Green-eyed cat with his mouth open

Dental Distinction: How Many Teeth Do Cats Have?

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Why are cat teeth such a mystery? It does seem as though dog owners have a much better understanding of their K9’s mouths, but this is for the simple fact that owners interact with their dog’s teeth more through playing, chew toys, and the like. When it comes to a cat’s mouth, owners seem to keep their distance.

In this article, we’re going to dispel many of the myths about cat teeth and mouths, while also illuminating some fun and helpful facts. There’s a very good chance that you’ve never poked around in your cat’s mouth, and that’s because if you did so, you’d receive a deep puncture wound.

How Many Teeth?

Stripped

So, to start, let’s answer the question that this article raises. How many teeth does a cat have? Perhaps you’ve only ever seen two fangs during your entire ownership of the feline. In truth, cats have 30 adult teeth and 26 baby teeth. That is much fewer than dogs, who have 42 adult teeth, and even less than humans, who have 32 adult teeth.

The fangs that you often see presented to you are saber-tooth tiger style, and they can be intimidating, even in the most benign cats. But they’re meant to be intimidating, and to help your cat catch its prey.

Baby and Adult Teeth

By looking at your cat’s teeth, you can get a real sense of how old they are. This is particularly true when it comes to stray cats. The tiny front teeth are the first to erupt. These are known as incisors, and some call them fangs. The teeth behind the fangs are known as the premolars, and these quickly follow the front teeth.

The premolars won’t start to appear until the kitten is five to six weeks old, and then the permanent teeth won’t erupt until the cat is 11 to 16 weeks old. Again, this process begins with the incisors and is followed by the premolars. The molars way in the back of the cat’s mouth won’t appear until 20 to 24 weeks.

Cats and Cavities

Everyone always wants to know whether or not cats get cavities. You may notice that there are very few cat and dog dentists, and this is because they’re on a very low sugar diet that does not lead to lots of cavities. When cavities do appear, they can be painful for animals, just as they are for humans.

Why Do Cat Bites Get Infected?

Grey cat roaring in the grass - he thinks he's a lion!

If you own a cat, there’s no doubt that you’ve taken a bite or two, and these can be deep and painful. The fact of the matter is that cats can leave an infection with these deep punctures, and that’s due to their sharp, pointy fangs, or canines. These sharp teeth are designed similar to hypodermic needles, and they can penetrate the flesh intensely.

There is pathogenic bacteria in those fangs, and that means that when your wound closes up, it’s likely to lead to abscess later. When you receive a deep wound from your cat’s teeth, you’re going to need to go on an antibiotic to clear the bacteria from your skin.

Do Cats Re-grow Their Teeth?

Not only do cats not re-grow teeth, they also don’t have tooth growth for their entire lives. Once the cat gets 30 permanent teeth in place then it’s done. Can you imagine what a cat’s mouth would look like if their teeth kept growing all their lives? You friendly Furball would not look as cute at age 15 as she did when she was a kitten.

Do Cats Wear Braces?

You laugh, but some cats actually do have to wear braces. This is only in the case of severe oral malformations. This is most common in Persian cats who have saber-like canine projections. Braces may also be used when a cat has an uneven bite, causing the canines to protrude at odd angles. This is a problem if it impairs the cat from eating or drinking normally.

Do Cat Teeth Need to Be Extracted?

Some cats suffer from feline ondoclasic resorptive lesions, or FORLs. This painful condition includes excess salivation, bleeding gums, and difficulty eating. Extraction is the most common procedure used to relieve the discomfort. There is no known cause for FORLs, but researchers have a number of theories.

Do Cats Get Mouth Cancer?

Unfortunately, cats do get mouth cancer. Oral tumors are very serious and require aggressive treatment to amend the situation. When you see lumps, discolored areas, or swelling in your cat’s mouth, it’s imperative that you see your vet at once to get it checked out.

Are You a Bad Parent For Not Brushing?

Cat showing teeth - is he angry?

Yes, you are a bad parent. Actually, we’re just joking. Not brushing your cat’s teeth isn’t the worst possible offense, and many cat parents are guilty of it. In fact, it can be a real nuisance to do on your own, and that’s why it’s suggested that you get your cat’s teeth regularly cleaned under anesthesia by the vet technician. Also, when the cat is under, you can get dental x-rays to ensure that there are no problems with the gums.

At this point, you’re probably realizing that the only thing that you know about your cat’s mouth is that it smells like cat food. But there’s a whole world inside of there that you’re now discovering, and hopefully, from time to time, you’re remembering to explore in there for a bit to make sure that everything is okay.

Next up, we’re going to delve deeper into the mystery of your cat’s mouth.

Similarities Between Human and Cat Teeth

Although cat teeth look very different than human teeth, in reality they have a lot of similarities. Cats have two successive sets of teeth, as we’ve discussed, and that is what humans have too! The first set, the baby teeth, fall out when they’re young, then the permanent teeth come in.

Although we both have two sets of teeth, the rate at which the baby teeth fall out and become adult teeth is much more accelerated than it is in humans. Cats are born without teeth, then rapidly get baby teeth followed by adult teeth. When their teeth are well cared for, they will last them well into old age. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for humans.

Made For Hunting

Cat with closed eyes appears to be smiling - is he daydreaming?

As you can probably tell from those sharp fangs, cat teeth are made for hunting, because they are carnivores by nature. There are really no teeth for grinding in the cat’s mouth, but rather, they’re meant for seizing prey and tearing flesh. The grooves on the cat’s canine teeth have what’s called a ‘bleeding groove’ to allow prey to bleed around the tooth.

Another way in which cat teeth are similar to human teeth is that each tooth is meant to serve a different function. Not only are they meant for hunting, but cat teeth are also used for grooming. The incisors help cats to chew on their claws and remove loose nails. They also use their teeth to scratch itches on their skin.

Dental Pain

We discussed dental pain earlier, but it’s important to note that cats hide their dental pain from their owners. In fact, cats with dental problems will often show no symptoms at all. That’s why it’s important as a cat owner to be proactive and always check your cat’s mouth for problems.

As we mentioned earlier, what you’re looking for is drooling, red gums, and changes in eating habits. Sometimes when a cat has mouth problems you’ll smell a foul odor. It will be akin to a really fishy, rotten smell that is undeniable.

Suffering After Extraction

Scrappy cat yawning and showing teeth

It’s a misconception that if your cat has to have some teeth removed, they will suffer. In truth, cats that have teeth removed can eat wet food, or even dry food, and live a long and happy life after teeth have been removed. The most important thing is to have a healthy, pain-free mouth, and if that means extraction, then so be it.

We Need More Information

As cat owners, it’s important that we know as much as possible about our felines in order to ensure their health and safety, but there isn’t a whole lot of information out there about feline dental health! We drove home the need for annual visits to the vet for teeth cleaning, and if you’re a really intrepid cat owner, then be sure to clean your cat’s teeth at home.

Keep in mind that when buying dental products for your cat, you want to see the VOHC seal on the packaging. This means that the product is approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, and you can even check their website for product suggestions and other important facts you should know.

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Essentially, when you know as much as you can, look inside that mouth from time to time, and understand the red flags, then there’s a good chance that your cat is going to keep their teeth for life! The same cannot be said for you, unfortunately, especially when you eat a diet of processed foods and sugars.

Dental Distinction: How Many Teeth Do Cats Have?

Product data was last updated on 2019-11-18.

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