Tartar on cat teeth – How do you clean it?

As a cat owner, you may have heard of the term “tartar” when it comes to your feline friend’s dental health. In this article, we will explain what tartar on cat teeth is, how it forms, the difference between tartar and dental plaque, how to recognize tartar in your cat, why it needs to be removed, how to get rid of it, and how to prevent it from forming. We hope this article will help you and your cat to some bright and shiny teeth!

What is Tartar in a Cat?

Tartar on cat teeth, also known as dental calculus, is a hard, yellow or brownish substance that forms on a cat’s teeth. Dental plaque is formed by food residues. Minerals will accumulate in these food scraps. The more minerals that get into the dental plaque, the harder it becomes and the more difficult it is to remove it. Tartar can cause a number of dental problems, like gingivitis and dental loss.
Tartar on a cat's molar needs to be removed.

How Tartar on Cat Teeth Forms

Tartar on cat teeth forms when plaque is not removed from a cat’s teeth on a regular basis. Plaque is a soft, sticky film of bacteria and food residue that forms on teeth shortly after eating. If it is not removed through regular brushing or dental cleanings, it can harden into tartar. Cats normally scrape off the plaque when they are chewing on things like bones of a bird or mouse they caught. Matatabi sticks will also clean their teeth if given. 

What is the Difference Between Tartar and Dental Plaque?

Dental plaque is a soft, sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth shortly after eating. Tartar is hardened plaque that has mineralized over time. While plaque is removed through regular brushing and dental cleanings, tartar on cat teeth is much more difficult to remove. It will stay put when you brush your cat’s teeth. 

How Do I Recognize Tartar in a Cat?

Tartar on cat teeth is typically yellow or brownish in color and forms on the teeth, especially near the gum line on the molars and canines. In severe cases, it covers the entire tooth and even spread to the gums. Here it causes gingivitis. The normal color of teeth in a cat is white. Everything on the teeth that has a different colour are food residues that you can just brush away. Or, if you can not brush it away, it is tartar. 

Why Does Tartar Needs to be Removed?

Tartar on cat teeth causes a number of dental problems for cats, including gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and (very) bad breath. It also leads to more serious health problems, such as heart disease and kidney disease, if bacteria from the tartar enters the bloodstream. This happens when there is a severe inflammation of the gums. 

Clean teeth after the removal of tartar on cats teeth.
Same cat as before. The tartar is removed and clean white teeth are the result. Note: this cat is under aneasthesia and there for has a airway tube in his throat. This makes sure the cat's airways stay open during the procedure.

How Do You Remove Plaque and Tartar from a Cat's Teeth at Home?

Tartar is a very hard substance. It is very firmly attached to the teeth. Brush his teeth well to prevent dental plaque and thus to prevent extra tartar on your cat’s teeth. But removing tartar cannot be done with a toothbrush. You use a tartar scraper for this. However, not every cat will willingly lie down so that you as the owner can put something scary in its mouth….

In most cases, the tartar on cat teeth will therefore have to be removed by a veterinarian under anesthesia. But you can at least try to remove the tartar in your cat. By just cleaning one teeth a week your cat will keep healthy teeth. If it doesn’t work you can always visit a veterinarian after unsuccessful trying to clean it yourself. You use the scraper above to remove the tartar. It’s not expensive so it’s worth a try. 

How to do it

Try to lay down your cat on a surface, like a table. Open his lips and look for the tooth with the most tartar. Put the tip of the scraper on the tooth near the gums and scrape over the tooth towards the point of the tooth. Be carefull not to scratch the gums or any other part in the mouth, since this will hurt your cat. He wil not let you clean his teeth anymore after that. Scape as long as you need to get the teeth white again. Or until your cat is done with it. Make sure you give him a fantastic treat afterwards so that he will cooperate again the next time. 

DO NOT!!! buy an electric tartar remover like below! This makes noise and vibrates too much. No animal will allow this when they are awake. It scares them too much. It’s a waste of money. This machine is best to use under aneasthesia. 

Is it Normal for Cats to Have Tartar?

While it is common for cats to develop tartar, it is not normal and can be a sign of poor dental hygiene. Regular brushing and dental cleanings helps to prevent tartar on cat teeth from forming.

The best way to remove plaque and therefor prevent tartar on cat teeth is through regular brushing. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste made specifically for cats. If your cat is resistant to brushing, try using a dental rinse or water additive instead.

How Do You Prevent Tartar on Cat teeth?

Brushing his teeth

The best way to prevent tartar on cat teeth is through regular brushing and dental cleanings. Not every cat is fond of that! When you have a kitten you can try to learn your kitten to let you brush his teeth. Olders cats can also be learned, but it is much harder. Use a good toothbrush and a toothpaste they like the taste of. That helps a lot. And other tasty treats as well of course!

Start with a finger brush like below. This way you can feel what you are doing and not do it to hard. Your cat can get used to it that someone is rubbing over his teeth. 

A nice tasteful toothpaste is the one below. 

If your cat is used to brushing his teeth with a fingerbrush, you can start using a normal toothbrush for cats.

I also saw the item below on amazon. It looks very handy, but i have no experience with it. You can try if you like. 

If your cat doesn’t allow you to clean his teeth (or if you just are as lasy as i am) you can also give him matatabi sticks. Most cats adore these sticks and chew on them. By chewing they remove the plaque on their teeth. 

Prevent mineralisation of dental plaque

By using vet aquadent, there are much fewer minerals in the saliva. Less minerals that can precipitate in the dental plaque. And so there is less tartar formation on cats teeth. Cats just always have to get used to the taste. So start very slowly with a few drops in the water and add a little more every day so that they get used to it. Go slow!!

There also is the possibility of giving your cat food that is made to prevent tartar on cat teeth. Like the one below. 

When do you visit a veterinarian with tartar?

If the amount of tartar gets to much the gums will start to get inflamed. If you see that, you should immediately visit a vet if you can’t get rid of the tartar yourself. He or she puts your cat under anaesthesia and removes the tartar with an electric tartar remover. If needed your vet also removes bad teeth. But hopefully that will not be necessary. Good luck!