HEALTH & CARE

How Many Teeth Do Cats Have: The Better to Brush Their Teeth With

Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Our pets are our dear companions. We spend time showing them affection. Cats, in particular, enjoy been cared for. We take our time to groom and clean every part of them—including their teeth. Perhaps you have wondered how many teeth do cats have, especially when brushing their teeth.

Although they do not smile to show off pearly white teeth as humans do, brushing their teeth is still necessary as their teeth play an important role in maintaining the general wellbeing of your cat. Cats that have an incomplete set of teeth could have difficulties processing their food. Also, they could be more susceptible to dental diseases—causing them to lose even more teeth. While brushing your cat’s teeth, knowing how many teeth he has exactly will help you get to all of them without forgetting any.

The big cat's mouth with big lips and mustache

In this article, we evaluate the importance of teeth in the feline species. We also break down in detail the components of a tooth and the different types of feline teeth. We will then enumerate how many teeth your cat should have based on his life stage. We will also analyze the dental diseases that commonly plague the feline community

Why are Your Cat’s Teeth Important?

With cats, the teeth serve more functions than they do with humans. Especially if they live wild, cats need their teeth to hunt and fight for territories. Domestic cats may live without them if it cannot be helped like in cases of diseases, age, and others, but it will certainly pose a difficulty.

cloe-up of a cat with an open mouth

Here are some important functions that teeth perform in cats:

  • Grasping Food: It is also referred to as prehension. The food is picked, held, and positioned in place for the next process
  • Chewing and Grinding: Once the food is in the mouth, the teeth help to cut larger pieces into smaller pieces. Then the food is masticated with the chewing, grinding, and ultimately, swallowing.
  • Self-Defense: Cats not only defend themselves with their claws but also their teeth.
  • Killing: Reminiscent of their wilder siblings, cats use their teeth to kill small preys and little trespassing animals.

The Anatomy of a Cat’s Tooth

A tooth is more than the hard exterior that is visible to the naked eye. There are some complicated mechanisms and parts encased within. The three parts of a tooth are:

  • Enamel: This is the white and mineralized exterior part of the tooth. It is the part that is brushed. It covers the crown of the tooth. The enamel of a cat’s tooth is about 0.2mm thick—which is thin compared to other mammals like dogs. The enamel is designed to be strong enough to protect the inner components of the tooth. When there is damage to the enamel, the tooth is exposed to the risks of infection and decay.
  • Dentine: This is the middle layer of the tooth. The dentine is also hard but not as hard as the enamel. It is sensitive to root exposure and enamel damage. It receives the pain of injury to the pulp and the enamel.
  • Pulp Cavity: This inner layer of the tooth contains cells and blood vessels. It has all the other components protecting it because any damage or unwanted exposure will cause extreme pain.

Different Types of Cat Teeth

Each tooth belongs to a certain category. There are four main types of teeth found both in humans and mammals alike. They are:

Type #1: Incisors

These are the first teeth you see because they are positioned at the forefront. They are mainly used to hold and pick prey up. Incisors have one single root, and as such, these teeth are easy to remove when they are infected.

close-up of Incisors of a cat

An adult cat has six incisors on the upper jaw and another six on the lower jaw.

Type #2: Canines

Big cats like lions, tigers, and leopards hunt and kill in the wild. They can’t do that without their canines. These help to kill and shred the prey. They are longer than the other teeth. Cats have four canines—two on each side of the jaw, divided up and down. They are rooted in the jaw bones.

Type #3: Premolars

The premolars are for chewing and cutting both bones and meat. There are six equally divided premolars on each side of the upper jaw. There are four on the lower jaw—two on each side.

Striped tabby cat giving a big yawn

Each premolar has more than one root except for two upper premolars. They have one root each. All roots must be extracted when there is a need to extract any of the premolars.

Type #4: Molars

Cats have four molars—one on each side of the upper and lower jaw. Molars alongside premolars are used to grind and chew. The upper molars have one root, which makes them easy to extract when they are diseased. The lower molars, however, have two roots.

How Cats Grow Out Their Teeth with Age

Cats have a similar classification of teeth to humans and other mammals. They have the milk teeth and the adult teeth.

