Brushing your Cat's Teeth: A 4 Week Training Program

Like us, our cats and dogs benefit from proactive dental care. Good dental habits are vital to a healthy pet, not just a healthy mouth.

Our pets seldom show us symptoms of mild dental disease. Usually, by the time they show signs (not eating, dropping food, pawing at the mouth, odor, or bleeding of the gums) pain and damage has occurred. Every day, your pet’s gums are progressing towards periodontal disease if you are not doing something to prevent it. Even when it reaches an advanced stage and is very painful, pets can’t tell you what they are going through!  Often families have no idea. 

Cats who aren’t accustomed to having their teeth brushed may be uncomfortable with the procedure. But how do you make it a happy and rewarding experience? 

Cornell Feline Health Center has created a video to help!
Brushing Your Cat's Teeth: 4-week Training Program

It is always a good idea to have a dental exam with your veterinarian to make sure there are not dental concerns that need to be addressed before starting to brush their teeth.

Now it's time to brush! First is preparation! 

Gather the tools and rewards you will need. Plan to make time over the next few weeks to work with your cat. It will not take much time each day. The more consistent you are, the more of a habit you will form!

Tools needed: 

  • Pet-Friendly Toothbrush: Choose a toothbrush made for cats or dogs. They are shaped specially for their mouths. 
  • Toothpaste: Toothpaste made for cats or dogs have flavors they enjoy. Cats and dogs cannot use human toothpaste because the foaming agents and fluoride can be harmful.
  • Rewards: Using a reward you know your pets already love helps associate brushing with a positive experience. This could include treats, toys/play, and/or activities.

Introduce your cat to the toothbrush and toothpaste by letting them explore it, sniff it, and lick the toothpaste. Offer the toothpaste on your finger or a dab of toothpaste on the table. Give them their favorite reward immediately afterward. Let your cat explore the toothpaste/toothbrush every day for a week or so. Do not try to brush their teeth yet!

Once they are comfortable with the toothbrush/paste, hold the brush and let your cat lick the toothpaste off of it. Then reward your cat immediately afterward. Once they are comfortable with licking the toothbrush and toothpaste, it is time to brush.

In the beginning, gently move your cat's lip and place the toothbrush and toothpaste on the canine tooth (the big fang tooth) and rub for just for a few seconds. If he tolerates the brush, praise him and reward him. You will gradually increase the time brushing your cat's teeth each day. Once he is comfortable with the front teeth, you will work towards the back of the mouth. It may take a few weeks before you can give their teeth a thorough brushing, but it is worth it if you take your time and go at your cat's pace, making sure it is rewarding the whole time.

Tips: 

  • Do not pry open your cat's mouth. 
  • Brush only the outside of the teeth. 
  • Set a routine each day - many pets will remind you when it is time to brush if it is fun and rewarding.