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How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth (with Video)

Oliver Jones

While most dog owners know that they should brush their dog’s teeth, not every cat owner realizes that cats need to have their teeth brushed. Many adult cats suffer from dental disease that can put them at risk of losing their teeth and developing serious infections of the gums.

Like humans, cats need regular dental care to help them keep their teeth and gums healthy. If you have a pet cat, you should get into the habit of brushing your cat’s teeth to help your furry friend stay healthy and strong. But how in the world are you supposed to brush your cat’s teeth, considering how unpredictable and aloof cats can be?

If you’re wondering what steps to take to brush your cat’s teeth, we’ll walk you through the entire process of brushing a cat’s teeth. We’ll start with what you’ll need and then go from there!

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What You’ll Need

To brush your cat’s teeth properly, you’ll need a few things including a pet toothbrush and cat toothpaste. You can find both products at your local pet store, vet’s office, or online.

A pet toothbrush is typically long-handled and features a small brush that easily fits into a cat’s mouth. Some cat toothbrushes fit over the end of your finger, so you’ll have to decide what’s best for you.

Cat toothpaste is typically flavored with something cats like such as poultry, fish, or beef. Do not use your own toothpaste to brush your cat’s teeth because it’s too harsh and your cat won’t like the taste.

silicone pet toothbrush that fits on finger and toothpaste
Image Credit: Maryia_K, Shutterstock

How to Get the Job Done

When you begin, take the time to build your cat’s trust. A good idea is to be in a small closed and quiet room like a little bathroom so there are fewer things that can distract your cat.

Place a dab of toothpaste on your finger and offer it to your cat. If your cat doesn’t hesitate to eat the toothpaste, great! But if he’s reluctant to give it a try, put a tiny dab on the end of your cat’s nose so he’ll be forced to taste it by licking it away.

Be sure to remain cool and calm so you don’t stress out and frighten your cat. Remember that you must prove yourself trustworthy before your cat will allow you to brush his teeth.

Familiarize Yourself with How to Hold Your Cat’s Head

Once your cat has accepted the toothpaste from your finger, think about how to properly hold his head still for the teeth brushing. If possible, try to brush your cat’s teeth when he’s tired so he’ll be calm.

Your cat’s back should be toward you while you place a firm but gentle grip on the top of his head toward the back. Then use your finger and thumb to grip your cat around his cheeks while lifting his upper lip with your thumb. Use a finger on the other hand to pull down the lower lip so you can get the toothbrush in his mouth.

cat getting teeth brushed
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Brushing Your Feline’s Teeth

You should begin brushing your cat’s harder-to-reach back teeth and work your way forward until you reach his front canines. Don’t rush the job but don’t go too slowly either. Slow and steady is the key, using a back-and-forth brushing technique.

If your cat starts putting up a fight, ask someone to hold him while you brush his teeth. Another idea is to gently wrap your cat in a large towel or blanket to get the job done. Talk calmly to your cat with an upbeat tone and never get angry or rough!

If you’d find it easier to watch a step-by-step tutorial video on cat toothbrushing, that’s fine too! Sometimes it’s easier to watch an expert perform a job as opposed to reading instructions.

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What to Do If Your Cat Won’t Cooperate

If your cat won’t put up with the tooth brushing no matter what you try, don’t fret! There are some other ways you can keep your cat’s teeth clean and healthy.

To help prevent the buildup of plaque on your cat’s teeth, try the following methods.
  • Change to hard food or add hard food to your cat’s diet. If your cat is eating soft food, switching over to hard cat food will help scrape plaque off your cat’s teeth. If your cat won’t eat just hard food, adding a few pieces to his soft food may do the trick so play around with this technique a bit to see if it works.
  • Give your cat dental chew sticks. You can find these special treats for cats at your local pet store or online. Your vet may even have some for sale. These sticks come in fish and poultry flavors cats enjoy and they’re designed to remove plaque from teeth.
  • Offer your cat a dental care toy. You can try giving your pet a catnip toothbrush toy made of textured rubber or food-safe silicone. This type of toy has some catnip tucked inside that will attract your cat and keep him playing and chomping on the toy.
  • Give your cat some dental care treats flavored like chicken or fish. Cat dental care treats are tasty and crunchy little snacks cats tend to love. Not only do they work at scraping plaque off teeth, but they also contain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. These treats are typically low in calories so you don’t have to worry your cat will get fat, as long as you don’t give him too many!

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Conclusion

While brushing your cat’s teeth may seem like a daunting chore to do, it can be done if you take your time and follow the advice above. If your cat refuses to cooperate when trying to brush his teeth, try the alternatives we discussed above to see if one of those methods does the trick.

When you help your cat maintain good dental health, you’ll have a happier cat for sure! Just like us humans, cats don’t like having problems with their teeth like toothaches and tooth loss. Good dental care is important for all of us including our finicky feline friends!


Featured Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.