Why Doesn't My Cat Let Me Brush Their Teeth?


Dental disease is a common problem in cats. They eat foods that build tartar over time and put their teeth at risk. A myth is that kibble scrapes the tartar off the cat’s teeth. That is like saying that you eat cereal to clean your teeth, instead of brushing. The kibble contains starches, which breakdown and stick to your cat’s teeth, contributing to the tartar build up on their teeth. Brushing your cat’s teeth is important for their health and wellbeing. Plus, they won’t have rancid breath! But what do you do when you try and brush them, and your cat wants nothing to do with the process?

One of the biggest reasons why cats don’t like having their teeth brushed is because it is a foreign experience that they haven’t been socialized to. There may have been an attempt in the past to brush them, the cat wondered why you were approaching them with an odd object with odd smelling paste on it and that’s where the process ended.

What to do

We encourage you to teach your cat that toothbrushing is a good experience. The alternative is having to go under anesthesia to have a dental cleaning. This process is expensive and can be avoided or put off by consistent toothbrushing.

Go Slow

Break the process up into smaller pieces to get your cat comfortable with the process. Start with allowing your cat to become comfortable with their toothbrush. Allow them to smell it. Once they are comfortable with that, try to move the toothbrush toward their mouth.

It may seem counter intuitive but give them a small treat each time they allow the toothbrush to get closer. Keep the sessions short and always end on a positive note. We want the cat to think it is a fun game.

Cooperative Care

Using cooperative care techniques will allow you to continue with the process. This process is a continuation from above.

Continue to go slow and gradually work towards your cat allowing the toothbrush to touch their mouth, to brush against their teeth with one small swipe, and to eventually allow all of their teeth to be brushed.

 Be sure to reward them for each approximation towards the goal. If they leave the session or seem agitated, finish with that session and pick up at a later time.

If you would like assistance with cooperative care, please feel free to reach out to us.