is that many cats dislike having their teeth brushed, but they will get used to it over time if you’re consistent. The chicken-flavored toothpaste helps, as well! Today we’re outlining the reasons why brushing your cat’s teeth is important to their overall health, how often you should do it, and providing you with a guide for getting the job done.

Types of Toothbrushes and Toothpaste

There are two primary types of feline toothbrushes to choose from.

  • The first looks just like the human version, only smaller.
  • The second is a “finger cot” and it looks like a glove tip with a tiny brush on it.

Experiment with both to see which your cat prefers — or hates less, if we’re being real — and then choose from there. Many often opt for the finger cot since it provides greater control over the brush and feels softer in your cat’s mouth.

As for toothpaste, you must use one that’s formulated specifically for cats and tastes like chicken or fish. Human versions contain baking soda and other whitening additives which can make cats sick, and your cat wouldn’t enjoy the minty taste anyway.


A Quick Guide on How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth

  1. Offer a taste: If you’re brushing for the first time, offer your cat a taste of the flavored toothpaste on your finger to smell and taste. Next, run your finger along your cat’s gums as a preface to the actual brushing.
  2. Brush in small circles: Gently insert the toothbrush or finger cot into your cat’s mouth and brush in small circles, angling the brush up along the upper gum line and down along the lower gums. The back teeth often have the most plaque buildup, so brush those first in case your cat cuts you off prematurely.
  3. Take your time: Back off if your cat growls, hisses, claws, or seems extremely agitated, then attempt again the next day. You’ll probably have to work up to a full mouth brushing — which takes about one minute — over the course of a few weeks.

Repeat every day until your cat seems used to it and keep it up to improve your pet’s dental health. Choose a time of day that is convenient for both you and your pet, and make tooth-brushing a part of your daily routine. This will decrease stress, allow your cat to become used to the procedure, and help you remember to brush every day.

What Happens When You Don’t Brush Your Cat’s Teeth

Dental hygiene is important for every creature, including your fluffball of a cat. Ideally, you should brush your cat’s teeth every day, but we recognize that this isn’t always doable. Many vets will recommend brushing your cat’s teeth no less than once per week. Here’s why:

  • Kitty cavities — referred to as “tooth resorption” — are more likely to develop with poor dental hygiene. This is very painful, and often requires full extraction of the tooth.
  • Their teeth can fall out due to periodontal or gum disease. This happens when plaque — that hard, white stuff — gathers around the gums, which makes the teeth loosen up and eventually fall out. Daily brushing prevents plaque buildup.
  • Painful inflammation and gum disease may occur, and your cat may even be more susceptible to developing ulcers in their mouth.
  • Your cat’s breath gets stinky if you don’t brush their teeth. Unusually stinky breath usually means they’re dealing with an infection or disease.
  • Other illnesses in the body can arise due to poor dental hygiene. The mouth is a gateway to many other parts of the body, so keeping it clean matters.

In addition to helping prevent a painful mouth, you can also save money by brushing your cat’s teeth regularly. Preventing mouth-related diseases not only keeps them healthy, but it keeps your vet bills down, as well.

Bottom Line on Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

It’s essential to take care of your cat’s teeth to avoid painful and dangerous health problems that are often pricey. Even brushing your pet’s teeth once a week can reduce their chances of developing dental issues. With a bit of practice, both you and your feline friend will get used to the daily routine of toothbrushing.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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