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If you struggle to brush and floss your own teeth often enough, the thought of maintaining the same routine for your cat can be daunting. But, just like humans, cats should have their teeth brushed daily. Here’s guidance on how.
Developing a regular brushing routine with your cat is one of the most significant contributions you can make to their quality of life. It also may save you money on veterinary dental cleanings and treatment of periodontal disease. Check out our FAQ, below, to learn more about feline dental diseases.
Brushing your cat's teeth begin with a toothbrush—here are our recommendations for the best cat toothbrushes—but your next consideration is sure to be toothpaste. Cat toothpastes are typically clear or colored gels, sold in tubes similar to human toothpaste. Some are designed to not require a toothbrush. Other considerations will depend more on your cat's personal preferences. For example, do they balk at a thicker, more abrasive toothpaste? Or maybe you'll find your cat has a strong flavor preference.
“You should only use toothpaste sold at pet stores that are approved for cat use,” Stephanie Mantilla, animal trainer, zookeeper, and author of How To Clicker Train Your Cat, told The Spruce Pets. “Toothpaste for humans has ingredients that can make your cat sick. Some cat toothpaste comes in mint flavor but chicken flavor may be more palatable to your feline friend. Many veterinarian offices sell pet toothpaste at their front desk so you can also swing by your cat's vet to get the kind your vet recommends.”
Check out the What to Look for in Cat Toothpaste section below for more detail on factors to consider when choosing a brand that’s right for your cat.
Here are the best cat toothpastes.
Best Overall: Bodhi Dog Pet Dental Gel
Flavor: Cool mint | Recommended Frequency: Once daily, or up to three times a day for seven days for severe cases
100% money-back guarantee
Packaging made with recycled and biodegradable materials
Flavors aren't specifically formulated for cats
Contains FD&C dye
A thick, alcohol-free gel, Bodhi Dog Pet Dental Gel is effective, affordable, and incorporates simple, natural ingredients like baking soda, peppermint, spearmint, and aloe vera extract. Since Bodhi Dog is formulated for both dogs and cats, it comes in a more generic minty flavor, rather than cat specific choices. Still, if your cat likes the flavor, this is a great starter toothpaste, since it doesn't include harsh abrasives.
Made in Austin, Texas, Bodhi Dog is designed to be spread directly on teeth with plaque, then spread by your pet licking at the minty gel, distributing it throughout their mouth. But while this method may be good at freshening your cat's breath, using a toothbrush will help remove surface plague and generate better results overall. Either way, there's no need to rinse out your cat's mouth after application.
The manufacturers recommends against food or water for 30 minutes after treatment for maximum effect.
Best Budget: Sentry Petrodex Veterinary Strength Dental Kit
Flavor: Malt | Recommended Frequency: Daily
Enzymatic toothpaste made in the United States
Prevents bad breath
Brush and finger brush are plastic and made in China
The Sentry Petrodex Veterinary Strength Malt Toothpaste Dental Care Kit for Cats includes a silicone finger brush, a plastic toothbrush and an enzymatic toothpaste, all for under $8. Ingredients in this 2.5-ounce tube of toothpaste are quite similar to the much more expensive Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Dog and Cat Toothpaste, which you'll find elsewhere on this roundup.
Sentry Petrodex Enzymatic Toothpaste uses enzymes extracted from fungal fermentation. The resulting enzymes are a variety of protein that biochemically react with the plague on your cat's teeth. This can be a powerful tooth cleanser, especially combination with the abrasive ingredients contained in the Petrodex toothpaste, including silica and the polishing chemical Dicalcium phosphate, found in some whitening toothpastes.
Because the Sentry Petrodex toothpaste contains no foaming agents, it doesn't require rinsing after brushing.
Best Splurge: Petsmile Professional Pet Toothpaste
Flavors: London broil, rotisserie chicken and say cheese | Recommended Frequency: Daily
Three flavors to choose from
Attacks bacteria and plaque at the tooth surface
Allergy-free and vegan ingredients
Contains proprietary ingredients
Petsmile Professional Pet Toothpaste has a unique ingredient, Calprox, that is a proprietary encapsulated form of calcium peroxide and minerals. The peroxide dissolves the protein pellicle—a thin biofilm that forms on the surface of the teeth—to which plaque, bacteria and stains stick. This not only improves your cat's breath, but also makes it easier to brush away plaque. The minerals—calcium, magnesium and phosphates—help to “re-mineralize” tooth enamel by providing the building blocks that give enamel it’s strength.
