Advice needed for brushing my cat's teeth

  • When I adopted my kitten last year the vet showed me her red gums and said that she might have stomatitis, that there was a 10% chance that her gums could clear up on her own, and that in the mean time I should brush her teeth. She's never allowed me to brush her teeth, but she will lick toothpaste off of a toothbrush (or my finger,wearing cloth finger cot designed for that purpose). Is there more that I could be doing to clean her teeth without trying to restrain her? She doesn't have the dramatic redness that she had last year but she probably has some gingivitis in the back (it's hard to tell as she won't let me look for more than a second). 



  • Hi Barbara, 

    Great news that she no longer has the redness.

    And you are on the right track! When getting a cat accustomed to having their teeth brushed, it is important to expose them to the idea slowly and gently. So allowing her to lick the toothpaste off either your finger or a toothbrush is a great start. 

    The next steps you can take is:

    - holding her or not; start by showing her the toothbrush and see if she will allow you to run your fingers around her mouth without any displeasure. Do this several times. And daily. Get her used to your hand around her mouth with the presence of the toothbrush. Massage the outside of her gums gently. Gain her trust. 

    - once she is comfortable with step one; continue with allowing her to lick at the toothpaste. Please note: it is important that human toothpaste not be used to clean a cat's teeth as it can burn the esophagus and stomach. Cat specific toothpaste is available. 

    - once you sense the level of comfort has evolved,  place her either on your lap (or someone else she trusts) or a flat surface. Reach across the muzzle with one hand and gently pull the upper lip up. On the same side, pull her lips back with your other hand by placing your fingers just behind the corner of her lips and softly pull back. All the teeth and gums should be visible. With the hand pulling the lips back take the toothbrush and begin brushing the teeth. Once all teeth have been brushed, shift the hand currently pulling the lip farther back to expose back teeth. Repeat on the other side. 
    Getting a cat accustomed to this task can be challenging, so it can require some determination and patience. However, once achieved - the process of maintaining her dental hygiene will be easier throughout her life. 

    Some cats can adapt slowly, other's quickly and some never do. So a couple trips to the veterinarian annually can also be beneficial to those who are timid about this idea. 

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