No-one likes going to the dentist and our kitties often dislike going to the vet...but believe me it's important to keep on top of your kitties dental health. It can get very costly and painful very quickly if left unchecked. During check-ups at the vet, they will look for signs of gingivitis, periodontal disease and even stomatitis. But as with our own health, please don't leave it until the doctor's visit to check your purry friend's teeth.
The accepted wisdom is that cat guardians should check their cat's teeth monthly, looking for signs of redness at the gumline, bad breath, bleeding, missing teeth and plaque and tartar.
I say .....do it daily!
"Yikes - I have to stick my fingers in my cat's mouth.. are you joking?"
Sorry I'm not.
Start slowly - ideally when your cat is still a kitten. Every day touch them gently around their lips. Every cat loves their "glips" rubbed - make it part of your love action. As they get used to it you can slowly move into the mouth and rub their gums. With older cats this may take a while... but persist, it's so worth it. Have a good look at their mouths so you can keep a track of how healthy they are.
In addition to checking their teeth regularly and making sure to keep up with their regular vet check-ups there are 5 more things that can really help with dental health.
1. A Balanced Diet
I'm a huge fan of Raw diets for kitty. This is how they would eat in the wild and the incidence of tooth decay is low in wild populations. I realize this is not everyone's cup of tea so make sure the food you are feeding them is high in protein and low in sugars and other carbohydrates. There are squillions of great options out there these days. Also cut right back on the dry food. All the marketing messages about dry food being good for kitty's teeth are poppycock. Think about it... if you ate cakes every day your teeth would suffer. Dry food is like cake. Moderation is key. None is even better. It's also HARD.... have your listened to kitty crunching on the stuff?
Which leads me to the next step.
2. Avoid Crunchy Treats
Hard crunchy treats (and yes here I go again....kibble) can crack teeth leading to all sorts of problems. I had a kitty that cracked his teeth on his dry food and had excruciating pain to contend with. The vets bills for the teeth extractions were no fun either.
3. Provide Plenty of Fresh Water
You know that feeling in your mouth when you first wake up in the morning. Dry and foul. The reason for this is dehydration while sleeping. Dry mouths also harbor more bacteria than moist ones. If kitty doesn't drink they have morning mouth all the time....gross! Hydration is also just good for them in general terms.
I know a lot of cat guardians struggle to get kitty to drink. Did you know that cats have a natural instinct to avoid water that is near their food? This is because in the wild, rotting food can taint water supplies. Where do most of us put kitty's water bowl? Right next to their food. Doh!
Move it away and provide lots of options. Make sure it's not in a high traffic area. Cats like to take their time with drinking and don't want to feel rushed. Go crazy - provide different sized bowls, different textures, even a fountain or 2. Something will stick.... I promise.
4. Brushing Kitty's teeth
As you're already sticking your fingers in their mouth every day to check on things work on making them comfortable enough to introduce a soft toothbrush and/or feline toothpaste. *Don't use human toothpaste as it's toxic for kitties. You can buy all sorts of flavors of feline toothpaste these days. Yay!
Look if this is all too much.... don't stress about it. If you're doing some or all the stuff I mentioned above you're already ahead of the game. And there is still one more thing you can do.....
5. Introduce Dental Chew Toys
Not Treats.... Toys. Again, so many options are out there. Look for toys that are designed for dental health. These toys will massage their gums and should be non-toxic.
Remember that with everything feline related it's all about energy. Give dental health good energy, don't stress or kitty will pick up on it. Make it part and parcel of showing your love for them and you'll be golden.
If you have any questions I'm happy to help. Contact me here