Petsmile is free of parabens and the plastic chemical BPA. It is also gluten free and vegan. Petsmile is made in the United States with human-grade ingredients. It can be used without brushing or with a cat toothbrush and you do not need to withhold food or drink after application.
Best Enzymatic: Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Dog & Cat Poultry Flavor Toothpaste
Flavor: Poultry, beef, seafood, malt and vanilla-mint | Recommended Frequency: Daily
25-year history in veterinary home dental care
Helps eliminate bad breath
Multiple flavors available
Some cats don’t like vanilla-mint flavor
Enzymatic toothpastes contain specific naturally-occurring enzymes, a type of protein, that facilitate a natural chemical reaction. Common enzymes used in toothpastes include lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, lactoferrin, mutanase and dextranase. Some kill specific types of bacteria while others prevent plaque from hardening or attaching to the teeth.
The Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste line contains a “Dual-Enzyme System” composed of glucose oxidase and lactoperoxidase. Glucose oxidase—extracted from the fungus Aspergillus niger—boosts the formation of hydrogen peroxide in the mouth, which is a natural whitener and has natural antibacterial properties. Lactoperoxidase is released naturally from salivary glands in mammals to kill bacteria and viruses so this toothpaste has an added boost of this important enzyme.
The first ingredient of this toothpaste is sorbitol, a low-calorie sweetener. Since cats don’t have taste buds that detect sweetness, most toothpastes that contain sugars and sweeteners add them to make the paste more palatable for dogs. Containing no foaming agents, this toothpaste uses silica as its abrasive and its other ingredients are simple, common and safe for pets to swallow in small quantities.
Pet parents report that their cats like the taste of most of the flavors, which makes brushing easier to accomplish overall. Each flavor is available in a 2.5-ounce tube.
Best Kit: Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Cat Dental Kit
Flavor: “Original” described as natural molasses flavor | Recommended Frequency: N/A
Toothpaste made in the USA
Nylabone has been around since 1955
Safe for adults and kittens over 3 months
Lists ingredient as “natural flavors” without defining
Not all cats love the taste
Cat toothpastes can be brushless but most recommend you use them with a finger brush or toothbrush and many package their toothpaste with one or both brushes. Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Cat Dental Kit comes with both types of brushes and a toothpaste with a blend of ingredients, Denta-C, that, according to their website, is “scientifically proven to reduce plaque that harbors bacteria.” Although the ingredients that make up Denta-C are considered proprietary, the ingredients on the label are transparent and include safe compounds typically found in other cat toothpaste formulas including those that remineralize tooth enamel with calcium, magnesium and phosphates. The abrasive ingredient is silica, commonly used in human toothpaste.
The compact polyethylene plastic toothbrush has nylon bristles and an angled head for hard to reach back teeth. Some customers wish the toothbrush head and fingerbrush were smaller while others reported noticeable results after only a few uses.
Best Powder: ProDen PlaqueOff Powder Cat
Flavor: Kelp and brewer’s yeast | Recommended Frequency: Daily on food
Only two healthy ingredients and no added sugar
PlaqueOff has been on the market for almost 20 years
Not recommended for animals being treated for hyperthyroidism
At first glance, you might think that powders are just a different form of toothpaste. But like dental water supplements, most dental health powders are meant to work systemically from the inside out, by sprinkling healthy food and mineral ingredients over your pet’s food.
SwedenCare ProDen PlaqueOff Powder is the only dental health powder for cats that holds a current Veterinary Oral Health Council Accepted seal of approval. Although it’s not a substitute for regular brushing, adding PlaqueOff Powder as a dietary supplement is a good complement to brushing, particularly if you are no able to brush your cat's teeth daily. You might also consider it if your cat struggles with dental health more than the average cat.
