A cat getting his teeth brushed.
A cat getting his teeth brushed. Photography by RyersonClark / iStock.

How to Brush a Cat’s Teeth

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Do you brush your cat’s teeth? You should! A vet weighs in with advice on why you should brush your cat’s teeth, how to brush a cat’s teeth and how often to brush a cat’s teeth.

First, why should you brush a cat’s teeth?

A cat having his teeth brushed
Wondering how to brush a cat’s teeth? We’ve got you covered. Photography by cynoclub / Shutterstock.

Brushing your cat’s teeth is a very good idea, and you are wise to get an early start. Cat dental disease is by far the most common health problem I see in my patients, and brushing your cat’s teeth is the best way to prevent it. In addition to bad breath and pain, dental disease dramatically shortens lifespan and compromises quality of life in affected animals. People who brush their cats’ teeth do their cats a big favor, and they save on costly vet bills down the road.

How to brush a cat’s teeth

The goal of tooth brushing in cats is to remove food and bacteria from the teeth, especially at the gumline. Although a piece of gauze wrapped around the finger will help in this process, I recommend using an animal toothbrush. These are available from vets and from pet stores, and come in a variety of sizes and models. For cats, fingertip brushes often work best, but you can experiment to determine what is most effective for your and your pet.

Toothpaste is optional in pets. The fluoride in human toothpaste helps to prevent cavities in people. Cavities are not a serious concern in pets, and fluoride can make pets sick if they swallow it. If you want to use toothpaste, use only a veterinary product. However, you also can use plain tap water. I’d recommend against baking soda — it tastes bad, and your cat may develop an aversion to having his teeth brushed if you use it.

To brush your cat’s teeth, he must cooperate. Gently brush the teeth in a circular fashion, focusing on the gumline. If your pet struggles, try a more gentle approach and work into brushing gradually. Take care not to get bitten. If your cat fights you violently, it may not be possible to brush his teeth.

How often should you brush a cat’s teeth?

The official recommendation is to brush your pet’s teeth once daily. However, if that isn’t practical, brushing a few times a week is much better than nothing.

Finally, remember that although brushing your cat’s teeth will have a very favorable impact on his health, it does not guarantee that he will lead a life free of dental problems. I brush and floss regularly, but I still have to see the dentist now and then.

Tell us: Do you brush your cat’s teeth? What are your tips and tricks for how to brush a cat’s teeth?

Thumbnail: Photography by RyersonClark / iStock.

Read more about cat teeth and cat dental care: 

9 thoughts on “How to Brush a Cat’s Teeth”

  1. We were fearful that our cat may not let us brush her teeth, we brought finger brush and a toothbrush, she was already 4 years old. We let her investigate her new brushes on the counter for few days. I started off with warm water in a plastic cup, and used the finger brush first, everyday for a week. Then transitioned into her regular toothbrush, I still used water, she seemed to tolerated it better. Next day i tried with some feline toothpaste, she disliked the flavor, I been using warm water and just toothbrush. Now for a year, 4-5 times a week she gets her teeth and gums cleaned. Both of us and our cat have a routine in the mornings, to get set up and get teeth cleaned. She watches us also. I usually cradle her during this time of her routine, but find what works for you and your furry animal. Even just water and toothbrush, her breathe dont stink and i noticed her teeth isnt builded up

  2. I have 4 formerly feral cats and I brush their teeth daily. They range in age from 3 to 13. Patience and going slowly works wonders. Don’t give up because seeing your animal in pain from toothaches is cruel. Vet bills for cleanings and tooth removal can cost $500 – $1,200. Plus your beloved pets will be healthier. I use a small toothbrush and pet toothpaste.

  3. I was told as long as it is good. Tooth paste you could use Qtips. To get kitty to open up and move slowly to big cat toothbrush.

  4. My cat seems to think this brushing lark is just pointless faffing and would rather just viciously bite the toothbrush, which is quite the game for him. These days I just let him because its better than nothing, right?

    1. See this is pretty much what I was thinking. If I were to even attempt this, that is. Rather than struggle to hold her mouth open, I’ll let her bite the brush while I move it around. I DO see the value in at least trying. All of the cats I’ve had throughout my life have ended up with stinky, rot mouth do to the incorporation of wet food in their diets. I’ve always make sure they’ve had kibble, too, but wet food is important for its moisture content. Plus they love it. Anyway, yep. Totally agree. Let her chew the brush.

  5. “To brush your cat’s teeth, he must cooperate.”

    I have read this line to my cat several times, but he says he’ll have none of it. I’m not going to print what else he said.

  6. We’ve brushed all our cats teeth and always started from a very young age. Have found that the poultry flavored cat toothpaste is a favorite. My vet is always amazed when she checks our cat’s dental health and mentions it everytime there is a checkup.

    Not hard to do when you start young, but starting with an adult/older cat can be a challenge for sure.

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