Can I Brush My Cat’s Teeth at Home? A Step-by-Step Guide


Proper dental care is extremely important for a cat’s health and wellbeing. According to studies, between 50-90% of cats over 4 years old suffer from some form of dental disease like gingivitis or periodontitis [1]. Dental disease can lead to tooth loss, infections, and damage to major organs over time. However, dental problems often go unnoticed in cats since they don’t show obvious signs of dental pain. Regular dental cleanings and home care can prevent plaque buildup and tartar formation, allowing cats to keep their teeth longer.

This article will cover the signs of dental disease in cats, professional dental cleanings, and steps cat owners can take at home like brushing, wipes, treats, and diet to maintain their cat’s dental health. With proper prevention and care, cat owners can help their feline companions avoid dental disease and live happier, healthier lives.

Signs Your Cat May Need Dental Care

There are a few key signs that indicate your cat may need some dental care. The most common sign is bad breath. Cats groomed daily usually don’t have chronic bad breath, so if you notice a foul odor when your cat yawns or you get close to its face, dental disease may be present. This is caused by plaque buildup on the teeth 1.

You should also check your cat’s teeth regularly for signs of loose or broken teeth. Loose or broken teeth are painful and need to be extracted by a vet. Your cat may show signs of mouth pain like drooling or dropping food from its mouth if there are problems with its teeth 2.

Finally, pay attention if your cat stops eating crunchy food or shows other changes in eating habits. Cats with dental disease may avoid hard food because it is painful for them to chew. A sudden preference for soft, wet food or refusal to eat may indicate an urgent need for dental care 3.

Professional Cleaning vs At-Home Care

While regular at-home dental care is important, professional veterinary cleanings are still recommended to fully care for your cat’s oral health. There are pros and cons to both do-it-yourself dental care and professional vet cleanings.

The main benefits of professional dental cleanings include:

  • Thorough deep cleaning above and below the gumline that you can’t fully replicate at home
  • Removal of heavy tartar buildup
  • Polishing of teeth
  • Inspection for issues like gum disease, abscesses and tooth decay
  • Fluoride treatments to strengthen enamel
  • Full mouth X-rays to check for hidden problems
  • Extraction of severely damaged teeth if needed

Professional cleanings require anesthesia which does carry some risks, but modern anesthesia is very safe for most cats. The cost of professional cleanings can range from $300-800 depending on your location and the vet (see Chewy).

While professional cleanings are ideal, regular at-home care between vet visits can also be beneficial. Brushing, dental wipes, gels, treats, and diets can all help reduce tartar and plaque buildup. Home care is more convenient and affordable. However, it often won’t fully reach under the gumline and has limits on how much tartar it can remove in cats who already have substantial buildup. Performing at-home care also requires training and patience to get a cat comfortable with the process.

For best results, a combination approach is recommended. Professional vet cleanings provide a deep cleaning foundation, while regular brushing and dental treats at home help maintain dental health between yearly vet visits.

Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

Brushing your cat’s teeth is the most effective way to remove plaque and tartar at home. It takes time and patience to get your cat used to having their teeth brushed, but it’s worth the effort.

Start by getting a specialized cat toothbrush and toothpaste designed for cats. Never use human toothpaste, as it can upset your cat’s stomach. Introduce the toothbrush slowly by letting your cat lick a little bit of the toothpaste off the end as a treat. Once they are comfortable with that, gently rub the toothbrush against their front teeth and gums while praising them.

Gradually work your way to brushing the inner and outer surfaces of all their teeth. Spend 2-3 minutes each day working up to brushing the full mouth. Offer treats and affection as positive reinforcement. Go slowly and keep sessions relaxed and calm. Stop if your cat resists or gets stressed.


  • Get your cat used to having their mouth handled from kittenhood.
  • Try a finger toothbrush that slips over your finger for better control.
  • Use a pet-safe, enzymatic toothpaste.
  • Brush gently in circular motions at a 45 degree angle.
  • Focus on the outer surfaces of the teeth first.

With time and consistency, regular brushing can become an accepted part of your cat’s routine care. Always reward and praise your cat during and after brushing to reinforce it as a positive experience.


Dental Wipes and Gels

Dental wipes and gels are convenient products to help clean your cat’s teeth at home. Wipes come individually packaged and can be rubbed along the teeth and gums to remove plaque and tartar buildup. Popular brands like Vet’s Best Dental Care Finger Wipes contain ingredients like aloe, neem oil, and baking soda to safely freshen breath and reduce bacteria.

When using dental wipes, gently lift your cat’s lips to expose the teeth and gums. Gently rub the textured side of the wipe back and forth along the tooth surfaces and gumline, covering both upper and lower teeth. It’s best to start slowly and work your way up to daily wiping as your cat gets accustomed to the process.

