Just as with humans, cats, and the Maine Coon in particular, need good dental health if they are to enjoy a lifetime of good health and wellness overall. Numerous studies have proved how important dental health is for a cat, and since cats are unable to brush their teeth on their own, it is important for the Maine Coon cat owner to take care of this chore and regularly check the cat for any evidence of periodontal disease or tooth decay. When getting a cat, most owners do not typically think about brushing teeth, but establishing good oral health habits early on in the cat’s life can be crucial to ensuring a lifetime of health and wellness.
The teeth of all cats can start accumulating plaque and tartar if they are not cared for, and eight out of every 10 cats will eventually manifest problems in the teeth and gums. Dental disease is one of the most common health problems that veterinarians see in their feline patients, and the best way to avoid these potentially expensive and even life-threatening dental issues is regular brushing and dental checkups. But regular brushing is more than just a way to avoid expensive vet dental bills. If the Maine Coon’s teeth and gums are not regularly cared for, the cat may eventually develop foul breath, which can affect the relationship between cat and owner.
Far worse than any of this, unaddressed issues of the teeth and gums frequently cause cats a great deal of pain. As the dental disease progresses, it not only compromises a cat’s quality of life, but can also drastically shorten the animal’s lifespan. Poor dental health can affect everything about the Maine Coon’s overall health. Periodontal disease can cause irreversible damage to the teeth as well as to roots and sockets in the gums. As infection sets in around the teeth and gums, it can easily enter the bloodstream. Infection that begins in the gums can thus reach the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and pancreas of the cat and cause serious and irreversible damage. Regular dental cleaning is thus one of the most important ways of protecting the Maine Coon’s health.
Most pet supply stores will carry special feline toothbrushes. These brushes have finer bristles than those found on a human toothbrush, and the head should be significantly smaller. Feline toothbrushes will also be turned at a different angle to reflect the unique shape of the cat’s mouth and teeth when compared to that of a human mouth.
Some versions come with a tapered head that is very effective for reaching into and around the corner of the Maine Coon’s mouth. It is also possible to buy toothbrushes that fit over the finger. These finger-cot toothbrushes allow the owner to use a finger directly to brush the cat’s teeth and stimulate the gums. If none of these are available or convenient to source, the ASPCA also recommends children’s toothbrushes for cats. An appropriate child’s toothbrush should be no longer than seven inches in length and should be specifically labelled as “soft” or “extra soft.” It is also a good idea to have a supply of cotton swabs or cotton pads available. These are used to rub water over the cat’s teeth if necessary, and for rubbing off excess toothpaste if necessary or desired.
When buying toothpaste for the Maine Coon, it is essential to remember that cats cannot use human toothpaste. Human toothpaste will harm the digestive system of a cat and cause distress for both the cat and the owner. Special toothpaste for felines can be obtained at most pet supply stores. All such toothpaste will naturally be labelled as “best” or “excellent,” but the best toothpaste for any Maine Coon is the one the individual cat will accept. Enzymatic toothpaste has antibacterial qualities that can be helpful to the Maine Coon’s oral hygiene and is well-recommended by vets. It is also safe if the cat swallows it, and comes in a variety of flavors. While some owners prefer a minty toothpaste for their own personal comfort, the reality is that most cats will prefer a meat or seafood flavor in their toothpaste. An individual cat may show a definitive preference for one taste or another, so it is best to keep trying toothpastes until one is found that an individual Maine Coon will accept.
While most people think of brushing their cat’s teeth as a difficult, and perhaps even dangerous chore, the reality is that nearly anything related to the Maine Coon’s home healthcare can be either enjoyable or horrible depending on how it is introduced and the attitude of the owner towards it. The Maine Coon should be introduced to brushing as soon as the teeth appear. An oral hygiene session should be pleasant and enjoyable for both the owner and theMaine Coon. Here is how to begin the process for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums:
1. Come to the cat with a positive attitude. The owner must not approach the first brushing session acting nervous and tense. This nervousness will transfer to the cat and communicate that this is something to be feared. The owner should be happy and not try to forcibly restrain the cat. Praise should be lavish and the first session in particular should be only positive and happy. At this stage it is far more important to make the session enjoyable than to clean the teeth.
2. Get the Maine Coon used to having things put in its mouth. An easy way to do this is to dip a finger in something the cat loves. Indicate to the cat that a treat is coming, and then rub the finger gently over the cat’s teeth. It is important to do this several times over the course of several weeks. Soon your Maine Coon will start looking forward to this process. Once the cat is enjoying the process of having its teeth and gums rubbed with a finger, start doing it without first dipping the finger in something delicious. Try using simple, plain water. Throughout this process the cat should be praised and petted.
