Great! The fact that you found this article means you are invested in maintaining your cat’s oral health. Brushing a cat’s teeth removes bacteria and plaque, which is a tremendous help in preventing serious oral diseases and tooth loss. But getting your cat to accept the toothbrush for the first time will require effort and persistence first. We’ve outlined the steps in this article.
How to introduce your cat to a toothbrush
Step 1: Preparations
Gently petting your cat on the head, cheeks, and chin a few times a day will get it to slowly accept being touched around the general mouth area. This is an important first step that you should not skip. If you have a kitten, start now. The earlier you do this in a cat’s life, the easier brushing will be later on.
Step 2: Brush with your finger
Instead of using the brush straight away, we want to ever so gently rub a tooth with our fingers first. This is a great next step because it is much less invasive than sticking in a toothbrush. After completing the first step, your cat will probably allow you to pull up her upper lip. Doing so will expose the upper set of teeth.
Gently rub one with your finger for as long as your cat will allow it. Repeat this every day until your cat becomes comfortable with the idea of you touching its teeth. Make sure to close each session with a treat!
Tip: As an additional step, you can perform this same routine, but this time with a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger to increase the resistance. This will feel a bit more like actual brushing. Again, repeat for multiple days until your cat is comfortable.
Step 3: Adding toothpaste
The next step is to add some pet toothpaste to your finger. We can highly recommend this fish-flavored toothpaste as it will make brushing easier.
Again, this is another major step and involves something new, so give your cat plenty of time to sniff the toothpaste before rubbing it onto her teeth. Give out treats for each successful attempt.
Do NOT use human toothpaste, as fluoride is poisonous to cats
Step 4: Let your cat explore the brush
If your kitty has never seen a brush before, it’s important not to rush things. Never impulsively grab your cat and jam the brush in her mouth, as doing so will cause psychological trauma and will invariably make things more difficult down the line.
Instead, start with another small introduction. Cats love familiarity; if they’ve seen and touched an object before, it is less likely to cause stress the next time they see it. That’s why cats always go around sniffing your new things.
So when you present the brush, give your cat plenty of time to discover the object. Slow and steady wins the race!
Step 5: Use the brush
So, now that your cat feels comfortable with the brush, it’s time to use it. Apply a tiny bit of toothpaste to your cat toothbrush and start by initially rubbing just a single tooth.
See how your cat responds. If everything is ok, you can try to brush a little more. If there is too much stress, you may have to go back one or two steps to build more comfort. Keep pushing the boundaries a tiny bit each time, until your cat is no longer uncomfortable having her teeth brushed.
Teeth brushing tips
As for how to do the actual brushing, we will now include some tips to set you on the right track:
How to hold your cat
Take the cat in your lap and gently hold its head with one hand. You can use your thumb to push the lips up and down to expose the front teeth, using the other hand to apply the brush. Molars are a little harder to reach, so save those for later.
Rub two or three times per tooth
Whereas humans need to brush their teeth thoroughly to get them clean, that is not a necessity here. You also don’t need to apply a lot of pressure; gently rubbing the outside of the tooth a few times should be sufficient. The ingredients in the toothpaste will do the rest.
Keep it short and positive
You’re not in a rush to complete each step, and you don’t have to brush everything in one go. It’s perfectly fine to brush only a few teeth at a time, especially when your cat is still getting used to having her teeth brushed.
If something produces too much anxiety, don’t keep pushing. Most cats need time to become familiar with new things.
Mix toothpaste with something tasty
If the toothpaste tastes too strong, you can make it slightly more palatable by mixing in a bit of liquid from canned tuna or some wet food. Alternatively, you can buy pet toothpaste with a special flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most vets suggest that brushing once a week is enough to prevent plaque, cavities and periodontal disease.
No! The fluoride in your toothpaste is toxic, and a big, sturdy brush can easily do a lot of damage to the tender mouth of a cat.
If brushing is not an option, you can combat bacterial growth by purchasing plaque wipes and a good dental water.