A Guide to At-Home Cat Dental Care

Studies show that 50-90% of cats will develop some form of dental disease by the age of four. What you do at home can move mountains when it comes to your cat’s oral health and preventing dental disease. Choosing the right diet and finding comfortable ways to decrease the daily plaque accumulation are the primary factors in everyday cat dental care. Here are a few expert tips from our veterinary dentist team at Montana Pet Dental.

Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

As with humans, the gold standard of cat dental care to prevent plaque is tooth brushing. For our feline counterparts, once a day is enough to rid their teeth of harmful bacteria that can wreak havoc on their dental health.

Most cats will permit tooth brushing when approached gradually, ideally beginning when they are kittens. The best way to introduce tooth brushing into your cat’s daily at-home dental care routine is simply by massaging the side of the cat’s muzzle in a front-to-back direction. Most cats will tolerate this because it simulates their natural behavior when they rub against a person or object and mark their saliva on the property.

Follow by using a washcloth or gauze sponge to gently rub the teeth and gingiva. Once your cat is comfortable with fingers rubbing inside the mouth, a toothbrush or q-tip can be substituted. To add some intrigue for kitty, try applying tuna juice to the end of the brush or q-tip to gain acceptance.

Finally, toothpastes designed for safe use in cats may then be substituted for tuna juice. Human toothpastes are not designed to be swallowed by pets and are not recommended. At this point, you can also switch to a veterinary-approved cat toothbrush or a soft-bristled human toothbrush for babies.

Cat Dental Health Diet

Since cats do not chew their food as much as dogs, dental-specific diets for cats may not be as beneficial as dental diets for dogs. However, dry food is better to help control plaque compared to moist or semi-most foods.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) reviews independent studies and approves products that significantly decrease plaque and/or calculus. Hills diets t/d® and Science Diet® Oral Care for cats, all Eukanuba® diets except kitten foods and Friskies® Feline Dental Diet are 20% or more effective in controlling plaque than control diets.

The following products for use in cats have been awarded the VOHC seal. A complete listing of approved products for dogs and cats can be seen at www.vohc.org and new products are added frequently.

Product Type of Product Claim Company
Friskies® Feline Dental Diet  Diet Plaque and Tartar Friskies Petcare Co.
New and Improved Prescription Diet® Feline t/d Diet Plaque and Tartar Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc.
Purina Veterinary Diets® DH Dental HealthTM brand Feline Formula Diet Plaque and Tartar Nestle Purina PetCare


In addition to daily tooth brushing and a dental diet, treats are another way to keep your cat’s oral health in great condition. CET Chews for Cats® contain oxidizing properties, which are believed to decrease plaque. And Greenies Feline products have been shown in studies to decrease plaque and gingivitis.

Oral Rinses

Cats will not accept chlorhexidine-based products due to their taste. Many cats, however, will allow you to use Maxiguard, which has very little taste and contains Zinc Ascorbate. This product helps control plaque with its antibacterial action.

Schedule Your Cat’s Next Oral Exam at Montana Pet Dentistry 

Once the teeth are clean, your cat’s oral health should be reevaluated and a long-term oral health program developed with your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian is your partner in maintaining your cat’s health and can provide reminders when future professional care is indicated. Cats with basically healthy teeth and gums will benefit from annual professional dental care. Cats with early periodontal disease or a history of tooth resorption (feline cavities) also need annual professional care. Cats with advanced periodontal disease may need cleaning twice a year.

At Montana Pet Dentistry and Oral Surgery, we have clients that drive all the way from Canada to give their feline the best possible dental care available. Our board-certified veterinary dentist, Dr. Woodward has decades of experience treating dental disease in cats. If your furball is due for an oral exam or teeth cleaning, give us a call at Montana Pet Dental and schedule an appointment today.


Photo by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash (9/30/2021)