A newborn kitten has no teeth. At about 2 weeks of age, the first tiny teeth appear. These will be the incisors, right in front. Canine teeth follow, and finally premolars appear at about 6 weeks. In all, a kitten will end up with 26 baby or deciduous teeth. You may also hear these referred to as “milk teeth.”
If you foster kittens, you may deal with very tiny kittens who are getting in their baby teeth. Most of us acquire our kittens around 10 to 12 weeks of age or even a bit older. Right around 3 months of age, the deciduous teeth start to fall out and are replaced by adult teeth. This is when “true” teething problems appear. Don’t panic if you find a little blood on one of your kitten’s chew toys. As the baby teeth fall out, there may be a little bleeding, but it will stop on its own. If you are lucky, you may find a tiny tooth. Clean it up and stick it in a tiny, clear plastic baggie for your kitten’s “baby book.”
Signs Of Teething Trouble
Most kittens breeze through teething, but a few will have some discomfort. If you notice your kitten chewing more slowly or being reluctant to eat her kibble, check her gums for any swelling or redness. Gums can be tender when the new adult tooth is about to erupt. Soften her food or substitute in more canned food.
A kitten who normally grabs at cat toys or pounces on toys and then shakes them in her mouth may hesitant to play due to the sore mouth. Stop any play that seems to hurt her. You may notice your kitten meowing more frequently, possibly with a plaintive air. That can be due to the pain of the new teeth coming in. Some kittens will also drool extensively when teething. Always check the mouth carefully if your kitten is drooling heavily. She could have something stuck in her teeth or have an injury to her mouth and not just be drooling from teething.
Tips To Help Your Kitten Through Teething
Many kittens go through a chewing phase as the new teeth appear. While your kitten is unlikely to destroy your couch like a Great Dane puppy might, cords are a favorite chew item. The soft plastic or rubber coating appeals to a small feline with a sore mouth. Cover such cords or tape them up for safety. I have had kittens think about chewing on table legs and other pieces of furniture made from “soft” wood like pine.
You can purchase teething toys for your kitten or make some yourself. Most teething rings and toys for kittens are made of soft plastic or rubber. Only give these to your kitten when you are there to supervise, as her sharp, little teeth may break off small pieces that could be swallowed.
You can make an easy kitten pacifier at home by simply cutting a small piece off a washcloth for her to suck on. A small fleece braided tug will work as well. Soak this in some low-sodium chicken broth or juice from a can of tuna packed in water, and then freeze it. Not only will your kitten enjoy this, but your other, older cats may want one, too!
If your kitten has a favorite cloth toy, you can do the same with that. Soak it in water or broth and then freeze it. It may be a little messy, but your kitten will thank you for it.
Leather is another texture that often appeals to teething kittens. Provide your kitten with a leather square, about 4 by 4 inches (nothing smaller). Do not let her chew on leather shoelaces, as she could swallow pieces she chews off. And keep your leather shoes safely stored away in the closet!
Ways To Promote Good Dental Health
Brushing your kitten’s teeth is an important part of their daily health routine, but during teething is not a good time to do that. If you want to keep up the habit, let your kitten lick a little pet toothpaste (poultry tends to be the favorite feline flavor) off of your finger. Don’t try to use even a very soft brush or a rubber finger brush. You don’t want your kitten to associate dental care with any sort of pain.
You should check your kitten’s mouth at least weekly. Gently open her mouth to look inside. You want to spot any retained baby teeth. If you see a “double tooth” for more than a few days, call your veterinarian. The residual deciduous tooth may need to be pulled. Baby teeth that remain in place can change the eruption of the adult teeth below them or prevent eruption altogether, leading to a very sore gum area.
Luckily, most cats have good “bites.” That means that their teeth meet in a normal overlap, with the top teeth just in front of the bottom ones. Unusual bites, such as overbites (upper jaw longer than bottom jaw) or under bites (lower jaw longer than upper jaw) as are seen in some dogs are not common in cats. Still, cats with shortened faces, such as Persians, may have an “off” bite. Your veterinarian will check your kitten’s mouth on all of her “well kitten” visits.
The big problem with off bites is that all of the teeth are affected; not just the ones you can easily see in front. Instead of neatly meshing together, some teeth may clash or grow up into the hard palate, which is the roof of the mouth.
In such cases, have your kitten checked out by a veterinary dentist. Your kitten may need some teeth pulled or even a bit of veterinary orthodontic work!
Luckily, the kitten teething period is not very long. It generally lasts about three months or so. Even if your kitten has a rough time, it will pass quickly.
By: Dr. Deb M. Eldredge