How Many Teeth Does a Cat Have?
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We know cats are very hygienic animals. They will spend much of their day grooming themselves senseless. Although we need to help them with brushing their coat and general maintenance, too many guardians neglect their dental care. Since a domestic cat's diet is different to their wild counterparts, we need to be especially careful with dental hygiene. This is especially important as kittens develop and they lose their baby teeth. Some of us may not be aware how many teeth kittens have compared to adult cats.
At AnimalWised, we help you to know how to care for your cat's hygiene by asking how many teeth does a cat have? Not only will be should you the number of teeth in domestic cats, we will provide important information on feline dental care.
Overview of cat teeth
As are humans, cats are heterodontous animals. This means that they have a set of teeth of different shapes and sizes. Specifically, cats have 4 types of teeth:
- Canines (often known as fangs)
To represent the dentition of a cat's teeth (i.e. the arrangement in the mouth), we can use a schematic representation known as a dental formula. To interpret this simple schematic, we can use the following indications:
- The teeth are numbered in this order: incisors (I), canines (C), premolars (P) and molars (M).
- The numerator refers to the upper arch (maxilla) and the denominator to the lower arch (mandibular).
- Both the numerator and the denominator refer only to half of the arch (i.e. half maxilla or half mandible, respectively), since they are symmetrical. This is because there are the same number of teeth on the right side as on the left. To find out how many teeth cats have in total, you have to multiply the dental formula by 2.
With this in mind, we can reveal the feline dental formula. Before we do so, we need to mention something important. We all know that human beings have two different teeth:
- Deciduous teeth: also known as primary teeth, milk teeth or baby teeth
- Permanent teeth: also known as secondary teeth or adult teeth.
This may lead some of us to ask, do cats have baby teeth? Cats do indeed have baby teeth. As kittens develop their baby teeth are either absorbed into the mouth or fall out, before being replaced by adult teeth.
Each of these dentitions has a different dental formula. This is because kittens and adult cats do not have the same amount of teeth. We see how many teeth a cat and a kitten have in the next sections.
Learn about different issues with a cat's dental health in our article on the most common dental problems in cats.
How many teeth does a kitten have?
The deciduous or primary dentition of cats begins to erupt around the second week of life. This usually occur sin the following sequence:
- 2-3 weeks: incisors erupt
- 3-4 weeks: canines erupt
- 3-5 weeks: premolars erupt
After the first 4-5 weeks, all of a kittens dentition should have erupted. You can easily see them in the kitten's mouth.
Once all the teeth have erupted, a kitten has 26 teeth in total. This is according to the following dental formula:
- 2 x (I 3/3 C 1/1 P 3/ 2) = 26 teeth
This means the kitten's maxilla has 6 incisors, 2 canines, and 6 premolars. The mandible has 6 incisors, 2 canines and 4 premolars.
In general, milk or deciduous teeth are smaller, thinner and sharper than permanent teeth. However, they have proportionally longer roots. Your veterinarian should examine their dentition during the kitten's checkups. Learn more about what to expect with our article on a kitten's first veterinary visit.
How many teeth does an adult cat have?
The process of replacing the primary dentition with the permanent one begins approximately in the third month of life and ends between the fifth and sixth month. The first permanent teeth to erupt are the incisors (at 3-4 months of age), and later the canines are replaced (at 4-6 months), followed by the premolars (at 4-6 months) and molars (at 4-5 months).
Once the replacement process is complete, an adult cat has 30 teeth. This is according to the following dental formula:
- 2 (I 3/3 C 1/1 P 3/2 M1/1) = 30 teeth
The maxilla of adult cats has 6 incisors, 2 canines, 6 premolars and 2 molars. The mandible has 6 incisors, 2 canines, 4 premolars and 2 molars.
Our related article on why a cat has yellow teeth reveals some of the most common issues with cat teeth and what guardians can do to safeguard their health,
Dental anatomy of cats
Now that we know the dental formula of cats, we can look a little more closely at the characteristics of a cat's teeth. We have seen the general dentition, but we have not looked at the types of teeth cats have. All cat teeth have three well-definined parts:
- The crown: the visible part of the tooth.
- The root: the part of the tooth which attaches itself to the jaw via the alveolar bone.
- The neck: the area limit between the crown and the root.
In turn, the different parts of the tooth are made up of different tissues:
- Crown and the root: both of these structures are made up of dentin. The crown is covered in a protective layer known as the enamel, which is the hardest and most mineralized tissue in the body. The root is covered by cementum, a tissue similar to bone).
- Pulp cavity: the central part of the cat's tooth is known as the pulup cavity as it is made of dental pulp. The pulp contains nerves, blood and lymphatic vessels, connective tissue and odontoblasts (cells that produce dentin).
- Periodontium: this is the apparatus that supports and holds each tooth in place. It is formed by the gum, the periodontal ligament, the cement that covers the root and the alveolar bone.
Although all teeth have the same structure and composition, each type of tooth has some particular characteristics:
- Incisors: these teeth draw an almost straight arch and have a single root. The incisors of cats are notably smaller than those of dogs.
- Canines: conical in shape and also have a single root. The maxillary canines are longer than the mandibular ones.
- Premolars: vary in size and number of roots. The smallest have one root and the largest have three roots.
- Molars: are only present in adult cats and have one or two roots.
We finish with some more specific characteristics of cat teeth. Like dogs, cats are animals that are:
- Diphyodont: means they have a set of teeth with two generations (the primary and the permanent).
- Anelodont: unlike other animals (such as rabbits), feline teeth do not grow continuously.
- Brachyodont: the roots of the teeth are longer than the crowns.
What happens if a cat's tooth falls out?
Cats with healthy teeth should keep all their teeth throughout their lives. Sometimes pathologies or alterations of the oral cavity occur which result in the loss of a tooth.
If your cat is losing teeth, you will need to consult a veterinarian. It is common for the loss of feline teeth to occur as a consequence of advanced periodontal disease, a feline odontoclastic resorptive lesion or a trauma at the level of the oral cavity.
The loss of teeth is always associated with some pathological cause. When such an event occurs, it is important to go to a veterinary center to determine said cause and establish the most appropriate treatment in each case.
The primary cause that has caused the tooth to fall must be treated. Surgery can be considered to replace the missing piece with an implant. This last option is not usually carried out routinely, but is an alternative that is usually kept for specific cases, such as competition animals, etc.
Learn more about one of the most common causes of feline tooth loss, periodontal disease in cats.
If you want to read similar articles to How Many Teeth Does a Cat Have?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.
- Brook, A., Gawor, J., Nemec, A., Clarke, D., Tutt, C., Gioso, M., Stegall, P., Chandler, M., Morgenegg, G., Jouppi, R., & Stewart, K. (2020). Dental Guidelines of the World Association of Small Animal Veterinarians. World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)
- Fernandez, J. M. (2014). Dentistry in the daily clinic. Association of Spanish Veterinarians Specialists in Small Animals (AVEPA).