Paying attention to the health of your cat’s teeth is an important part of being a cat parent. Did you know that one small dental infection – left untreated – can spread to other organs of their bodies? And that dental issues are one of the most common and painful issues that plague cats? This is why we must pay special attention to our kitty’s dental health. It’s truly one of the most important things we can do as proactive cat parents.
Cats are stoic beings. They have a very strong instinct to mask any pain they experience. Yes – cats are small, predatory beasties – but they are also prey. Showing weakness is a sure way to attract hungry predators, so we may not notice they are even in pain until it’s very bad.
Annual dental visits are our first defense to help our cats avoid dental disease and other dental issues. Dental cleanings are always recommended, but even if you just have your veterinarian check you cat’s teeth to asses the overall health of her mouth, it will be helpful. The more you know the better you can do.
Sadly, if a dental issue is missed and the issue progresses, the pain will be so intense that your cat will start showing signs that something is very wrong. Loss of appetite, acting extra solitary, sudden changes in behavior – these might be subtle hints to us, but they are quite significant tells for our kitties. The more tuned in we can be, the better chance we will have of noticing these things quickly.
We know because we failed.
One day we noticed our cat eating funny – just slightly tilting his head to one side. Almost cute. We weren’t alarmed. A few days later, he started pawing at his mouth and even twitching his legs when he ate. Not cute. We had not had him in for a dental in almost two years, so we made an appointment. It turned out he had several teeth rotting out – accompanied by painful inflammation/infections in his gums. He had to have 9 teeth removed. Our vet said he had likely been in pain for some time. We were horrified and heartbroken at the suffering we caused by not prioritizing dental health and checkups.
Now we make sure to have our cat’s teeth checked at every annual and/or bi-annual vet visit – and have them cleaned by a professional when needed. To avoid the large vet bills (dentals can add up with 5 cats!), we also ‘brush’ our cat’s teeth. By ‘brush’ I mean we take natural toothpaste made for pets and apply it to their gums and teeth with our fingers. We also feed them a species appropriate raw diet, which is super helpful for dental health. Which reminds me: Don’t believe the myth that kibble is good for your cat’s teeth.
So – please (pretty please!) take a page from our painful, past mistakes: Be sure to pay attention to your cat’s dental health. Take them in for check-ups, brush their teeth as much as they’ll let you and watch them closely for pain in the mouth.