Human children go through a teething process where they lose their “baby teeth” and grow in their adult teeth. While we are all familiar with this process, many people don’t realize that cats do a similar thing.
Although the importance of oral care for adult cats is heavily stressed, a lot of people aren’t aware of how to care for kittens and their teeth when they are very young.
Understanding a kitten’s teething process
The feline teething processes are rather rapid compared to a human’s.
Starting at around two weeks of age, kittens begin growing 26 of their “baby” or “milk” teeth. All of these teeth are usually grown in by the time the kitten is around six weeks old. If your cat’s baby teeth haven’t come in by the time it is 10 weeks old, you may want to visit the vet to have it examined.
At around four months of age, your kitten’s adult teeth will begin erupting below the baby teeth and push them out of place, making room for its 30 permanent, or adult teeth. When your cat is approximately six months old, all or nearly all of its baby teeth will have fallen out and its adult teeth will be erupting or in place.
Side effects of feline teething
At the times when teeth are erupting, both when the initial baby teeth grow and when the adult teeth begin to come in, your kitten may show behavioral changes caused by teething. Cat owners generally notice more teething symptoms during the adult teething stage at around six months.
One of the most common behaviors during this stage is biting or chewing on things constantly. This is normal behavior as cats seek to soothe their aching gums; however, most cat owners don’t want their cats to get in the habit of biting on objects around the home.
Additionally, your cat may begin to eat less or eat more slowly. As teeth fall out and grow back in, your cat’s gums may become tender or sore, causing minor discomfort or pain. If your cat is having trouble eating, you’ll want to keep an eye on the problem and seek veterinary care if necessary.
Gingivitis may also begin during teething, causing gum inflammation and bad breath. These symptoms will usually go away once teething ends.
How to help your cat manage the teething stage
As your cat teethes, you’ll want to pay extra attention to its oral hygiene and comfort to ensure all its permanent teeth grow in correctly.
Unfortunately, as your kitten is teething, it can be difficult for you to keep it from biting everything in sight. Try to keep valuable items out of reach and conceal dangerous items like electrical cords and toxic materials so that if your kitten does chew on them, it won’t get hurt or sick. However, try to distract your cat away from items it likes to chew around the home to discourage this behavior.
You can also try purchasing teething toys for your kitten, which are similar to teething toys for children and are made of soft rubber or plastic. Encouraging your cat to chew on these toys may help keep it away from your furniture or possessions.
Managing oral pain
If your cat is having a hard time chewing its food, giving it wet food may make it easier for it to eat until its strong adult teeth come through.
Avoid brushing your cat’s teeth until all its adult teeth have grown in. Brushing its teeth when it has sore gums and erupting teeth may cause your cat discomfort and may even make it scared to have its teeth brushed in the future.
Once all its teeth are in, however, it’s very important that you brush your cat’s teeth regularly to maintain good oral hygiene for the rest of its life.
Keep an eye on your kitten’s tooth growth to make sure all the teeth are growing in properly and that they aren’t too close together or far apart. Monitoring the teething process will also help you identify whether your cat is suffering from another oral health problem and seek veterinary care.
Also, keep an eye out for a condition called a “retained deciduous tooth,” which is when the baby tooth does not fall out, forcing the adult tooth to come in at a strange angle in the mouth. This typically affects the “fangs” or canine teeth and will look like two pointy teeth crowded next to each other. If this issue arises, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
With careful attention and a little extra TLC, your cat should grow all its teeth without any problems.