Yes, You Can Brush Your Cat’s Teeth!

A simple guide to toothbrushing

Cat Fancy- Cat Dental Health- February 2011

Most cats are quick to curl up on your lap and steal some shuteye without much coaxing; but when it comes to being pricked, prodded or bothered, it’s no surprise that they would rather hide underneath the couch. Nevertheless, like it or not, brushing kitty’s teeth is something that could, potentially, increase his lifespan and keep him healthy longer. Getting him to tolerate such an unpleasant activity, however, takes a few tricks for success.

“Brushing your cat’s teeth is imperative to his good health,” says Tiffini Ashing, DVM, from Greenbelt Veterinary Hospital & Pet Resort in Midland, Texas. “Eighty-five percent of pets have low-grade periodontal disease by the age of 3. This is a preventable disease with a little effort.”

The Sooner the Better
As with most species, working to instill certain routine activities at a young age is most beneficial in ensuring long-term and proper adjustment to the task. For cats, kittenhood is the ideal time to begin getting your feline acclimated to any healthcare activity Ñ be it trimming his nails or brushing his teeth. Kittens are most responsive to desensitization during the first one to four months of life and will more readily accept a certain activity if begun during this time.
 
“The best time to start brushing your cat’s teeth is now,” says Kristina McConaughey, DVM, also from Greenbelt Veterinary Hospital & Pet Resort. “It is very important to start brushing at an early age if possible. A kitten will allow brushing more easily and will adapt to brushing as part of his routine. That is not to say that an older cat cannot learn; it will just take more time. It is also good to start prior to diagnosis of problems. Prevention is the key.”

Slow and Steady
Just as you would devote much time and effort to teaching your children to brush their teeth, you must take on a similar outlook when teaching your cat to adjust to having his teeth brushed. In this respect, staying cool, calm and collected is one of the prime ways for achieving success.

“The real problem is patience — most cats and owners do not have enough to make this a good experience,” says Lauren Bowling, DVM, from Bloomington Cat Hospital in Bloomington, Ind. “This is not going to happen overnight.”

**Get the February 2011 issue of CAT FANCY to read the full article or click here to purchase a PDF version.**

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