The ingredients are simple: just 90% natural sea kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum) from the Scandinavian North Atlantic and 10% brewer’s yeast. Customers report that their cats eat it just fine when sprinkled over dry or wet food.
The supplement comes with a plastic scoop for easy, consistent measurement. A 1.4-ounce container is meant to last three to four months. The manufacturers recommend starting with less than half a scoop and gradually increasing the amount to a full scoop over several days to help your cat adjust to the change in taste of their food.
Best for Cats with Gingivitis: Zymox Oratene Brushless Enzymatic Oral Care Therapy Dental Gel for Dogs & Cats
Flavor: Flavorless | Recommended Frequency: Twice daily for 5 to 7 days
Contains healing aloe vera
Easy to apply
A little more expensive than competitors
Gingivitis is dental disease caused by bacterial infection that causes the gums around the teeth to become inflamed. This disease, as well as other periodontal diseases, cause pain and discomfort that impacts your cat’s quality of life. If left unchecked, it can result in tooth decay and loss, a loss of appetite, weight loss and a variety of subsequent health problems.
Zymox’s Oratene Brushless Oral Gel is applied directly to your cat's upper and lower gums twice daily, and specifically targets serious mouth conditions like gingivitis and other periodontal disease. Oratene contains several natural enzymes—mutanase, lactroferrin, lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, glucose oxidase and destranase—that work together to dissolve plaque biofilm and inhibit growth of the bacteria that cause irritation, tooth decay and bad breath.
This gentle formulation is free of harsh and drying ingredients and includes healing Aloe vera. Zymox's oral gel is manufactured in compliance with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Good Manufacturing Practices.
We like Bodhi Dog Pet Dental Gel (view at Amazon) because of its safe, effective ingredients and affordable price. If your cat is struggling with gingivitis or another periodontal disease, try gentle, brushless Zymox Oratene Oral Gel (view at Chewy) to restore gum health. This can serve a precursor to establishing a regular brushing routine or as an excellent supplement.
What to Look for in Cat Toothpaste
Wild cats may not get their teeth brushed, but they make up for it with other behaviors, such as chewing on grass. One study of captive cheetahs attributed dental problems to their diet, which lacked the "normal biting, tearing, and pulling action associated with natural prey capture." Since your cat is eating wet or dry food from a bowl, they're also missing out on these behaviors, making regular tooth brushing a necessity for their dental health.
Unlike human toothpaste, all cat toothpastes are meant to be ingested because it’s impossible to keep them from swallowing it. Use a toothpaste with natural, safe ingredients that has a flavor and texture your cat can tolerate. Organizations like the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, which maintains a ratings database, can be an excellent resource for evaluating ingredients.
Flavor & Texture
Many pet toothpastes are intended for both dogs and cats, which tends to make tooth cleaning tricky for cat owners. Because dogs are omnivores, they have the ability to taste some flavors that purely carnivorous cats do not. This includes sweetness, with cats lacking receptors that allow for them to recognize sweet tastes. As a result, certain common flavors and ingredients used in pet toothpastes will interest dogs, but not cats.
If your cat isn't showing any interest in the pet toothpaste you've selected, seek out toothpaste flavors that don't rely on mint, sorbitol, or other sweeteners. Cats tend to prefer natural meat flavors instead.
Texture is another important consideration. Cat toothpastes are often sold as a clear or colored gel or a paste of varying thickness. Some toothpastes are thicker so that they’ll evenly coat and stick to your cat’s teeth longer to increase treatment time while others are meant to last only as long as you’re brushing. When trying a new brand for the first time, if your cat doesn’t seem to like it, it might be difficult to tell if it’s the flavor or the thickness that’s bothering them. Once your cat is more habituated to regular brushing, it should be possible to reintroduce the toothpaste you feel will be most effective.
While many of the toothpastes in our roundup incorporate recognizable and natural ingredients, the use of emulsifiers, thickening agents, and preservatives will almost certainly mean that some of the label is unfamiliar.
But you can always research ingredients you don’t recognize. The aforementioned Environmental Working Group uses a rating system for evaluating the impact of ingredients on human health and the environment. While not cat specific, an EWG rating of 1 or 2 indicates a high level of safety.
