Cats

How to care for a cat with no teeth

Imagine a beautiful senior cat, confidently strutting around as if she owns the world. You would never have guessed she doesn’t have any teeth left 😻

While many cat owners go into panic mode when they hear their beloved cat has to lose all her teeth, most of these amazing creatures have no problems whatsoever getting used to this new situation.

In fact, many cat owners often report that it feels like their cats are suddenly 5 years younger than before the surgery. 

And if you think about it,  it’s understandable. Dental problems hurt and those cats were living in constant pain. With all their bad teeth gone, their mouths don’t hurt anymore 🤷‍♀️

Although they can adapt very easily, here’s a guide on how to care for a cat with no teeth and help her lead a full and happy life:



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While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.


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How many teeth does an adult cat have

Domestic cats have 26 baby teeth that will later be replaced by adult teeth. Adult cats have a total of 30 permanent teeth. 

These are categorized into different types: incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Each type has a slightly different function. 

An adult cat has 12 incisors, 4 canines, 10 premolars, and 4 molars.

Incisors:

Cats have 12 incisor teeth located at the front of the mouth, six in the upper jaw and six in the lower jaw. These teeth are small and sharp, shaped like tiny chisels. The incisors are primarily used for nibbling and grooming purposes. They help cats groom their fur, remove debris from their coat, and grasp smaller objects.

Canines:

Cats have four canines, commonly known as “fangs,” which are located at the corners of the mouth. Canines are long, pointed, and highly specialized teeth. They are designed for puncturing and tearing food. Canines play a crucial role in a cat’s hunting behavior, allowing them to catch and immobilize their prey.

Premolars:

Cats possess ten premolar teeth, 6 in the upper jaw and 4 in the lower jaw. Premolars have pointed cusps that aid in shearing and tearing food. They are used for gripping and cutting meat or other tougher food items. These teeth assist cats in breaking down their prey into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Molars:

Molars are located at the back of a cat’s mouth. Cats have four molars – one on each side of the upper jaw and lower jaw. Molars have broad and flat surfaces, ideal for grinding and crushing food. They are involved in the final breakdown of food particles before swallowing.

The difference between human and feline teeth:

We, humans, have more teeth designed for grinding food, while cat teeth are designed mostly for tearing and shredding. 

Cats are hunters and most of their teeth are sharp and pointy, designed to capture, kill, and tear their prey apart. Which is why it hurts like hell when a cat bites you. The bite wound is usually deep and requires thorough cleaning and disinfection.

FYI these types of wounds are deep puncture wounds, which can get infected very easily. So if a cat bites you, it’s better to call a doctor and ask him how to proceed.

Signs of dental problems in cats:

Cats are masters at hiding their pain and sometimes it can be quite difficult to notice that they have a problem. However, dental issues can have a profound impact on your cat’s overall health and well-being. 

Signs of dental problems in cats:

  • Bad breath (Halitosis): Persistent bad breath is often a sign of dental issues in cats. It can result from the accumulation of bacteria in the mouth due to dental disease.
  • Difficulty eating: Cats with dental problems may struggle to chew their food. They might eat more slowly, drop food from their mouth, tilt their heads when trying to eat, or avoid hard kibble altogether.
  • Pawing at the mouth: Cats in discomfort may paw at their mouths or exhibit facial rubbing behaviors. This is a response to oral pain or irritation.
  • Drooling: Excessive drooling can be a sign of oral discomfort, though not all cats with dental problems drool.
  • Weight loss: Dental pain can deter cats from eating, leading to weight loss. If your cat is losing weight without explanation, dental problems could be a factor.
  • Red or swollen gums: Healthy gums should be pink. Redness, swelling, or bleeding can indicate gingivitis or more advanced dental disease.
  • Changes in behavior: Cats in pain may become irritable, withdrawn, or less willing to engage in play or social interactions. Sometimes they start to pee outside of their litterbox.
  • Visible tartar or plaque build-up: If you notice a yellow or brownish coating on your cat’s teeth, it’s a sign of dental issues. Severe cases may involve visible calculus or tartar.
  • Loose or missing teeth: Have a quick look in your cat’s mouth from time to time and check your pet’s teeth. 

The best way to take care of your cat’s oral health is to inspect your cat’s mouth regularly and brush your cat’s gums and teeth to remove the accumulation of plaque. You can also use a cat toothpaste or dental gel. There are also several dental diets and feline dental treats available on the market. And I would highly recommend scheduling a professional dental cleaning. 

Here’s a more detailed guide on how to care for your cat’s dental health if she still has some teeth left ☺️

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Most common cat dental problems that can lead to toothlessness

Tooth loss in cats can stem from various causes, ranging from natural aging processes to underlying dental issues.

Here are a few most common causes of tooth loss in cats:

Periodontal disease:

Periodontal disease is a common cause of tooth loss in cats. It’s characterized by inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting structures around the teeth.

It begins with the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth. Over time, the bacteria in the plaque can cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), leading to gum recession and the formation of periodontal pockets. If the disease progresses, it can damage the structures supporting the teeth, including the periodontal ligament and the jawbone, leading to loose or infected teeth that may require extraction.

