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Proper Dental Hygiene
Unlike us, cats can’t brush their teeth or find a suitable domestic replacement for chewing on bones and grass — their way of keeping their teeth clean when they’re out in the wild.
Here are ten ways to establish good dental hygiene. After all, you want to prevent your feline from having to undergo uncomfortable — and expensive — surgery after suffering in silence.
#10 Be Vigilant
That mild fishy scent known as "kitty breath" is considered normal. But if your cat has foul breath, this is a strong indicator he's having oral problems. If left untreated, your cat’s breath is only going to get worse. Like people, when an animal has bad breath and is drooling, the cause is often related to gum disease and/or tooth decay.
#9 Give Them a Yearly Checkup
Unfortunately, a dental checkup is something most people don’t think about as part of the yearly trip to the veterinarian. But, just like people, cats suffer from dental issues that, if unchecked, can lead to serious health problems.
#8 Be Thorough During the Checkup
It’s important to let your veterinarian know if your cat has bad breath or is bleeding from the mouth (usually noticeable after eating dry food). Occasional bleeding gums are nothing to become too alarmed about, but if your cat has a combination of bleeding gums and bad breath and these symptoms are accompanied by drooling, then he likely needs a deep cleaning or even a tooth extraction.
Ask your vet to thoroughly check your cat's teeth, gums, breath, and whether the gums are prone to bleeding, swelling or redness.
#7 Establish a Cleaning Routine
It’s not too tricky to get cats used to getting their teeth cleaned. Adult cats are often more resistant, though, so it’s a good idea to get them started young. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends getting cats used to the process while they’re kittens by using a finger cot or gauze, along with toothpaste made specifically for cats. You can also try dipping your finger in tuna water before rubbing it on your kitty's gums to make the experience more pleasant.
#6 Brush Kitty's Teeth
Believe it or not, you can brush your cat’s teeth. Toothpaste specially designed for cats is readily available in flavors they’ll enjoy. Do NOT try to brush your cat's teeth with "people" toothpaste; if fluoride toothpaste is ingested it can make your cat severely ill. Once your cat is used to the flavor of the "kitty toothpaste," you can cradle your cat from behind, cup his chin, and lift up his lip to clean his teeth using either your gauze covered finger or a kitty toothbrush.
#5 Stimulate Their Gums
Tooth decay usually starts with irritated or inflamed gums, so however you’re able to maintain your cat's oral health, don’t forget to massage his gums when you can. Not only will this accelerate healing, it will strengthen the gums so your cat will be less likely to suffer from gum problems further on. Gums should normally be pink and healthy, not red in appearance or irritated.
#4 Good Eats
Diet is another important factor in maintaining your cat’s teeth for good health. Besides the variety of feeding your cat a combination of wet and dry foods, you can also include deboned raw meat to stimulate him to chew, which helps to keep the bones strong. Vary the meats, too. Besides fish, you can also feed your cat beef and rabbit.
#3 To Treat or Not to Treat?
Tartar control treats and chews are okay in moderation, but they’re not sufficient for effectively cleaning your cat’s teeth. If, however, you regularly clean your cat's teeth, special food supplements can be a good addition to an already healthy diet. Try using these healthy chews and treats as a reward for good behavior while getting your cat used to having his teeth cleaned.
#2 Give Them Bones to Chew On
Cats are predators, so part of their natural diet consists of hard bones. Bones knock off tartar and help keep teeth and gums healthy. Since most indoor cats don’t have access to bones, some veterinarians recommend them as a treat. But, be careful not to give your cat pork, chicken or fish bones. These could splinter and cause severe internal injures. Raw bones are also better than cooked ones, since they are less likely to splinter.
#1 Don't Wait Until It's Too Late
Tooth decay and gum disease have been linked to heart, kidney, and other serious chronic illnesses. Don’t wait until your cat shows signs of distress to have his teeth checked out. Many cats do not show obvious signs of discomfort until they’re in considerable pain. Preventive care, yearly checkups, and a good diet can ensure that your cat stays happy and healthy.