Alternatives to Brushing Your Cat's Teeth
Healthy Cats | February 1, 2019
Some of our cat owners have cats that will graciously tolerate a daily toothbrushing. If this is your cat, congratulations are in order, and please, continue with your daily brushing. But cat lovers also recognize that there are some cats, no matter how much coaxing, who will not allow tooth brushing. So, if your cat falls into this category, today is the day to throw away your cat’s toothbrush and consider what you can do daily to protect your cat’s dental health that doesn’t involve the dreaded brush. After all, the best dental routine is one that works for both you and your cat every day.
To discuss cat dental health that goes beyond the toothbrush, we talked to Broadway at Pike Shift Lead Alyssa Homan. Alyssa has worked at Mud Bay for 18 months, and she’s spent years in the pet industry and has learned a lot about dental care. She also has a cat of her own, Penny, who doesn’t love brushing, so Alyssa has explored many of the feline dental options available.
AH: It sounds silly, but good dental care is part of the foundation of overall good health. Bad dental health can lead to periodontal disease, which can cause heart issues and weaken the underlying jaw bone and gums. Over time, it can become painful to eat, and your cat may stop eating entirely. Dental problems also can cause inflammation that causes other problems throughout the body.
AH: Certain cat foods will help support dental health, but it won’t eliminate the need for extra dental care. But I still recommend starting with your cat’s diet. The food that’s going to have the biggest positive impact is going to be raw food. Frozen raw especially has some bone inside, as well as good enzymes to help prevent plaque, but any raw food will support better dental health.
I know some people think that hard kibble is better for cat teeth. But unless you’re feeding your cat a prescription dental diet, there’s no evidence that kibble helps a cat’s teeth. What it does do is deprive your cat of moisture that helps their kidneys and other organs. Human’s don’t eat crunchy foods and then ignore their teeth. We still brush every day, so your cat will need the same dental health help no matter what food they eat.
AH: Dental supplements help break down or prevent plaque from sticking to teeth. There are a lot of different supplements you can place in food or water, but you must remember to use it every day.
I use a water-based supplement with my cat, but she isn’t picky about water. Other cats might avoid water-based dental supplements and won’t drink enough water. If the supplement is minty, I’ve found that many cats avoid it. But if it’s tasteless, some cats will drink it. You should always have a fresh water source available without the supplement if you choose that route.
Otherwise, there are dental supplements that you can mix directly into their food. Cats are more likely to like these supplements because the food will mask any supplement taste. Icelandic sea kelp is a natural supplement that helps prevent plaque. But there are plenty of other dental supplements that any Muddy can show you.
AH: Some cats enjoy chewing, so if you have a cat like that, embrace it! Some cats actually like chewing on frozen bones. Some cats like the small, one-inch beef bones and others will eat turkey necks. That’s a good way to naturally clean their teeth if they’re into chewing.
Another option—if your cat isn’t into frozen bones—are dried turkey tendons. These take a while to chew through. But any chew that works for a small dog would work for a cat who wants to chew it. And the chewing action helps scrape off plaque.
AH: I’ve had my cat since she was a kitten, but she’s never liked a toothbrush or finger brush. But I do use dental wipes. The dental supplements I use make cleaning the teeth easier and reduces the need to scrub super hard, so they work for us.
A dental wipe is just a soft cloth that fits over your finger. It has a little bit of flavor along with the active ingredients. You just apply gentle pressure across the teeth and along the gumline where plaque can collect. My cat definitely doesn’t love it, but she’s willing to tolerate it. So cats that don’t enjoy their teeth brushed might accept this.
Also, you don’t need official dental wipes to brush your cat’s teeth. You can use sterilized gauze as a wipe. It doesn’t have the active ingredients, but it also doesn’t have any taste for cats that object. Just moisten the gauze with water and use the gauze the same way you use a wipe.
If you like using gauze, you can also pair it with toothpaste. Some cats enjoy coconut oil, and we have a toothpaste that includes coconut oil and tea tree oil. But take the time to look for the right toothpaste. Some cats like meat flavors, some cats like malt flavors, and some cats like the coconut flavors.
AH: Find a routine that you can stick with. If your cat doesn’t like brushing, there are plenty of other options available. Use as many options as your cat will accept; so, don’t be afraid to use diet, chews, supplements and wipes to prevent plaque buildup.
Also, if you’ve already noticed inflammation or plaque buildup, your cat may need to see a veterinarian to get a cleaning. After the cleaning, you can start with a completely clean mouth and keep it clean with a combination of these techniques. However, if there is already visible inflammation, I recommend that you talk to your veterinarian for advice and move forward from there.
I know that some cats won’t accept any at-home dental care. If you’ve tried several times, it’s worth talking to your veterinarian about scheduling regular cleanings. Plan on visiting your veterinarian every six months for a check-up to see if your cat needs a cleaning. Sometimes you’re going to need the help of a professional to preserve dental health, but it’s worth it to preserve the overall health of your cat.***