How Can I Help My Cat Lose Her Baby Teeth?

Kittens begin teething around 3-4 weeks of age as their baby teeth start to erupt. This first set of baby teeth, known as deciduous teeth, are meant to fall out to make room for the permanent adult teeth. Kittens have a total of 26 deciduous teeth that start falling out around 12-16 weeks of age. The entire teething process lasts until about 6 months of age when the full set of 30 permanent adult teeth have come in.

It’s important for kittens to lose their baby teeth on schedule so the permanent teeth can erupt properly. If any deciduous teeth don’t fall out on their own, they can cause malocclusion (misalignment) of the permanent teeth and lead to dental disease. Retained baby teeth should be removed by a veterinarian.

Teething can be uncomfortable for kittens, so pet parents need to provide extra comfort and patience during this stage. This article covers everything you need to know about kitten teething and how to help your kitten through the process smoothly.

Signs Your Kitten is Teething

Kittens start teething around 3-4 weeks of age as their baby teeth start pushing through the gums. This can be an uncomfortable process, so watch for these common signs of teething in kittens:

Red, inflamed gums – The pressure of new teeth under the gums causes inflammation and soreness. The gums may look swollen and red.

Drooling – Excessive drooling is common as teething kittens try to soothe their sore gums.

Chewing on everything – Teething kittens tend to chew on any object they can find to relieve gum pain. Watch for inappropriate chewing of hands, furniture, clothes, etc. Provide safe chew toys instead.

Decreased appetite – Discomfort from teething may cause a decreased appetite.

Irritability – Your kitten may act fussy due to teething pain. Be patient during this phase.

Bleeding gums – You may notice dots of blood on chew toys. This is normal but call your vet if bleeding seems excessive.

Loose teeth – Gently wiggle teeth to check for looseness. Retained baby teeth can cause problems so monitor your kitten’s tooth loss.

For more information see this article on signs of kitten teething.

Dangers of Retained Deciduous Teeth

Retained deciduous teeth can lead to some serious health issues for cats if left untreated. Some of the major dangers include:

Malocclusion

Malocclusion refers to a misalignment of the teeth and jaws that prevents proper biting and chewing (Source). The retained deciduous tooth crowds the permanent tooth coming in and throws off the normal alignment. This can lead to the permanent teeth growing in at odd angles, bite issues, and chronic discomfort.

Crowding

Along with malocclusion, retained deciduous teeth cause significant crowding as permanent teeth try to emerge (Source). The deciduous tooth takes up necessary space, leading to crooked, overlapping teeth. Crowding also makes it difficult for a cat to properly chew and keep the mouth clean.

Periodontal Disease

The crowded, hard to clean alignment caused by retained deciduous teeth provides an environment conducive to tartar buildup and periodontal disease (Source). This can lead to receding gums, tooth decay, tooth loss, and infections. Periodontal disease is painful and decreases a cat’s quality of life.

Providing Chew Toys

Chew toys are an essential way to help kittens lose their baby teeth. As kittens teethe, they have an instinctual need to chew and gnaw. Chewing helps loosen their deciduous teeth so they can fall out naturally. It also provides relief from sore gums. Some of the best materials for kitten chew toys include:

Rubber – Rubber chew toys are flexible, durable and can withstand kitten teeth. Products like KONG Kitten rubber toys are designed for kittens that need to chew. The rubber is gentle on sore gums.

Rope – Rope and twine toys encourage chewing and flossing. The fibrous texture feels good on irritated gums. Look for tightly woven rope that resists fraying or consumption. Supervise kittens to prevent swallowing loose strands.

Plush – Soft plush toys are comfy for sore mouths. Ensure any stuffing is securely sewn in, as kittens may attempt to rip it out. Playful kittens may also carry plush toys around while teething.

Avoid any chew toys with small, removable parts that could pose a choking risk. Stick to larger toys marketed specifically for kittens. Rotate different textures to keep your kitten interested and engaged. Providing appropriate chew toys will satisfy their need to gnaw while protecting your home from damage.

Soft Foods

During the teething process, chewing kibble or dry food can be very painful for kittens (1). Their teeth and gums are sore and sensitive as their baby teeth fall out and adult teeth come in. Switching your kitten to softer foods will make eating more comfortable during this period.

Wet or canned kitten foods are much easier for a teething kitten to chew and swallow than dry kibble. The soft texture of canned food won’t irritate their tender gums and sore teeth. Wet food provides moisture, which can help soothe painful gums. Look for pâté style canned foods without chunks, as these will be the easiest to eat (2).

If you normally feed dry food, try mixing some warm water into the kibble to soften it into a mushy gruel. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the kibble to absorb the moisture and become soft. Adding a little warm water or kitten formula will make crunchy kibble easier on their teeth and gums during this transitional stage.

