Your kitten has started chomping on everything in sight—including your arm! She is teething, and her adult teeth are starting to come in. Here are the answers to all your questions about your tiny tiger’s growing pains.

By Kate Eldredge Basedow, LVT
October 13, 2020
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Ir Kleveta / Getty

Teething is a normal process that all kittens go through. While most kittens are very brave about teething, others need some extra comfort during this life stage.

My Kitten Is Losing Her Teeth...Is That Normal?

Yes! Between about three and six months of age, your kitten will lose her deciduous (or “baby”) teeth as her adult teeth come in. The teeth you find will be tiny, and often are just a hollow shell. This is normal, because her body has resorbed the root of the baby teeth to allow them to fall out more easily.

Your kitten’s adult teeth started out as tooth buds seated in the bone of her jaw. As they grow and develop, they will push through the bone and gum tissue to erupt into the mouth. While the deciduous teeth should push out easily, the adult teeth retain roots that connect them to your cat’s jaw. These roots help secure your cat’s teeth for chewing, and also provide a channel for the nerves and blood vessels that bring nutrition to the pulp of each tooth.

She needs to lose her baby teeth to make room for her permanent teeth. Any deciduous tooth that sticks around as its equivalent adult tooth comes in is called a persistent deciduous tooth. Persistent deciduous teeth are a problem because they get in the way of the adult teeth, causing them to come in at wrong angles and crowding other teeth in the mouth. This can result in your cat’s jaws not lining up properly, as well as predisposing her to gingivitis and dental disease and potentially causing trauma if the adult teeth connect with the tissue of her mouth. Your kitten’s four pointy canine teeth are the most likely to be retained.

When Do Kittens Start Teething?

The first stage of teething is when your kitten gets her deciduous teeth in between two to six weeks of age. The eruption of the baby teeth is usually pretty uneventful, though you may notice the kittens doing some extra chewing on toys (and their siblings).

The main event for teething is when the adult teeth come in. This generally starts around three months of age, with all of the adult teeth in place by six or seven months.

What’s the Difference Between Kitten Teeth and Cat Teeth?

Kitten teeth, also known as deciduous, milk, baby, or primary teeth, are the first, temporary set of teeth that every kitten has. These teeth are extremely small and sharp, with short, thin roots and a thin coating of enamel. If you care to count, your kitten should have 26 deciduous teeth. These deciduous teeth are just placeholders until the permanent adult teeth come in, so they don’t require much care.

By six months old, your cat should have a full set of 30 adult teeth. These teeth are bigger than her deciduous teeth, and often appear slightly more cream-colored. They have a thicker layer of enamel to protect against wear, and have long roots that anchor them to the jaw bone below the gums.

Your cat will have her adult teeth for the rest of her life, so it is important to take care of them! Daily brushing with a cat-safe toothpaste is the gold standard for feline dental care, plus professional dental cleanings under anesthesia on a regular basis. Dental diets and treats can also help for some cats.

What are the Signs of Teething in Kittens?

Signs that your kitten is teething include:

  • Vocalizing more, from small mews to loud meows
  • Increased chewing, especially on soft items
  • Drooling
  • Bleeding gums
  • Chewing food more slowly
  • Eating less
  • Crankiness
  • Hesitant to bite at or shake toys
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Gingivitis

Most of these signs are normal and will resolve on their own, but some can be a cause for concern. Monitor your kitten’s appetite closely, and seek veterinary attention if she is losing weight. Mild bleeding from the gums is normal, but excessive bleeding or pawing at the mouth can be signs of other dental issues that you should speak with your vet about.

Can Teething Hurt My Kitten?

Teething itself is unlikely to cause more than mild discomfort for your kitten. Make sure that she is still eating enough to maintain her weight.

Increased chewing as a result of teething, however, can cause your kitten harm. You likely went through your house and kitten-proofed it when you first got your kitten, but teething is a good time to repeat that process.

  • Does your kitten have access to electrical cords? The soft outer coating is an attractive chewing item for sore gums. Cover all cords or prevent your kitten from accessing them without direct supervision.
  • Are your houseplants safe for your kitten? Many plants are toxic to cats. Double check the ASPCA toxic plants list to make sure your plants are OK, and move any potentially dangerous plants to a room where your kitten can’t access them.
  • Are food items kept in a pantry or other secure location? A variety of common food items are dangerous for cats, including but not limited to chocolate, onions, garlic, and grapes. A kitten who previously was only interested in meats may be less picky now that she is teething. If your kitten ever eats something and you aren’t sure if it is safe or not, a call to the Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Poison Control Center is invaluable. 
  • Are toys, knickknacks, and other small items secure? Anything small enough for your kitten to swallow is potentially dangerous.

If your tiny teething tiger is putting her mouth on everything, the easiest way to keep her safe may be to confine her to a large dog crate or a single room when you aren’t home to supervise her.

How to Help a Teething Kitten Find Relief

There are several things you can try to help soothe your kitten’s sore gums:

  • Offer soft food; either a canned diet or kibble soaked in warm water
  • Make sure she gets plenty of interactive play time with you to keep her busy and tire her out
  • Make ice cubes of low-sodium chicken broth or diluted tuna juice for her to play with and chew on. The ice will soothe irritated gums. This is an especially popular item during hot weather!
  • Provide soft toys to chew on
  • Provide pet-safe cat grass for snacking

Thankfully, discomfort due to teething is usually mild and resolves quickly. If your kitten is in extreme pain, schedule a veterinary exam to make sure there isn’t something more serious going on.

Toys That Help Teething Kittens

Commercial kitten teething toys are usually made of soft rubber or plastic. They should be durable enough that your kitten can’t break off pieces and swallow them, but soft enough that they won’t break or damage her teeth.

You can also make your own teething toys by cutting a square of cloth or leather for your kitten to chew on. Braided fleece toys are also popular, and can be dragged across the floor for playtime.