Class #1: Deciduous Teeth

These are temporary teeth that are shed before or very close to maturity. They are also called the baby or milk teeth.

close-up of Deciduous Teeths of a cat

Kittens are born without teeth, like all newborn mammals. It is a time when they are fed milk.

See Also: How to Care for Newborn Kittens

At about two weeks, the front teeth peek through the gums. Between three to four months after their birth, the canines show up. At six weeks, the grinders or premolars takes their place.

Class #2: Permanent Teeth

As the name implies, these teeth replace the deciduous teeth and will stay with the cat until the end. Permanent teeth include the incisors, the canines, the molars, and the premolars.

close-up of Permanent Teeths of a cat

By the eighth or ninth month, your cat should have a full mouth of permanent teeth. They should start to eat solid food at this point.

See Also: How to Wean Kittens

How Many Teeth Do Cats Have?

The answer is, it depends on what life stage they are in:

Stage #1: Kittens

Kittens do not have teeth at birth. They do not have molars, and their deciduous teeth fall out starting from eleven weeks of age. Kittens have a total of twenty-six deciduous teeth. There are twelve incisors, four canines, and ten premolars.

When they begin to lose their baby teeth, you may find one or two around the house. Most of the time, they swallow their baby tooth. It does not harm or cause damage to their body.

Kitten born teeth

Growing out their teeth can be quite painful and itchy for them. While they are teething, you might want to provide them with pacifiers that they can bite to help ward off the itchiness.

See Also: How to Make a Kitten Pacifier

Stage #2: Adults

How many teeth does an adult cat have? An adult cat has fewer teeth than a human adult. An adult cat has thirty permanent teeth, which begin to come in at late kittenhood. At six months old, the molars start growing—establishing them as adult cats.

Stage #3: Elderly Cats

Elderly cats commonly lose their teeth as a result of dental diseases. Cats can do without one or two teeth, but when it becomes a continuous problem and it begins to affect their daily life, then it should be rectified immediately.

Elderly Cat theets

Below are some signs that can alert you to the fact that your cat is losing teeth. If you notice one or two symptoms, take your cat to the vet for a thorough dental examination and treatment.

  • Bad breath
  • Inability to close the mouth
  • Drooling where the saliva may be blood-tinged
  • Lack of appetite
  • Problems in chewing
  • Receding gum line where the root of the diseased tooth is becoming visible
  • Pawing at the mouth or rubbing the side of the face on any surface often because of pain
  • Brownish crusty deposits at the edges of the gum
  • Swollen and red gums
  • Vomiting
  • Unkempt coat condition because of lack of grooming
  • Weight loss

Feline Dental Diseases

Dental diseases are the main reason cats lose their teeth. These diseases have no respect for age or breed. Below are the most common ones:

Disease #1: Feline Ondoclastic Resorptive Lesion (FORL)

This usually arises from gingivitis and leads to teeth cavity—causing the affected teeth to wear away. Lesions are formed.

an older cat looking at the camera

Bleeding and jaw spasms are also a common occurrence with the condition. Early diagnosis can help effective treatment.

Disease #2: Feline Stomatitis

This is a severe inflammation of the cat’s gum and mouth that is extremely painful. Ulcers develop in the mouth—covering the lips, the tongue, the gums, and up to the back of the throat.

a cat lying on the floor looking at the camera

Stomatitis develops as a result of untreated periodontal disease. It can affect any age or breed of cats. There is no single cause, but it has been attributed to the feline immune system attacking its own oral tissue. The immune system is trying to get rid of excessive bacteria accumulation in the cat’s mouth. You can prevent this by brushing your cat’s teeth routinely.

See Also: How to Brush Cat Teeth

In some extreme cases, the molar and premolar may need to be removed to prevent the bacteria from attaching to the tooth surface. You may need a long-term treatment to control the disease. Other underlying conditions like FeLV, FIV, and Bartonellosis should be treated first.

Disease #3: Gingivitis

It is a condition that simply affects the gum—physically manifesting in inflammation. The severity differs from mild, moderate, to extreme gingivitis.

