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Cat Brushing, Bathing & Teeth Cleaning

douglas (cat) gasping by m3fingers

Many people don’t know you can prevent dental disease in cats by brushing their teeth and keeping a wary eye on their dental health. Sniff your cat’s breath – foul breath can indicate tummy problems or gum disease, which a vet needs to treat. Gently lift your cat’s lips – look at the gums, they should be firm and pinkish and the teeth clean without brown. . Gum swellings and/or red or white colours indicate gum problems, brownish or caked teeth indicate dental problems. Again, vet care is needed.

Other signs your cat needs vet care are dark red lines at the gum lines, or red, swollen gums; gum or tongue ulcers; pus; loose teeth; problems chewing; a lot of drooling or pawing at the mouth area. All of these signs are cues to visit the vet swiftly – gum swelling can be a sign of more serious conditions, or lead to dental disease.

How to Clean Cats Teeth

You can prevent many dental or gum diseases by simply cleaning their teeth regularly. Its worth checking with your vet beforehand to check for gingivitis – mild cases are common in cats and this might make tooth brushing painful for them. Yes, manufacturers have developed an enormous range of pet toothbrush and pet toothpaste products. You must use a species-specific dedicated cat tooth brush and toothpaste – ask your vet to recommend a brand for you, as human toothpaste can damage cat’s heath. Human toothbrushes are too big and harsh – again ask the vet for recommendations. You can get rubber cat toothbrushes and versions you can wear on your finger (think: like a kind of rubber sewing thimble!).

Introduce the idea with gently touching the gums with your fingers or a cotton bud (USA: ‘cotton swab’) a few tines. Then, to allow her or him to taste the cat toothpaste, pop a bit long the lips a few times. Then bring in your cat toothbrush, gently gently brush the teeth with the cat toothpaste.

cat teeth decaycat toothbrush

Additionally, give chew toys which promote dental health, which you can ask your vet about. These are particularly useful if you only feed ‘wet food’ (cans, pouches or non-dried-meat or fish products), although still of value for cats on dry food diets. You can also buy specific diets for cats with more severe dental problems but get your vets advice before you spend you money. Some products are endorsed by the USA’s Vetinary Oral Health Council (accepted by the British Vetinary Dental Association and the European Vetinary Dental Association.

Problems to look out for include:

Dark red lines along the gum line – more prevalent in older cats, can be sore and even ulcerated (gingivitis)

Loose teeth and abscesses (periodontitis)

Inflamed mouth lining – inside of mouth looks red, tough to swallow properly (stomatitis)

Sores or swellings on the upper lip which slowly grow larger (rodent ulcers)

Swellings under the tongue (Salivary cysts)

Ulcers on mouth, ulcers on tongue (sometimes feature of respiratory or kidney problems)

All of the above = immediate trip to the vets

Unhand meh nao... or suffeh teh conseqwensez

Unhand meh nao... or suffeh teh conseqwensez

Brushing & bathing

Mostly your kitten or cat can take care of themselves, but they do benefit from some input from you. If you brush their coat regularly, it removes dirt and helps distribute natural coat oils. You do need a special cat brush, you vet can recommend one for your particular cat – the needs vary by breed (or cross-breeds, in the case or our non-pedigree!). Short haired cats – brush once or twice weekly (or of course, as specially advised by your vet). Long haired cats particularly benefit from daily brushing, as their coat can otherwise become matted and irritate them. Don’t leave matted fur – gently work it out using a slicker brush – ask your vet to recommend one. NEVER pull the hair, as this is painful and distressing for the cat. If the matting won’t move, or is excessive, take your cat to the vets – they’re very very used to dealing with this problem and a good vet will be highly adept at sorting this feline indignity out. Long haired or short haired, older cats benefit tremendously, if you make it a gentle, stress-free regular time with lots of cat treats. Choose a quiet place in your home and start by stroking then using the brush, then back to stroking and give plenty of treats – build an association that this a nice time. NEVER punish cats that don’t take to grooming; gentle persistence is the key and check out the useful info below for further advice on introducing grooming.


Regular grooming for longhairs can prevent hairballs forming, where the cat ingests hair and then vomits it or passes uncomfortable or painful hairballs in their stools. If you cat has persistent hairball problems, take them to the vet as there are products they can recommend to stop this happening.

If you've got one of these or similar....

If you've got one of these or similar....

May help in the battle against hairballs...

...You may want one of these in the battle against hairballs...


Again, cats can largely take care of their own coats, but if they have been in contact with oily, greasy substances you may want to gently bathe them using special cat shampoo. Don’t use human shampoos as these may irritate the skin. See below for useful resources on safely bathing your kitten or cat.

IMPORTANT: This article is written for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional vetinary advice on any animals’ health or living needs – if you have any concerns about these, please consult a qualified vet. Thank you.

Posted by Joe De Bloom – who gets to do all this regularly

Useful Resources:

ASPCA [online] Groom Your Cat

ASPCA [online] Cat Brushing & Skin Care

ASPCA [online] Ten Steps to Dental Health

ASPCA [online] Bathing Your Cat

British Vetinary Dental Association. Association. [online]

Cats Protection League [online] Caring For Your Cat

European Vetinary Dental Association [online]

Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB). [online] General Cat Care

Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB). [online] The Itchy Cat – What To Do When It’s Not Fleas.

Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB). [online] Skin Problems In Cats

Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB). [online] Tackling Fleas on Cats.

RSPCA [online] Cat Pet care

RSPCA [online] Handle With Care – Cats Pet Care Sheet

Vetinary Oral Health Council. Products Currently Awarded the VOHC Seal. [online] VOHC.

Photo Credits:

Cat’s mouth Bathing cat Maine Coon longhair cat

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419 Responses to “Cat Brushing, Bathing & Teeth Cleaning”

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