The most common dental problem that cats will face is gingivitis. This is especially so for the following groups of cats:
- Senior cats
- Cats with diseases such as cat flu’ or renal failure
- Cats on a poor diet
Gingivitis is basically the build-up of debris on the cat’s teeth that causes the gums to get inflamed and red. Symptoms of gingivitis include bad-breath and a red gumline.
If not treated, gingivitis can lead to the gums of the cat receding, and eventually, tooth loss. It can also be a sign of a serious disease and hence teeth-checks during regular vet visits are necessary not only to treat the gingivitis, but also in case it is a symptom of a more serious illness such as FIV.
To prevent the occurrence of gingivitis, if you are feeding proprietary cat food, do not subsist your cat on a wholly wet diet. Dry food, i.e. kibbles, have an abrasive action on your cat’s teeth that will help retard the occurrence of gingivitis. If you are feeding homemade food, make sure you add in a strip of meat that will require your cat to tear and chew at before eating, at least once a weak. If feeding a raw diet, the same applies; do not simply feed minced meat, but also strips of meat (chicken or lamb, not fish) at least once a week. You can also supplement your cat’s diet with treats that encourage chewing – big crunchy chunks that your cat will have to chew to get at.
Some cats do not chew their kibble before swallowing. Oriental breeds because of their dainty jawline, are more inclined to chewing, while others, like the British Shorthair, prefer to swallow them whole. The only brand of food in the market that has kibbles shaped to encourage chewing is Royal Canin – the British Shorthair formula and the Oral Sensitive formula. So meat strips and chunks, or chunky treats, may be the only time your cat chews before swallowing if you are feeding other foods. We find that mixing a bit of chunky treats in our cats’ food helps, you can try Angel Lamb treats, which are essentially chunks of freeze-dried lamb glazed with apple. (Tip: most cats don’t like this treat on its own, it is best served mixed into their food). Another ‘treat’ we find our cats inclined to chew on was actually Addiction Salmon Bleu dog kibbles, which are bigger than cat kibbles! But we do not advocate feeding dog food to cats, so chunky cat treats or meat strips and chunks are better options.
Another way you can care for your cat’s teeth and gums the modern way is through dental-care products. This includes brushing your cat’s teeth (a two-person job), a process which should begin from kittenhood, and only cat-specific tooth-cleaning products should be used, never human toothpaste. However, brushing your cat’s teeth if she already has gingivitis, may cause bleeding from the gums, so do make sure you get that treated first and foremost at the vet’s to prevent unnecessary pain for your cat.