Taking care of a kitten is a big responsibility. But in addition to nutritious food, a warm place to sleep and plenty of play time, did you know kittens also need their teeth cleaned on a daily basis? Seventy percent of cats show signs of oral and dental disease by age 3 — but that doesn’t mean your kitten has to be among them. Here’s what you can do to take care of your kitten’s oral health.
Your Kitten’s Dental Needs
There are three preventive measures you can take to ensure your pet’s oral hygiene doesn’t become a problem. They’re often referred to as the three D’s:
The first step in taking care of your kitten’s oral health is daily brushing. When you brush your kitten’s teeth, you remove plaque and slow the development of tartar. One of the easiest ways to do this is with a finger brush, which is available at most pet stores. Don’t forget to reward your kitten afterward with plenty of praise and play time!
Just like you, your kitten could benefit from annual or semiannual teeth cleanings. Vets refer to the cleaning as a dental prophylaxis. Besides helping keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy, it’s the only way to remove tartar.
Dry food can be especially beneficial for oral health because the mechanical brushing action of dry kibble helps remove plaque and works to scrub your kitten’s teeth clean.
How to Tell If Your Kitten Has a Dental Problem
If you’re concerned about the health of your kitten’s teeth and mouth, keep an eye out for these signs of dental disease.
Look for Plaque and Tartar
More than 300 types of bacteria naturally reside inside your kitten’s mouth. And when she eats, small food particles and saliva combine with the bacteria to form plaque. If plaque is left on the teeth, calcium in your pet’s saliva hardens it, resulting in a hard yellow-brown deposit on her teeth called tartar.
Watch Your Kitten’s Behavior
Your kitten lets you know a lot about how she’s feeling through the way she behaves. The following behaviors can indicate an oral health issue or periodontal disease:
- Difficulty eating or chewing
- Excessive chewing
- Pawing at the mouth
- Reluctance to chew toys
Of course, a lot of these symptoms could signify other health issues, so it’s important to let a trained professional diagnose any health problems your pet may be having.
Nobody likes to deal with dental issues, your pet included. And even though your kitten can’t talk, that doesn’t mean she isn’t in pain. But if you’re armed with the three D’s of dental hygiene, your furry friend is sure to be happy and healthy for many years to come.
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Confused by the ingredient list on your kitten’s food? You’re not alone. Marketing pet foods that have “human-grade ingredients” is becoming commonplace. While appealing to many pet owners, it is important to be aware that the term “human grade” has no legal definition and is used primarily for marketing purposes.
Foods, typically meats, are labeled either as “edible” or “inedible, not for human consumption.” Once a food leaves the human food chain, even if it is of outstanding quality, it has to be labeled “inedible, not for human consumption.” Therefore, meats used in pet food must be labeled as “inedible,” regardless of the source or quality of the meat. The only way to make a pet food with ingredients deemed “edible” is to never let the meat leave the human food chain and actually manufacture the pet food in a human food facility and transport it using human food trucks. Therefore, advertising a product as containing “human-grade ingredients” is untrue if it is not manufactured in a human food facility. However, just because a pet food isn’t marketed as being “human grade” does not mean that the ingredients are poor quality.
Here are some tips to help understand ingredient labels:
- The ingredient list is not the only method you should use to select a pet food, because it doesn’t provide pet owners with enough information about the quality of the ingredients or the nutritional adequacy of the overall diet.
- Instead of concentrating on ingredients, pet owners and veterinarians should look at the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement and the quality control protocols of the manufacturer. For more information, see the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s brochure “Selecting the Best Food for your Pet,” available at
Opens a new windowwww.wsava.org/nutrition-toolkit.
- The ingredient list may be arranged to make foods as appealing as possible to consumers by the order of the ingredients (e.g., having lamb first on the ingredient list) or inclusion of seemingly desirable ingredients in the diet, but often in such small amounts that they have little or no nutritional benefits (e.g., artichokes and raspberries listed after the vitamin and mineral supplements).
- Having more ingredients does not make a diet more nutritious.
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