• Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Are You Supposed to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth? (Vet Answer)


Feb 23, 2023
cream colored maine coon cat getting teeth brushed by owner


cream colored maine coon cat getting teeth brushed by owner
Dr. Iuliana Mihai Photo

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Many pet owners are convinced that they do not need to brush their pets’ teeth, but while it may seem hard to believe, your cat’s teeth do need to be brushed.

Cats’ teeth need care just like ours do, but most people don’t think to brush their cat’s teeth like they do their own. Chewing on dry food and toys does provide care for your cat’s teeth but not enough to prevent the occurrence of dental problems and keep your cat’s teeth clean.

Knowing how to brush your cat’s teeth can help prevent dental problems and unnecessary pain. You should get your cat used to the teeth-cleaning procedure when they’re a kitten because most adult cats aren’t too open to this idea.


Are You Supposed to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth?

Brushing your cat’s teeth is crucial for maintaining their oral health. Unlike humans, cats do not brush their own teeth or use other methods to ensure that their teeth are healthy. This is where their owners must enter the scene.

The good news is that brushing your cat’s teeth should not take more than 30 seconds per cleaning. The more you brush your cat’s teeth, the easier the process will become. Also, in the long term, brushing your cat’s teeth daily is cheaper than treating health problems at the vet.

So, why should you brush your cat’s teeth? First, the plaque that remains on the teeth after each meal accumulates and hardens, and in a few days, it can turn into tartar. In addition to plaque and tartar, brushing your cat’s teeth helps prevent periodontal disease (the inflammation of the tissues that support the teeth, which can destroy the jaw bone) and tooth loss.

Also, the plaque that accumulates in your cat’s mouth can lead to gingivitis and oral infections. In adult cats, the bacteria in the tartar layer can spread into the body, affecting the kidneys and the heart and often leading to their malfunction.

brushing cat's teeth
Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

Do Vets Recommend Brushing Cats’ Teeth?

Veterinarians recommend brushing cats’ teeth to avoid dental diseases and their complications. Regardless of the stage of tartar, your cat’s teeth should be brushed every day or at least every 2–3 days. Even if your cat doesn’t want to stand still, you have to try. After all, it’s about your pet’s health!

Always use special toothpaste for cats, a toothbrush/finger toothbrush, or gauze. Human toothpaste contains too much fluoride and other unsafe ingredients for cats (such as xylitol, an artificial sweetener) that can lead to various health problems (e.g., vomiting and diarrhea) if swallowed.

If your cat’s breath becomes foul smelling or the tartar covers a large surface of the teeth, it is time to visit the veterinarian for a dental cleaning procedure.

What If I Don’t Brush My Cat’s Teeth?

If you don’t brush your cat’s teeth, after they become an adult (after the age of 4), they can start developing various dental problems.

The most common signs of dental issues in cats are:

  • Bad breath
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis)
  • Pain to the touch
  • Refusal to eat
  • Decreased appetite due to pain
  • Tooth loss

Most dental problems start from plaque or tartar accumulation. Food residue creates a sticky film on the teeth that favors the development of bacteria, resulting in plaque. If the plaque is not removed in a few days, it will calcify and tartar will form. Tartar is initially a thin white or yellowish deposit at the base of the tooth, which has no smell and does not bother the pet. Over time, though, this deposit goes through several stages:

  • The surface of the tooth becomes more and more covered with tartar.
  • Bad breath begins to occur.
  • The surface of the tooth changes color from white/yellow to dark yellow and brown.
  • Bad breath becomes annoying for the owner.
  • The gums become inflamed and begin to recede.
  • The root of the tooth is exposed.
  • The tooth begins to move in the dental alveolus and will fall out.

To avoid these problems, it is necessary to brush your cat’s teeth regularly.

cat not eating the food
Image Credit: Elena Kutepova, Shutterstock


Is It Too Late to Brush My Cat’s Teeth?

It is never too late to start brushing your cat’s teeth. If you see tartar deposits or your cat has bad breath, take them to the veterinarian for a dental cleaning. You can start a teeth brushing routine after the procedure.

Do not try to remove the tartar by yourself at home. It is rock hard, and you risk fracturing your cat’s teeth or causing other problems. This procedure should only be performed by a veterinarian.

How Often Should a Vet Clean My Cat’s Teeth?

You can take your cat for a dental checkup once or twice a year, depending on your cat’s diet and how often you brush their teeth. In other cases, the veterinarian will recommend how often these dental checkups should be done.

If you notice dental problems (bad breath, tartar, loose teeth), take your cat to the vet immediately.

Vet cleaning cat teeth
image credit: Pixel-Shot, Pixabay

How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth

Brushing your cat’s teeth will not be easy until you get your pet used to this procedure. With calmness, patience, and love, you will succeed!

Here are the items that you will need for brushing your cat’s teeth:

  • Toothbrush (usually, the ones for pets are finger toothbrushes).
  • Gauze (as a substitute for a toothbrush)
  • Special toothpaste.

To start the procedure, you need someone to hold your cat, or you can wrap them in a towel (if they don’t want to stand still).

Here are the steps that you should follow:

  • Put toothpaste on the toothbrush or the gauze (wrapped around your finger).
  • Hold your cat’s head straight.
  • Slide the toothbrush with the paste under the gums.
  • Use the same brushing movements that you would when brushing your own teeth.
  • Brush your cat’s teeth gently for 30 seconds.
  • Do not rinse.

If your cat starts to struggle or cry, stop the procedure and let them calm down. Resume the operation when your cat has relaxed again.



Brushing your cat’s teeth is not easy, especially if your pet is not used to this procedure. This operation is important, though, because it can prevent plaque and tartar, the accumulation of which can lead to serious health problems.

You should brush your cat’s teeth every day or at most, every 2–3 days. Use only special toothpaste for cats. Otherwise, you risk making your pet sick. Brush your cat’s teeth gently for about 30 seconds. If you think that something is wrong with your cat’s teeth, go to the vet.

Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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