Updated: Feb 18, 2019
February is Pet Dental Health month and I feel that cats don't get the attention they deserve on this topic. Having healthy teeth and gums is critical to feline health, particularly as they age, and can affect other bodily systems. If the thought of brushing your cat's teeth give you the urge to put on oven mitts and battle armor, then this post is for you!
1. Give them raw bones or silver vine sticks!
Yes, bones for cats is a thing. They love to chew on drumstick or wing bones from chicken or turkey. Pork rib bones are another great option. Raw bones are safer as the cooking process can cause these smaller bones to easily splinter. Please exercise caution and give these to your pet while they are supervised. Take away broken, splintered, or cracked bones immediately.
Silver Vines are plants that are non-toxic to cats. We have some packaged in catnip to make them extra enticing. Chewing on the stick with bark helps to rub the teeth clean.
2. Brush their teeth at least twice a month.
We know from experience that cats are difficult to wrangle when brushing their teeth, so try for just twice a month. There are smaller toothbrushes, but I have found the finger brushes to be easier with cats. Start training kittens by introducing them early to a tooth brushing routine. A little bit of canned tuna fish juice or low sodium chicken broth works well for positive reinforcement. I’ve also had success using a pillow case or blanket so only their head sticks out and it will help to keep the sharp claws at bay. Of course, we don’t recommend doing that if it turns into a negative experience for your cat.
There are different brands of cat toothpaste on the market, but we don’t carry any of them because we have yet to see one with a clean, non toxic ingredient list. So, I recommend attempting to brush their teeth with water or coconut oil. The rubbing action will certainly help and the coconut oil has antibacterial properties. If all attempts at tooth brushing fail, then be sure to complete tip #5!
3. Find a lower carbohydrate food.
This is huge for those that want to try to prevent dental health issues in their cats. When carbohydrates are not present in the diet there tends to be less tartar build up and tooth decay. Not to mention it is probably a healthier option on many levels since cats are strict carnivores with no biological need for carbohydrates. Most dry cat foods are high in carbohydrates because starch is needed to form the kibble. However, there are many lower carb dry food options that are higher in protein (38% or higher) and fat. Some canned foods have the same issue with ingredients like rice or potatoes. If you feed wet food, then the lower carb option is a canned food that has only meat and moisture.
4. Consider feeding a raw or gently cooked all meat diet.
I might get some negative comments for this suggestion as raw is a highly opinionated topic, but I think it is worth mentioning. Again, when carbohydrates are not present in the diet there tends to be less tartar build up and tooth decay. Cats are strictly carnivorous. That means they have the ability to source all the nutrients needed from meat and moisture. However, I don’t recommend this type of diet if either the cat or its person is immune compromised. There is a potential for bacterial contamination with any raw meat product and it must be handled properly! Gently cooking the raw meat formulas is also an option for those that have concerns.
5. Schedule annual check-ups at your vet and talk about dental health at each visit.
Having your vet check kitty’s teeth and gums is just one of the many reasons to schedule an annual check up. Even young cats can experience dental problems and gum disease! A veterinarian will be able to address your concerns and suggest dental cleanings or surgeries when such action becomes necessary.