Feline gingivitis/stomatitis:

Feline gingivitis is a gum disease where the gingiva around the tooth becomes inflamed and painful.

Feline stomatitis is a severe and painful condition characterized by inflammation of the entire oral cavity, including the gums, tongue, and throat. This chronic inflammatory condition can lead to severe oral pain, difficulty eating, and eventually the loss of multiple teeth.

Feline gingivitis/stomatitis syndrome is a severe, immune-mediated inflammatory disease, where the treatment includes the extraction of most or all of the teeth.

Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL):

Feline resorptive lesions, also known as tooth resorption, are a progressive and most common dental problem in cats. These lesions occur when the tooth structure breaks down and is gradually absorbed by the body, leading to redness, swelling and tooth loss. The cause is usually unknown.

Age-related factors can play a role as well, as senior cats are more prone to dental issues and may experience tooth loss due to natural wear and tear. 

Trauma:

Dental trauma, such as accidents or injuries, can also result in tooth loss. The impact can directly cause fractures or dislodgment of teeth. Even small fractures can be dangerous, as they allow bacteria inside the teeth. 

Other factors:

Additionally, certain systemic conditions, including autoimmune diseases and metabolic disorders, may contribute to tooth loss in cats. 

Furthermore, poor oral hygiene practices, inadequate dental care, and a lack of regular dental check-ups can exacerbate dental problems, leading to tooth loss over time.

If you want to read more about cat dental problems, the MSD manual is a valid source you can look at 😎

Cats are masters at hiding their pain. Sadly, many cats suffer from dental problems, without their owners noticing. That’s why is proper dental hygiene so important to prevent tooth decay and oral health issues.

How can tooth loss affect a cat’s quality of  life

While tooth loss can have an impact on a cat’s quality of life, most cats manage fairly well without teeth. 

Here’s why: Cats’ teeth are different from human teeth. We use our teeth mostly for chewing and grinding. Cats are carnivores and use their teeth mostly for grasping and shearing. And they often swallow without chewing. Because they use their teeth in a different way than humans,  they can manage even after a full mouth extraction much better than we can.

However, there are a few things a toothless cat might struggle with.

Impact on eating:

Certain foods can pose a challenge for cats with no teeth. They may struggle to eat dry kibble or larger chunks of food, leading to a decreased appetite or weight loss. Toothless cats often prefer soft food or a wet diet that is easier to chew and swallow.

Grooming challenges:

Cats need their teeth to groom themselves effectively. Tooth loss can hinder their ability to remove loose fur and maintain a clean coat. 

But any senior cat can have problems grooming herself, with or without teeth. So it’s up to you to help her ☺️ And there is something profoundly relaxing in brushing a cat that is really enjoying it.

Behavioral changes:

Oral pain and discomfort associated with dental problems can cause changes in your cat’s behavior. Cats are masters at hiding their pain, so often the only sign that they are not ok is a behavioral change. They may become more irritable, exhibit decreased activity levels, start to hide, avoid food or show reluctance to engage in play. 

However, once the cause of the pain is removed, their behavior changes too. Many pet owners report that their cats are playful again and are much more like themselves.

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How to care for a cat with no teeth right after the surgery

Your vet told you your cat needs teeth extraction to help her with dental problems. Here are a few tips on how to care for your cat right after the surgery:

Follow your vet’s recommendations

First of all, each cat’s recovery process is unique, and it’s essential that you follow your veterinarian’s recommendations. 

Your vet will create a personalized therapy plan based on your cat’s specific needs and the surgical procedure performed. Follow it to the letter.

Monitor your cat closely

Keep a close eye on your cat after the surgery. Observe her behavior, breathing, and any signs of distress or complications. 

Keep an eye out for any signs of excessive swelling, redness, or bleeding, bad or foul odor, pus, or excessive bleeding.

If you notice anything concerning, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Provide a comfortable environment

Provide a quiet and comfortable space where your cat can rest and recover without being disturbed by other pets or children. 

Some cats need attention after surgery, some want to be left alone. Respect your cat’s wishes 🙂

Follow a prescribed therapy plan

Your cat will get anti-inflammatory and pain medication as well as antibiotics. 

Sometimes they are in the form of injections, sometimes they need to be given orally. Ensure you understand the dosage and schedule and follow the prescribed therapy plan. 

Set a reminder if you have to. 

If you have problems giving your cat her pills, let your vet know. I know that cats often refuse to cooperate and giving them their pills can be quite an adventure (and in some cases even life-threatening for the poor cat owner 😛). If this is your cat, talk to your vet as soon as possible. There are other ways to make sure she gets her medicine, and there’s no need to let her suffer and prolong her recovery.

Schedule a follow-up vet visit

Schedule follow-up visits as directed by your veterinarian. These visits allow your vet to assess your cat’s progress and make sure everything is healing properly. 

Follow any additional care instructions.

