Brushing’s a Cat’s Meow
Ah, another Monday morning. Rise and shine. Make some coffee. Go to work. Oops, forgot to brush the cat’s teeth!
Here, many of you are probably thinking, “Brush the cat’s teeth? What the heck does that mean?” (Those of you under 20, however, are most likely thinking, “Go to work? What the heck does that mean?”)
Anyway, while there are many ways to skin a cat, there is only one proper way to brush a cat’s teeth, according to Tartar Control for Cats, a pamphlet I am now reading.
It comes to us via St. JON Laboratories of Harbor City, which makes several flavors of cat toothpaste. (In answer to the obvious question, dozens of taste tests showed that cats preferred Blind and Deaf Sparrow almost 2-1, although researchers have high hopes for their latest creation, Badly Limping Field Mouse.)
The pamphlet was written by Dr. Java Levin, a veterinarian, and Dr. Peter Emily, a “veterinary dental specialist.” And I sincerely hope this column does not anger Dr. Emily—I just don’t think you want a guy who’s willing to do a root canal on a Rottweiler to be angry with you.
Now, to the pamphlet:
Brushing your cat’s teeth may seem confusing for both of you at first, but confusion is often a part of the learning process.
This is no different then teaching a cat how to use the litter box: Your friends are still going to point and laugh at you, and your mate is still going to shout, “For God’s sake, at least close the door!”
What do your cat’s teeth look like?
This is followed by the next obvious question: So, how much blood is contained in the average human thumb?
When your cat’s upper lip is lifted, you will see two rows of very small teeth across the front of the mouth.
Further, when you yank your cat’s upper lip to look at its teeth, you will also see five very sharp claws, a split second before they scratch out your corneas.
The pamphlet then lists some tips:
Start with a healthy mouth. Having a sensitive, sore mouth brushed can be a painful experience. Your cat may not appreciate your efforts on his or her behalf at this point.
On the other hand, many cats do not seem to mind this type of dental attention, and give no indication that having their teeth brushed is uncomfortable. Feline experts refer to these particular cats as “dead ones.”
Choose the proper toothbrush and toothpaste. Pushing a typical human toothbrush into a cat’s cheek area can cause discomfort by stretching the skin around the cat’s mouth and pressing the bristles into the gums.
Much greater discomfort occurs when your “significant other” finds out it was his toothbrush.
Use cat toothpastes. One reason they are recommended for cats is that they can be swallowed. This is very important, since your cat cannot “rinse and spit.”
It is also important to note that most cats cannot accomplish an even more basic part of the human dental experience: “filling out the endless insurance forms.”
Repeat and reward. When you consistently repeat a routine, your cat learns to anticipate your actions.
Typical example: You take out a can of cat food precisely at 5 PM. You start the electric can opener. Your cat, tuned into this routine from thousands of repetitions, immediately goes into the living room and urinates on the white carpet.
If your have more than one cat, establish a “brushing order,” and follow it. This avoids jealousy by letting everyone know that his or her turn will come.
My twin brother, using this theory with his children at brushing time, has had a very positive effect on them. The youngest, Harold, still goes up onto the roof, but he doesn’t hiss at the firefighters nearly as much when they try to get him down.
And a final tip from the pamphlet:
When you brush your cat’s back teeth, you often have to rely on sound to know when the brush is in contact with the teeth.
Experts say the sound will very likely resemble your own voice shouting something like, “Aaarrhhh! My eye!”
Meanwhile, the damn cat has teeth like a politician, and I’m a week-and-a-half from dentures.
But, hey, consider the source.
Bye for now.