Every so often you may want to pretend that you have some control over your Fuzzballer, WARNING this is a bad idea. However, on occasion we will let those with opposable thumbs keep our pearly whites fresh. If you want to have a modicum of success with this endeavour I’d encourage you to read the words my human has put together below…
First of all, it’s a common misconception that cats don’t require the same level of care and attention as our own. It can be a daunting task starting the journey of improving your Fuzzballer’s oral hygiene but one key thing to aim toward is to go slowly. A cat who has not regularly had their teeth brushed will in all likelihood at be extremely cautious, and we need to take it slow for long-term success. It should also be noted that kittens 6 months and under shouldn’t have their teeth brushed until their adult teeth have all come in, but getting them used to having their mouth touched and not to fear the toothbrush should start much before this.
Dental disease is very common
Even in young cats, so before you launch into cleaning your cat’s teeth they should be checked by a vet, as introducing toothbrushing to a painful mouth is never going to be successful.
Find the right type of toothbrush
Look for a soft cat specific toothbrush with some cat specific flavoured toothpaste that they’ll go crazy for. Human toothpaste has fluoride in it which can be toxic for cats if swallowed, not to mention mint is not their favourite flavour! Now it’s time to start getting them familiar with what’s to come, slowly start touching their mouth and face so they’re comfortable with you getting this close! With any training it is important to start slowly, and touch your cat’s face briefly before offering a reward, perhaps a treat, a stroke/brush or play with a toy, as per your cat’s preference. The build up to your cat allowing you to touch their mouth gently.
Now you can introduce the toothbrush and toothpaste. Let them sniff and lick them so they can become familiar with them, rewarding them as before when they willingly approach the brush. You can try putting a small amount of toothpaste on your finger and letting them explore what it’s all about. Keep sessions short and stop if your cat wants to, with treats and playing to make the whole experience positive!
Once they’re comfortable with the toothbrush, toothpaste and you touching their mouth you can bring all the elements together. We’d recommend starting initially with only a toothbrush and introduce the toothpaste once they’re familiar with you brushing their teeth with the toothbrush. Your veterinary clinic team can provide you more guidance and information and help you if you get stuck. Never force your cat, or you may cause injury and will certainly upset them and they are unlikely to let you close to their mouth again!
Stay calm and let them lead the process
When it comes time to actually brushing their teeth, make sure to approach them calmly and speak in a soothing voice. You may want to try brushing at a time when they’re already relaxed, such as after a meal or play session. Hold their head in a comfortable position and gently lift their lips to expose their teeth. Brush their teeth in a circular motion, being sure to reach the back molars and the areas where the teeth and gums meet. It is important to be gentle and to not brush too hard, as this can cause irritation. Only brush for a few seconds at a time at first, gradually increasing the duration as they become more comfortable with the process. Remember to reward them with positive words and stroking, treats or a play so they associate good things with tooth brushing.
Some cats will not tolerate having their teeth brushed. Have a chat with your veterinary team about other ways to prevent and treat any oral diseases.
Once your Fuzzballer is happy enough for you to brush their teeth try and keep to a familiar routine and creative a positive association around the whole experience such as giving them some of their favourite Fuzzball freeze dried treats before and after! For more information, the International Cat Care webpage is very helpful: icatcare.org/advice/how-to-brush-your-cats-teeth/