"Do kittens lose their teeth?" is the sort of question you can find yourself pondering even if you've owned plenty of kittens. Kittens are tiny, their teeth are even tinier, and they rarely stay still long enough for you to tell if they've lost any. And while we're a species that grows a set of baby teeth that fall out in childhood to be replaced by adult teeth, is that necessarily true of cats?
Cats learn to hunt at a very early age, and can start hunting themselves from between eight and 16 weeks. You'd expect they'd need adult teeth to do that properly, so surely there's not even time to get through a set of baby teeth, right? So, do kittens lose their teeth? Let's find out, and along the way we can talk about things like kitten teething and come up with at least one possible answer to another question: why is my cat drooling?
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Do kittens have baby teeth?
Like human babies, kittens are born without teeth, but they don't waste any time in growing them, and yes, they're baby teeth, although the correct name for them is deciduous teeth. They start growing between 2-4 weeks; the incisors and canines are the first to show up, followed by pre-molars, and they should all have emerged by 5-8 weeks.
There are 26 baby teeth in total, and they're much smaller and more delicate than full-size cat teeth, with a slightly translucent appearance. They're also very sharp, as you may well find out to your cost if your kitten is biting you during playtime.
When do kittens start losing their baby teeth?
Your kitten's baby teeth don't hang around for very long at all. They get to enjoy maybe four weeks of having a full (well, almost) set of teeth, and then around 12 weeks they all start coming out to make room for their adult teeth. Naturally they don't all come out in one go; that would be weird. Instead they tend to come out at their own pace, as adult teeth start emerging beneath them.
These take a little longer to emerge than your kitten's baby teeth; the first incisors should start to appear around three and a half months, taking another month or so for all 12 of them to emerge. Its four canines (that is, its fangs) should show up at five months, while its four molars come in between four and five months. The last teeth to appear in full are its 10 pre-molars; they begin to erupt at about four and a half months, but they won't be finished until around six months.
And by the time all 30 adult teeth have emerged, all your kitten's baby teeth should be long-gone. We say they should be, but that isn't always the case. Occasionally the odd deciduous tooth may not fall out properly, and this can mean that the adult tooth that's replacing it won't grow correctly, or it might get cracked. It's an unlikely situation but one that's worth keeping an eye out for; if your kitten's mouth seems a little overcrowded with the appearance of two rows of teeth, you should get it checked out by a veterinarian who can look for problems and extract the offending baby teeth if necessary.
Where do all the kitten teeth go?
Now that we've established that kittens do indeed lose their teeth, it raises the question: what happens to them when they fall out? Surely you'd notice a load of kitten teeth all over the floor? You'd definitely notice if you trod on a needle-sharp canine in bare feet, wouldn't you?
Realistically, though, you're less likely to see lost kitten teeth than you think. Kitten teeth often come out at mealtimes or during play, and while you might find the odd lost tooth in bedding or on the carpet, it's quite common (and perfectly safe) for kittens to swallow their own teeth while they're eating, so you may never see any at all.
Do kittens suffer from teething problems?
While the teething process isn't exactly painless, many kittens will take it in their stride while others may find things a little more challenging. Having sharp teeth erupting through your gums can't be much fun, and your kitten may well react by eating less or starting to chew things. During teething it might also drool and paw at its mouth, its gums may look sore and inflamed (and it might even suffer from bleeding gums) and it may be a more grumpy kitten than usual.
These are all natural reactions to teething that should pass once your kitten's teeth have come through. However that's not to say you shouldn't try to help your kitten out in order to make the teething process less traumatic for it. Providing it with one of the best kitten teething toys can help relieve any discomfort, and they should also stop it chewing things that it shouldn't, such as electrical cables, plants and furniture. And while you're naturally treating your fluffball to the best kitten food, you're feeding it dry food then softening it with water will make mealtimes happier for it; alternatively, consider switching to the best wet cat food.
As we've said, teething's no fun and your kitten may not enjoy it, but as always, if it seems like your kitten's in a lot more pain than it should be, you should err on the side of caution and take it to the vet to be checked out.
So there we have it: kittens do indeed lose their teeth, and in much the same way that human children do (although thankfully kittens are entirely ignorant of the tooth fairy and won't demand payment for their lost teeth). For a kitten, losing its baby teeth and growing a new set of adult teeth over an impressively short time span is just a normal part of growing up, and usually you'll be able to simply let it get on with it, but if there are any problems along the way you should now be able to help make the process easier for your kitten, as well as knowing when you might need to seek medical help.
Jim is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler based in Bath, who last year adopted a pair of sibling rescue cats who turned out to be effectively feral, and has spent a lot of time since then trying to get them accustomed to people (some success) and each other (ongoing project).
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