Just like puppies, kittens are born with a set of baby teeth that they will eventually lose. While this usually poses little to no difficulty for a kitten, it's good to be aware that the transition is taking place. That way you can watch for any problems, such as sore gums or retained baby teeth, and address them as needed.
Teething Process for Kittens
A Kitten's First Set of Teeth
According to Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine (CUCVM), a kitten's first set of teeth are known as primary teeth or "milk teeth." This first set has 26 teeth which begin erupting through the gums around three weeks of age, and they are typically all visible by the time a kitten is six weeks old.
Primary Teeth Are Shed
Somewhere between three and four months old, a kitten begins shedding its primary teeth as the adult teeth begin pushing through the gums behind them. You may be able to see a permanent tooth coming in right behind the corresponding loose primary tooth since these two processes of erupting and shedding happen almost simultaneously. While there is no set order regarding which teeth are shed first, the incisors are often the first shed, followed by the fangs/canines.
Adult Set of Teeth Are Complete
By the time a kitten reaches six months old, the full set of permanent adult teeth have usually replaced the primary teeth completely. This new set has 30 teeth, including four molars.
Care of Your Kitten During Teething
The transition from primary to permanent teeth usually goes fairly smoothly, but according to VCA Animal Hospitals, there are a couple of things to watch out for.
Dealing with Sore Gums
Just as with human babies, teething can irritate the gums. While your kitten is teething, you may notice:
- Your kitten begins chewing a lot more, especially on inappropriate items like shoes, furniture, and bedding.
- She may drool, since the pressure of the permanent teeth pressing against the small roots of the primary teeth signals her system to begin dissolving the primary roots so they can shed more easily.
- She may also paw at her mouth or rub her face against other objects more than usual.
- She may even become reluctant to eat if her gums feel particularly painful.
If you notice any of these signs, make sure your kitten has soft chew toys she can use to help the shedding process along. She'll feel better once those baby teeth have come out and the tips of the adult teeth break through the gums. You can also feed her wet food rather than dry because the wet food is easier to chew. You can add dry kitten food back into her diet once the worst of her teething is over.
Watch for Retained Baby Teeth
Sometimes a baby tooth remains in place even though the adult tooth has completely erupted through the gums. This is known as a retained primary tooth, and it can crowd the permanent teeth and interfere with their correct placement. Nonaligned teeth can damage other permanent teeth, as well as the gums and roof of the mouth.
Sometimes the retained tooth will eventually come out on its own, but a veterinarian may need to remove the primary tooth if it shows no sign of loosening. Although looking in a kitten's mouth is easier said than done, try to take a look and consult your vet if you still see a retained primary tooth after your kitten turns six months old. The vet can examine the kitten and decide if the tooth truly needs to be removed, or if it's safe to wait a while longer and see if it comes out on its own. Surgical removal should be a last resort because the procedure involves anesthetizing the kitten.
Healthy Teeth, Happy Life
A healthy set of permanent teeth ensures your pet can eat without any problems and chew her toys as she sees fit. Keeping an eye on her progress as she sheds her first set of baby teeth will help you spot any issues as they arise, which can keep problems to a minimum. It's also a good idea to have your vet examine your pet's teeth annually to make sure they remain healthy throughout her entire life.