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Cat Clinic of Iowa City

Brushing your Cat’s Teeth

Brushing your teeth isn’t something exclusive to humans; cats need it too! This helpful guide will walk you through brushing your cat’s teeth.

Educational Care Guides

Make caring for your cat easy!

Brush, brush, brush! Daily brushing is the number one way to prevent tartar buildup and keep your cat’s teeth, gums and overall health in good shape. As intimidating as brushing your cat’s teeth might sound, it can be broken down into several manageable steps.

  1. To help your cat adjust to home oral care, start by massaging his/her face once daily. Scratch under the chin and gently handle the sides of the face and whiskers. Set aside 2 minutes of this attention at the same time every day.
  2. Once your cat is comfortable with the facial handling (it may take 3 or more of the 2-minute sessions), then begin lifting the lips and running your finger between the lips and teeth.
  3. Once your cat is comfortable with this (again may take a few days) then you are ready to introduce gauze or a washcloth into the process. Wrap the gauze or washcloth around your finger and run it under warm water to soften it, then lift the lip and massage the outside surface of the teeth (next to the lips) with the cloth.
  4. Once your cat is comfortable with step 3), you may graduate to using a fingertip toothbrush or a child’s toothbrush. You do not have to worry about the insides of the teeth and brushing usually lasts less then 2 minutes.

You may use a small amount (1/2 pea size) of cat toothpaste but NEVER USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE! Cats are sensitive to smaller amounts of fluoride than we are (and they do not spit like we do), so human toothpaste can be toxic for them.

Alternatively, if daily brushing does not fit into your routine, you may want to try products such as OraVet Sealant or CET Rinse. Please discuss these alternatives with a staff member.

Dental Cleanings every 6-12 months may be needed to prevent tartar build up and disease.


  • To remove plaque and tartar buildup, which can occur despite brushing
  • To monitor any dental/oral disease.
  • To treat diseased and painful teeth and gums.
outdoor cat