A wonderful woman , Laurie, who runs fundraisers to fund veterinary care for people who do not have enough money, posted recently on a topic that I think is so critical. In the Healthy Animal’s Journal (cat one will be out very soon), I walk you through looking for the early warning signs of internal imbalance, one of which is a tiny (or big) red line where the teeth go into the gum, usually on the top gums. To do a good job of this you need to train your cat to allow you to examine the mouth. Being able to open it wide can also help you find any problems (like ulcers) in the back of the mouth.
Here, slightly edited, is Laurie’s method to train a cat to accept and even love mouth handling.
“I know kittens have tiny mouths, full of sharp little needle-teeth, and they are incredibly good at wriggling out of one’s grasp to escape any unwanted handling — but if you persevere and use plenty of positive reinforcement, grooming and dental care will pay off over a cat’s lifetime many times over.”
Again – this is so true – it will really pay off, partly because your cat will also let you do many other things and to help in an emergency – like a rubber band stuck around the tongue (veterinarians often miss this because it is hard for us to open an untrained cat’s mouth).
” One of the ways I’ve found this training relatively easy is doing it at and immediately after meal time. Little kittens are often too voraciously excited when food is offered to accept anything that delays gratification of their hunger. So I wait until she’s about 2/3 done, pick her up and gently wipe her lips with a moist cloth, while stroking and soothing her. Because mother cats do this, it usually settles a kitten down and readies them to accept more handling. I then take a Q-tip dampened in broth [or tuna juice] and gently push up the lip and run the swab along the gums, stopping before the kitten gets restive [this may be one second, or moving above only one tooth]. Then I hand-feed the last bits of the meal and let the kitty eat and relax while I stroke her body all over, graduating to a soft brush once this routine has become established and the cat looks forward to it. While kitty is in this satiated and blissed-out state, you can hold her in any position and gently examine and handle body parts, trim claws, etc. Sometimes you have to take up the 2/3 eaten meal and wait 10 or 15 minutes for the little belly to feel full, but working with a kitten’s pleasure in food, warmth and contact with the caregiver (mom) is easy and makes grooming and medical treatment easy ever after. Working with older kittens or adult cats is made easier with the same methods, though it will take longer to establish.”
One reason for feeding a large variety of real food is you will discover, especially in older, more picky cats, a few things they adore so much they will do almost anything for. Cheese, meats, deli meats, roasted chicken, freeze dried salmon or jerky treats, canned salmon, tuna (be sure it is a dolphin safe brand), oysters, mackerel, vegetables, fruits…every cat is different and loves different things.