Dental gels like Petkin Dental Gel can be applied using a finger brush or soft cloth. Apply a small amount of gel and massage it into the teeth and gums. Let your cat lick off any excess gel. Use dental gels 2-3 times per week.

Always reward your cat with treats and praise after a dental cleaning session. With patience and positive reinforcement, dental wipes and gels can become an easy part of your cat’s routine oral care. Just be sure to introduce them gradually and make each session relaxing and positive.

Dental Treats and Chews

Dental treats and chews are specially formulated to help clean your cat’s teeth as they chew. Some options include:

Greenies Feline Dental Treats – These dual-textured treats feature a crunchy exterior and a softer interior. The crunchy texture helps scrape away tartar and plaque while the treat satisfies your cat’s craving to chew [1].

VetriScience Perio Plus Bites – These veterinarian-approved treats contain an advanced formula with probiotics, antioxidants, and enzymes to support dental health [2]. The texture also helps control plaque and tartar.

Whiskas Dentabites – These poultry-flavored treats are uniquely shaped to clean teeth by reaching tight spaces as cats chew. They are made with an abrasive texture and come in chicken and salmon flavors.

The main pros of dental chews and treats are that they provide an easy way to improve your cat’s dental hygiene. The chewing action scrapes away plaque and tartar. Many cats enjoy the taste and texture as well. However, treats alone are usually not enough to fully clean a cat’s teeth. Most vets recommend combining treats with brushing for optimal dental care.

Dental Diets

One of the best ways to promote good dental health in cats is by feeding them a veterinary dental diet. These prescription diets are formulated to help prevent plaque and tartar buildup on teeth. The kibble pieces are larger and denser than regular cat food. As the cat chews, the mechanical action helps scrape plaque from the teeth.

Ingredients like sodium hexametaphosphate also help prevent tartar from sticking to teeth. Some dental diets contain antioxidants to promote healthy gums. There are both wet and dry prescription dental foods available.

Studies show that feeding cats dental diets significantly reduces plaque and gingivitis. Brands like Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d and Royal Canin Dental are veterinarian-recommended.

These diets should be fed exclusively – not mixed with regular food. To be effective, dental foods must make up 100% of the cat’s diet. Work with your vet to get a prescription and monitor your cat while transitioning to the new food.

Other Tips for Home Care

Aside from brushes, wipes, and treats, there are other ways to help clean your cat’s teeth at home. Some additional recommendations include:

Water Additives – Adding an oral health solution to your cat’s drinking water can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Look for vet-approved additives that contain ingredients like stabilized chlorine dioxide or zinc.

Dental Toys – There are toys made specifically for dental health that help clean your cat’s teeth as they play. Options include treats within rubber fins or small nubs and ridges that scrape plaque and tartar. Choose toys your cat already likes to encourage chewing.

Chewy Treats – In addition to dental treats, offering chewy treats like chicken strips can massage gums and exercise jaw muscles. Opt for treats without too much sugar or carbs.

Regular Exams – Checking your cat’s mouth yourself when petting or brushing can spot potential problems early. Look for red gums, plaque buildup, abnormalities, or bad breath.

When to See a Vet

Just like humans, cats can develop serious dental disease that requires professional treatment. Signs that your cat may need to see a vet for dental care include:

  • Bad breath
  • Red, inflamed, or bleeding gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Loose or lost teeth
  • Difficulty eating or loss of appetite
  • Swelling in the face
  • Pawing at the mouth

Your vet will perform a full oral exam under anesthesia to assess your cat’s oral health. From there, they can perform a professional dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar above and below the gumline that you couldn’t reach at home. More advanced dental disease may require tooth extractions or other treatments.

While regular at-home dental care is important, it’s not a substitute for professional veterinary cleanings. Most cats need annual dental cleanings to prevent periodontal disease. Don’t wait until you notice obvious signs of trouble. Schedule regular oral checkups to keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy.


Regularly cleaning your cat’s teeth at home is important for their overall health and wellness. Dental disease can lead to painful tooth infections, periodontal disease, and other issues if left untreated. As we’ve covered, there are a number of convenient ways you can care for your cat’s teeth in between professional cleanings.

Brushing is most effective at removing plaque and tartar. But even if your cat won’t tolerate brushing, products like dental gels, wipes, diets, chews and treats can help reduce bacteria, freshen breath and prevent buildup on the teeth and gums when used regularly.

Be on the lookout for signs your cat may need dental work, like bad breath, red or swollen gums, loose teeth or behavioral changes. And take your cat in for regular vet checkups to have their teeth examined and professionally cleaned when needed. With proper at-home care and veterinary dental cleanings as recommended, you can help your cat maintain good oral health.

Scroll to Top