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How do I brush a cat's teeth?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I took my cats--Tiny and my foster cat Christy--to the vet's today to get them checked over and get them a rabies shot. (We've had bats turn up positive and I'm not taking chances.)

Both were pronounced healthy and beautiful, but Christy has some redness around her gums, which could turn into a problem later on. We don't want gum disease--there's a cat at my local no-kill who has feline gingivitis, and she's practically unadoptable because of it. (Then again, Christy is practically unadoptable too because she is so shy and four or five years is "too old". Gah.)

Solution? Brush her teeth, obviously. The vet recommended doing so three times a week, and to start out just wiping the teeth with a soft cloth.

So I tried it the first time today, and poor Christy was not happy to have her mouth messed with, no matter how I explained (don't you wish they spoke English sometimes?). It took something like two minutes to do, but I had to apologize and give her treats, and she's still sulking now, five minutes afterward.

Christy's personality includes the philosophy that the world is out to hurt her. She does love a good cuddle, and has actually, over the past six months, slowly turned from constant hiding and hissing to confident enough to jump onto my lap, play with Tiny, and sit in the window seats. Seems like it was the shelter environment that was stressing her out so much; she's really blossomed.

Has anybody done this with their cats? She's an adult cat, and it took me a while to get her used to claw-clipping, which doesn't have to be done near as often as teeth-cleaning will have to be. I don't want to mess up the progress she's made living here; she's gotten confident and happy and I don't want her to get the idea that bad things happen when she's with me.

I also don't know whether her gums are sore--they're a little red, but it's not advanced and according to the vet this is more preventative than anything else--and if this hurts her, and if so, how to make it so it doesn't.

Now that it turns out she may need special care to avoid tooth problems, I'm considering whether I shouldn't just adopt her, instead of continuing to foster... if she got adopted out, it'd open a slot for another cat here; but this is something I'd have to inform prospective adopters of, and while it's a very minor thing, really, it might turn people off to adopting her enough that it wouldn't make much sense for me to continue mooching off the shelter's supporting vet care for Christy if I'm probably just going to have her indefinitely.
post #2 of 11
I've been lucky that Stan loves the taste of the kitty toothpaste, so I can always get him to at least take some even if I can't rub it on his teeth.

When he's feeling more cooperative, I put some goo on my finger and rub it around the outside of his teeth (vet says their rough tongue will take care of the inside of the teeth). Bella wants nothing to do with the entire process so we have to burrito her in a towel and do the quick finger rub. I have to close us both up in the kitchen (or she'll hide) and I always give a treat immediately after.

She still loves me.
post #3 of 11
I think you're probably on the right track. Treats definitely help. My three get their teeth brushed just about every day, and all of them, even the shy one, have learned to live with it, although sometimes they make me chase them a little first! It does help that they like the taste of the paste (yum....malt flavor...).
post #4 of 11
I feel for you with a cat who has issues. I have taught mine to brush teeth and they are all been fairly willing - and it's still been a challenge time to time.

One suggestion in addition to using toothpaste as a treat is to start with only cuddling kitty's cheeks and gums. Teppo had bad gums when we started. I bet they were very itchy with the gingivitis. He would enjoy me snuggling him, getting him in the teeth brushing position but then I would just massage his gums mouth all closed, petting around the face and talking calm.

We progressed from there to taking peeks at the fangs and gums, just so he would let me handle his lips. The he got to lick paste from the brush. He was hopeless with the paste though, he loves it so much, I could not get it swiped on his gums/teeth like I had planned as a next step.

From that I was able to introduce the brush onto the fangs only. All my cats have been ok with the fang-brushing pretty much from the beginning. It's the real stuff - the teeth with gunk on them - that gags them up before they learn. Lotsa breaks with treats is important in the beginning. I still give a lot of facial massage as a reward in connection of brushing, so it becomes half-pleasant moment even for the kitties who are not into it. (Teppo is into brushing now).
post #5 of 11
post #6 of 11
I use these- you just put them on your finger and swipe them over their teeth- they already have the cleaner on them:

post #7 of 11
The cat toothpaste I got came with a regular brush and a finger brush. The finger brush works best with my kitties. It doesn't take much more than a quick rub so it's not a long drawn-out process. Besides, somebody ran off with the toothbrush and hid it in the black hole known as kitty toyland.
post #8 of 11
Getting a cat to be comfortable with getting her teeth brushed can take not days, not weeks, but months. So scale back your expectations, go very slowly, not any faster than she's willing to allow, with plenty of attention, praise, scratchies and kissies, and treats. You can use dental chews as treats, so you're accomplishing something. Make sure you make it a pleasant and rewarding experience.

The above cornell video is very good.

post #9 of 11
Originally Posted by SweetKara View Post
I use these- you just put them on your finger and swipe them over their teeth- they already have the cleaner on them:

So these actually work well??

I'm considering picking them up to use on my kitties
post #10 of 11
Yeah, they are really easy and convenient since they already have the teeth cleanser on them.
post #11 of 11
Originally Posted by SweetKara View Post
Yeah, they are really easy and convenient since they already have the teeth cleanser on them.
Great. I've actually been trying to get my cat use to brushing of the teeth and today i was finally able to see the plaque on the little brush i bought at publix.

Finally, my kuki monster has allowed me to brush his nasty little teeth
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