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10 Steps to Cat Dental Health

Even if the only things your cat hunts these days are chicken-flavored kibbles and toy mousies, he still needs clean, sharp teeth and healthy gums. Damage to the tongue, teeth, palate and gums can lead to many health risks for felines, but these can be prevented with regular home check-ups and good old-fashioned tooth brushings.

1. The Breath Test

Go on, take a sniff. It doesn't have to be a long one-cat breath may not smell like roses, but it shouldn't be offensive either. If your kitty's mouth has an abnormally strong odor, he may have digestive problems or a gum condition such as gingivitis, and should be examined by a vet.

2. Lip Service

With your cat facing you, gently push back his lips and take a look. The gums should be firm and pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. The teeth should be clean and free of any brownish tartar, and none should be loose or broken.

3. A Closer Look

Watch for any of the following signs that could indicate problems in your cat's mouth:

  • Dark red line along the gums
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Ulcers on gums or tongue
  • Loose teeth
  • Pus
  • Difficulty chewing food
  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive pawing at the mouth area

4. Dangerous Swelling

At any sign of gum inflammation, you should take your cat in for a veterinary exam. If left untreated, gum disease can develop, possibly leading to tooth loss or inability to eat. Inflammation may also point to an internal problem like kidney disease or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.

5. The Lowdown on Tooth Decay

Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause a buildup on a cat's teeth. This can harden into tartar, possibly causing gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss. The solution? Regular teeth cleanings, of course.