Avoid feeding dried treats, bones, or any other hard foods that require extensive chewing. Stick with wet foods, softened kibble, or very soft lickable treats designed for teething kittens.

Gently Removing Loose Teeth

If you notice a very loose baby tooth in your kitten’s mouth, you may be able to gently remove it to encourage the adult tooth to erupt properly. However, avoid tearing the gums or breaking the tooth. Only attempt to remove very loose teeth that are barely hanging on.

To remove a loose tooth, first ensure your hands are clean. Then, place your kitten on your lap and gently open their mouth. Locate the loose tooth and wiggle it very gently with your fingertips to test how loose it is. If the tooth feels very loose and ready to fall out, grasp it carefully between your thumb and index finger. Apply light, steady pressure as you wiggle the tooth back and forth until it comes free. Avoid tearing the gums or breaking the tooth.

If the tooth does not come out easily with light pressure, leave it alone. Forcing or tearing a tooth risks damaging the gums or jaw. It’s best to let nature take its course if the tooth does not detach easily on its own. Consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about a retained baby tooth that’s not loosening over time. With patience and proper care, your kitten’s baby teeth should fall out on their own as the permanent teeth emerge.

Citation: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/retained-deciduous-teeth-baby-teeth-in-cats

Praise and Positive Reinforcement

While your kitten is teething, use praise and positive reinforcement to make losing their baby teeth a pleasant experience. Reward with treats and affection when you notice loose teeth or your kitten chewing on approved toys. This positive association helps ease your kitten’s discomfort and prevents bad behaviors like chewing on dangerous objects. The ASPCA recommends using “small treats, praise, playtime or a pat” as positive reinforcement during teething (https://www.woofpurnayvet.com.au/ultimate-guide-to-kitten-teething). Staying upbeat and using an encouraging tone of voice also helps keep the process stress-free. Your kitten will begin to see losing teeth as part of playtime instead of something to fear. Be patient and increase rewards as more teeth loosen. With consistency, your kitten will happily accept praise each time a tooth falls out.

Providing Cold Items

Cold chew toys are a great way to alleviate soreness and pain in kittens going through teething. Put kitten chew toys in the refrigerator or freezer to get them cold, which can provide a soothing feeling on tender gums. Some good cold chew toy options include the LickiMat Cat Lick Mat, which can be frozen with a layer of wet cat food on it for cold licking and chewing. Other cold toys like the KONG Classic and other rubber chew toys work well too when chilled.

You can also give your kitten ice cubes to nudge and play with loose baby teeth. Just make sure the ice cubes are small enough not to be a choking hazard. The cold temperature helps numb pain and the texture provides stimulation for sore gums. Always monitor your kitten when giving ice cubes. The cold and sensation can help loosen mildly clung teeth.

Seeing the Vet

If your kitten has still not lost any baby teeth by 6 months old, it’s a good idea to schedule a veterinary visit. Retained baby teeth, also called persistent deciduous teeth, can lead to malocclusion and affect permanent teeth coming in properly. Signs that your kitten is uncomfortable during teething include reluctance to eat hard food or chew on toys, pawing at their mouth, and irritability. If you notice these behaviors persisting beyond a few days, it may be worth having your vet take a look to make sure there are no underlying issues. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, retained deciduous teeth should be extracted as soon as possible to avoid complications. Your vet can identify any problem teeth and perform safe extractions to help your kitten’s adult teeth come in correctly. Though teething is a normal part of development, don’t hesitate to consult your vet if anything seems abnormal with the process.

Keeping Teething Comfortable

Teething can be uncomfortable for kittens, but there are several techniques you can use at home to help soothe their gums and make teething easier. The good news is that teething only lasts a few weeks as adult teeth come in to replace deciduous baby teeth.

Provide chew toys made of soft rubber or rope that are designed for teething kittens. These give sore gums something to rub against for relief. You can also make homemade chew toys by tying knots in an old sock or towel. Supervise playtime with any toys to prevent swallowing loose parts.

Let your kitten chew on a frozen cloth dampened with tuna juice or chicken broth. The cold temperature helps numb gums during teething. You can also freeze broth or tuna juice in an ice cube tray for your kitten to play with.

Gently rub your kitten’s gums with a clean finger in a circular motion. The massage can ease discomfort. Introduce tooth brushing with a soft brush and kitten toothpaste to keep gums clean.

Stick to soft, wet kitten foods during teething rather than hard kibble. Canned food or formula is easier to chew with sore gums. Adding water to dry food can also soften it.

Provide reassuring pets and playtime during teething. The activities distract your kitten from discomfort. Praising good behavior helps keep your kitten comfortable and content.

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