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Caring for a new kitten can be interesting, but it is also a huge responsibility. Most people know that they need to take care of the basics, such as food, water, and bed, but there are so many other things to consider. So, before you decide to bring home a kitten, make sure you know what it takes to give them the best chance of having a healthy and happy life.
Routine veterinary visits, vaccinations, parasite detection, and prevention, as well as sterilization and castration, are all vital to the overall health of a pet. But did you know that the dental health of your kitten is equally important? More than half of cats over the age of three suffer from dental diseases.
Cats have some of the same dental problems as dogs, yet feline dental care is probably the most neglected and untreated. This article will focus on cat dental care, including common dental conditions, treatment, and how owners can take care of their cat’s teeth at home.
Cat’s teeth and tooth eruption
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Cats, like humans, have two sets of teeth in their lives. The kitten teeth are called primary or milk teeth, then as they fall they are replaced with permanent or adult teeth. Kittens are born without visible teeth. Around the age of three weeks, the milk teeth will begin to erupt.
By the age of four months, all 26 primary teeth should be visible. By the time a kitten reaches six to seven months, all 30 permanent teeth should have appeared.
Before adult teeth erupt through the gums, they begin to develop from the dental buds located in the upper and lower jaws. As adult teeth develop, they will start pressing on the roots of the milk teeth, and then things get a little complicated. The process usually begins around the age of 11 to 12 weeks.
During this time, cats may have symptoms like salivation, difficulty when eating, and may be easily irritable. Most kittens will have the desire to chew things, and usually things that they shouldn’t! A characteristic smell of breathing can also be noticed. This smell is normal and should disappear with the end of the tooth eruption process.
While your kitten goes through the phase of teeth changing, try to redirect chewing to acceptable objects, such as approved chewing toys. Do not allow them to chew things that could damage their teeth or your house.
Retained milk teeth
By the time a kitten reaches six to seven months old, adult teeth should have appeared. Sometimes, cats’ milk teeth fail to fall out and continue to occupy the space where only adult teeth should be. When milk teeth do not fall out to make room for permanent ones, they are called retained milk teeth. Retained milk teeth should be surgically extracted once they are discovered to avoid dental problems.
When milk teeth and permanent teeth try to occupy the same space, this double row of teeth overcrowd the mouth, so food is trapped between the teeth. Trapped foods can cause periodontal disease, an infection of the tissue that keeps teeth in place.
In addition, double sets of teeth mean that there will be double sets of roots. This will prevent the normal development of the tooth socket and eventually erode the support of the gum around the adult tooth. Remember, once you discover retained milk teeth you should get your cat to the veterinarian to surgically remove them to avoid dental problems.
Dental care and prevention at home
Toothpaste and brushing
If you start brushing your kitten’s teeth at an early age, they may accept this easier when they are older, and their adult teeth have erupted. Do not use human toothpaste.
The toothpaste comes in a variety of cat flavors, including chicken and tuna. Find one that your cat likes, and try to brush her teeth at least three times a week, or more if she allows you!
Wipes, special solutions, and dental pads
When cats age a little, they may not tolerate brushing. Some animals, especially those with tender gums, will not tolerate brushing but are more receptive to disinfectant wipes or tampons.
Dental wipes, special solutions, and tampons will wipe plaque deposits off the tooth surface. They are not helpful in removing food particles between the tooth and the gum, but they are probably the best thing after brushing. These products can be found in pet stores and are best used daily.
Snacks for dentition
Snacks do not replace brushing, however, cats with permanent teeth may benefit from chewing a proper dental snack daily. This can substantially reduce plaque and tartar by up to 69%. To avoid weight gain, be sure to feed only the recommended amount of delights.
The purpose to start dental care for your cat immediately is to prevent periodontal diseases when she is older. Professional cleaning by your veterinarian may be necessary sometime in her life, but incorporating a dental care routine both into your daily routine and your cat can reduce the number of cleanings needed in the future.