Cats are carnivores with razor-sharp teeth that are designed to shred meat right off the bone. If you’ve ever been nipped by a cat, you will know how sharp their teeth are! But how many teeth do cats have? And here’s what you can do to ensure they remain healthy.
Kittens have 26 deciduous teeth (milk teeth) by the time they reach 6 weeks of age. After the teething stage, your young feline companion will have a fully developed mouth of 30 robust adult teeth.
Just like human babies, kittens are born without any teeth. The deciduous incisors (the small front teeth) come in first at around 2-3 weeks. Next, it’s the turn of the canine teeth (the sharp ones!) which erupt from the gums at around 4 weeks of age. Finally, by 6 weeks of age, the premolars emerge (back teeth). In total, a kitten will have 26 deciduous teeth, also known as milk teeth.
These teeth are fairly fragile compared to adult teeth and can often appear slightly transparent because the teeth tissue is less dense. However, they are still needle sharp! As you would know if you have ever had a play session with an over-excited kitten!
The good news is, these little razors usually fall out at around 3 months of age to make way for the more robust adult teeth. However, exact timelines will vary just like in human children. Sometimes, a kitten’s baby teeth will not fall out. This occurs most often with canine teeth. So, your kitten may have two fangs on each side for a while. You must get your young feline to the vet if you notice this because it can lead to excess plague and potential dental problems later in life.
Adult cat teeth
By the time your kitten reaches 9 months old, he will have a full set of 30 permanent adult teeth. Different teeth serve different functions when it comes to eating. The most well-known teeth – the canines, are used for tearing chunks of meat from the bone and the molars are used to grind up tough meats. The incisors are not sharp enough to play an important role in hunting. However, they are often used during grooming and to pick up small items. You will have noticed that a cats teeth are much sharper than a dogs, but both need regular dental care and check-ups to ensure they remain in tip-top condition.
Causes of tooth loss
Strictly speaking, adult cats should not lose their teeth. So, any form of tooth loss should warrant a vet visit. Saying that, it is a particularly common issue in older cats, so, it is important to remain vigilant. Here are the most common causes of tooth loss in cats:
Gum (periodontal) disease
Gum disease is the infection or inflammation of the gum tissue. It’s caused by the build-up of plaque on or under the gum line. It can generally be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene (more on that below!) but if left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. There are two types of gum disease; gingivitis and periodontitis. Both diseases require professional dental cleaning by a vet, which often requires anesthesia.
Feline tooth reabsorption is the most common culprit for tooth loss in cats, affecting 75% of all domestic kitties2. It is characterised by the structure breakdown of the tooth which usually starts on the inside and works its way outwards. This condition can be incredibly painful for cats. So, the main treatment is pain management and preventing the teeth from decaying further.
Abnormal tooth alignment
Brachycephalic cats (short-nosed breeds such as Persians) are more likely to suffer from tooth misalignment as their jawbones are often too small to accommodate a full set of teeth. This can lead to overcrowding and the build up of plaque. Trauma to the jaw, such as a fracture, can also cause tooth misalignment and even tooth loss in extreme circumstances.
It’s best to get your cat used to tooth brushing from a young age. This will avoid any unwanted arguments in the future! Many cat owners have had success using a small, rubber brush that looks a bit like a thimble. This can be slipped over your finger for easy access! Alternatively, you can use a baby toothbrush that has extra soft bristles. Make sure you only use products that are safe for cats.
Ideally, you should brush your cats teeth for around 30 seconds every day but this is just a guideline. In reality, the more you brush them, the less likely you will have to pay out for expensive dental surgery! Be gentle and take your time. There is no harm in having cuddle breaks in between brushes! If your cat appears to be getting stressed – stop! You can always try another day. If your cat is completely opposed to teeth brushing, you can try adding a dental additive to your cats water. You can also try offering dental treats that are designed to scrape off excess plaque – but not too many!
In addition, many vets recommend keeping your cat on a dry kibble diet to help keep the teeth in good condition. Cats on a predominantly wet food diet are more likely to suffer from dental problems as there is less abrasive action during eating. If you have a cat with very few or no teeth, you may want to soften their diet to ensure they continue to get all the nutrients they need.
Dental disease is the most commonly reported disease in cats of all ages1. The good news, is that most dental issues are treatable with the right care but prevention is always the best tactic! By offering your cats a well balanced diet that encourages chewing, and getting to the habit of daily tooth brushing, you can keep your kitties teeth sparkly and healthy right into old age!