How to Brush a Cat’s Teeth

Brushing your cat’s teeth helps to keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy. It also prevents gum diseases and dental problems. 

Dental care is one of the things you can do to keep your cat healthy. Unhealthy teeth and gums can lead to gum disease that can threaten the life of your cat. Learning how to brush a cat’s teeth can be a daunting task but it will surely help keep your cat healthy. 

Beyond brushing your cat’s teeth, make sure to see your local vet for annual teeth cleanings.

How to Brush a Cat’s Teeth

When brushing your cat’s teeth, remember to be patient as cats will find this experience new to them. They’ll be very resistant against it so you’ll have to be persistent. 

Cat with its mouth wide open showing its full teeth

1. Gently Handle the Mouth of Your Cat

  1. Reward your cat with a treat whenever he/she stays calm.
  2. Start gently handling the mouth of your cat and reward him/her whenever he/she remains calm. When your cat resists, take the treats away and stop to let him/her rest. 
  3. Once your cat gets used to you handling his/her mouth, run your fingers along the teeth and gums. Give him/her rewards if he/she remains calm. Add a soft, moist gauze sponge around your finger and move it along your cat’s teeth. 
  4. This will take a bit of time and you need to be consistent about this by doing it daily until your cat gets used to it.  

2. Introduce Toothpaste to the Process

  1. When your cat is familiar with the sponge rubbing along his/her teeth, you can add a small amount of veterinary toothpaste or gel on the sponge. 
  2. As with the first step, reward your cat with a treat every time he/she remains calm. 

3. Slowly Use a Toothbrush

  1. Start introducing the toothbrush to your cat’s teeth and gums. Gently touch it to your cat’s lips, teeth, and gums. Use a toothbrush that your cat can be comfortable with and easy for you to use.
  2. Once your cat gets used to the toothbrush, slowly add in toothpaste on the toothbrush. Don’t forget to reward your cat with treats if he/she stays calm. 

4. Gently Apply Brushing Action

Cat poking its tongue out and teeth
  1. Use a circular motion to brush the teeth of your cat. Also, gently brush the gums of your cat. 
  2. Concentrate first on brushing the outside part of your cat’s teeth. Slowly progress to brushing the back and side area of your cat’s teeth. Do this once a day for about 2 to 3 minutes.

What to Use to Brush a Cat’s Teeth?

Cat’s teeth need a specially designed toothbrush built for cats. Use a moistened cat toothbrush that has soft bristles so your cat won’t be uncomfortable. If you don’t have one, you can use a toddler’s toothbrush, a finger toothbrush, gauze wrapped around your finger or a cotton swab. 

Other necessities you need to brush your cat’s teeth are:

  • Veterinary toothpaste for cats (beware of using human toothpaste as it can be harmful to cats)
  • Soft gauze sponge or cloth for wiping 
  • Treats to reward your cat 

If you’re unsure where or what to buy, ask your veterinarian for recommendations. There are cat dental home care “starter kits” available that contain most materials needed for brushing your cat’s teeth. They sometimes come with a “finger brush”. Only use this if your cat is comfortable with your finger on his/her mouth. 

How Often Do You Brush Your Cat’s Teeth?

If possible, you should brush your cat’s teeth every day as often as possible. You can use various dental care products like pastes, solutions, brushes, dental diets, and tartar control treats that will help with your cat’s dental health needs. 

Poor dental care may cause health problems for your cat. Many pets can get dental diseases as early as 2-3 years of age. Dental disease can cause painful and swollen gums, tooth loss and even death. 

To prevent serious dental diseases, doctors recommend brushing your cat’s teeth at least 2 to 3 times a week. Also, have your pets checked and have a professional dental cleaning once a year. 

Do I Need to Use a Special Toothpaste to Brush My Cat’s Teeth?

Cat showing its full teeth

Pet toothpaste often use flavors like poultry, malt, and other feline-friendly varieties. Some even use flavors of chicken, beef, fish, and mint. Make sure the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has reviewed and approved your cat’s toothpaste. 

Try not to use human toothpaste, baking soda or salt. These can be harmful to your cats and cause gastric irritation. Cat toothpaste has different ingredients from human toothpaste. 

How Often Should I Have My Cat’s Teeth Professionally Cleaned?

Cleaning your cat’s teeth at home is not enough. You should have your cat’s teeth professionally cleaned at least once a year. Visiting your veterinarian allows for the assessment of your cat’s overall oral health and can prevent the onset of serious oral diseases like tartar buildup, gingivitis, and other life-threatening diseases. 

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dental diseases not being medically treated can cause serious health problems like damage to vital organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. 

If you notice any of the following, get your cat checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible:

  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Discolored teeth or teeth covered with tartar
  • Reduced appetite
  • Pain around the mouth
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • Inflamed gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pawing at the face
Cat wrapped in a blanket showing its tongue and teeth

How Much Does it Cost to Have a Cat’s Teeth Cleaned?

The cost of dental cleaning can vary depending on your location, age of your pet, size of your pet, and if anesthesia is used. Other extra charges may be added for the number of teeth extractions, dental exam, and x-rays. 

There are mobile dental clinics out there that perform “anesthesia-free” dental cleaning. The cleaning consists of an oral exam and scaling of the teeth where your pet is awake and restrained. The downside of this is you won’t get much of deep cleaning.

A visit to a veterinary clinic for dental cleaning can last for about 45 to 75 minutes. The appointment starts with an oral examination and assessment if your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia. The veterinarian will then perform additional examinations depending on your cat’s condition.


Learning how to brush your cat’s teeth can help prevent oral and gum diseases that can lead to fatal conditions. Make sure to use the right equipment for cleaning your cat’s teeth. Also, visit the veterinarian at least once a year to have your cat checked. 

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