If you’ve found this post, you probably realized that your cat’s mouth is pretty stinky. Well, that’s how I came to consider the topic of toothpaste for cats. Poki loves to get up close and personal with us. We feel bad when we have to push him away because his breath smells. I started looking for a solution, and initially brushed the idea of cat toothpaste aside. Cats in the wild never have their teeth brushed, so it’s hardly necessary, right? Well, that’s not quite true. In this post I’m going to share everything I learned about feline oral hygiene and how to choose the best cat toothpaste for your kitty.
First things first, it’s normal for your cat’s mouth to smell. Heck, even us humans have bad breath from time to time. The goal when brushing your cat’s teeth should be to keep his mouth clean and healthy, not to make him smell minty fresh. In fact, if that’s what you’re hoping for, you’ll be disappointed. Good cat toothpastes don’t have a mint flavor. Instead, it’s something more appealing to cats like poultry, fish or malt. Also, keep in mind that foul smelling breath can be a sign of periodontal disease or tooth decay in cats so if you’ve noticed a change or recent worsening, get your cat to a vet.
Why should you brush your cat’s teeth?
If you haven’t introduced your kitty to a toothbrush and cat toothpaste at a young age, he may not co-operate when you try to clean his teeth. At least at first. So why go to all this trouble? Do you really need to brush your cat’s teeth? The answer is a definite yes.
Just like humans, your cat’s teeth build up layers plaque and bacteria if they’re not cleaned. These can lead to conditions like gingivitis or gum inflammation. Gingivitis is painful and can lead to serious infections if not remedied. The American Veterinary Dental College reports that dental disease is the most common condition seen by vets treating adult cats (source). It’s estimated that 70% of American cats develop gum disease by the age of three years. If you don’t care for your cat’s teeth, as he ages, they can become loose and even fall out. Worse still, if your cat’s teeth are covered in bacteria, infection can travel to other organs such as the liver and kidneys causing organ failure.
The best approach is to have your pet’s teeth cleaned regularly at the vet’s office. The vet can check for decay or plaque build-up and perform a descaling if necessary. These visits can be expensive so keeping up dental hygiene standards at home is also recommended. According to Banfield Pet Hospital, you should brush your cat’s teeth as frequently as possible. Ideally every day. If your cat is particularly difficult and you can’t manage that often, there are chewables and toys you can use to supplement.
Never Use Human Toothpaste for Cats
It must be noted that you should never use human toothpaste on cats. Toothpaste isn’t intended to be swallowed, even by humans. Human toothpaste often contains abrasives and foaming detergents that aren’t intended to be swallowed. It’s impossible to get cats to wash and spit like we do.
In addition, the fluoride content in human toothpaste is toxic to cats when ingested and small amounts can even be fatal (source). If your cat ingests human toothpaste, take him to the vet immediately. They will administer a fluoride antidote.
Baking soda is also unsuitable for cats, though it is often used as a natural tooth whitener for humans. If your cat ingests a significant amount of baking soda, it can result in muscle spasms or even heart failure (source).
Watch out for…
Although taking care of your cat’s dental hygiene at home is a great idea, there are a few warning signs. If you notice bleeding, unusual odor, drooling, swollen or red gums, bring your cat to the vet as soon as possible.
In addition, your cat should have a yearly dental check-up at the vet’s. Most cats have a high pain threshold so they won’t show signs of discomfort until their mouth is in severe pain.
Which Cat Toothpaste Ingredients are Safe?
Since most heavy-duty cleaning constituents are off-limits for cats, many cat toothpastes use enzymatic ingredients instead. Enzymes are biological substances used to break down plaque and tartar on the surface of your pet’s teeth. I’ve researched some of the most common feline toothpaste ingredients and provided some information as to their safety for cats.
- Dicalcium phosphate is a calcium and phosphorous supplement to strengthen cats’ teeth (source)
- Ethanol is an alcohol used to dissolve things. Pet poison helpline states that it’s of mild to severe toxicity. I presume this is at larger doses than would be found in toothpaste (source).
- Glycerin is a binding and texturizing agent. Glycerin derived from animal and plant sources is considered safe (source).
- Magnesium aluminum silicate is a thickener. It may affect the kidneys in dogs. It requires further study (source).
- Potassium sorbate is a preservative. It’s considered safe for cats and dogs (source).
- Silica is an abrasive in toothpaste. It’s not toxic to cats (source).
- Sodium benzoate (E211) is a preservative. According to the RSPCA, cats have a low tolerance for the related compound benzoic acid. At some doses it may be toxic to cats. (source)
- Sodium phosphates are used to prevent tartar and plaque buildup (source). I couldn’t find any information on safety for cats when taken orally.
