Do you know that your cat’s teeth and gums are critical for her overall health? Unfortunately, not all fur parents care so much about what happens inside their pets’ mouths until obvious symptoms of pain and distress emerge.
Your cat’s teeth include four large canines among other, smaller teeth that line their top and bottom jaws. Those sharp fangs have the capacity to injure, puncture and tear both animal and human flesh, because our furry companions are designed to be hunters.
So, what do a cat’s teeth look like? Do cats have top and bottom teeth?
Let us answer some of the most common questions about feline teeth below!
Why your cat’s teeth are important
Your cat’s teeth are important for so many reasons – those sharp, pointy fangs are used for hunting, eating, picking up items, and self-defense. As with other carnivores, your cat’s teeth are essential for her survival, which is why it is so important that you take care of your pet’s teeth.
Unfortunately, after years of wear and tear, cats are not exempt from dental diseases. Even with regular brushing and a proper diet, our feline friends can eventually develop dental problems as they grow older. Poor dental health can also increase your pet’s risk of developing other serious conditions such as heart disease, kidney problems, and intestinal tract issues. Thus, aside from ensuring good oral hygiene, cats also need dental check-ups at least once a year to keep them in good general health.
What type of teeth do cats have?
Just like us, our furry friends have two sets of teeth during their lifetime. While kittens have 26 deciduous teeth, adult cats have a total of 30 permanent teeth.
Cats also have four different types of teeth, each with a different job, as follows:
- Incisors, the small teeth found in front of the cat’s mouth, are mainly used for grooming and picking things up. Cats have a total of 12 incisors – six on the upper jaw and another six on the lower jaw.
- Canines are the fang-like teeth used for cutting and shredding prey. Cats have four canine teeth – two on the upper and two on the lower jaw.
- Premolars help your cat cut and grind the flesh of small animals or any food they eat. Cats have six premolars on their upper jaw and another four on the lower jaw.
- Molars are used for grinding meat and bones. Cats have two molar teeth on their upper jaw and another two on the bottom.
Do cats have bottom teeth?
It should be evident by now that cats do indeed have bottom teeth, consisting of incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Aside from tearing, chewing, and grinding their food, the bottom teeth also protect the cat’s tongue within their mouth and prevent it from protruding.
However, not all cats have a full set of teeth. They might lose some upper or lower teeth due to periodontal or gum disease, or to injuries. Because some dental diseases can result in the loss of teeth, regular dental check-ups are important to detect early symptoms and prevent dental issues and tooth loss.
If your cat has lost one or more of her teeth, do not worry! Cats are flexible creatures and can still have a good quality of life, even with a missing tooth or two. However, you might need to make some adjustments to her diet. For example, if she has lost more than one tooth that is critical for chewing, you may need to feed her wet food, or a mixture of wet and dry food. This solution offers easy-to-chew foods while still giving your cat a balanced and nutritious meal.
Common feline teeth problems
As mentioned before, your cat’s teeth are designed for hunting and killing prey. Aside from puncturing, ripping, and tearing their prey, however, those impressive fangs and molars are also used for playing, fighting, and grooming. Strong teeth therefore play a big role in your cat’s healthy life.
But of course, with all that activity, your cat’s teeth may be subjected to injuries or dental problems. Without proper hygiene and maintenance, your cat will likely develop some form of periodontal disease during her life, and that can cause oral pain, eating problems, bad breath, and even behavioral issues.
Furthermore, it can be difficult to know when your cat is struggling with oral pain or discomfort, because cats instinctively hide their pain. By the time you notice any evidence of discomfort, the disease may have progressed to such an advanced stage that the symptoms can no longer be hidden.
Some common dental problems include:
- Oral abscesses
- Tooth resorption
- Oral infections
Caring for your cat’s top and bottom teeth
As a cat parent, it is your job to establish good dental hygiene in your fur baby. Start by brushing her teeth daily or twice a week to keep her gums and teeth healthy. A regular cat brush like the ones from Arm and Hammer will work fine for most cats, but you can also use a pet finger toothbrush to make things easier for you and your feline friend.
You might also find these items handy for your cat’s teeth cleaning routine:
Once you have trained your furry friend to accept this cleaning regimen, it will be easier to keep her teeth and gums in top shape. Make it a habit to check her gums from time to time for inflammation and plaque buildup.
Your cat’s dental care should also include annual veterinary checkups to prevent the onset of oral and dental problems. Your vet will also do thorough teeth cleaning to get rid of tartar and plaque buildup which cannot be done by brushing alone. Professional cleaning also allows your vet to inspect the gums more closely and conduct a comprehensive oral examination to check for potential dental diseases. Early diagnosis can prevent future problems and significantly improve your cat’s quality of life.
FAQs about cat teeth
1. Why are some of my cat’s bottom teeth missing?
One of the most common reasons for cats to lose one or more of their teeth is due to fighting injuries or accidents. Cats can also chew on strange things out of curiosity, some of which might be too hard for their little teeth. Other times, your cat might injure herself while playing with other pets and knock out one of her bottom teeth.
2. Do cats have top and bottom teeth?
Like humans and other animals, cats have teeth on the top and bottom parts of their mouths. The teeth are composed of different sets that perform different jobs such as tearing, grinding, puncturing, and cutting. While your cat’s teeth might be optimized for hunting, they can also use them to pick things up, defend themselves in case of attack, groom their coats, and play.
3. Do cats lose their bottom teeth?
Kittens naturally lose their milk teeth. Just like human babies, kittens develop 26 deciduous milk teeth at around four to six weeks of age. When they reach the age of four to six months, they will lose their upper and lower milk teeth, and these will be replaced with 30 permanent teeth. Hence, cats will teethe twice during their lifetime.
There is also a chance that cats will lose teeth – either top or bottom – once they are adults. One of the common reasons is injury following rough play or fighting; dental diseases are another reason.
Wrapping it up
It might seem difficult to grasp the anatomy of your cat’s mouth, but one thing is for sure – your cat’s survival depends on her oral health. Just like humans, cats have different types of teeth – in their case these are optimized for hunting and killing prey. These are the incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. These sharp pearly whites occupy both the upper and lower jaws, just like in humans, to make biting and chewing possible. The bottom teeth also play an important role in protecting the tongue.
Knowing all of that, you may understand a little better why it is so important to care for your cat’s dental health and reduce the risk of dental and gum diseases. Your best defense against plaque and tartar buildup is regular brushing, good diet, and annual veterinary checkups. Prevention is key!
Image: istockphoto.com / Simon Henke