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Nature's Toothbrush

Imagine this scenario. You are at your dentist's office for your annual dental check-up and cleaning. When he's through with the cleaning, he gives you a sample of a new product called T/D Cookies. "Start eating these cookies after every meal to help cut down on tarter." He says. Would you go for this? Probably not. What if you were unable to brush and massage your gums on a daily basis? Think of how your mouth would feel. Would you rely on granola and pretzels to clean your teeth?

I find it hard to believe any dehydrated food product such as dry cat food can clean teeth. I watch how my cats eat their chunks of food. They turn their heads to the side and use their premolars and molars to cut or slice the food, then they swallow it. They don't chew for an extended period of time like an herbivore would. How in the world is a food like Hill's T/D (tarter control formula) or the like supposed to clean teeth if it's not thoroughly chewed? What about massaging the gums?

Cats, when eating their natural prey, cut or tear their food into manageable chunks, then swallow the chunks whole. It's the cutting, slicing and tearing that will clean teeth, not crunching on cereal. In fact, the processed carbohydrates in dry cat food may actually be causing the food to stick to a cat's teeth a bit like white bread.

Please note that I do not recommend feeding whole bones from conventionally-sized chickens. They are too big and hard for most cats to manage. Your cat could break teeth or the bone could become impacted. If you want to try to feed whole bone, try buying Cornish Game Hens and cutting them up for your cats. See my note on feeding a 100 percent raw diet below.

Are we left with having to brush our cats' teeth daily to keep their mouths healthy? I can just see my seven cats lining up at the bathroom door every morning to have their teeth brushed. Right! There is an easier way.

First, if you insist on continuing to feed dry food, feed on a schedule (preferably twice a day for adults [pregnant and lactating females more frequently]) and remove any uneaten food after approximately 30 minutes.

Next, add some large (mouse-size) chunks of meat (shredded or ground meat like that sold by Blue Ridge Foods isn't going to do it [don't stop feeding this meat, just add in bone]). If you've put your cats on a feeding schedule, they will be hungry at dinner time and less likely to turn their noses up at new food.

Catch your kittens when they are first cutting teeth and wanting to chew. That's when gingivitis can first set in. The kitten teeth fall out and the adult teeth come into a mouth that's already unhealthy. Let them chew on chunks of meat and learn at an early age. Help them to have a healthy mouth early on.

Please note that chunks of meat alone are not a balanced diet. You can feed chunks of meat up to 15 percent of the total diet if you are feeding commercial food. Ideally, you'd feed a 100 percent raw diet. For more information on feeding a raw diet, look at my book Raising Cats Naturally for more information.

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