Cat champion Bonnie Kelley rescues and rehomes cats of all age, but she has a special place in heart for kittens, especially the bitty ones that are still nursing. During the spring and summer, when kittens season is at its peak, Kelley helps her local animal shelter with these littles until they’re weaned and ready to go into foster homes.
“These tiny kittens without a momma, they need extra attention,” she says. “Since they’re still nursing, we bottle-feed them. At around 2 weeks old, their sharp fangs start coming in, and by 6 weeks old, they have a full set. I swear they smile at me with those baby teeth sometimes!”
If you also care for young kittens, you’ll need to prepare for kitten teething.
Do Cats Teethe?
Yes, cats do teethe. Cat teething happens when the kittens are young. As they get older and transition to a solid diet, their first set of teeth fall out and their permanent teeth grow in,” says Donnell Hansen, DVM, DAVDC, who practices at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Blaine and Eden Prairie, Minnesota. That’s when kittens begin to teethe.
“Kitten teething is very similar to puppy teething, but starts earlier and it’s more subtle,” says Dr. Hansen. “Cats are much more stoic about the whole thing and won’t show a lot of pain or discomfort.”
As a cat parent or caregiver to foster kittens, it’s important to know when kittens teeth and what the signs look like so you can help relieve any pain—and train them not to chew on things you don’t want them chewing on, like your fingers!
When Do Kittens Lose Their Baby Teeth?
As with most mammals in the animal kingdom, kittens are born toothless while their diet is mom’s milk (or a tasty bottle of formula). Kittens get teeth at about 2 weeks of age, when the first tiny incisors appear right in the front of the mouth, says Deb M. Eldredge, DVM, who practices in the Utica, New York area. Canine teeth follow, and finally premolars appear at about 6 weeks, she says. In all, a kitten will end up with 26 baby or deciduous teeth. You may also hear these referred to as milk teeth.
“If you foster kittens, you may deal with very tiny kittens who are getting in their baby teeth,” Dr. Eldredge says. “Most of us acquire our kittens around 10 to 12 weeks of age or even a bit older. Right around 3 months of age, the deciduous teeth start to fall out and are replaced by adult teeth. This is when ‘true’ teething problems appear.”
If you see your kitten losing teeth at around 12 weeks old, don’t worry—it’s normal! And don’t panic if you see your kitten’s mouth bleeding a little bit, Dr. Eldredge says.
“Kittens do bleed when they lose teeth, but only a little, and it will stop on its own,” Dr. Eldredge says. “If you are lucky, you may find a tiny tooth. Clean it up and stick it in a tiny, clear plastic baggie for your kitten’s baby book.”
Signs of Kitten Teething Trouble
Most kittens breeze through teething, but a few will have some discomfort. Here are some signs of teething trouble, according to Dr. Eldredge:
Tips to Help Your Kitten Through Teething
Like puppies, many kittens go through a chewing phase as the new teeth appear. While your kitten is unlikely to destroy your couch like a Great Dane puppy might, cords are a favorite chew item, Dr. Eldredge says. The soft plastic or rubber coating appeals to a small feline with a sore mouth. Cover such cords or tape them up for safety.
“I have had kittens think about chewing on table legs and other pieces of furniture made from soft wood like pine,” she says.
You can purchase cat teething toys for your kitten, like Petstages Dental Health Chews Cat Toy or the Petstages Dental Kitty Chew Wheel Cat Toy, or make some yourself. Most teething rings and toys for kittens are made of soft plastic or rubber. Only give these to your kitten when you are there to supervise, as their sharp, little teeth may break off small pieces that could be swallowed.
“You can make an easy kitten pacifier at home by simply cutting a small piece off a washcloth for her to suck on,” Dr. Eldredge says, noting that you don’t want it to be small enough for them to swallow. “A small, fleece, braided tug or a favorite cloth toy will work as well. Soak this in some low-sodium chicken broth or juice from a can of tuna packed in water, and then freeze it. Not only will your kitten enjoy this, but your other, older cats may want one, too!”
Leather is another texture used for kitten teething toys, Dr. Eldredge says. Provide your pal with a leather square that’s bigger than their mouth can carry, about 4-by-4 inches (nothing smaller or else they might swallow it). Do not let them chew on leather shoelaces, as they could swallow pieces they chew off. And keep your leather shoes safely stored away in the closet!
Dr. Hansen encourages pet parents to provide interactive toys, like feather wands and battery-operated spinner toys, for their teething kittens.
“You want to keep their mind and body occupied,” she says. “Cat-safe grasses are a great option, as is letting them play with toys that move and jingle while you supervise them. Whatever you can do to keep them out of mischief.”
Ways to Promote Good Dental Health
Brushing your pet’s teeth with a kitten-sized toothbrush and pet-safe tooth paste, like those found in Arm & Hammer Dental Fresh Breath Kitten Dental Kit, is an important part of their daily health routine. But teething is not a good time to do that, Dr. Eldredge says. If you want to keep up the habit, let your kitten lick a little pet toothpaste (poultry tends to be the favorite feline flavor) off of your finger. Don’t try to use even a very soft brush or a rubber finger brush. You don’t want your kitten to associate dental care with any sort of pain.
You should check your kitten’s mouth at least weekly, Dr. Eldredge says. Gently open their mouth to look inside. You want to spot any retained baby teeth. If you see a “double tooth” for more than a few days, call your veterinarian. The residual deciduous tooth may need to be pulled. Baby teeth that remain in place can change the eruption of the adult teeth below them or prevent eruption altogether, leading to a very sore gum area.
Luckily, most cats have good “bites.” That means that their teeth meet in a normal overlap, with the top teeth just in front of the bottom ones, Dr. Eldredge says. Unusual bites, such as overbites (upper jaw longer than bottom jaw) or under bites (lower jaw longer than upper jaw), that are seen in some dogs are not as common in cats. Still, cats with shortened faces, such as Persians, may have an “off” bite. Your veterinarian will check your kitten’s mouth on all of their “well kitten” visits.
Luckily, the kitten teething period is not very long. It generally lasts about three months or so. Even if your kitten has a rough time, it will pass quickly.