Following a tooth extraction surgery, it is common for your cat to experience sensitivity in the affected area for approximately 1 to 2 weeks. Make her comfortable, follow your vet’s therapy plan, and let him know if you have the feeling that something is not right.

text reads How to care for a cat with no teeth right after the surgery: Follow your vet’s recommendations, Monitor your cat closely, Provide a comfortable environment, Follow a prescribed therapy plan, Schedule a follow-up vet visit, with a graphic of a cat

What to feed a cat with no teeth

While there are some cats that are able to continue eating dry kibbles, they do this by swallowing them whole. Swallowing bigger amounts of kibbles whole can, in some cats, lead to gastrointestinal problems. So make sure your cat is really ok after eating a larger amount. Or you can feed her small amounts every few hours. 

However, even without teeth, your cat needs a high-quality, well-balanced diet adapted to her individual needs. My advice? The best food is the one your cat will actually eat 🤷‍♀️ Make sure it’s well-balanced and covers her needs.

So what can you feed a toothless cat? 

Kibbles:

If you don’t want to make any changes, you can continue giving your cat dry food. The trick is to make them soft before giving them to your cat. 

You can pour warm water or broth over your cat’s kibbles and let them soak the liquid up. Please don’t use bouillon cubes, bouillon powder, or similar alternatives. 

Pros:

  • No need to change your cat’s diet after tooth extraction
  • Doesn’t spoil easily
  • Convenient and easy to store
  • It is generally less expensive than other types of cat food
  • A huge variety of different brands and foods, including specialized veterinary diets

Cons:

  • You need to let them soak in the liquid for a while
  • If your cat doesn’t eat the whole portion, you should throw the rest away

Wet cat food:

Most cats love wet cat food. And even without teeth, they have no problems eating it. 

You can choose pates, but toothless cats can also eat chunks in gravy, or basically any type of wet cat food. 

However, look for high-quality cat wet foods that will cover your cat’s nutritional needs. 

Pros:

  • Usually more palatable than kibbles
  • Convenient
  • A huge variety of different brands and foods, including specialized veterinary diets

Cons:

  • More expensive than kibbles
  • Spoils easily and needs to be stored properly after opening (see my article How to store dog’s wet food, I know it’s for dogs, but the same principles apply to cat wet food)
  • It’s easy to overfeed your cat

Freeze-dried cat food:

Freeze-dried foods are made by freezing raw or cooked ingredients and then placing them in a vacuum chamber to remove moisture. It needs to be rehydrated before giving it to the cat. This makes the food softer and suitable for toothless cats. 

Pros:

  • Freeze-dried foods are very palatable
  • Convenient and easy to store
  • Contains more nutrients due to the manufacturing process

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Fewer brands to choose from, so you might not find the right diet for your cat’s nutritional needs

Whatever you decide to feed your cat (or whatever she decides she wants to eat 😛), make sure it covers her current nutritional needs. A senior cat needs different food than a mature cat. A sterilized indoor cat might be better off with specialized cat food for sterilized cats. Always choose high-quality food and don’t mix it with low-quality brands.

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Other frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Do cats with no teeth drool?

While it is uncommon for cats to drool after having their teeth removed, there are certain situations where drooling may occur.

In rare and challenging cases, such as when a portion of a cat’s jaw needs to be removed along with the teeth or if there is facial nerve damage, post-surgery drooling can occur. These circumstances can disrupt the normal functioning of the cat’s oral and facial structures.

Drooling in cats after tooth removal is not a typical occurrence but rather an exception in complex cases where significant surgical intervention has taken place.

Can cats meow without teeth?

Yes, cats can meow even if they don’t have teeth. While teeth play a role in producing certain sounds, they are only a very minor factor in a cat’s ability to meow. Meowing primarily involves the vocal cords and the control of airflow through the mouth and throat.

Even toothless cats can produce various meowing sounds, ranging from soft and gentle to loud and demanding. 

Tooth loss may not affect a cat’s meowing ability, although it’s possible that the absence of teeth could slightly alter the sound or clarity of their vocalizations. 

However, if your cat’s meowing patterns change significantly or if she starts to “create” unusual sounds, talk to your vet. It’s always better to check any changes in your cat’s behavior.  

How long does it take for cats to recover from teeth removal?

How long a cat needs to recover from a teeth removal depends on different factors. The average time is 10-14 days, but some cats heal much faster. 

How risky is cat dental surgery?

While dental surgeries for cats generally have a low risk of complications, they are not entirely risk-free. Although complications are uncommon, they can still occur. 

The most significant risk often relates to anesthesia, especially for older cats. Your cat will need a comprehensive pre-operative examination to determine if she can have anesthesia. This helps mitigate potential risks and allows the veterinary team to tailor the anesthesia protocol specifically for your cat’s individual needs, minimizing any associated risks during the dental surgery.

At the age of 14, our beloved cat lost all of his teeth. But that didn’t hinder him from living a joyous senior life, oh no… He gracefully embraced the changes and thrived until the age of 18, almost reaching an impressive 19 years old. 

Losing teeth may be a concern for us humans, but for these remarkable creatures, it’s just another chapter in their resilient journey 🥰


PS: If you are as crazy about animals as I am and want to get more pet health tips, subscribe to my newsletter! Now you will get a free pet planner as a bonus 
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