How to Teach Your Cat to Accept Having His Teeth Brushed

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There’s no doubt about it – cats hate having their teeth brushed. Yet, it is an important part of their overall health regimen, as un-cared for teeth on a cat can lead to gum disease, abscesses, and even a shortened life, just like it can in people. So, you want to make sure your cat’s teeth stay clean and as healthy as possible. 

The best way to get your cat to accept having his teeth brushed, of course, is to start him out having it done on a regular basis when he’s a kitten. The earlier you teach a cat something, the more readily he will accept it. That is why volunteers in animal shelters are instructed to handle the kittens there liberally and to make sure to touch their feet a lot, so they will grow up used to having their feet handled, which will make nail clipping a lot easier on their future owners.

If you have a kitten, just start brushing his teeth three times a week using a cat toothbrush and cat toothpaste purchased from the pet store. You don’t need to brush vigorously – a gentle circular motion will do, but make sure you get all of the teeth. You also don’t need to rinse, as cat toothpaste is not harmful to the cat if swallowed and is actually made to taste pleasant to the cat. Kittens will come to look at brushing time as treat time, especially if you pet and praise a lot while you’re brushing.

With older cats who aren’t used to having this done, it’s going to be a little bit harder, but not impossible. Your older cat will likely resist the brushing at first, and may even clamp down his jaw pretty tightly. You’ll need to force him to expose his teeth. You can do this by first holding him firmly so he can’t get away, and then lifting his lips to expose the front teeth. There’s not much he can do to stop you from lifting his lips, so start brushing gently with one hand while holding him tightly with your legs and keeping his lips open with the other hand, and say soothing, praising things to him the whole time.

Once you’ve got the front teeth brushed, you’ve got to get to the back ones. For this, you’ll need to take one hand and put the thumb of that hand on the jaw muscle on one side of the cat’s face and your forefinger on the jaw muscle on the other side of his face, then gently squeeze both finger and thumb together, forcing your cat to open his mouth. Try to brush the back teeth quickly, as your cat will probably struggle against too much of this manhandling. Once you’re done, let your cat lick his teeth and lips, all the while praising him and petting him, and then offer him a treat before you let him go. 

If you do this several times a week and always pet, praise, and treat him afterward, he will probably come to grudgingly accept having his teeth brushed without too much of a struggle.

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