- Sorbitol is a sweetener. It’s used to retain moisture and improve taste. It has a laxative effect on cats and is often used in pet constipation remedies. In larger amounts, it can cause diabetes in cats (source).
- Titanium dioxide is used to color things white. I couldn’t find any information on cats but it’s not a necessary ingredient so would be better left out.
- Xanthan gum is a thickening and suspending agent. It’s assumed safe for cats (source).
The best cat toothpaste brands
Now, on to the cat toothpaste reviews and my picks for the best feline toothpaste. As with most things in life, all natural is better. I’ve checked the ingredients in these choices and although none of them are perfect, they come pretty close. Flavor will probably be the most important factor when choosing the best cat toothpaste for your pet. If she doesn’t like the taste, you’re not going to be able to get the stuff anywhere near her. Buy a small pack to begin with, that way you won’t have wasted much money if you need to try another brand.
Sentry cat toothpaste
Sentry Petrodex cat toothpaste Sentry petrodex cat toothpaste comes as part of a complete dental kit. It has two types of toothbrush and a tube of cat toothpaste in malt flavor. This is an enzymatic toothpaste, containing a peroxide-producing enzyme formula that helps reduce plaque and tartar.
It does contain sorbitol as the first ingredient, but this is hard to avoid. If your cat is diabetic, it’s not a good choice. Otherwise, use it sparingly and make sure your cat isn’t consuming sweetners in any other part of his diet.
C.E.T. enzymatic toothpaste
C.E.T. enzymatic toothpaste from Virbac may just be the best cat enzyme toothpaste. It’s extra strong and designed for pets who are rapid plaque formers. It contains a strengthened enzyme system making it more abrasive than regular toothpastes. It’s available in an impressive five flavors so you’re sure to find something for even the pickiest of pets.
It also contains sorbitol as the first ingredient, but the other ingredients are pretty good. To be honest, I couldn’t find a good cat toothpaste that didn’t contain sorbitol. Use it very sparingly and you should be safe. Most of the plaque removal comes from the action of rubbing the teeth, you don’t need much toothpaste.
Homemade cat toothpaste options
Many recipes for homemade cat toothpaste include some ingredients which are not guaranteed safe for cats such as baking soda. Since much of the cleaning effect from brushing your cat’s teeth comes from the physical rubbing action, water is better than nothing.
And you’ll probably need a toothbrush
I’ll be putting together a post on cat toothbrushes soon, because there are more options than you probably imagined. But until then, I’ll say that you have a few basic options when it comes to feline toothbrushes. It’s best to start out using your fingers with some kitty toothpaste. When your cat can manage that, move onto a dental pad – something like this. When your cat has finally become accustomed to you shoving things in his mouth you can move onto an actual brush. There’s also a finger toothbrush which some people find easier to use
Some other options for cleaning your cat’s teeth
If your cat absolutely won’t tolerate daily brushing, there are a few other ways to keep his teeth clean. Here are a few you might consider:
- Dental cat toys: Toys like this are designed with textures and fabrics that encourage cats to chew. In the process, the toy rubs against the teeth and gums, keeping them clean.
- Dental chew treats: This is basically kitty toothpaste in treat form. Cats should enjoy chewing it and the rubbing motion and enzyme content should scrub the teeth clean.
- Drinking water additive: This is a liquid that you add to your cat’s drinking water to promote healthy gums and eliminate bad breath.
- Dental cat food: There are various brands of cat food formulated to improve dental health. In general, hard kibble is best for this purpose. This one from Hill’s Science is clinically proven to help reduce plaque and tartar.
How to brush your cat’s teeth
It’s advised to start brushing your cat’s teeth at an early age to get them used to the process. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends using some gauze wrapped around a finger to start with (source). Simply hold the cat from behind, cup the cat’s chin and lift the upper lip to rub the teeth with your finger. After the first few times, you can move onto a proper cat toothbrush. Dr Greg McDonald goes into some more detail in this video:
Dietary tips for healthy teeth
As well as brushing, diet has a big influence on your cat’s dental health. Never give your cat foods with sugar. Not only does it cause diabetes and tooth decay, they can’t even taste it (source). Feed your cat a mix of wet and dry foods, and provide them with bones to chew if possible. Bones are part of a cat’s natural diet and they help knock away tartar. However, you shouldn’t give your cat bones that splinter easily such as pork, chicken or fish bones. Always give raw bones, never cooked.
I hope this article has encouraged you to find the best cat toothpaste to keep your kitty’s mouth clean. The products I’ve listed are the absolute best I could find with the safest ingredients. All of them will help prevent gingivitis, so it mostly comes down to (your cat’s) personal preference at the end of the day. If you have found something better, I’d love to hear about it as I’m still on the lookout for new brands 🙂