Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Hi, I hope you can give me some ideas. We have a 4-month-old Bengal kitten who is bright, energetic, and in the best of health — except, she suddenly started grinding her teeth. Why does she do it? Is it common? (I never heard of it before and have had many cats over the years.) Do you think its symptomatic of something? I took her to the vet today; he checked her over and said she has a raised gland on her left under chin (the side where she grinds) but everything else is fine, teeth & gums, no blockage, appetite, excretions, etc. The vet gave her an anti-inflammatory shot but nothing else, and never even asked if she was tooth grinding. It’s obviously not something that feels great for her and I’m worried about her damaging her teeth.
Siouxsie: Since your cat sounds otherwise healthy — she’s eating normally, having normal bowel movements and urination, and your vet didn’t see anything that indicated she might be sick — we think she’s teething.
Thomas: Like people, cats have baby teeth and adult teeth. A cat’s baby teeth start coming in at around three weeks of age, and then between three and five months of age, the adult teeth start coming in.
Dahlia: As you can imagine, teething is uncomfortable. If you’ve known a human baby, you probably know that they get very fussy and probably drool a lot as their teeth come in.
Siouxsie: Although tooth grinding is not a common sign of teething, it does happen, particularly when the back teeth start erupting. Mama has a human niece who ground her teeth when her molars were coming in.
Thomas: The grinding and pressure helps to alleviate the discomfort (which is kind of like itching and hurting at the same time) and it can help the baby tooth fall out faster. It’s not likely that your cat will cause permanent damage to her teeth with the grinding.
Dahlia: You can help your cat relieve her teething pain by providing her with toys she can chew on. Human parents provide teething rings and cold, firm objects for their babies to gum and chew on.
Siouxsie: Of course, human teething rings are much too big for cats, so you’ll want to look for a more appropriate sized chewing toy for your cat. PetStages makes lots of wonderful cat toys that can be ideal for all stages of development. If you look in their Chewing Toys section, you’ll see the Catnip Crunchy Chew Stick, which can be frozen. This would be a great choice for a teething cat because it’ll provide the firm texture and the cold that will help ease your cat’s discomfort.
Thomas: Their other chewing toys will help your cat through this phase and be good for her dental health throughout her life. We have some PetStages toys, and even though we’re all very grown-up cats we still enjoy playing with them.
Dahlia: You can find PetStages toys at most pet stores and through online retailers.
Siouxsie: We’d advise you to just check in her mouth from time to time, maybe once every few days, and make sure that she doesn’t have a baby tooth and an adult tooth at the same time.
Thomas: You’d be able to tell if a baby tooth isn’t falling out properly because you’d see two teeth just about in the same place.
Dahlia: If a baby tooth doesn’t fall out when an adult one comes in, call your vet. He may need to pull the baby tooth out.
Siouxsie: If the lump under your cat’s jaw gets bigger, call the vet. It could be an abscess or an impacted tooth.
Thomas: And of course, if you see any signs of illness such as lack of appetite, lethargy,changes in bowel movements or urination, or a change in her personality, call the vet and get her in for a checkup.
Dahlia: But for now, we don’t think you need to panic. This is a normal stage of development, and it sounds like all is well apart from the grinding.