Many cat health problems can start in your cat's mouth. Mouth infections can migrate to vital organs such as the heart and liver, possibly causing life-threatnening complications. Regular toothbrushing can prevent many such potentially serious problems of your cat's health. If you've just adopted a kitten, or if your cat is still a youngster, get him accustomed to regular, at-home dental care. But even middle-aged and elderly cats can learn to sit through regular cleaning with time, practice, patience, and a positive attitude. If your cat turns out to be one of those "absolutely not!" types, consult your veterinarian on the best approach to take with your cat, perhaps feeding him one of the many dental diets available. But no matter what your cat's opinion of the matter, never ignore this vital, health-preserving care for your cat.
Start by frequently touching your cat's face, mouth, and gums, to get him used to the idea of your hands near those sensitive locations. Once he's comfortable with this, graduate to a cotton-tipped swab, dipped into any oral antiseptic, especially prepared for animals, or a liquid tooth-cleaning formular or toothpaste made especially for cats. To start with, you can even use plain water or the juice from a can of tuna. Never use toothpaste or mouthwash made for humans; these products can irritate and burn your cat's mouth and stomach, or make him very sick.
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Another option is rubbing your cat's teeth and gums with a gauze pad moistened with dental paste or liquid for cats. Use a specially made medicated pad (available from cat-supply stores and catalogs), or wrap a piece of sterile gauze around your finger and dip it in a cat-safe, nonfoaming toothpaste or cleaner. Ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the proper way to brush your cat's teeth.
If your cat or kitten tolerates his teeth or gums inspected, you should actually be able to brush its teeth, using a specially formulated nonfoaming cat toothpaste flavored to the feline taste. Sold with a small toothbrush (often a soft rubber one that fits over your fingertip), the cooperative kitten can have its teeth brushed several times each month, to help keep plaque to a minimum. Many veterianarians now recommend that cat owners bring their cats in once a year for an ultrasonic dental cleaning. Doing so will help guarantee that your cat has healthy teeth and gums for many years. That will enable your cat to eat well and feel great. The only drawback to having this cleaning done is that the great majority of veterinarians put the cat under general anesthesia. For a healthy adult cat, this should not pose a problem. For the very old or very young feline, however, using general anesthesia poses some risks. If your pet's teeth or gums are very dirty or diseased, the risk might be worth it; if not, consider passing on the procedure.