Updated: August 6, 2022 by Kristen Chapple
Cats and humans are more alike than you may think. Okay, cats are gracious and nimble while we are comparatively clumsy, they are excellent hunters, while we need weapons and dogs to hunt, they see in the dark and we don’t, they have beautiful fur and we are ridiculously hairless… Even though cats are superior to us in many ways, we still share many similarities. Or at least we like to believe so. Have you ever wondered how many teeth do cats have?
Well, there’s one similarity: cats have two sets of teeth just like us. Also, they have the same types of teeth – incisors, canines, premolars, and molars.
They don’t need and don’t have the so-called ‘wisdom teeth’, though. We don’t need them either, but we usually have them.
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Don’t Neglect Fluffy’s Dental Care!
So, today we talk about cat teeth. It is a little bit surprising, but cat parents don’t consult their vets about cat’s teeth as often as dog parents. It’s probably because we believe that cats are superior, clean, and healthy beings.
Also, they are dignified enough to hide if they have bad breath or any kind of pain, so it’s not easy to recognize the problem.
Anyway, dental care is important for cats as it is for humans. It doesn’t mean that you have to brush your cat’s teeth three times a day, but proper dental care is necessary.
Kittens are born without teeth, just like our babies.
However, they start teething pretty soon. Between 2 and 3 weeks of age, incisors emerge. By 4 weeks of age, they will get their canines.
When they are around 6 weeks old, premolar teeth will begin to show to complete the first set of teeth. Just like human teeth, these are called deciduous or ‘milk’ teeth.
Our children have a set of 20 milk teeth, while kittens have 26. Kittens have 12 incisors, 4 canines, and 10 premolars. These teeth grow early, but don’t last long.
At around 11 weeks, they start falling out to be replaced with permanent teeth.
Adult Cat Teeth
Actually, cats get most of their permanent teeth long before they reach adulthood. Usually, permanent incisors emerge at 4 months of age. By 5 months they get canines or ‘fang’ teeth.
When they are 6 months old, they will have their premolars. Only 4 molars grow later, commonly until 12 months of age or even later.
Cats have 30 permanent teeth. These include 12 incisors, 4 canines, 10 premolars, and 4 molars. So, it’s pretty similar to our 32 teeth.
Even though their set of teeth is similar to ours, cat teeth have different functions.
That’s because cats are true carnivores and their teeth show it. They have long canines to capture prey and puncture through the skin.
Cats have 4 more incisors than we do. But, they use it mostly for grooming.
As for the teeth at the back of the jaw, unlike humans, cats’ molars and premolars don’t have flat surfaces for grinding food.
Even these teeth are sharp and serrated. Cats use them to cut food into chunks they can swallow. Furthermore, their jaws can only move up and down. These are traits of true meat-eaters that only shred and swallow food.
Can Cats Get Cavities?
The answer is yes and no.
When we talk about dental cavities we usually refer to ‘caries’ – tooth decay caused by bacteria. This condition is almost unheard of and extremely rare in cats due to their teeth structure and diet.
Cats don’t eat not even nearly enough carbs to provide necessary food for bacteria that cause caries. However, cats can get cavities as a result of tooth resorption.
The underlying cause for this is unknown and there’s no effective therapy. Also, cats can develop gum disease. Plaque and tartar are usual suspects.
How to Take Care of Your Cat’s Teeth
Therefore, it is important to take care of oral hygiene. Brushing cats’ teeth from an early age, once a day would help to keep her mouth clean and prevent developing plaque and tartar.
You can also use dental treats. They are not enough to keep the gums and teeth healthy but they are helpful.
Cats don’t whine when in pain, they even try to hide it, so it can easily go unnoticed.
For that reason, you should make a deal with your cat to inspect her mouth once a week. Losing a tooth is not a big deal for cats. They can eat their food even if they lose many teeth.
However, living in constant pain with an infection in the mouth is much worse. So, don’t be afraid or hesitate if your vet recommends a tooth extraction.
Cats are resourceful and they can do just fine without us.
However, when they live with us they depend on us. Providing food and shelter is not enough because cats need care just like we do.
It includes taking care of their teeth as well. I know it can be challenging, but it’s important to train your cat as early as the kitten stage to tolerate teeth brushing.
It is the best precaution to keep those 30 pearls healthy.