When Do Kittens Lose Their Baby Teeth?
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When we adopt kittens into our home, there are many milestones of their development we can expect to witness. We are often surprised at how much they can grow and how quickly they do so. Most kittens will even change their eye color as they age. One of the most important changes is when the kitten's baby teeth fall out and their adult dentition develops. This can shock some caregivers, especially if they see the fallen teeth lying on the ground. It is important to remember this is a necessary and important process as it allows them to eat properly as an adult, as well as carry out other tasks.
At AnimalWised, we find out when do kittens lose their baby teeth? We understand more about the process of cats losing their milk teeth and what to do if any issues arise.
Milk teeth in cats
Domestic felines are altricial animals. This means they are not fully developed at the time of birth or shortly thereafter. During the first few days of life, kittens rely completely on their mother for everything. Kittens won't even open their eyes until around 8-12 days of life. They feed on milk from their mother's teats and do not eat solid food. This means they do not need teeth to tear or chew.
It is only after around 16 days of life that a kitten's baby teeth will grow in. This is beneficial to the mother as she would be in more pain if her kittens were suckling with teeth. Also known as deciduous teeth, primary teeth or milk teeth, the development of baby teeth also helps the mother know when to wean her kittens onto solid food. This is because kitten teeth are sharper than adult cat teeth, so the mother can feel them on her breasts.
The dentition of a cat is the arrangement of teeth in their mouth. A kitten's dentition is different from the dentition of an adult cat. The baby teeth do not grow all at once or in a random order. This is a process known as teething in cats. A kitten's baby teeth develop as follows:
You may notice this list does not contain molars. This is because kittens do not have molars and will only develop them after losing their baby teeth. Without the molars, kittens have 26 teeth in total before their permanent teeth develop. Since they are not as strong as adult teeth, the weaning period of kittens means they will eat softer foods at first.
Find out more with our article on how many teeth should cats have?
When do kittens lose their baby teeth?
After teething is complete, a kitten's first dentition does not remain for a long time. Only after around 3 to 4 months of age will a kitten lose their baby teeth. This is a process known as permanent teeth eruption in cats. This is because when the kitten loses their baby teeth, the top part of the teeth fall out and the roots are absorbed into the gums.
The permanent teeth of cats are also known as adult or secondary teeth. They erupt from the gums and the cat will not develop any more teeth after this time. The entire process of permanent teeth eruption should last until the cat is around 6 or 7 months of age. After this time, the cat's permanent dentition will be present.
When a cat is losing their baby teeth, it is not uncommon for them to be found on the ground. However, they can also be swallowed by the cat without us noticing. This is because the process of eating and chewing their food can cause an already weakened baby tooth to fall out.
As with teething in cats, feline permanent tooth eruption follows a specific order. This order of permanent tooth eruption in cats is as follows:
Adult cats should have 30 permanent teeth in their dentition, this time including molars. The permanent teeth are hidden in the gums and it is their process of eruption which loosens and pushes out the teeth. Although this is a normal and natural process, it can be a little painful for kittens. They do not always show their pain, but we need to be careful when interacting with their mouths at this time.
Although all of their baby teeth should fall out, it is possible for a kitten to have some baby teeth retention. A baby tooth is said to be retained when part of it fails to come out despite the pressure exerted by the erupting permanent tooth. This can lead to problems with the entire adult dentition since it can displace teeth when force is exerted on them. This will require examination and treatment by a veterinarian, one of the reasons regular checkups for kittens are important.
Does losing baby teeth hurt the kitten?
As stated above, the process of permanent tooth eruption in cats can be a difficult one for some kittens. While it often causes discomfort, this does not mean they should be in severe pain. The process is very similar to human children when they are teething. For this reason you may notice the following symptoms of permanent tooth eruption in cats:
- Irritated gums
- Excessive salivation
- Bad breath
- Touching mouth with paws
Tooth eruption should not seriously hinder the cat's appetite unless they are in a lot of pain. They may only nibble at food or only eat very soft food. They may also want to relieve the discomfort by nibbling on objects around the home. This can be annoying for guardians, but is also dangerous for the cat. A common example is when cats chew on electrical wires.
To prevent the cat from doing so, we can give them teething toys which are desirable for them to nibble. This means the cat will be more likely to use this chew toy and can chew on it for as long as they wish. We should also encourage their use by giving them positive reinforcement such as petting them and using encouraging language when they use the chew toy. Avoid negative punishment if they chew something they shouldn't.
Since the kitten will need sustenance from food, we should also find ways to encourage eating. We can provide wet food during times of increased discomfort. If we do not have any wet food, we can add a little water or even a plain broth (no sugar, preservatives, salt, etc.) to dry kibble. This means the young cat will be able to eat without chewing.
Find out more tips on encouraging appetite with our article on why a cat is not eating.
Permanent teeth in cats
As we have already mentioned, cats permanently change milk teeth for permanent ones around 6 or 7 months of age. The cat will have only these teeth for the remainder of their lives, so it is very important they are well taken care of.
Many veterinarians recommend cleaning your cat's teeth from the time they are a kitten. This will help them to avoid developing dental diseases and keep them in good condition. Also, it can be harder to adjust an adult cat to having their teeth brushed, so it is good to get them used to it from a young age. Many cat guardians do not brush a kitten's baby teeth, but it can be useful in this case as well.
A cat's permanent teeth are hard and resistant. Although they are not as big as a dog's, the canines (or fangs) are the largest teeth in a cat's mouth. Molars are shorter, but wide and can be found at the back of the cat's mouth. We should brush a cat's teeth a minimum of three times per month, although some veterinarians suggest it should be done a couple of times per week.
When a kitten is developing, they will have more regular veterinary checkups to ensure the process is smooth. This will include checking their dentition to ensure their permanent teeth are developing correctly. Once they are an adult, we should have checkups every 6 to 12 months during which their teeth should also be examined.
Find out what can happen when we don't care for a feline's teeth with our article on common oral diseases in cats.
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