Cleaning a cat’s teeth? ARGGH. Before you throw your hands up in horror, here’s a secret: it’s easier than dogs! You just need to know how. Here we will tell you what you can do for dental care in cats.
Firstly, some bad news. Everyone asks: do normal cat biscuits clean their teeth? Although they certainly do some impressive crunching, we see no difference between cats on soft food versus cats on regular hard biscuits.
What helps keep cats’ teeth clean?
So here are what we see working for cats in our clinic. Please, please don’t try these before seeing a vet. If your pet may have sore teeth these are going to be painful and may lead to malnutrition.
I can feel the disbelief over this one. Dogs will chew a bone just for sheer fun but surely cats aren’t so silly? Well, that is true, but a cat can be convinced to chew a bone if they think there’s something in it for them.
Simply, bones need to be encased in a tasty body to make them appealing to cats. Like a mouse or bird for example. Of course, it’s neither practical or hygienic to feed mice to cats so the next best alternative is chicken necks. These disgusting items are sold in most chicken shops; you just need to ask. The video shows Grendel demolishing his daily chicken neck.
Here’s how to feed chicken necks to cats
- Feed one or two per day under your supervision.
- Use them as ‘activity food’ in the same way we give dogs bones or treat balls to alleviate boredom.
- Only feed chicken necks raw and unfrozen.
- Be careful that where you buy them has good standards of hygiene.
- They go off very quickly. Freeze them individually and defrost daily.
- Salmonella is a risk to humans so wash hands well after handling.
- Cats often drag them around so avoid use near young children.
- Consider confining a cat to an easily cleaned floor while eating.
- Start kittens on necks early in life to avoid refusal.
Although we have never seen major problems with cats eating chicken necks, we cannot guarantee the safety of such a large food item. Especially greedy cats may try to gobble them without chewing and be at risk of choking. Also, some cats get diarrhoea from Salmonella; usually this is mild and only occurs once, but it can still be a concern.
Like many ‘real world’ solutions, chicken neck feeding to cats is not risk-free and requires weighing up the pros and cons together with your personal preferences.
It’s not easy to clean a cat’s teeth. I have to admit I don’t know any who accept it, but I’m all for trying if the right cat comes along. Read more about toothbrushing here. Luckily, dietary means work well, so let’s move on.
The joy of dental diets in cats is that they can work extremely well. Dog dental biscuits help dogs, but cat dental biscuits can completely prevent periodontal disease in many cats. The reason is probably the fewer, simpler teeth in a cat’s mouth.
The other joy is that if you’re prepared to give them a good try, cats really like dental biscuits. Don’t expect a cat to like any new food straight away but if you mix new and old foods together most cats will end up preferring the new food.
We are aware of four good cat dental diets. Three of these: Hills Vet Essentials, Hills Oral Care, and Royal Canin Dental Support should be fed as close as possible to 100% of the diet. The picture at the start shows the mouth of a cat who gets 50% Oral Care: no gingivitis, but still too much tartar.
Hills t/d is an excellent veterinary prescription dental diet which is the only one we recommend if the owner wishes to also give other foods.
What else can we do?
For more information, including what makes a good dental care plan, visit our companion article on dog dental care.
Remember that we’re always available for advice. Our aim is to get involved before any gum recession or tooth damage occurs. Sometimes we can make suggestions for you to do at home and other times we will recommend an ultrasonic scale and polish.
Cat dental disease often causes severe and hidden pain. For older cats who often have other problems it can be the thing that stops them eating right when it matters the most that they do.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. We do not accept payments or incentives in return for stories. Like or follow our page or subscribe via email to read the latest.
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