3. Introduce tooth care tools. Once the cat can accept a finger in its mouth without a treat, it is time to introduce the toothbrush. Follow the same process outlined in step two. Dip the tooth care items in things the cat is known to enjoy and let the cat spend some time licking it off and getting used to the consistency and feel of the brush or pad.
4. Add toothpaste and brushing. Once the cat is happy with the tools, it is time to add toothpaste and begin light brushing. Toothpaste can be introduced on the finger first and then later applied to the toothbrush. The first time a toothbrush or other dental cleaning tool is used with toothpaste, it is fine to only brush one or two teeth.
5. Be happy to make this process slow. This allows both the cat and the owner to practice, and the more like a game the process is, the more likely it is that a Maine Coon will develop into a cat who looks forward to dental hygiene time.
Officially, veterinarians and the ASPCA recommend that teeth be brushed every day. In practicality, this is not always possible or feasible and may put too much stress on an individual cat. The Maine Coon have its teeth brushed as close to once a day as possible, but even brushing several times a week will be far better than nothing at all.
Another reason to brush the cat’s teeth frequently is to allow for a chance to check on the cat’s overall health and make sure they are free of dental problems. Use the brushing session as a chance to check the teeth and gums.
For the vast majority of individual Maine Coons, introducing them to the process of brushing at a young age, while simultaneously making it a pleasant experience, will be enough to guarantee that a cat is happy enough to have its teeth brushed throughout life. However, animals are unique individuals and there are always a few who simply do not respond in the same way as most.
It is possible that despite an owner’s best efforts a particular Maine Coon will refuse to allow its teeth to be brushed, or will make the process so difficult that the owner is tempted to avoid it. If this is the case, it is even more crucial to see a veterinarian for regular cleanings. Some vets can even provide special food that can help to clean a cat’s teeth between vet cleaning’s. Even if a cat is happy to have its teeth brushed regularly, it is important to take them to the vet at least once a year for a thorough check-up of dental health.
When the cat’s teeth are brushed the owner should look for any teeth that appear broken, swelling or redness of the gums, loose teeth, unusually foul breath, dark streaks on the teeth, or an unusually large amount of salivation. Any of these things could indicate a problem and means that the cat should be taken to a veterinarian.
During the course of normal life, it is important to watch for certain signs that a Maine Coon is experiencing a dental problem. These can include bleeding from the mouth, significant changes in eating habits such as chewing only on one side of the mouth, or lack of interest in foods that the cat had previously enjoyed. If the cat’s breath becomes noticeably bad, this is also an important warning sign.
If a cat has traditionally been happy to allow its teeth to be brush, and then suddenly refuses to allow the owner to touch its mouth, it is very likely that something is wrong. If the situation does not resolve within a day or two, it is important to get a vet to look at the cat’s teeth and mouth.
Food choices can have a strong effect on a cat’s teeth and overall dental health. Contrary to popular belief, dry foods do not help to clean the teeth of a cat. The cat does not “chew” food so much as shatter it, and even larger pieces of kibble are often swallowed whole. In addition, dry foods are frequently high in carbohydrates. Cats are obligate carnivores who are only able to derive nutrition from animal foods. A cat has no nutritional need of carbohydrate of any sort, and the residue of cheap grain carbohydrates that are frequently present in dry foods can adhere to the cat’s teeth and encourage the growth of plaque and tartar.
The best diet for a Maine Coon’s oral health is one closest to its natural diet, which features plenty of meat and bones. Canned, grain-free cat foods are generally superior to dry foods in terms of oral health. A varied diet is good for the Maine Coon’s oral health and overall health and wellness. Canned, grain-free foods should be fed in a variety of meats. Many cats will also appreciate a treat of occasional fish, which is also good for oral health.
Dental chews can help to control tartar and improve the health of a cat’s teeth. However, these chews should not be fed as a substitute for regular brushing, or in such quantities that they threatened the health and weight of the cat. It is also absolutely crucial to avoid feeding any cat sugar.
In the wild, a cat’s natural diet includes plenty of hard bones. Pet-safe bones are an appropriate treat for a Maine Coon. Cats must not be fed chicken or fish bones, particularly cooked bones, and the best and safest way to find bones that are safe for cats to eat is to get them from a pet store, where they are chosen and prepared with the animal’s safety in mind. As the cat gnaws at the bone, tarter is knocked off the teeth and the gums are stimulated, which improves to prevent gum problems from developing.
The Maine Coon is susceptible to serious diseases and disorders when oral health is neglected. It is important to feed the right diet, brush the animal’s teeth regularly, watch for signs of dental problems, and provide regular check-ups of oral health.
For those of you more visually minded here are a couple of great videos for you to watch;