Cats are obligate carnivores, since they are designed to hunt small prey, which would they eat whole or divided in few bites. However, pet cats consume a lot of plant material if they eat dry cat food. None of the teeth of cats, including their molars, have grinding surfaces; they clearly evolved to eat “meat”. The abrasive construction of hair, feathers and bones from prey animals kept their teeth clean. This is the partial reason why domestic cats have dental problems. Their diets may predispose cats to formation of plaque, tartar and the development of feline oral lesions or cavities.
In order to prevent these kinds of health problems, your cat teeth should be regularly examined. This could be difficult since cats resist examination, especially when they have painful mouth. Many dental problems may go undetected until the major symptoms appear which is why you need a good program of dental care that will keep your cat healthy.
The roots of cat baby teeth are reabsorbed as adult teeth take their place. Sometimes, double teeth can appear, when those baby teeth fail to reabsorb. The permanent teeth are then pushed out of line, leading to malocclusion, or a bad bite. If you have a kitten that is 2 or 3 months old, you should watch carefully to see if their adult teeth are coming in normally. If they are not, baby teeth should be pulled.
Most of the bite problems that young cats have are hereditary, appearing as a result of genetic factors that control upper and lower jaws growth. Incorrect bites are usually caused by retention of baby teeth that push emerging adult teeth out of alignment. Trauma, infection, or cancer of the mouth can result in incorrect bite in older cats.
The ways upper and lower incisor teeth meet when the mouth is closed determine cat’s bite. When the bite is even or level, the incisor teeth meet edge to edge. There are also few other types of bite:
- Scissors bite – the case when the upper incisors just overlap but still touch the lower incisors.
- Overshot bite – it’s one in which the upper jaw is longer than the lower jaw, so the teeth overlap without touching.
- Undershot bite- it’s the reverse, with the lower jaw projecting beyond the upper jaw. A wry mouth is the worst of the malocclusion problems. One side of the jaw grows faster than the other, twisting the mouth.
- Incorrect bites interfere with the ability to grasp, hold, and chew food. Consequently, cat teeth that do not align may injure the soft parts of the mouth.
The overshot bite may correct itself, unless the gap is greater than the head of a match. Adult teeth should replace baby teeth until the fourth or fifth month. That’s the time when the jaw is still growing, which is a period when the bite can correct itself.
If you want to examine the bite of your cat, raise the upper lip and draw the lower lip down. It is the best way to see if it has even, level bite or some of the problematic ones.