  • Mild gingivitis can occur two days after cleaning plaque formation. It is a common occurrence, with the age of the cat being irrelevant. It does not affect the root. Proper dental care can correct it.
  • Moderate gingivitis is also quite common. This occurs when plaque accumulates in the gum area. As time goes on, there will be inflammation and receding gum line. Plaque, tartar, and bacteria eat the gum—creating pockets in it. It can be reversed with great home dental care.
  • Severe gingivitis features deep gingivitis pockets and plaque on the teeth. The condition is usually irreversible because of severe gum recession. Your cat will likely require general aesthetic for scaling and polishing as regular brushing won’t be possible. Cats around five months old often develop gingivitis.

Disease #4: Periodontitis

This is another gum disease common in older cats. The gums are recessed and inflamed. Ligaments and supporting tissues are also affected, deteriorated, and unstable. The root of the affected tooth is left exposed. Periodontitis has similar signs of extreme gingivitis. In most cases, it is best to extract the affected tooth.

Disease #5: Fractures

Fractures usually affect the tips of the canines. Its length and function make this tooth susceptible to fractures. The premolars may also suffer fractures in the process of chewing and grinding.

siamese cat meowsing

Fractures are caused by oral trauma in the cavity. Other feline tooth diseases can also weaken the teeth and make them easy to break. Fractures can occur above the gum line or below the gum line. Those that occur above the gum line are visible, and the affected tooth may turn gray.

Fractures can be very painful for cats because the dentine-pulp usually extends to the tip of the tooth. Fracture below the gum line will require total root extraction. Untreated fractures may become breeding ground for infection-causing bacteria, lead to abscesses, and facial swelling.

Disease #6: Cancer

No one likes the word cancer, but it is the fourth most common oral disease in cats. Cancer can affect the gums, the tongue, the lips, the jawbone, and/or the palate. The cancerous masses are usually found during routine examinations at the vet clinic. Early diagnosis is vital in the treatment of cancer.

Causes Dental Diseases

Some factors increase your cat’s predisposition to dental diseases and disorders, and these include:

Cause #1: Poor Dental Hygiene

This is the most common factor. Poor oral care will definitely cost you and your cat. A simple daily teeth brushing can save you a lot of money on health expenses and save your cat untold dental pain and discomfort.

Veterinarian checking the teeth on a pet cat

If you can’t practice daily teeth cleaning, ensure you brush your cat’s teeth weekly. Use the recommended cat toothpaste and brush.

Cause #2: Diet

What you feed your cat can ultimately lead to a progression of dental diseases. Either dry or wet food can accumulate and cause tartar and plaque over time. However, there are special diets that are available which are designed to prevent the formation of plaque and tartar.

grey cat eating

Biscuits or kibbles will create abrasion on your cat’s teeth and not allow food to build up in the gum area. Also, feeding your cat sweets and treats often can aggravate tooth problems. It is recommended that you keep sweets to the barest. Instead, feed your cat some healthy homemade treats that are not too sweet.

See Also: DIY Cat Treats

Cause #3: Genetics

Some cats breed are more genetically predisposed to dental diseases, and they need tip-top dental care. Some cats have misaligned teeth, which cause an increase in tartar and plaque buildup. This problem can be because of:

  • Congenital or traumatic abnormalities: Cat breeds like the Persian, the British Shorthair, and the Exotic Shorthair are born with abnormal teeth positioning. They have overcrowded and misaligned teeth because of their small jaws. Other times, misalignment of teeth may occur because of trauma or severe injury to the jaw.
  • Temporary teeth retention: Normally, the temporary teeth should be pushed out for the permanent teeth to grow, but in some cats, the deciduous teeth are retained, and the permanent teeth are forced to grow at an awkward angle—causing misalignment.

Cause #4: Infectious Diseases

Research shows that some infectious diseases can be responsible for gingivitis. Feline Immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and Feline Calicivirus (FCV) are all infection-causing viruses. Persistent gingivitis or stomatitis have been traced back to the FCV.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, we want to ensure that our cats keep all of their teeth. To that end, prevention cannot be overemphasized. It is better to put time and effort into good dental home care and routine checks than to suffer the consequences of carelessness. Always observe any strange and abnormal behavior. Your quick observation can make all the difference.

close-up of a cat washing her Teeths

Do you brush your cat’s teeth regularly? Has your cat lost any of his teeth? Share any stories, opinions, and suggestions in the comments section below! Now that you know how many teeth your cat has, care to find out how he sees the world as well? Learn more about your cat’s eyes in this article.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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