Because cats swallow the toothpaste, cat toothpastes shouldn't contain the foaming agents common in human toothpaste. Therefore, you shouldn’t see foaming in your cat’s mouth when using a toothpaste for cats. Ingredients to avoid in high concentrations include triclosan and sodium lauryl sulfate.
Many cat toothpastes add the word “enzymatic” to their labels. Enzymatic toothpastes contain specific proteins to produce a natural chemical reaction. Common enzymes used in toothpastes include lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, lactoferrin, mutanase and dextranase. You can spot them on the ingredients list because they often end with “-ase.” Each enzyme has a different function in the body. Some kill specific types of bacteria while others prevent plaque from attaching to the teeth or hardening into tartar.
Brushless or Not?
Some cat toothpastes are called “brushless,” because you can apply the paste directly to your cat's teeth—no brushing or rubbing are required. Dental pastes can effectively treat sensitive gums, gingivitis or other periodontal disease, making them a useful tool, especially if your cat won't tolerate brushing.
Brushless toothpastes are often a thicker gel or paste, designed to cling to your cat's teeth for a longer treatment period than a standard brushing. As a result, many dental pastes recommend not allowing your cat food or water for a period before and after use. While brushless toothpastes can be useful in combating certain types of periodontal disease, they're not an adequate replacement for regular brushing.
Why does my cat need toothpaste?
In general, cats are very good at hiding their pain or discomfort, so it's important to be proactive about their dental health. If food and bacteria are not removed often enough through regular brushing, bacteria flourish and soon coat the teeth with sticky plaque, especially at the gum line and in back teeth. Untreated plaque hardens to become tartar, which is even harder to remove and can result in bacterial infections. Gingivitis and other destructive periodontal diseases are not only painful for your cat, but may ultimately lead to tooth loss. Along with gum disease comes symptoms like bad breath, drooling, and bleeding gums. These sometimes result in difficulty eating and subsequent weight loss. Gum disease also increases your cat’s risk of heart, liver and kidney disease as they age—with the potential to cut their life shorter.
Can you use dog toothpaste on cats?
“Dog and cat toothpaste are usually the same formula, just in smaller tubes for cats since they use less at a time compared to a large dog,” Mantilla told The Spruce Pets. “Dog toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors like mint, vanilla ginger, and beef while cat-specific toothpaste is usually in a chicken flavor. Cats tend to be pickier when it comes to flavor since they're carnivores but if you find a meat-flavored dog toothpaste, your cat may not mind.”
Is it safe to use homemade cat toothpaste?
“There are a lot of ingredients that are safe for humans to ingest but not for cats to ingest. If you want to use homemade cat toothpaste, the safest bet would be to bring a copy of the recipe to your vet and ask for their approval,” Mantilla said. “Many homemade toothpastes aren't shelf-stable so you'll need to properly store them in the fridge and discard when it expires.”
If the recipe contains no ingredients that act as a “natural preservative” such as citric acid from citrus fruits like lemon juice or grapefruit seed extract or rosemary, sage or clove oil or extract, then homemade pastes should be discarded after about one week.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde who has had at least two cat companions in her home for the past 35 years, including some special needs kitties. Two of her cats lived happily and healthily into their early 20s. She currently lives with two senior feline companions, one of which has had her teeth professionally cleaned by a veterinarian. Lorraine admits that she definitely does not clean her cat’s teeth often enough, but has been newly inspired by this article to do better for her cats (and dogs too).
When researching these brands, Lorraine evaluated the type and quality of the ingredients, the company’s research and development, and their business ethics. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in environmental science. Lorraine is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed and environmentally-conscious choices to protect their pets and our planet.
Stephanie Mantilla is an experienced positive reinforcement-based animal trainer with a focus on cat behavior. Her 12 years as a zookeeper have given her experience and training with a range of animals from lions, cheetahs and tigers to bears, elephants, shrews and monkeys. Mantilla is also the author of the new book, How To Clicker Train Your Cat, where she walks pet parents through the steps for training their cats the fun way.