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While it takes years for young humans to lose all their baby teeth and wait for their adult chompers to come in, the kitten teething process moves much faster. In fact, by the age of 6 months, cats have already cycled through two sets of teeth.
Kitten Teething: An Age Timeline
A kitten's baby teeth, also known as milk or deciduous teeth, first break through when a cat is about 3 weeks old, says the PDSA. The incisors and primary canines come in first, with the others following in quick succession. By the time your kitten is 6 weeks old, they should have a full set of 26 baby teeth. These baby teeth all fall out by the age of 3-4 months, making room for the adult teeth to replace them. By 6 months of age, your kitten should have all 30 of their adult teeth.
What Are the Signs of Kitten Teething?
During the kitten teething process, you may not even know that your cat is losing teeth until you see one on the floor or in their bed. This is normal, says the PDSA, so don't worry! Most kittens swallow their teeny teeth but, again, no need to fret — this doesn't cause them any harm.
You may also may notice these commons signs of kitten teething:
- Decreased appetite or caution around food
- Excessive chewing
- Sore, red or lightly bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Pawing at their mouth
- Grooming less
Occasionally, kittens may have persistent deciduous teeth, meaning that some of their baby teeth did not fall out. This is rare but worth keeping an eye out for as your kitten may need to have some teeth extracted. Another potential problem is teeth growing too close together, which can increase your cat’s risk of gum disease. Consult your veterinarian right away if you notice any crowding so that your cat companion can quickly get the treatment they need.
How to Help a Teething Kitten
Do kittens have a lot of pain when teething? There's bound to be physical discomfort when pointy teeth are poking through sensitive gums but, according to the PDSA, most cats don’t appear to be too bothered by this.
Your kitten will, however, look for ways to relieve the soreness and irritation associated with teething. They may try to use you as a chew toy, which is never good for either of you. Here, as with other acts of aggressive cat play, redirection is the way to go.
Commercially available kitten chew toys are an option, including rubber or soft plastic-based toys that are easy to chew and toys that you can put in the refrigerator. To keep your kitten safe, you should stay with them while they play with it, always follow the toy's directions, keep an eye out for damage, and immediately discard damaged toys.
Your kitten may try to chew on furniture legs or electrical cords. This behaviour can be damaging to your belongings but, more importantly, may put your cat in harm's way. To prevent accidental injury from destructive chewing, the PDSA recommends keeping any hazardous objects covered or out of reach.
Teething kittens may prefer canned food or dry food soaked in water if their gums are sore. Once they reach adulthood you can consider feeding them cat food formulated to promote good oral health depending on your veterinarian’s recommendations.
The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene for Kittens
Just like us humans, cats are vulnerable to dental and gum diseases. Unless you are looking in your cat’s mouth every day, the signs that are likely to signal a problem with gum or dental disease are the following according to experts at the Cats Protection and PDSA :
- Bad breath
- Pain (your kitten might be pawing at their mouth, vocalising, or finding it hard to eat)
- Compensatory eating habits, like chewing on one side or preferring soft food
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Visible tartar
- Red, sore, swollen or bleeding gums
- Wobbly teeth
- Swelling around the face, jaw, or cheeks
- Lack of interest in grooming
- By investing in your kitten’s oral health when they're young, you can help prevent some of these issues down the line.
You can also help to prevent dental problems by establishing a dental care routine with regular checkups and teeth brushing. This may keep healthcare costs down and issues like gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth resorption at bay.
Your kitten may not handle the teething process well, so make sure you show them lots of love, support and patience as these new teeth settle in place.
Christine Brovelli-O'Brien, Ph.D., is a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association (CWA), a STEAM educator and a devoted cat parent. She writes about pets, education, women's health, and STEM-y stuff. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien
Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA and Dr. Aileen Pypers, BSc, BVSc, PGDip