By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Cat oral hygiene means more than reducing the dreaded tuna breath. As with people, a cat’s oral health links to overall health. As her petsitter, your cat needs your help to keep her teeth healthy.
Most vets agree that feeding dry food helps reduce plaque build-up on teeth. Wet food is stickier and tends to cling more to the tooth enamel and harden into tartar.
Cat dental treats can help scrape build-up from a cat’s teeth. Especially if introduced early, you can brush your cat’s teeth regularly also. Fingertip brushes may seem easy to use, but really, they’re just a rubber tip with bristles. Should she bite, that’s not going to protect your finger much.
Use a cat-sized toothbrush, since its tiny head will fit better in her mouth. Avoid human toothpaste. Your cat may swallow it, which can harm her. Its flavor will also make the experience unpleasant. Cat toothpaste comes in a non-fluoride, safe-to-swallow formula. It’s also flavored in cat-friendly flavors like beef, liver or chicken.
Start by allowing her to lick the toothpaste from your hand. Gradually introduce the brush by letting her lick and chew it. Then gently touch the bristles to her teeth. Never force a brush in her mouth.
If you’re leaving your cat with a pet sitter, let the sitter know about your cat’s dental routine so she can keep up the regimen.
At your vet’s recommendation, schedule regular professional cleanings. Since cats are usually sedated for the treatment, make sure you share your cat’s entire medical history with the vet first to ensure your cat may safely receive treatment. For some older cats or felines with other contraindications, sedation may not be possible.
In addition to keeping your cat’s teeth clean, you should keep tabs on your cat’s oral health. If you see any of the following signs, consult your vet. Symptoms that could indicate trouble include bleeding gums, visible decay, excessively bad breath (beyond the mild, normal tuna fish breath), and discoloration of teeth or gums (gums should be pink, not red). Remember, cats are masters of concealing pain, so your kitty could suffer dental issues without your notice until they’re extreme. Severe dental issues include wobbly teeth and refusal to eat.
With consistent oral care, your kitty can keep smiling like the Cheshire Cat.