So now I've got to clean up my act and start caring for everyone's teeth.
While I know very well that dry food does no more to clean cats' teeth than a diet of dry cereal and crunchy candy will clean our teeth, I was not going down without a bit of a struggle. I told our vet that I had thought that canned food, being was 95% animal protein and fat, with no starch or grain, would also prevent tartar. But no. My vet says she sees tartar buildup and bad teeth on cats fed every sort of diet.
I've read that some feline nutritionists find regular feeding of raw, meaty bones to be helpful. Cats have to chew hard on those tough sinews, and that supposedly keeps their teeth healthy in the wild. But raw, meaty bones — such as chicken parts — are messy. Cats tend to drag them off like prey, leaving bloody trails around the house.
The finely ground bone in commercial frozen raw food is also supposed to have a gentler scraping action against teeth, but even I'm not convinced about the truth of that.
We promised our vet that we'd start brushing everyone's teeth at night. beginning with Toffee, Harris and Lion for now. Wendy and Possum may have painful teeth, so we won't start brushing until they are all healed after their dentistry.
Look at those bright, shiny, happy smiles. Or not.
With fear and trembling, we began our new routine. My husband put on a fleece jacket to protect against kicking toenails; his job is to corral and hold each cat while I brushed. I armed myself with sample toothpaste, a tiny cat toothbrush, a big plastic "finger toothbrush" similar to a thimble, and a piece of gauze. I tried one method on each cat and I wouldn't say any of them were a success.
I went to my local pet shop where I threw myself on the mercy of a new salesperson, who turned out to be very knowledgable, having cared for animals in all kinds of situations — and having brushed her share of cat teeth, too. I was delighted to meet her. She recommended Earthbath Tooth and Gum Wipes. One wipe is big enough to use on many cats. It is a completely natural — perhaps too natural — product that is mostly peppermint oil and baking soda. I'm not sure it does the best job. There are enzyme products that are supposed to loosen and dissolve tartar and I like the sound of that.
My husband picks up a cat and holds him in his arms (Toffee and Lion squirm; Harris goes limp, waiting to be adored). I've got the wipe wrapped around my finger and rub it carefully against the upper and then lower teeth. It takes less than a minute per cat... once we catch one. It is only a matter of time before they all learn to disappear at bedtime. The tough part is that we can't feed them treats as rewards once their teeth are clean.
Now that I'm getting better at finding their teeth under their lips, and reaching the back ones, I think I can switch to the tiny cat toothbrushes with enzyme toothpaste. I was told that just getting that toothpaste near the teeth is helpful. The enzymes mix with saliva to loosen tartar all over the mouth. Sounds good to me. I'll keep you posted on how all this is going.